The Holidays are nearly upon us, that magical time bringing dear friends and family together from near and far. Welcoming them into our homes during this time of the year is transcendent. Well, at least until Day Three when all eyes turn to you imploring—what’s next?
By then, you’ve sampled Talbot’s wonderful eateries, shopped in St. Michaels and Easton. You’ve been to the outlets and back. You’ve walked through the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and shown everyone the oyster shell from the 1700s the size of a dinner plate. You cleverly used up a whole day driving everyone through Blackwater Refuge and then visiting the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Museum below Cambridge. And you’ve gone for walks at Pickering Creek Audubon Center and the Adkins Arboretum in Tuckahoe State Park. There are movies and bowling left in your bag of tricks, but not much else.
What about the tours sponsored by the St. Michaels Museum?
The Museum has two that might be of interest. One is a walking tour of St. Michaels that provides a rich history of the town first laid out in 1778 by James Braddock. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, St. Michaels was one of the most important shipbuilding towns in the Mid-Atlantic crafting, among other things, the speedy topsail schooners called Baltimore Clippers. In the War of 1812, St. Michaels held the distinction of being one of the few towns on the Bay that stood its ground and pushed the Brits back aboard their ships—twice. As the building of wooden ships came to an end, St. Michaels transformed itself into a major seafood processing center which carried it well into the twentieth century. When that economy withered, it changed itself into the tourist town it is today. St. Michaels is filled with fascinating remnants of its bygone eras.
The other tour is the Frederick Douglass walking tour. We know Douglass as one of the most consequential figures of the nineteenth century, an exceptional orator, philosopher, and writer who traveled through North America and the British Isles advocating emancipation, civil rights, and social justice. But not as well known is that he was born in Talbot County and spent eleven of the first twenty years of his life here, three of them in St. Michaels and nearby farms. His Talbot experience was the basis of the narrative he used so effectively in his autobiographies and speeches, one that became an integral part of America’s literature and its discussion of race.
You’ll enjoy the Douglass tour even if you’re a local because then you’ll be able to answer questions such as these without having to look at your phone:
- Where exactly did Frederick Douglass live in St. Michaels when he was fifteen?
- Where is the home of Sophia Keithley Auld, the person who taught Douglass how to read?
- Where did Douglass go to church in St. Michaels?
- Where are the gravestones of the people who played important roles in his life? Thomas Auld and Lucretia Anthony Auld, for example? And why were they major figures in his life?
- When Douglass returned to St. Michaels in 1877 as one of the world’s most famous people, its streets lined with cheering throngs, which house did he enter for a reconciliation with his former slaveholder who was near death? And how did it go?
St. Michaels Museum would be delighted to provide these tours for you and your guests at a convenient time. Before or after a tour, schedule a meal at one of St. Michaels’ excellent restaurants, and you’ve kept everyone occupied with something enriching for a good part of the day.
For tour availability and scheduling, contact Scott Hercik at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (703) 713-2100. Scott managed historical tours for the Smithsonian for twenty years, and he is eminently qualified to set something up to fit your needs.
Jeff McGuiness was the senior partner of a public policy law firm based in Washington, DC, and founder of HR Policy Association. He was also a partner in Mathews Brothers for ten years. A fine arts major in college who served as a photographer in the Air Force during the Vietnam War Era, he has picked up where he left off 50 years ago with Bay Photographic Works. He lives in St. Michaels, MD.