Out and About (Sort of): Illustrious Name, Notable Career by Howard Freedlander


Situated on the southeast corner of Goldsborough and Aurora streets sits a stately, distinguished-looking brick home. I learned very recently it once belonged to Oswald Tilghman, a man whose last name carries significant currency in Talbot County, and whose career bears attention.

Oswald Tilghman

I mentioned his last name for good reason. His ancestor, Tench Tilghman, a lieutenant colonel in the Revolutionary War and aide-de-camp to General George Washington, was tapped by Washington to deliver the announcement of British General Charles Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown in 1781 to Congress.

Another ancestor, Matthew Tilghman, was a member of the Continental Congress during the time of the Declaration of Independence. And his mother was the daughter of John Leeds Kerr, U.S. Senator of Maryland from 1841-1843.

Okay, now that I have verified Oswald Tilghman’s pedigree, I now will tell readers about the man himself, a person born in 1841, dying in 1932 at the age of 91. I also will confess my intense interest in the county’s history and some of the notable people who lived here way before the Bay Bridge and the consequent population explosion on the Eastern Shore.

We all know that a family name, if unblemished by misdeeds, helps in life. It can open doors before they close should a person’s performance not match the familial reputation. Oswald Tilghman embellished the name, in my opinion.

He served as an officer in the Confederate Army. During the siege of Port Hudson in Louisiana, he commanded an artillery battery on the banks of the Mississippi River, becoming only one of the battery’s four officers to survive the battle. He was taken prisoner, serving 23 months in captivity at Johnson’s Island in Sandusky, Ohio, until the end of the war.

Tilghman returned to his home county, where he became an attorney, practicing law and engaging too in the real estate business. In 1864, he married Belle Harrison, They and their two children lived at the aforementioned Foxley Hall, an impressive and imposing home.

A well-known politician, Tilghman served in the Maryland Senate, 1894-96. He was a chairman of the committee on public buildings in Annapolis, the judicial proceedings committee, the pensions committee, the committee on the Chesapeake Bay and Tributaries and amendments to the Constitution. He helped establish the State Bureau of Immigration.

He later became president of the Board of Development of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. From 1904 to 1908, he was Maryland’s secretary of state under governor Edwin Warfield (on a personal side, I served under Governor Warfield’s grandson, Major General Edwin Warfield III, when he was the adjutant general of Maryland and commander of the Maryland National Guard).

Known as Colonel Tilghman, an honorary rank he received after representing Maryland at the Yorktown Centennial in 1861, wearing his grandfather Tench Tilghman’s sword, this Easton attorney, businessman, and politician, also wrote the History of Annapolis; History of Talbot County, Maryland and Memoir of Lieut. Col. Ten Tilghman.

Local history fascinates me. It’s important to me to try to understand the heritage and culture of a place where I’ve lived more than 41 years. I like to know about those who roamed the streets and waterways of our community and contributed their time and energy to a community that still resembles to some extent what Oswald Tilghman knew so well.

Knowledge about the past informs our sense of place.

A proud wartime veteran, educated at the Maryland Military Academy in Oxford, Tilghman established a notable presence in the legal, business and civic life of Talbot County. His public service in our state capital of Annapolis also was noteworthy; He bridged the gap between the Eastern and Western shores.

A sense of history is good for the soul. I enjoy the exploration.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.


Letters to Editor

  1. Willard T Engelskirchen says:

    I agree that knowledge of the past can help us avoid stupid mistakes. I reference Ta-Nehisi Coates Note from the Atlantic. Five Book to Make You Less Stupid About the Civil War. I promise to try to read one. All the way thru.

    Mr Coates, by the way has family links to the Eastern Shore.


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