Saturday, June 27, 2015

Histories Mysteries - St. Clements Island -.Coltons Point - and the mysterious 7th District in Maryland


For those of you not familiar with the 7th District in Southern Maryland I thought I would offer a little primer in the highly unlikely event you ever fall off the edge of the world and find yourself in the 7th District. First of all it is one of the oldest landing points for the colonization of the original thirteen colonies way back in the early 1600's.

St. Clements Island, the actual place where the English pilgrims landed, is just off Coltons Point where the pilgrims first saw the Indians and set foot in Maryland. These are the last two places on the map in the 7th District at the Potomac River.

Now I am not a pilgrim nor related to pilgrims but an awful lot of people here are and it seems that the older the family the more likely they inter-married with other families that have been around about 381 years, since 1634 and this is the anniversary year. That means when you meet a Dorsey, Bailey, Combs, McKay, and all the other names you see on signs down here you might just be meeting the relatives of all the prominent and aristocratic families.

The 7th District folks came here for religious and other freedom and for the last 381 years have been fighting anyone who tried to tame them. Long before the existence of New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, DC these folks had established rights to the 7th District. The early settlers were a combination of watermen, farmers, and tobacco farmers and starting in 1639 other people started trying to take this place away from them.

The local Native Americans never tried, I suspect they knew better, and this was about the only place in America where the settlers and Native Americans lived in harmony which tells you a lot about the people who settled as they respected the rights of the Natives.

Since it was the only place in the New World that promised religious freedom a lot of other people wanted to stop them. The Puritans and a few other groups seemed to think they had the only connection to God.

So the locals fought off the other white men for about a hundred years before they joined the fight against the Brits as the concept of freedom just kept spreading. In a couple of wars the British actually attacked this area which goes to show military intelligence hasn't much changed after all these years. The 7th District eventually became the last frontier in Maryland which it remains to this day.

Along the way the Civil War was fought and being we were well south of the Mason Dixon line but still in Union controlled territory, the 7th District became one of the primary smuggling points for getting supplies and arms to the Confederates since the Union had blockaded all the southern ports. One Union officer said at night the Potomac River was filled with black painted boats sailing supplies across the river to the Confederates in Virginia.

Upcoming scandals we will be reporting on include the English and French support for the Confederate army that was channeled through this area and the fact the English backed John Wilkes Booth and was to pick him up here after the killing of President Lincoln. Of course there is also the disappearance of Booth for almost a week during the manhunt in the area of the 7th District.

A lot of strange things seem to be seen down here on a regular basis, of course once upon a time there was a moonshine still every mile which might explain seeing strange things, like airplanes that are silver balls, strange sky circles, and the like.  People don't report much to local authorities because there are no authorities.  Some think up to 40% of the population are on witness protection which might explain why you see no one.

On the good side, the dead are as hard to find as the living since there are no schools, churches, and cemeteries.  That means no funeral homes.  It also means no hospitals, hospices, clinics, doctors, or dentists.  Why a traffic jam down here is two cars at a stop sign.

By the way, the entire original town of Coltons Point is named Coltons Point because the previous owner lost it in a Pocker game about a hundred years ago. Seems too many shots of moonshine were put away that night.

Fact is, there is no commerce, period, so no need for parking except at the museum where they quietly celebrate the 381 years people have been hiding out down here.  We have a museum that often finds it hard to be open for tourists since outsiders are not encouraged. Out on St. Clements Island, at least what is left of it, it shrank from over 600 acres nearly 400 years ago to about 60 today, the Lighthouse was restored and now is mostly closed to the public.

Now when it comes to politics, especially hard ball, survivors of the 7th District wrote the book. There was an entire moonshine industry devoted to helping people decide how to vote. Eventually the rest of Maryland got civilized and soon the election of governor in the state always seemed to be tied between the Baltimore Democrats and the Washington DC area Republicans, and it was the band of outcasts down in the 7th District that decided many an election throughout the 20th century.

I suspect this was the way the folks of the 7th District got even with the politicians. Many a person can recall seeing a candidate for governor from up north sneak into the District, spend a weekend sharing some moonshine with the old boys, and going home to win the election. In the 7th District the vote could be controlled as about everyone was a Catholic Democrat and they knew statewide elections were dependent on them for success.

We had our share of celebrities as well but they always seemed to live just across the water from the 7th District. From Coltons Point you could see where George Washington was born and where Robert E. Lee was born on the Virginia shore.

There is no local government nor local police in the entire 7th District as the people could never see the need for the bureaucrats. Most justice was handed out locally including disposal without the expense of trial or jail for anyone terrorizing the people. No crime wave lasted long.  Those guilty of minor offenses are routinely assigned community service out on St. Clements Island, possibly another reason tourists avoid the place.

