Historic Timeline of Worcester County
- c1200 - Although Native Americans had visited the Delmarva Peninsula for thousands of
years, it appears the it is not until about 1200 that the first permanent settlements of
native peoples begin. This coincides with the "Woodland" period Native America
history. The tribes, which are part of the larger Algonquian-speaking Powhatan group
successfully cultivate crops that supplemented their hunting and fishing.
- 1524 - According to legend, while sailing under the French flag, Giovanni da Verrazano
becomes the first European to visit the area, when he lands in the approximate area of
Chincoteague Bay. He explores eight miles inland to the Pocomoke River. He names the
region Arcadia for its beauty and abundant flora.
- 1608 - Captain John Smith explores the Chesapeake, including the Pocomoke River.
- June 20, 1632 - Lord Baltimore receives a charter for Maryland from King Charles I.
- March 25, 1634 - The Ark and the Dove land at St. Clement's Island on the Western Shore
with the first European settlers.
- 1642 - Snow Hill is first settled.
- 1646 - The Treaty of Middle Plantation decentralizes Accohannock tribes, making them
politically subservient to the English settlers. Some Native Americans leave their
homeland, while others merge into the white and black population. Through family
traditions, some of the Native customs and cultures are preserved through today.
- 1670 - A settlement begins to develop at current day Pocomoke. It was originally called
Stevens Landing after Colonel William Stevens. In time the settlement would become
known as Newtown then Pocomoke. In its early years, Pocomoke is an important
shipbuilding center. The town is also an important port into the twentieth century.
Its deep waters allow large vessels to load and unload their wares at the town's
- 1677 - A land grant is given for Burley Plantation. In time, this area will grow into
present day Berlin.
- 1678 - The scattered tribes of the Assateague (along with the Wicomicos and the
Pocomokes) gather together in a single settlement, called Askiminokonson, near Snow Hill
- 1683- Francis Makemie establishes the first American Presbyterian church in Snow Hill.
- 1692 - The Vestry Act sets up four parishes in Old Somerset County. Most of present day
Worcester is located in Snow Hill Parish (later All Hallows Parish). The parish had six
elected vestrymen to help administer the area.
- 1694 - Snow Hill is made a royal port by William and Mary. The chief exports are
cypress lumber and tobacco. The cypress lumber is especially important as masts and lumber
for ships since the cypress wood is impervious to rot. The main imports are finished
goods from England.
- 1722 - A peace treaty is signed between the English colonists and the Assateague tribes.
- August 8, 1732 - Salisbury is chartered. (Although Salisbury is now in Wicomico County,
it predates both Wicomico and Worcester. From 1742 to 1867, the boundary between Worcester
and Somerset ran down the center of Salisbury's Division Street.)
- 1742 - After some Native American chiefs of are revealed to be plotting against the
English settlers, the Maryland government withdraws its recognition of the Assateague
empire, putting severe restrictions on their freedoms. It appears that the attacks were
planned by the Nanticoke tribe which lived some miles away along the river of the same
name. The Maryland authorities, however, make no distinction between the tribes. Most of
the Assateagues emigrate north to join with the Susquehanna tribe. A few remain in the
area, living to this day near Indian River, Delaware. (Note - Because of their dwindling
numbers, Native Americans of many different Eastern Shore tribes were living in the same
settlements by this point. Therefore, determining a precise history of the different
tribes is difficult).
- December 10, 1742 - Worcester County is formed from part of Somerset County. Snow Hill
becomes the county seat. James Martin is elected as the first sheriff.
- 1760 - The Transpeninsular Line, which forms the southern border between Maryland and
Delaware is finally settled. This is the last in a long string of surveys carried out over
the past century, but residents will dispute the findings into the 1800s. The famous
surveyors Mason & Dixon go on to afix the line up the side of Delaware as well as the
border between Pennsylvania and Maryland.
