Pirate’s Wharf History Lessons Presented

SALISBURY – Wicomico officials are hoping to incorporate the history of a county-owned property into the development of a regional park.

Earlier this month, local genealogist and historian Mike Hitch presented the community with his findings on the history of a county-owned property known as Pirate’s Wharf.

“It turned out this site is very unique and has a rich history,” he said. “You couldn’t have picked a better site to weave in a history story.”

Earlier this year, Wicomico County received a mini-grant from the Lower Eastern Shore Heritage Council to hire a consultant that would research the history of Pirate’s Wharf, 340 acres of county-owned property located along the Wicomico River.

Steve Miller, the director of recreation, parks and tourism, said plans are to use the historian’s findings to develop a story for Pirate’s Wharf, which will be converted to a regional park.

“Our goal is to take some of his recommendations and try to weave that into our overall planning process for the park,” he said.

Hitch told the audience this week the property was first surveyed in 1666 for a wealthy landowner named Richard Whitty. And by 1699, the land was sold to a James McMurray.

“From 1699 to 1860, the McMurray family owned all of the land that is now Pirate’s Wharf,” he said.

It was during this time that the property served as a plantation. Hitch said historical records show the property featured tobacco plants, apple orchards, animals, tannery and blacksmithing capabilities, a distillery and slave activity.

“Over the course of time, from 1699 to the Civil War, there were probably well over 100 slaves on the property,” he said. “There’s quite a bit of rich African-American influence there.”

In the years to follow, Hitch said the property changed hands several times. And by the 1880s, Pirate’s Wharf served as a location for a steamboat landing, which lasted until 1896.

After several more changes in ownership, the county acquired the property in late 1990s. But Hitch said the property still contains evidence of past activities.

“This is what I found walking through the fields one day, not even digging around,” he said, “earthenware, colonial pottery from the very early 1700s, delftware from the early 1700s, German stoneware and an Indian trading bean.”

Hitch added that the property also features an old cemetery and the remnants of a brick wall, which he and other historians believe to be the site of an old house.

“We think the wall may be the foundation of the very first house that was on the site,” he said, “extending all the way back to about 1699.”

Aleta Davis, president of the Preservation Trust of Wicomico and a Heritage County board member, encouraged officials to work with the Maryland Historical Trust to conduct an archeological study of the cemetery site and nearby brick wall.

“We would really like to see more work done on the cemetery and have it preserved in some way,” she added.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.