Friday, October 1, 2010

The History Of Pocomoke By Murray James (19)

144 History of Pocomoke City, CHAPTER XXI. POST OFFICE.

The postofrice, in the early history of New Town, was a very small affair, so small, indeed, that I have the impression that there was no pay for transmission of the mail from Snow Hill to New Town, as that was, then, the- mall route. I am indorsed in this declaration by the fact that it was transmitted by individual citizens when they would go to Snow Hill, on business, on public days. As early as 1820. Michael Murray, my father, was post- master for New Town. When other means of getting: the- mail would fail, my father would send my two oldest brothers, each one on horseback, to Snow Hill for the mail.

After these two brothers went to Baltimore to learn a trade, this duty at times fell upon my two next older brothers and myself. The mail was due at New Town once a week, and sometimes it would lay in the office at Snow Hill two weeks for the want of a carrier. In such emergencies, my fathers would say to us: "Boys, you must take the canoe," for then we had no horse, ''and go- to Snow Hill for the mail." At that period I do not think I was more than eight years of age. We manned the boat with two oars and a paddle; as I was the- Formerly New Town. 145 youngest, it fell to my lot to be steersman, as that was the easiest part of the work. We would start on the first of the flood tide.

We were going on United States busi- ness, and being little boys, of course we felt the importance of our mission. When the boys would lean back with their oars and make a long pull and a strong pull the canoe, as a thing of life, would dart ahead and seemed to say to me: " If you don't mind I will run from under you." Thus we tugged and sweated until we reached Snow Hill. We went up to the postoffice and got the mail. If the ebb tide had made we started for home. Sometimes we would be in the nieht g'ettin^ home. At such times I would get sleepy and would be afraid I would fall overboard. Incidents like the following have taken place when we have been delayed till the night getting home. A storm cloud would arise, the thunder and lightning would be terrific, the rain coming down seemingly in torrents. We had no covering but the cloud out of which the rain was descending. When we would be getting down near the old ferry, now the bridge, we would begin to halloo at the top of our voices, knowing that our mother would be down at the back of the lot looking up the river to see if we were coming.

Sure enough she would be the first one to meet us when we reached the shore. The reader will learn that my lather's house stood on the same ground where William T. S* Clarke's house now stands. There was no wharf then between the lot and the river. There was nothing but tuckahoes. mud and bramble.

14f> History of Pocomohe City,

When I think of the incident just described with many others in which a mother's love has boen shown, I am constrained to exclaim : " Oh! the thoughts of a precious loving mother : I once had such a mother, and the remembrance of her is like sweet incense poured forth." We arrived safely at home, ate our supper, went to bed and slept soundly. The next morning the mail was opened. The citizens would call for their mail matter. Some of them had friends living in the far West, on the frontiers of civilization, as far away as Ohio and ye Old Kentucky. Oh! what a wonderful sight it was then, to a little bey, to see a man who had come from that far-away country. As I have already stated the New Town mail was very small. There were but few newspapers in the country and I have no knowledge what the postage was on them. Letter postage was regulated by the distance a letter had to go. For instance, the postage on a letter from New Town to Baltimore was ten cents and from New Town to New Orleans it was twenty-five cents.

Anything over half ounce was double postage then as it is now. Forty years ago there was an express arrangement from New Orleans to Baltimore in the form of a flying post ; that is to say, horses on the route would be bridled and saddled already to start at the moment. For instance, the starting point would be at New Orleans, the horse was saddled and bridled and the rider in the saddle ; at the moment the signal to start was given, the rider would go in riving speed to the next station of probably four miles distance, at which another horse would be* all ready, the

Formerly New Town. 147

rider would dismount and mount again and thus pursue the route to Baltimore. A letter by this route cost seventy- five cents from New Orleans to New Town ; if the letter had money in it or over a half ounce the postage was one dollar and fifty cents. How long this express route existed I cannot say, probably not long. In 1827, Michael Murray, my father, resigned the postmastership, having held that position from my earliest recollection. At the period referred to above, there was no mail pouch to put the mail matter in ; indeed, the mail would be so small that it would be tied up with twine and taken in the hand, not larger than any one of the neighborhood mails that go out of Pocomoke City Postoffice at the present day. .