- 1775-1783 - During the American Revolution, Worcester and the Eastern Shore are
nicknamed the Breadbasket of the Revolution for the amount of food produced for the
Continental Army. Like most of the Shore, however, Worcester has deep divisions between
Patriots (in favor of independence) and Tories (in favor remaining loyal to Britain). In
July 1775, the town of Snow Hill passes resolutions to aid Boston, Massachusetts. That
same year, Joseph Dashiell is named lieutenant for Worcester County, coordinating the
shipping of supplies to Washington's army. In 1776, Captain John Watkins begins training a
company of Worcester soldiers. They join the Continental Army and serve in the Battle of
Long Island, where they are recognized for bravery. Later they serve in such battles as
Trenton, Yorktown, and Cowpens. In 1777, a group of 150 Tories are dispersed near
Salisbury. In 1781, Worcester and Somerset provide General Washington with 1200 head of
cattle as he heads south to Yorktown and his showdown with Cornwallis. During the war the
Baltimore Salt Company also opens a salt works is established on Sinepuxent Bay. Water
from the ocean is evaporated, leaving only salt.
- 1790 - In the first United States Census, Worcester has 7,676 whites, 3,836 slaves, and
178 free blacks. That same year a wreck-master is appointed by the state General Assembly
to combat the wide spread looting that occurs whenever ships are wrecked on the many
shoals along the coast.
- 1790s - The village of Berlin develops on the crossroads of the Philadelphia Post Road
and the Sinepuxent Road. (The Philadelphia Post Road was the main north-south artery on
the Shore, and the Sinepuxent Road was the main east-west artery).
- 1800s - Numerous plantations bring economic prosperity to the county. Unfortunately, the
plantation culture carries with it the evils of slavery.
- 1812 - After distinguishing himself in the war with Tripoli, Stephen Decatur becomes
America's most famous naval hero during the War of 1812. In October of 1812, he
defeats the British frigate Macedonian. Greatly outnumbered, however,
Decatur is eventually captured by the British fleet. After the war, Decatur becomes
famous for the maxim, "Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may
she always be in the right; but our country right or wrong!" Decatur is killed
in a duel in 1820 on the Western Shore.
- 1821 - What was described as a tidal wave and accompanying storm obliterate the coastal
villages of the county.
- 1832 - The Nassawango Iron Furnace is built to refine the bog iron found in the nearby
- 1850 - The Nassawango Iron Furnace closes, and the town which grew up around it begins
- 1855 - New Bethel Methodist Church is founded, becoming one of the oldest
African-American congregations in the country. In the same year, the Rev. Dr. Charles
Albert Tindley is born. Tindley, a songwriter and man of faith, composed the Civil Rights
anthem "We Shall Overcome."
- 1860 - By the time of the 1860 census, Worcester has 12,402 whites, 3,571 slaves, and
3,648 free blacks. The free blacks, although persecuted, are able to create a strong and
distinct culture which influences the county's development.
- May 1, 1860 - The Delaware Railroad is expanded from Delmar down to Salisbury.
- 1861 - The Civil War begins. Both pro-Northern and pro-Southern sentiment is strong in
the county. Culturally and economically, Worcester has much in common with the South. The
anti-slavery movement, however, has much support as well. County residents serve in
uniform on both sides. George W. Purnell, then a student at Princeton, leaves his
class to join the Confederate Army. Purnell becomes Adjutant under General Lee.
On the Union side, Isaiah "Uncle Zear" Fassett, a former slave, joins the
Union army participating in many battles including the Wilderness and Richmond campaigns.
When Fassett died in 1946, he was the next-to-last surviving Civil War soldier in
Maryland. On October 5, 1861, Union soldiers encamp on Upton Hill (at the site of
the current Daily Times building) in Salisbury. From there, they disarm and arrest
Confederate sympathizers. They also confiscate contraband headed South.
Despite their efforts, goods continue to be smuggled South. The traffic heads in
both directions, however. The Pocomoke River and surrounding swamps is an important link
in the Underground Railroad, allowing slaves to escape North.
- November 1, 1864 - Slavery is abolished in Maryland.
- 1867 - Part of western Worcester County is merged with part of northern Somerset County
to form Wicomico County. Salisbury becomes the county seat of Wicomico.
- 1868 - The Wicomico and Pocomoke Railroad links Salisbury and Berlin. That same year
regularly scheduled steamboat service begins betwen Newtown (Pocomke) and Baltimore.