Of course to this day there are no governments, street lights, stop lights, sidewalks, sewers, water pipes, gas lines or anything else found in most civilizations. The fire and emergency personnel are volunteers. About half of the roads planned for Coltons Point have never been built and you better check the goods in the local store for expiration dates before you buy anything.

People here still eat fish, oysters, crab, and clams harvested from the river although the politicians up north have done about everything possible to destroy the environment. More than nine Bald Eagles share year round residence in the Point along with many a strange specimen that can be seen wandering out of the swamps and wetlands on dark and foggy nights.

There is a distinct social structure that has evolved over the years including the Ancients, Aboriginals, Watermen, Yuppies, Yippies, Yappies, Come Downers and Come Backers. The Ancients are the descendents of the original boat people from 1634 on.

Since there are no Native Americans left the Aboriginals are the hillbillies, moon shiners, deinstitutionalized head cases, religious zealots, and of course Confederates who run around singing "Don't give a damn what the Yankees say the South's gonna rise again" in a strange pig Latin tongue.

The Watermen are the raucous survivors of the original fisher men, crab men, oyster men, clam men, eel men, (yes I said eels as in scary slithering things on the river bottom) and the people who supported them like the marinas, crab shacks, oyster and clam processing joints etc. There aren't many left and that is one of the enduring tragedies of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The Yuppies are the new rich who move here to get away from what they spent their lives working to get. Yippies are the younger generation now beyond youth but still trying to find their way through life with a soft spot for environmental issues, nature, birds and privacy. Yappies are Yuppies and Yippies with a big mouth who show up expecting to find all the laws of more civilized places like dog catchers, police and all the other conveniences of modern society.

Down here the Postmaster knows everyone on a first name basis. Well that is before we lost our postmaster.  Now we have to check the Post Office every day to find out what hours it might be open. Word is those bureaucraps in DC have already eliminated our Post Master from the budget and I guess we will have to pick up our own packages.  Seems we have had about ten temporary postmasters in the past six months and about half the houses do not even get home delivery.

If you worry a lot about all the stuff we do not have, do not look to the local bar for a shoulder to cry on because old George, the proprietor, doesn't want any more customers as that might put them in a higher tax bracket. There is no fast food, no place to eat period without driving about 10-20 miles, and little need to put on airs. It don't matter whether you are rich or poor, you all eat crabs, oysters, and clams the same.

Often a community is judged by the services that are available so do not expect Coltons Point to ever be on a list of places to live.  To a fellow Pointer, fat cat bankers rank down with the lowest of all creatures on earth.  As a result, there are no banks, not even ATMs, and stock brokers or financial advisers are banned.

Things others take for granted like public telephones or public restrooms were never allowed, they serve to encourage people to visit.  With the sole exception of television and computers with dial up modems, slow modems that is, technology is viewed with a great deal of suspicion   

The Come Downers are the city folk who discovered the quaint place along the river and made their way here to escape where they are from or to exploit the area for material gain which never seems to happen. Finally the Come Backers are the kids of the Ancient families who escaped long ago only to discover the rest of the world will never replace what they had here in the first place and eventually they find their way back home.

Now that is a little of what you find down here in the 7th District of Southern Maryland, ferocious defenders of individual freedom a lot of character from a lot of characters, a place steeped deep in history, a keen sense of fair play, a desire to help your neighbors no matter what their social status might be, a bit cynical when it comes to the promises of the government or elected officials, but people who will never turn their backs on people in need, unless, of course they deserve it.

One thing we do have for sure, water.  Clean, dirty, salt, fresh, the Potomac River, about 100 feet deep, is our southern border.  That river is also about seven miles wide where it turns around the point.  An island on the Virginia side is called shark island and is covered with shark bones and teeth and the like, though I have not seen a live shark in the waters, but seen plenty walking on land.                   .

A few miles downriver and you come to the Chesapeake Bay which is a rather large water hole and then the Atlantic Ocean which is about as big as it gets.  Everyone has a boat, ship, yacht, inner tube or something because at any moment you can be underwater being nearly at sea level. Hurricanes come about every third year, water spouts every couple,  and the water table could be in your kitchen in a matter of hours.

In summary, here in Coltons Point we had the first landing of Jesuits in colonial America and they are gone.  We had the first colony with religious freedom but we have no church.  It was the first landing of Catholics in America and no Catholic shrine.

The original owners gave away the land from our land grant from England for Washington, DC and Philadelphia which is a source of perpetual grief for the anti-government anti-bureaucrat locals.  That explains why we have no schools since children's minds are poisoned enough already.

By the way, if you run out of gas down here you won't leave as there is no gas station in miles but every house seems to have a John Deere riding mower, golf cart, and a boat for a fast getaway.  As for a news stand to find out what is going on in the world, forget about it.

Perhaps you now understand the love affair people have living in Coltons Point and the 7th District and why there are no "welcome signs" nor "come back again" signs to be found.  You all should give it a try.

No comments: