PO Box 194, Mardela Springs, MD 21837 410-726-8047
The Spring House has an interactive interpretative panel that can be accessed all year round.
Near the entrance to the restored Barren Creek Springs Presbyterian Church is the historic Spring House, donated to Westside Historical Society, in 2002.
The spring house was on the property of the original Barren Creek Springs Hotel, a haven for travelers from the 1770's until it burned in 1913. From the 1830's through the early 1900's the spring was an especially popular feature among hotel patrons who came from the upper Eastern Shore, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, and Norfolk to take the health-giving waters. About 1860 a wooden octagonal structure, twelve feet across, ornamented with Victorian gingerbread at the eaves and around the base was built. It had a brick floor and benches around the inside low walls. An artesian well was dug in the center of the spring house to tap into the spring, and a runoff pipe fed a small cistern. Visitors could sit in the Victorian structure and soak their feet and drink from the constantly running spring.
From the 1682 gift to William Penn of the land on the west bank of the Delaware River (along with Pennsylvania) an ongoing dispute between Penn and the Calverts, proprietors of Maryland, had simmered. Finally, in the 1750s an attempt was made to survey the boundary line between Penn’s southern Delaware land and Maryland. This Trans-Peninsular Line failed to satisfy all parties and in 1765 another survey team sent by the Crown, Mason and Dixon, came to settle the issue. The physical evidence of the work of both surveys is still visible; the Cornerstone [southwest corner of Delaware] and many line markers remain.
Owned by Double Mills, Inc., a group of local residents intent on restoring this last surviving water-powered, turbine driven mill. The first mill on the site, on the North bank of Barren Creek, was built in the 1700's.
Through various stages of restoration, improvement, and additions it operated continuously until a major storm in 1979 tore out the dam and much of the race way. Today, efforts are underway to restore it to an educational heritage site, recalling the importance of milling - the first industry in the area - and the social hub of a rural community. The mill and general store, a part of the site from the late 1800's, are open to visitors by contacting Double Mills, Inc., or visit their website new.doublemills.org for more information.
Built in 1842 and now maintained as an historic site by Westside Historical Society. In 1834 Joshua Brattan, prominent farmer and landowner of Barren Creek Springs gave an acre of land, for "the love of literature and religion," to a board of ten Presbyterian trustees to establish a school, cemetery, and church "on the county road between Barren Creek Mills and the Springs." In 1842 the congregation built a church building which also housed the town's only school.
By ca.1860 Presbyterian membership in Barren Creek Springs Church had dropped to ten and in 1887 the congregation dissolved. Although, built by Presbyterians in 1842, since then it has been used also by Episcopalians, Methodists, and Baptists. Over the next six decades various groups and congregations - even the boy scouts - used the building. The Presbytery sold the building to Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Gunby, who in 1988 donated the church building to the Westside Historical Society. The next year the task of restoration was begun. Through the hard work of its members and the generosity of friends and supporters the work largely was completed in 1997.
Today, most of the windows and all of the pews are original, as is the plain wood flooring, hanging oil lamp chandeliers and tall pulpit lamps. A pump organ, antique chairs, tables, and liturgical accessories also have been donated to take their place along side the original furnishings. In 1985 the American Presbyterian Church named the building,"Site #248" on the American Presbyterian Reformed Historic Sites Registry. It continues to remind all who visit, of the history of this special place. In 2005 a local preservationist donated an original "Mason-Dixon" marker stone to be placed on the grounds of the church. The stone is marked with an M on one side and a P on the other, for Maryland and Pennsylvania, which in 1765 included the three lower counties of Delaware.
This website is an introduction to some of the rich heritage of this area – especially the eastern bank of the Nanticoke River. Most of that is now the western part of Wicomico County, though the upper reaches of the River stretch far up into Delaware. In the Wicomico County portion visitors can explore a number of beautiful villages and towns -- Mardela Springs, Athol, Riverton, San Domingo, Sharptown, Hebron, Quantico, Bivalve, Wetipquin, and Nanticoke. Here we present some of those sites, towns, buildings, and traditions that will help you discover that heritage.
For more than 300 years, from the early 1600's through the mid-1900's, this part of the Chesapeake basin changed slowly and clung stubbornly to the way of life shaped largely by the character of the land and the water. Even today, the Nanticoke River has been described – proudly by those who live here – as largely untouched from the time when it was explored by John Smith in 1608, and properly is part of the National John Smith Water Trail.
We start with the northwestern corner of Wicomico County known for more than 200 years as Barren Creek District. Named for the long meandering stream feeding into the Nanticoke, on its banks sits Mardela Springs, the western “gateway” to the lower Delmarva peninsula. And, since Westside Historical Society is based here, we begin in this town which began in the latter 1700s as Barren Creek Springs, sometimes spelled “Barron” Creek. The first few settlers in the mid-1600s became the ancestors of many current residents. In the 17th century English, Welsh, Irish, and Scot newcomers often came as traders, dealing with the local Indians for furs. Small farmers soon followed, growing tobacco for export and grains, vegetables, and fruits for home consumption. In the early 1700s the town was named an official export site and a warehouse was built on the banks of the Creek; local “planters” [of tobacco] brought their crop there to await ocean-going sailing ships.
