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Game of the District Messenger Boy: A Boundary Object Bridging Two Eras of American History
By: Kathleen Black
Intern, Historical Society of Baltimore County, 2014
Oh, the games we play without considering the context of their time. Take for instance the board game titled Game of the District Messenger Boy, or Merit Rewarded, manufactured by McLoughlin Brothers in 1886, and found among the collections of the Historical Society of Baltimore County. District Messenger Boy is a straightforward “spin-and-move” board game where players spin an arrow, which directs them to move either one, two, three, or four spaces. Each player’s goal is to advance their game piece from beginning to end ahead of their opponent to become President of the Telegraph Company. Before a player begins navigating the board, they must spin a one to be placed on “Apprenticeship,” a two to move to “Training School,” and a three to begin work on the “Messenger Force,” thus gaining entrance into the maze. Along the way, players may stumble onto the following spaces: “STUPIDITY Go Back to CARELESSNESS,” “LOITERING Go Back to LAZINESS,” and “INATTENTION Go Back to DICIPLINE.”
The game’s allusion to the socio-economic constructs present at the time it was manufactured beckoned me into light research about the history of telegraph messenger boys and the context of the time. What you find is how something as simple as an historic children’s board game, quietly and discretely housed among thousands of museum collections items, can act as a conduit into major socio-cultural and economic dilemmas in national history. It provides a glimpse into the stirring debates of the late Gilded Age and early Progressive Era in American history, when largely unregulated capitalism butt directly up against a rapidly industrializing society and political reformers. Manufactured between the Gilded Age, a time of rapid economic growth, and the Progressive Era, a period of social activism and political reform, District Messenger Boy is a product of these two melding paradigms.
Now spin a one, knowing the McLoughlin Brothers’ game was manufactured during an era that idealized the young worker in a rapidly changing and rapidly industrializing society in 1886. The would-be messenger boys, commonly fourteen year old children, entered an apprenticeship with the telegraph company and “would have worked ten-hour days, seven days a week, waiting on a bench in back of the district office with five other boys as his turn at the next messenger call.” Spin a two, to land on training school, where boys were taught to be the “smiling, uniformed, industrial soldier, ready not only to deliver a holiday telegram with a smile, but competent to carry out product surveys, to deliver direct-marketing samples, and even to cover the phones while the boss was away.” Spin a three and enter the messenger force, where boys were viewed as either “up-and-coming young business men,” or “exploited children,” depending on whose opinion one cared to adopt.
Messenger boys aided in increasing both the popularity and profitability of the telegraph. Young boys were the popular choice for employment in telegraph companies as they were diligent, trustworthy, and “instantly recognizable [while] also unobtrusively invisible.” Simultaneously, they proved to be the best financial choice to keep profits high, because the young boys were less likely than older men to demand higher wages.
The boys’ entertainment of the time included messenger boy stories found in dime-novel literature, where the young messengers were often poor orphans, who by some inconceivable chance obtained employment as messenger boys, and then used their position for protecting vulnerable women on the street while excelling at their delivery duties. At the end of the stories, “the messenger always reaps a surprise reward of both family and career, leaving his childhood working days behind for a respectable adult male life.”  While the messenger boys were respected for performing their delivery duties, these stories may have skewed their view of their actual necessity and likewise their chance of advancement in the work place.
The dime-novel tales were as idealized as the McLoughlin game considering the boys rarely advanced in position in the telegraph company. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, representation for the messengers increased as children’s working conditions were getting taken into account when the Gilded Age gave way to the Progressive Era. Tiles found in the game such as, “INTELLIGENCE Advance to SERGEANT,” “INTEGRITY Advance to ASS.MANAGER,” and “ACCURACY Advance to BOXINSPECTOR” were the exception rather than the rule for telegraph messenger boys. The Massachusetts Child Labor Committee, in 1911, presented reports to the Committee on Labor that revealed “conditions of vice and crime […] must have been the unmaking of hundreds of boys engaged” in the telegraph messenger service.
In need of reform, according to the Child Labor Committee, was the night service running from 10 P.M. to 5 A.M. The Committee states: “The night service, it appears, is so injurious to minors from a moral as well as a physical point of view that only dense ignorance of facts can be offered as a weak excuse for our having done nothing to date.” Correct in their assertion, there were little to no facts about the condition of messenger boys in the labor force, as they were often ignored during unionization discussions.
Taking the issue into their own hands, messengers themselves formed strikes throughout the late-1800s and early-1900s. In Maryland, in 1902, sixteen messenger boys working for the Postal Telegraph and Cable Company went on strike after not receiving proper pay for taking long distance messages. While the message delivery system was temporarily halted, it began running smoothly again as new messengers were hired and a few of the strikers returned. Unfortunately, the goal of reformation proved to be ineffective for the messenger boys; although, “their wages were brought in line with national legal minimums” because of union work, telegraph companies “opted to increase mechanization and subcontract out to post office and taxi services to carry its telegrams instead of keeping a large messenger force” in order to counteract the increased wage of messenger boys.
Take another look at Game of the District Messenger Boy, or Merit Rewarded, and the game no longer seems as benign as before. Hidden under its bright graphics, simple game play and well-meaning message that hard work equals great reward is a more complicated and nuanced history of labor rights, child labor laws, unionization, industrialization and capitalism. What one does not see in McLoughlin Brothers game were the worsening working conditions of the messengers during the late-1800s and their struggle for more labor rights and legal protections during the 1900s.
Placed within their context, items like a simple historic board game may reveal that museum artifacts are much more than neat objects stored carefully on shelves or in display cases. They have the ability to shed light on the critical social, cultural, economic and political issues of a bygone era, and to encourage critical thinking about similar issues today.
 Gregory John Downey, Telegraph messenger boys: labor, technology, and geography, 1850-1950 (New York: Routledge, 2002), 3.
 Ibid, 4.
 Ibid, 4.
 Ibid, 11.
 Ibid, 110.
 Philip Davis, “The Night Messenger Boy,” Boston Evening Transcript (Boston, MA), March 11, 1911.
 Maryland Bureau of Statistics and Information, Annual Report of the Bureau of Statistics and Information of Maryland (Baltimore: The Sun Book and Job Printing Office, 1903), 41.
 Gregory John Downey, Telegraph messenger boys: labor, technology, and geography, 1850-1950 (New York: Routledge, 2002), 190.
We’ve just updated our website with a new page and research tool! We posted our ever-growing collection of vertical files!
These files may be one of the most used research resources at the historical society. The vertical file collection project began fifty-years ago, and it contains newspaper clippings, hand-written manuscripts, Maryland Inventory of Historic Places reports on structures and sites, and other documents and ephemera related to specific Baltimore County topics.
History Trails is the Historical Society of Baltimore County’s semi-academic, popular history publication, in production since 1966.
(Copies are available for sale at $5.00 each, or you may review them at our research center.)
|Vol.||No.||Date||Title & Author $5.00 each|
|1||1||September 1966||“History Markers”|
|1||2||December 1966||“Hunt Clubs”|
|1||3||March 1967||“Hannah More Academy”|
|1||4||June 1971||“Origin of Names”|
|2||1||September 1967||“Towson State College”|
|2||2||December 1967||“Historical Society of Baltimore County Museum”|
|2||3||March 1968||“The Society of Friends”|
|3||1||September 1968||“Country Store Days”|
|3||2||December 1968||“Historic Churches of Baltimore County”|
|3||3||March 1969||“History Through Advertisements”|
|4||1||September 1969||“Emory Grove”|
|4||2||December 1969||“Ghost Towns of Baltimore County”|
|4||3||March 1970||“From Indian Trail to Crowded Highway”|
|4||4||June 1970||“Fun in the Gay Nineties”|
|5||1||September 1970||“St. Timothy’s Protestant Episcopal and “Salem Evangelical Lutheran”|
|5||2||December 1970||“The Itinerant Peddler”|
|5||3||March 1971||“Glen Ellen”|
