Remembering Kent Island
Nov 10, 2010 05:00PM
● By Anonymous
To help document and record local history—much of which takes the form of oral storytelling—writer, historian, and Eastern Shore native Brent Lewis has penned Remembering Kent Island: Stories from the Chesapeake, which was recently released by The History Press. Part of the “American Chronicles” series, the 128-page paperback is illustrated with historic photos and is rich in content that captures the flavor of what it means to live on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, specifically Kent Island, in this day and age.
Lewis is the son of a former waterman, a member of the Kent Island Heritage Society, and was raised on Kent Island. In addition to researching written documents and records for his short history of the region, he also interviewed many residents. He begins with the Chesapeake Bay’s genesis some 35 million years ago and follows Kent Island’s inhabitants and their struggles as well as the island’s many transformations over time. He focuses primarily on the past 375 years, when William Claiborne settled on the island to strategically control the Bay’s commerce, and the battle over ownership that ensued between Puritan Claiborne and Catholic George Calvert. He provides an accounting of the ferries that once traversed the Bay, and tells of the once-thriving oyster-shucking industry on Kent Narrows and the growth of farming in Queen Anne’s County.
Lewis writes: “Old-time Kent Islanders have a clannish reputation that’s not undeserved. Islanders are almost reflexively indifferent towards outsiders, if not outright unwary. They’re protective of their families, their heritage, and their property. Every new arrival brings with him or her the possibility of changing everything forever, and the Islanders have been burned before. Yet with all that, they still can’t help being hospitable and friendly.”
Charles “Gil” and Florence Dunn moved to Kent Island in 1952 and opened a pharmacy on the north side of Route 50/301. Quoting Gil in the book’s final chapter, Lewis writes: “Gil says the first thing he noticed about the people of Kent Island was how they waved to everyone who went past. With a big smile he says, ‘They didn’t even know who you are!’”
Whether you’re in the mood to read about the island’s first churches, the former landmark Hotel Love Point, or the Queen Anne’s Railroad, which ran from Love Point to Lewes, Delaware, this is a good place to start. Lewis writes in a pleasant and easily readable style, and captioned photographs enhance the historic material. Purchase a copy of Remembering Kent Island: Stories from the Chesapeake by visiting your local bookstore or going online to historypress.net.
Brent Lewis is a regular contributor to What’s Up? Eastern Shore.