The Puckamees, were part of the larger Native-American Nanticoke “empire.” Their villages along the River and Creek continue to yield evidence of their presence. When John Smith sailed up the River in 1608 it was almost surely a band of Puckamees who attacked him from the mouth of Barren Creek. For the most part they were peaceful neighbors of the European families who continued to come and settle land with access to the waterways. They were hunters, fishermen, and trappers chiefly, living in “long houses” and making arrow shafts from the reeds of the marshes. For a brief period in the late 1600s the colonial Maryland Assembly attempted to confine them to a reservation stretching roughly from the mouth of Barren Creek north to the present village of Riverton, but by that time their numbers were decreasing as many chose to move into Delaware or north. Many eventually reached Canada and some even joined the mid-West Plains tribes. By the mid-1700s very few were left, but their names and even some of their skills live on. The village that started as Barren Creek Springs was so named because of the many mineral-rich springs in the area. Reportedly valued by the Indians for its health-giving properties, the white settlers quickly began drinking from them as well.
There were other reasons for a village to grow there. The tobacco warehouse became a center of some commerce; a ferry across the creek near the high ground on which the warehouse sat encouraged early trade. The Creek itself, like so many other creeks emptying into the River was a source of commerce. When dammed, the potential power created for grist mills and saw mills was impressive. At one time, as many as twelve such water-powered mills worked on the banks of Barren Creek, and more on other creeks. As local farmers turned more to grain – corn, rye, wheat, some buckwheat and oats – from the unstable tobacco market, the miller became more and more important in the local economy. The dams themselves became another factor in the town’s growth. Colonial laws required dams be wide enough to serve as roadways, and as highways became more important as post roads and other land links, a crude highway system evolved. The village at Barren Creek Springs had the good fortune to be at the spot where the main road from the north turned south and southeast to lead to the Somerset County seat of Princess Anne, and at the point where fresh horses and an inn were needed for the weary traveler. Hence, a Hotel was built in the village about the time of the Revolutionary War, and only yards away from one of the biggest springs.
In 1893 the village of Barren Creek Springs changed it's name to Mardela Springs. The change was mostly economically motivated. The railroad had arrived in town in 1890 and several businessmen saw the chance to expand the market for the town's bottled mineral water. Fearing city consumers would shy away from "Creek Water" they suggested changing the town's name to the new combination of Maryland and Delaware - Mardela Springs. Many residents objected but were outvoted and the town has been Mardela Springs ever since.
Edward Austin, an enterprising citizen, in the 1890's built a small structure beside the spring house, in which they bottled the water and then shipped cases of it, by rail throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. After the old hotel burned in 1913, Austin's son built a new building on the site, operated it as a bed and breakfast, and continued to ship the water. But, the Great Depression hit hard and tourism, as well as the bottled water business, soon came to an end. In 1946 the entire property was sold and the new owner made extensive repairs to the house and spring house. Most visible was the application of a brick veneer to both buildings, so that today the spring house has no vestige of its original Victorian appearance. He also created a separate deed for the spring house and property on which it sat, and tore down the remains of the bottling plant. Later, the properties passed to his relative who wished that the spring house be preserved as an important piece of history of this area. Accordingly, they made the donation to Westside Historical Society in Spring of 2002, and it was dedicated on July 15, 2002. Today, the spring still runs, but the water is not potable. A brief rest in the coolness of the spring house harkens back to a quieter, less hectic lifestyle.
Also in Mardela Springs, Maryland is a collection of nine buildings owned and operated by the non-profit corporation, of the same name. Several buildings have been moved on to the site, including an early 19th century farm house, a one-room school, and a general store, which originally was in the town. Also on the site is the town's early 20th century Lodge Hall, a livery stable, two sheds now converted to exhibit space, and a building which served as a cannery at one time and now housses exhibits about the town's early commercial life. An early 1900's Victorian style home has recently been renovated and also is open to visitors. The complex is open by appointment. For more information regarding tours visit www.adkinsmuseum.com/tours
Welcome to Vintage Baseball
Baseball as most Americans know it today, evolved from the game played in the 1830s and1840s in New York City. Though some dispute it, many believe it was “invented” by Abner Doubleday, later a general in the U.S. Army. But it is generally conceded that Alexander Cartwright is the father of organized baseball, having written a set of organized rules for play when he started the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club in 1845. This club was the first of its kind – a club whose only purpose was playing baseball. The Civil War helped spread baseball throughout the country; Union soldiers, familiar with the New York origins, playe in their spare time. Confederate prisoners watched, and began to copy them. Soon after the war, baseball was being played in villages, country fields, cities—all over the nation.
