ELK LANDING TIMELINE
1600 Prior to the arrival of European settlers, the land now known as Elk Landing, was occupied by Native Americans who hunted, foraged and fished this pristine area. These artifacts were taken from the soil during a series of archeological digs on the Foundation property in the early 2000s. All our archeological studies are located in our on-line Research archives.
1608 Captain John Smith explores the Elk River which is so named because several herd of American Elk are spotted along the shoreline. Following his voyage and his return to England, Smith publishes maps of his journeys in the Chesapeake region first in 1612. This map incorporates the northeast area of what is now Cecil County, Maryland, including Elk Landing.
1632 On June 20 Cecilius Calvert, second Lord of Baltimore, receives from King Charles I of England the province of Maryland which is carved from Virginia.
1634 Two small ships Ark and Dove are sent to Maryland by Cecilius Calvert under the leadership of his younger brother Leonard. They arrive on March 27 and a settlement is begun on St. Mary's River in what is now St. Mary's County.
1635 Maryland's first General Assembly meets and passes laws which guide Calvert's rule.
1638 The Swedes have formed a colony on the west bank of the Delaware River where Wilmington now stands.
1655 Jon Hanson Steelman, later to settle at Elk Landing, is born at the Aronameck Plantation on the west bank of the Schuykill River.
1655 Minquas (Susquehanna) Native Americans presents Governor John Claudius Rising of New Sweden with land called Chakakitque at the fork of the Elk River and other lands in exchange for the promise the Swedes would establish a trading post at what is today Elk Landing.
1674 Maryland's tenth county, Cecil, is established and named in honor of Cecilius Calvert.
1678 In this year (or the year following) a patent was issued to John Browning and Richard Nash for a 500 acre tract of land called "Successor" lying in a fork of the Elk River in Cecil County. This included the present site of Elk Landing. The English now claim the land from the Swedes.
1682 Valentine Hollingsworth, progenitor of the American Hollingsworth family arrives December 10 with his wife and family (including a son Henry) on the Delaware River. They settle on 986 acres granted by William Penn in Pennsylvania which he names Newworke.
1690 About this time Jon Hanson Steelman, a Swede, builds a wooden structure at Elk Landing and established a trading post with the Native Americans. The building was razed about 1917. A partial archeological dig was done where the log structure stood. The results of that study were inconclusive as no artifacts dating to the 17th century or even early 18th century were found. More investigation was recommended.
1696 Zebulon Hollingsworth, later to acquire Elk Landing, is born in Chester County to Henry Hollingsworth, son of Valentine, and his wife the former Lydia Atkinson.
1699 The capitol of Maryland is moved from St. Mary's to Annapolis.
1730 Baltimore Town is founded on 60 acres bought by Charles and Daniel Carroll. Growth was initially very slow as there is little inward expansion for the Chesapeake Bay afforded a great highway for travel. Nearly every plantation lays along the water and is accessible by a wharf or landing, and the principal crop is tobacco. It is packed in large barrels called hogsheads, rolled to the wharf and shipped to England.
1735 Zebulon Hollingsworth acquires the land once owned by Jon Hanson Steelman and others which he names Elk Landing Farm. A 19th century, hand drawn map of the area indicates the various land purchases and land owners starting in the early 18th century.
1737 Henry Hollingsworth is born in Cecil County on September 17 to Zebulon Hollingsworth and his wife the former Mary Jacobs. He is to later serve in the Continental Army.
1740 Captain Zebulon Hollingsworth, along with several other officers, command a group of foot militia in Cecil County.
1741 On April 15th, 1741, Planter, Simon Johnson Jr. of Cecil County, purchased 100 acres of land along the Little Elk "River" from planter Paul Poulson also of Cecil County. The land is described in sections bounded by poplar trees, the river, "bounded reeds," a black oak, and "His Lordship's Manor." No price is noted. This purchase is not shown on our 19th century map.
1758 On October 23rd, 1758, a document is filed in the Cecil County Court that fixes the "first boundary of a tract of land called Prices Venture." That first boundary being "on a point of Sand between the great Marsh and a (unreadable)." The rest of the document is either unreadable or undecipherable.
1763 Zebulon Hollingsworth Sr. dies on August 8th. His last will and testament is filed in the Cecil County Courthouse.
1771 On April 13th, 1771 Robert Evans agrees to rent 30 acres of land to one George Rock for 5 pounds, 10 shillings in "Pennsylvania currency." The land "lying in the fork of the Elk River," is part of a larger, 500 acre plot which lies to the east of a still larger tract known as Price's Adventure. According to a 19th Century map which appears under the "1735" notation above, the Evans land lies just to the north of the present day Elk Landing acreage.
1776 The Declaration of Independence is signed in Philadelphia. First Maryland troops pass through Head of Elk en route to action in New York.
1777 On August 24 at 4:00 AM Colonel Henry Hollingsworth, Deputy Quartermaster General, writes an urgent letter to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia warning them of the arrival of the British Naval forces at Turkey Point on the Elk River. He believes their landing is imminent.
1777 On August 25 British invaders under General Howe begin disembarking from about 250 vessels which have sailed up the Chesapeake Bay. About 15,000 to 18,000 British troops pass through en route to capture the capitol in Philadelphia. Henry Hollingsworth scurries to remove stores, meat, grain and flour, from their path. Captain John Andre of the British forces, draws a map of the invasion routes which include maneuvers across and around Elk Landing.
1777 October 6, General George Washington writes Colonel Henry Hollingsworth ordering the corn and grain belonging to the public be removed to a safe place.
1778 February 16, General George Washington at Valley Forge writes Colonel Henry Hollingsworth, "I am under the painful necessity of informing you, that the situation of the Army is most critical and alarming for want of Provision, especially of the Meat kind. The Troops have not had supplies of the latter for four days and many of them have been much longer without. I have sent Captn, Lee to forward from the Head of Elk and Dover, all of the provision, that may be at either of those places . . ."
1778 On February 21, General Washington writes Colonel Henry Hollingsworth, "Your Letter of the 18th gives me much pleasure that you have employed two active persons for the purpose of collecting Cattle and other Articles of provision for use by the Army . . ."
1781 April 6 orders from General Washington command General Lafayette and a force at Elk Landing to march south to join with General Nathanael Greene for action against Benedict Arnold in Virginia.
1781 September 6th, General Washington arrives at Head of Elk on his way with the continental army to Yorktown. Stays for three days and writes several letters from his military headquarters. French General Count Rochambeau arrives at Head of Elk as well and is transported to Williamsburg via Elk Landing. However, there are not enough ships for all of the troops to board, so the remainder of the troops continue their march to Baltimore and Annapolis where additional vessels are found. Traveling with the French army is a soldier who paints maps (view Map 1) (view Map 2) of each encampment going to and returning from Yorktown. He paints two of Head of Elk showing town buildings, wharfs along the Little Elk Creek, and the locations of the French and American military encampments.
1781 A Private in Washington's army, Joseph Plumb Martin, is leaving Newport, Delaware on continuing a southward march that began on August 19 and writes, " We then crossed over land to the head of the Elk, or the head, or rather bottom, of Chesapeake Bay. Here we found a large fleet of small vessels waiting to covey us and other troops, stores, etc. down the bay. We soon embarked . . . [and] passed down the bay, making a grand appearance with our mosquito fleet . . ."
1781 Troops under the command of French Count Rochambeau join Washington at the Elk Landing, however, there are not enough ships to board, so they continue their march to Baltimore and Annapolis where additional vessels are to be found.
1781 On this movement of the troops southward, William Clajon writes, "General Washington and the army are gone to take Lord Cornwallis in his mouse-trap."
1781 October 19, General Washington, aided by the French Navy and land forces under Count Rochambeau, defeat Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown effectively ending the Revolutionary War.
1783 September 3, the peace treaty for the Revolutionary War is signed in Paris by Great Britain and on behalf of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and John Adams.
1783 December 23, Commander-in-Chief George Washington resigns his commission at the state house in Annapolis.
1783 About this time Zebulon Hollingsworth constructs a two story stone structure along the Little Elk Creek which functions as a dwelling, a warehouse, and possibly a tavern. This date for construction of the Stone House is determined from a dendrochronology study done in the early 21st century.
1787 The Head of Elk is incorporated and the town now called Elkton.
1788 Henry Hollingsworth along with Joseph Gilpen, Samuel Evans and James Gordon Hern represent Cecil County to ratify the Constitution during the Maryland Convention in Annapolis of April 12 to 29.
1788 Newspaper ad appears in Pennsylvania Mercury and Universal Advertiser for Levi Hollingsworth's Philadelphia business.
1790 June 6, Colonel Henry Hollingsworth writes President George Washington requesting his support for an appointment to the Office of Commissioner for the state of Maryland.
1798 April 4, George Washington writing from Mount Vernon thanks Henry Hollingsworth for some American made cloth he had sent the President.
1800 Around this time granite filled barges sink in Big Elk Creek causing sand bars to form severely limiting the water draught. No longer can ship drawing 8 to 9 feet of water move up to the creek to the Town of Elkton.
1800 About this time Zebulon Hollingsworth constructs a two story brick Federal-style house approximately 30-feet square at Elk Landing. This becomes today's Hollingsworth House which was severely damaged by fire but rebuilt in 1850.
1800 November 4th, Thomas Jefferson Sample is born in Cecil County, Maryland. He would move from Elkton in 1819 to Indiana where he would complete his education and be appointed a judge. In old age, Judge Samples would write at least 13 "Reminiscences of Elkton" letters to the editor of the Cecil Whig describing the War of 1812 "battle" at Elk Landing in April of 1813.
1801 March, The Delaware Baptist Association writes a letter of congratulations to President elect-Thomas Jefferson. Mr. Jefferson answers the letter with one of his own written from the White House in July of 1801. The letter was found residing in the third floor of the Hollingsworth House and sold at auction for $200,000 in the early 21st century.
1803 Colonel Henry Hollingsworth dies March 24.
1806 Zebulon Hollingsworth Jr on February 8th manumits his 13 year old slave Jane, "or Jenny," and indentures her to an apprenticeship until she is 28 years old. He then signs the indenture over to his daughter, Margaret, who is the wife of William Cooch, living near Newark in New Castle County, Delaware.
1810 About this time Elk Landing becomes the principal port to move, "flour, whiskey, lumber, grain, and goods of all descriptions." Several ships ledgers are stored in the Hollingsworth House including one from the Schooner Nancy which lists a multitude of goods going and coming through the Elk Landing port. A new road to the port at Christiana, Delaware facilitates transportation by wagon and stage.
1812 War is declared with Great Britain.
1812 Zebulon Hollingsworth Jr dies. His Distribution of the Estate papers are filed in the Cecil County Courthouse.
1813 On April 29 a group of British Marines attack and burn Frenchtown. An attempt is made on Elkton, but defenses at Fort Hollingsworth located at Elk Landing and nearby Fort Defiance hold. The British move their forces down the Bay, and in early May burn Havre de Grace followed by destructions at Fredericktown and Georgetown. Living in Elkton at the time is young Thomas Jefferson Samples who, later in life writes a series of letters to the Cecil Whig newspaper, describes his recollections of the battle.
1814 Mary Pickersville sews the stars on the flag which will fly over Ft. McHenry and inspires Francis Scott Key to write the words to the national anthem when the British fail to take the fort and Baltimore, the war comes to an end.
1814 Mary Hollingsworth dies and her estate sells many of her belongings.
1815 Steamboat service begins at Elkton with a shallow draught vessel specifically designed for inland creeks and waterways.
1818 The New Castle & Frenchtown Turnpike opens. With this improved road the port of Frenchtown becomes a more significant competitor to Elk Landing for moving good and people north and south.
1829 The Chesapeake & Delaware Canal opens. This provides an all water route between the cities of Baltimore and Philadelphia. By 1844 there is regular passenger service. In the long term this route will siphon off passengers and freight that was previously enjoyed by both Elk Landing and Frenchtown.
1831 The New Castle & Frenchtown Railroad opens making the connection between the two ports faster and cheaper further eroding the competitiveness of Elk Landing.
1837 The Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad passes through Elkton putting additional economic pressure on water routes such as Elk Landing.
1844 August, William Hollingsworth (son of Zebulon Hollingsworth, jr.) dies. His last will and testament, dated August 28, 1844, manumits all of his slaves. Subsequently, his wife, Mary E. Hollingsworth, inherited the remainder of William's property.
1848 The original brick two story house (Hollingsworth House) constructed by Zebulon Hollingsworth, jr. is gutted by fire. Mary Hollingsworth's daughter, attending school in Baltimore writes a worried letter (a modern transcript taken from a Historical Society of Cecil County publication by historian Mike Dixon) to her mother Mary inquiring about her mother and the status of the house.
1851 In the July 19 issue of the Cecil Whig, "There are few prettier places than Elk Landing. To be sure there is none of the grandeur about it produced by steep hillsides, or overhanging rocks, or water falls; but then there is a quiet and placid beauty lying all around, which is perhaps the pleasantest scenery to dwell upon, and live in the midst of, after all."
1872 Citizens of Elkton petition the Federal Government to improve the channel between Elkton and Frenchtown.
1881 October 22nd edition of the Cecil Whig newspaper notes the Centennial of the concluding battle of the Revolutionary War at Yorktown, Virginia in October of 1781. "Washington at Head of Elk" quotes from the diary of General Washington's secretary, Jonathan Trumbull.
1882 July 7th, Judge Thomas Jefferson Samples dies in New Albany, Indiana at the age of 81. The obituary in the Cecil Whig newspaper appears on the same day (July 22, 1882) and the same page as the notice of the death of Mary Todd Lincoln.
1887 Henry Deibert brings his family, plus seven workers, to Elk Landing to build barges along the Little Elk Creek. He moved from Pennsylvania, where he had previously built boats. The yard opened in 1889 and expanded in about 1890 to include the "Lower Yard". Barges ranged from 100 to just over 200 feet in length.
1910 Silting of the creek is a contributing factor to the boatyard moving operations to Long Creek in Chesapeake City.
1984 The stone structure known as the Jon Hanson Steelman tavern is placed on The National Register of Historic Places.
1999 On October 15 the Town of Elkton acquires 42 acres of Elk Landing from the descendants of the Hollingsworth family.
2000 On January 17, the Town of Elkton and The Historic Elk Landing Foundation, Inc. sign a renewable 99 year lease for the restoration, management and operation of the site as a living history museum.