Every Saturday farmers pour into Newtown to sell their produce. Travelling
salesman also flood the town on weekends to sell their wares. Newtown acquires a
rowdy reputation because of the carnival-like atmosphere and saloons that cater to the
visiting farmers and salesmen.
- 1869 - According to legend, Issac Coffin rents out the first beach-front cottage in
- 1872 - The Worcester Railroad opens between Berlin and Snow Hill.
- July 4, 1875 - The Atlantic Hotel opens in Ocean City. It is the town's first
large-scale hotel. It is during that same year that Ocean City is incorporated as a town.
- 1876 - The Wicomico and Pocomoke Railroad builds a trestle across Sinepuxent Bay,
linking Ocean City by rail to Berlin and the rest of the nation. During the same year the
Worcester Railroad was extended south all the way to Franklin City, Va., across the bay
from Chincoteague, and north to Selbyville, DE, where it met with another railroad.
With the expanded railroad access the pound fishermen bring in larger and larger
catches. Pound fishermen erect stationary nets on the ocean floor miles off the
coast and haul in a bounty of seafood. The job is quite dangerous as the heavy nets
can easily capsize the fishermen's small boats. The catches sometime require as many
as twenty express train cars a day to cary the seafood to the metropiltan areas.
- 1878 - After expressing outrage over the town's ungodliness, Reverend I.O. Ayers urges
Newtown rename itself Pocomoke City to symbolize a break from its uproarious past.
- December 25, 1878 - The U.S. Life Saving Service (later part of the Coast Guard) opens a
station in Ocean City. The surfmen bravely venture out in all weather to save the
crews of doomed ships.
- Late 1800s - Numerous canneries develop along the railroads and Pocomoke River. These
canneries allow the produce of Worcester farmers to be sent to faraway markets. By this
point, regular steamboat operations between Snow Hill and Baltimore have replaced the old
three-masted schooners which used to ply the river. Lumber also remains an extremely
important industry. The Richardson, Smith, & Moore Lumber Company is the largest
employer in the county.
- 1884 - The New York, Philadelphia & Norfolk Railroad is extended across the Pocomoke
River into Pocomoke City and south all the way to Cape Charles, Virginia.
- 1886 - Trains start running between Ocean City and Claiborne. From Claiborne there is a
steamboat connection to Baltimore. Thousands of visitors begin pouring into the resort
- August 7, 1893 - A fire destroys downtown Snow Hill and the early town and county
- 1898-1899 - On December 28, the "Blizzard of '99" blows in, lasting into the
New Year. Drifts of over ten feet paralyze the entire area.
- 1916 - A state highway is built between Salisbury and Ocean City, through Berlin, making
automobile travel easier in the county.
- 1917 - The Worcester County Headquarters Company of the Maryland National Guard is
called into federal service for World War I as part of the 115th. They serve in the
trenches in France, including the Battle of Verdun. About 730 Worcester Countians would
serve in the war, with about 20 killed or missing in action.
- 1922 - A fire roars through Pocomoke City.
- August 23, 1933 - A hurricane cuts an inlet between current day Ocean City and
Assateague Island. Before this point, the two were joined to form a single barrier island.
- 1941 - World War II begins, and the Worcester County branch of the National Guard is
called back into action. Unlike World War I, soldiers from the same geographic area were
split up into several companies. Therefore, it is difficult to trace the movements of
Worcester's soldiers. Several spotting stations open along the coast in 1942 to be on the
lookout for German planes and submarines. There were 4,000 Civil Defense volunteers in
Worcester alone. All of Worcester County was under dim-out regulations. While most
of the county complied wholeheartedly with the sacrifices for the war effort, a raid on
Cypress Swamp revealed a stockpile of rationed items such as shoes and cheese destined for
the black-market. During the war, poultry farming also increased dramatically (today it
remains extremely important to the local economy).
- 1952 - The Chesapeake Bay Bridge opens, making the Ocean City resort more accessible to
the residents of Baltimore and Washington.
- March 6-8, 1962 - An unexpected storm causes much destruction along the coast of the
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