The following is a list of names of postmasters of New Town Postoffice from 1820 to 1882: Michael Murray, Thos. Brittingham, John Burnett, Dr. James B. Horsey, John S. Stevenson, Dr. Joseph L. Adreon, William J. S. Clarke, William H. T. Clarvoe, C. C. Lloyd, James Murray, Dr. John T. B. McMaster, William H. S. Merrill and James H. Vincent, who is the present incumbent. Thus the names of the postmasters of New Town Post- office will be preserved from oblivion to those who do not take the pains to search the official records for such information. I would here state that the postoffice went begging for an appointee as late as 1861.

This was the case when it came into the writers hands at the above date. The mail, in New Town, was semi-weekly and the post master

14s History of Pocomoke City,

received about 80 dollars per year for his services. About 1863, the postoffice became a salaried one. The post master was required to keep a correct account of all mail matter going- through the office during the last quarter of the year and make a return of the same to the postoffice department at Washington, and his salary was based upon the per centage allowed him on all mail matter going through the office that quarter, for two years to come. Thus the salary was fixed every two years.

The postoffice in Pocomoke City, at the present day. pays a salary of S700. It is one to be coveted and one that will induce a political struggle to obtain. As late, probably, as 1S50, we had but one mail a week, now we have three mails a day, and soon the fourth one will be added. The rate of postage, then, was fixed according to the distance a letter had to go. Then a letter from New Town to New Orleans was twenty-five cents, now a letter postage is three cents to any part of the United States..

Formerly New Town. 149 CHAPTER XXII.

PRINTING OFFICES. In 1865, Albert J. Merrill established a printing press in New Town. He edited and published a weekly paper called the Record. This was the first paper ever pub- lished in New Town. It was creditable, neat and highly prized by the people. In 1865, William L. Clarke, a native of Worcester County, who had been living in Wellsvile, Ohio, for several years, and had published a paper there called the Wellsville Patriot, returned to this, his native county, and established a printing press in New Town, and edited and published a paper called the Gazette. This paper, also, was neatly gotten up, and was a credit to its editor, and highly prized by its patrons. These two editors sent out their weekly issues down to 1872, when A. J. Merrill, Esq., bought out William L. Clarke, Esq., and consolidated the two papers into one, called the Record and Gazette, under the editorial man- agement and control of A. J. Merrill, Esq. In 1879, Dr. S. S. Quinn bought one half of the press, and its appurtenances, and had the editorial management of the paper under the firm of A. J. Merrill and S. S. •Quinn, until 1882, when J. Shiles Crocket became one-

150 • History of Pocomoke City,

third owner of the press and paper, and is now the editor and manager of the same, under the firm of Merrill, Ouinn & Crocket.

Formerly New Town. 151 CHAPTER XXIII.

SOCIAL ASPECT, &c. The social aspect of New Town, now Pocomoke City. The reader may be anxious to learn something oi the habits and social bearing - of the citizens during its early history. Well ! to begin, the citizens, with very few excep- tions, would take their toddy ; hence, the common practice which was followed by parents of mixing a glass of toddy before breakfast and handing it to each member of the family, from the oldest to the youngest.

This practice was as common as the days rolled round, when I was a little boy. Again, when friends would visit each other the decan- ter of liquor, glasses, sugar and water would be set out, and an invitation given to come up and help themselves. Again, when citizens and men from the country would congregate, on Saturday, at the stores, (for the stores were the chief places of resort) a pint of liquor would be called for.

The pint cup would be set out with tumblers and pitcher of water, and the invitation given to all present to come up, ''come up gentlemen and help yourselves." Then toasts would be drank, something after the following order, with the glass in hand, addressing the company : "well 1 gentle-

152 History of Pocomoke City,

men ! here is luck and a plenty." Frequently they would get quite mellow over the pint cup before they left it ; and likely enough a few brushes of the fist would follow. Another feature of social life was that of families visiting each other to eat the social meal. At such times they ■would remain after supper with the family until usual bed- time, passing the time in such conversation as would be agreable to all.

The family code at that day was : that children could be seen but must not be heard while the older persons were talking. A little incident occurred one night, on one of those occasions, in relation to myself, which will be somewhat amusing to the reader : Some neighbors had called in to take supper with my father and mother, and staid till after nieht.

The little folks had received orders to sit and listen but must not talk, if they did, the one so offending must march off up stairs to bed. Somehow or other I broke the law, I was discovered talking to the boys, who with myself, with this single exception, were as mute as mice, the result was I had to go to bed. While lying in bed, reviewing my conduct during the day and night, I knew I had been a bad boy. Conscience was supreme and hurled its thunderbolts at me.

I began to cast my thoughts around and contemplate the possibility of Satan's coming after me that night, and if so what should I do. Just at that moment, while under such terrible reflections, the house cat, which by means of the room door being left open, had crept into the room and jumped upon the bed, in doing which it jumped in my face. The reader may, if

Formerly New Town. L53

he ran, imagine my feelings; to me they were beyond description. I grabbed the cat with both hands, and threw it in another part of the room. But, oh! the terror that seized me. I screamed at the top of my voice. As soon as I took hold of the cat I knew what it was, but the fact of its being the cat did not abate my screaming.

1 thought the Devil was about to lay hold of me. My mother was swift to my rescue, and carried me down stairs, and I was once more happy in being seated in the corner with the children listening to the old folks at home. Ao-ain, the social life was exhibited in the various amuse- ments and pastimes of the day. For instance, the game of fives with the trapball was a favorite sport with both men and boys ; the playing ol cards was also frequently prac- ticed in families; shooting at the mark for turkeys, quarters of beef, etc.

Wrestling was much in vogue in the early history of New Town. Men and boys both would engage in it. Boxing was also practiced. I have beheld such sports and have seen men kick each •other like horses. Sometimes death would be the result of such exercises. There were men in New Town and the surrounding county who prided themselves upon their manhood.

Sometimes they would exhibit their strength by lifting the fifty-six pound weights, which were used in the tobacco warehouse for weighing tobacco. The two heaviest lifts were as follows : one lifted eleven the other fourteen fiity-six pound weights, each man aggregating respectively 6 16 pounds and 784 pounds. Query: Are

154 History of Pocomoke Oity,

there two men in Pocomoke City at the present who can come up to this. Those shooting, wrestling' and boxing matches were attended with a spirit of rivalry which would sometimes culminate in a pitched battle. I have seen men strip themselves to the waist and commence their brutal- ity. Those fights would be equal in brutality, if not so scientific, to the prize fights of recent years.

Again, social life would be seen in the cotton pickings, quiltings and dances. After the cotton picking or quilting had been attended to, the plays would commence. For instance, a family had a quilt to be quilted, they would invite the young ladies to come in the afternoon and the gentlemen would go after supper. By supper time the quilt would be finished. After supper the plays would commence by singing those songs that used to be sung on such occa- sions "in the days of yore." Of course they had kissing in the plays, for that was the most enjoyable part of them. On a certain occasion it was the fortune of a certain young man to call out a lady whom it would be his pleasure, as he thought, to kiss. The call was made, the young lady came out upon the floor, she was very tall and he was low of stature, she was aristocratic and was mortified at being called out by him ; he attempted to kiss her, but she held her head well up and snuffed her nose at him, so that he could not succeed, but he was equal to the emergency. " Stop ! stop ! " said he, " let me draw my boots and climb. " The take-off was so good that it raised a great titter in the company and that young lady's pride got a fall that l 

Formerly New Town. 155

night. I have spoken of the songs in those plays, one of which I will mention as illustrative of the character of the rest. "Here we go to Baltimore, Two behind and two before; Round and round and round we go, Where oats, peas, beans And barley grows." From the best information that I can get this is an Irish song.

The word Baltimore was originally spelled " Bailte Mor" and signified a proprietary of a barony or large town. On a certain occasion there was a social gathering at the house of an old gentleman. The young folks were formed in a ring, holding on to each other's hands, and singing the above song. As they were marching round and round, a certain young man was in reach of the old gentleman as he sat in the corner of the hearth-place, when he slapped him on the shoulder, exclaiming: ''Johnnie, honey, don't you love the gals ! " The answer was prompt: "Oh, yes, Uncle Davie!" still singing as they swung around the circle.

Next; 156 History of Pocomcike City, CHAPTER XXIV.

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