Memories of my childhood – Thomas J. Sample | Our Cecile


The following letter from Thomas J. Sample was printed in the February 24, 1872 edition of the Cecil Whig. It was dated January 29, 1872 and was received from Muncie, DEL. County, Indiana. The letter includes several interesting anecdotes regarding the War of 1812 and contains many names, dates, and places that may be useful for local genealogy.

“[…] I was born in Cecil County, Maryland on November 4, 1800. My earliest memories are of Tobias Rudolph’s farm, where my father, Captain John Sample, was then living. It was on Glasgow Road, opposite Cowden Farm (now owned by the Reverend James Mclntire). From there I used to go to school above Ginn’s Hill – where Postmaster General Creswell’s residence now stands – to Elkton, about a mile and a half. Then we lived at the Landing for about three years, moving to Elkton around 1811, I think.

“I remember many scenes and incidents from the War of 1812; and particularly how the red coats so often beat our quarters in Elkton, as they blockaded the Chesapeake. Often we (women and children – and some men) took what we could easily carry and fled to safety. One afternoon after the battery (as we called it) was erected at the Landings, and the good men and the brave were there to meet the enemy, a very large number of women and children were mustered at the creek north of town, awaiting the outcome. from a barge approaching, two men slipped past – John and Jim Anderson – and the women opened a fire of ridicule on them, which was very violent, but they continued, observing the adage: ‘He who s ‘runaway can live’. fight another day. My mother and the youngest children went to the residence of Mr. John Thompson, near Newark, Delaware, and stayed there for some time. Eminent men who stood first in defense [sic.] of our houses was then Colonel James Sewell. Major Andrew Whann, (of the cavalry) Captain Sample and Ensign Thomas Howard—I forgot the lieutenant. Part of the time there was a company from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, quartered in Whann’s house, near the mill. — The British fleet was in the bay. to Pool Island and Spesutia Island, and from there they sent marauding parties in barges down the Sassafras, Susquehanna, and Elk rivers, robbing hen-roosts, shooting at private property, and sending Jack back to general. They destroyed warehouses and schooners in Frenchtown, where we had an unfinished fort. They also destroyed Havre de Grace. I saw smoke in Elkton from the burning property. They tried to reach Elkton, but finding a Chevaux-de-Frise across the river, and the small Landing Battery ready to receive them, they withdrew, remembering this decision. [sic.] was the best part of bravery. They were a miserable and cowardly band of marauders, who only went to these points which were not protected. A large body of Pennsylvania militia was assembled and encamped at Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, contiguous; at the heads of the Chesapeake and Delaware bays, ready to succor any post where it was needed most: thence was a string of videottes leading through Elkton to Bull’s Mountain, at the bulge of the Chesapeake , and by this means a constant watch was kept on the movements of the British fleet in our bay. Their headquarters in Elkton was at the Fountain Inn, then run by Joshua Richardson. They have each covered about ten miles, and I have often seen them come at a gallop, their horses covered with foam. “

“We could distinctly hear the roar of cannon during the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore. In February 1815, when the news of peace was received, all our citizens went to the Landings to fire a salute from the battery. Ezekiel F. Chambers, then a sharp, thin, sharp-faced young lawyer – I think from Kent County – was in Elkton, maybe the Court was in session – I think he was a state attorney in the time,) and supported a nine or twelve-pounder gun. It was at the north end of the battery, near the stone house, where a tavern once stood. While loading the rifle, an imprudent, after the bullet had been driven, planted a frozen clod in the muzzle; (they were firing at a cannon on the ice, about half a mile down,) Chambers hit the gun and it burst. I was; standing on the rampart beside him, watching the effect of the shot, when, looking down, I saw Chambers lying against the embankment, bleeding, and the fragments of the gun lying on top of him. He was a bard [sic.] injured, but no bones were broken, although there were a few narrow escapes. A large piece of the weapon was thrown into one of the attic windows of the nearby stone house, and a little girl was looking out the window at the time. Tobias Rudolph stood on a barrel to see the effect of the shot, just to the rear of the gun, the breech of which knocked the barrel to pieces beneath him. I met Chambers, in August, 1859, in Newport, Rhode Island. He became one of the judges of the Maryland Court of Appeals.