This is the kind of baseball you will see played today – now known as Vintage Base Ball, not just a competitive game, but also a reenactment of baseball life from the American Civil War era. The uniforms, equipment, even styles and speech are from that era. Even the name is “Base Ball.” Players are especially proud that the game is played for fun and exercise by ladies and gentlemen, rather than for the profit-driven motives of many owners of today’s club owners.
There is continuous debate about such points of play as how frequently runners would steal bases, when sliding first became common and what it might have looked like, how strikers would hold or swing the bat, how the umpire’s authority evolved, and how players would have conducted themselves on the field. One commonly held interpretation is that game play was marked by a spirit of gentlemanly sportsmanship. Modern vintage ballists will often observe this custom through friendly gestures such as cheering good plays made by opposing players, assisting umpires with making calls at bases, and conducting organized cheers for opposing teams (and often for the umpire and “cranks”, or fans) at the conclusion of a match. Hence, one notices the politeness and sportsmanship observed in these games, more in keeping with the early days of baseball, which was considered a “gentleman’s game”. As the game became more professional in the
1870s and money (and thus winning) became a primary motivator,
the 19th century game became marked by rough play and cheating, which was relatively easy to accomplish, due to the lone umpire who might fail to see such infractions.
How vintage base ball is different .... The rules of the game
First, a base ball field is just that – a field, with the diamond shape laid out on a field of grass. There might be a tree or a building out in the garden (outfield), but no manicured infields to eliminate an errant hop of the base ball. In the vintage game, a ballists’s skills are truly tested. There are typically no fences on the field.
Second, the pitcher’s intent is to throw the ball across the plate so that the striker (batter) may hit it. The throwing of speedballs or the deceitful curve ball shall result in a swift 25¢ fine from the umpire. How can ballists have fun and exercise if they cannot hit the ball and run the bases? The more they hit the ball and run the bases; the more times runners tally (score)!
Third, the striker is “dead” (out) if the ball is caught on the fly or upon one bound off the ground. The vintage game is played the way base ball was intended to be played – bare-handed. Caps or objects of clothing may not be used to catch the ball. Since fielding gloves and other equipment were not commonly utilized until the 1890s, the enormous leather mittens worn by modern namby-pamby ballists are not allowed!
Other striking differences....
The ball used in vintage baseball is slightly larger than a modern baseball, but is also softer and stitched in a different pattern. Since the same ball is used for an entire game, it tends to soften as the game is played. Gloves, mitts, and other protective equipment didn’t make an appearance until the 1870s and weren’t commonly used until the 1880s.
Bats tend to be slightly longer and heavier than those used in today’s game.
Prior to the match, interpreters may offer an overview of the rules of 1864. Fans participate in a match by learning appropriate cheers. Not since the Civil War have local folks heard so many shouts of “Huzzah! The striker is dead,” and “well fielded sir!” echoing across Delmarva!!
Some new terms you might need to learn :
Ace or Tally – run; crossing home base Apple, Pill, Horsehide, Onion – the ball Artist – proficient player
Baller, Ballist – player
Basetender – an infielder
Bench – manager or coach
Blind – no score
Blooper, banjo hit – weak fly ball, “Texas leaguer” Boodler – ungentlemanly maneuver
Bound – bounce
Bowler, hurler, thrower, feeder – pitcher
Bug bruiser – sharp grounder
Club, Nine – team
Cranks (or Throng) – fans
Daisy Cutter – sharp grounder
Dead or Hand Dead, Hand down – put out or batter out Dew Drop – slow pitch
Dish – home plate
Four Baser – home run Garden – outfield
Ginger – enthusiastic play Ground – field
Hands – outs
Huzzah! – hooray
Leg it – Run swiftly
Match – game
Midfielder – center fielder
Muckle – power hitter
Muff or Duff – error
Muffin – enthusiastic but unskilled player
Muffin matches – game level that gave everyone a chance to play Muffin nine – not as good even as Second Nines
Pitcher’s Point – pitchers mound or rugger
Player Dead – out
Pluck – fine strike or play
Plugging (or Soaking) the Runner – throwing the ball at runner to put
him out (illegal after 1845)
Rover – shortstop
Sack tenders – infielders
Second none – not as good as the best Show a little ginger – play harder or smarter Sky Ball, Skyer – flyer
Sky scraper – a high Pop Fly Spectators’ area – bullpen
Stinger – hard hit ball
Stir your stumps – run fast / hustle Striker – hitter
Striker to the line – batter up
Talleykeeper – scorekeeper
Three Hands Dead – 3 outs, side retired
Whitewash – team held scoreless for a match or at-bat Willow – bat
Christmas Mardela Springs, Maryland Walking Tour Annually in December