“At this time, Earl, Worrall and Purnell made up the Cecil County Circuit Court. Wm. Alexander, Jere Cosden, John Partridge, Tobias Rudolph, Wm. H. Ward were the principal resident attorneys; James Sewall, clerk, and possibly Robert C. Lusby, sheriff. Perhaps Henry Stump was a law student, and possibly George B. Cosden, Henry D. Miller, Register of Wills, etc.

“When I started in Elkton, there were no steamboat lines and all travel was in stages between Baltimore and Philadelphia. There were three lines – US Mail, Pilot and Expedition. West of Elkton, about six miles, was a place called the moors, where robberies were taking place. One winter evening, eastbound passengers waited at the Fountain Inn, while luggage was changed from stage to stage. One trunk turned out to be particularly heavy. — Many loiterers were standing there, some helping to lift the trunks onto the stage chest. Someone remarked, “there must be money in there.” The owner stood on the porch and remarked, “Boys, if you saw what’s in that trunk, it would make you laugh; there are lobsters in it. The hoodlums thought it was only a ruse, and some of them getting ahead of the scene, when he reached the moors, cut the strap of the luggage, and carrying the trunk into the bushes, smashed it and discovered, to their dismay, that this was not the case. indeed contain lobsters. The owner, a Baltimore fancy merchant, had gone to Philadelphia to replenish his stock, and, being a bit of an epicurean, had filled that chest with lobsters. His fancy trunks were examined for money, but, finding none, the trunks were left there in the brushwood.

“Subsequently, and before the age of the railways, a line of steamboats was established between Baltimore and Elkton, the passengers being conveyed twenty miles by land between Elkton and Wilmington, in post-chaises. It was a fine sight to see nine to twelve of these post cars arrive, each carrying about nine passengers, drawn by four horses, and that every day every day. The liners disembark at the Landing. There was a great carrying trade done at that time between Baltimore and Elkton, in sailboats. — Large quantities of wheat were shipped from Baltimore, to supply the mills at Big and Little Elk Creeks, and pig iron was brought to Elkton.

“I left Elkton for the West in October 1819, aged under 19. Often ‘ in memory, especially during the past two years, I have walked it in every part, and re-visited the landing-stage, where, on the quays and in the river, I spent so much of my time strolling , with the rod in hand, fish and catch crabs. I am an old man now, but the memory of those days is very pleasant to me. I return to the store, near the courthouse — to the east of it — where, for Levi H. Evans, I was clerk the last summer, — that of 1819, — which I spent at Elkton . There was a legend related to the Rudolph house, which is next to this store to the east. The cellar is set back from the street. On the west side of the house is an exterior cellar door. It used to be said that during the War of Independence, our troops falling back before the British, who were hotly pursuing them, some of our boys were in this cellar filling their canteens with pipes of wine, when the British appeared at the bend in the road , to the west, where old Stephen Hollingsworth lived, and of course they did not linger long. The retreat continued to Brandywine, where our troops took up position.

“Many of the incidents in No. 17, reminiscences, published in The Cecil Democrat, are familiar to me and all people – Zeb Ferguson, Andrew Short, Dick Mills, Polly Poulson and others. I wonder if anyone from the Giles family lives around here now? Amelia married Philip Harding, a Kentuckian, senior cashier of the old Elkton Bank, and a staunch gentleman. I remember very well the life and death of Nicholas Lirtz Dawson, who died early, and was a relative of Colonel Sewall.— His sister Maria—now Mrs. Ford—I hear, resides at Sassafras Neck, a widow and an esteemed lady. I will never forget Lirtz Dawson’s funeral. I noticed in The Cecil Democrat, sent to me by the hand of a kind friend, the name of John Gilpin. I knew him, as well as Joseph, Henry and Mary, the only sister, a sweet and invaluable lady. Their mother married Frisby Henderson, both now deceased.

“I would like to know the name of the author of the reminiscences. I probably know the person well. I am now an old man, but I still hope to see those scenes from my childhood again, to return to the old farm, where memory was born; revisit old D-Day scenes; cross the river again to the Lewis Thomas farm, where I used to pick up apples; fish again in the old log pens, across from the lower dock; to go to Whann’s Mill, where, with Mary, I used to stroll along the banks of Sabbath-evening races; go to the place of the cemetery, at the head of Christiaan Meeting House, where my precious sisters are buried. […]”

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