|5||4||June 1971||“Era of Gristmills”|
|6||1||Autumn 1971||“On the Great Eastern road”|
|6||2||Winter 1971-72||“A Marylander Visits Sir Walter Scott,” by John W. McGrain|
|6||3||Spring 1972||“Here Comes the Ice Wagon”|
|6||4||Summer 1972||“Cabinetmaking in the Eighteenth Century”|
|7||1||Autumn 1972||“Rev. Edward Choate, Particular Baptist,” by Jesse Choate Phillips|
|7||2||Winter 1972-73||“Baltimore County Territorial Changes: 1659-1919”|
|7||3||Spring 1973||“Hereford Farmhouse,” by Andrew Clemens|
|7||4||1974||“Ulm House Restored,” by Andrew and Shirley Clemens|
|8||1||1974||“The Yeoho Road,” by S. Virginia Akehurst and Eva E. Akehurst|
|8||2||1974||“The Yeoho Road (cont.)”|
|8||3||1974||“Powell’s Run Academy,” by Jesse C. Phillips|
|8||4||Summer 1974||“Defense Efforts at Dorsey’s Forge,” by John W. McGrain|
|9||1||Autumn 1974||“The Volunteer Tradition”|
|9||2||Winter 1974-75||“Rockland Bleach Works,” by E. Bennett Bowen|
|9||3||Spring 1975||“Reckord, Maryland,” by Amelia R. Kolk Haile|
|9||4||Summer 1975||“Tench Tilghman,” by Louise Bland Goodwin|
|10||1||Autumn 1975||“Post Offices in the Long Green Area,” by Elmer R. Haile, Jr.|
|10||2||Winter 1975-76||“Baltimore County Horse Guard,” by Erick F. Davis|
|10||3||Spring 1976||“Story of Grandfather Hill,” by Katherine M. Nicholson|
|11||1||Autumn 1976||“Prose from a Farm Ledger,” Robert Barnes and John W. McGrain (eds.)|
|11||2||Winter 1976-77||“Oread Republic,” by Andrew C. Clemens|
|11||3||Spring 1977||“Saint Timothy’s Hall,” by Erick F. Davis|
|11||4||Summer 1977||“Baltimore County Historical Society of 1886,” by William Hollifield|
|12||1||Autumn 1977||“Upperco, Maryland,” by Leslie M. Upperco|
|12||2||Winter 1977-78||“Water Mills in Monkton,” by Shirley E. Clemens|
|12||3||Spring 1978||“Jericho Bridge,” John McGrain and William Hollifield (eds.)|
|12||4||Summer 1978||“Baltimore County Hussars, 1825,” John McGrain and William Hollifield (eds.)|
|13||1||Autumn 1978||“Early Days of the Telephone in Maryland,” by J. H. Cromwell|
|13||2||Winter 1978-79||“Recollections of Randallstown,” by Jesse Choate Phillips|
|13||3||Spring 1979||“A Pikesville Diary of 1864,” by Erick F. Davis|
|13||4||Summer 1979||“Baltimore County’s First Directory – 1866,” by William Hollifield|
|14||1||Autumn 1979||“A Life at Rayville – Part I,” by Philip S. Cross|
|14||2||Winter 1980||“A Life at Rayville – Part II,” by Philip S. Cross|
|14||3||Spring 1980||“Samuel Hartley of Quaker Hill,” by Beryl Frank|
|14||4||Summer 1980||“Bare Hills House,” by Marie Fischer Cooke|
|15||1||Autumn 1980||“Civil War Camps in Baltimore County,” by Erick F. Davis|
|15||2||Winter 1980-81||“Parkton Stone Bridge,” by Richard D. Meyer|
|15||3||Spring 1981||“Dr. James Smith – Land Owner in Pikesville,” by Beryl Frank|
|15||4||Summer 1981||“Relay, the First Sixty Years,” by Bonnie Lease|
|16||1||Autumn 1981||“Octagon House, Lutherville,” by Elisabeth C. G. Packard|
|16||2||Winter 1981-82||“Caroline Felix – Part I,” by William Hollifield|
|16||3||Spring 1982||“Caroline Felix – Part II,” by William Hollifield|
|16||4||Summer 1982||“Sam Arnold and Hookstown,” by Percy E. Martin|
|17||1||Autumn 1982||“Lexington on the Hookstown Road,” by Beryl Frank|
|17||2||Winter 1982-83||“The 1854 Journal of Hannah H. Clark,” John McGrain and William Hollifield (eds.)|
|17||3||Spring 1983||“A Parkton Girlhood,” by Ruth Mascari|
|17||4||Summer 1983||“The Hersey Family’s War for the Union – Part I,” Elmer R. Haile, Jr., and Amelia K. Haile|
|18||1||Autumn 1983||“The Hersey Family’s War for the Union – Part II,” Elmer R. Haile, Jr., and Amelia K. Haile|
|18||2||Winter 1983-84||“Agricultural High School at Sparks: The Early Years,” by Ruth Mascari|
|18||3||Spring 1984||“Franklin Academy in 1834,” by William Hollifield|
|18||4||Summer 1984||“Wild Fowl of the Chesapeake,” by Charles P. Dare|
|19||1||Autumn 1984||“Partnership,” by Virginia M. Patterson|
|19||2||Winter 1984-85||“Hayfields History,” by Nicholas Bosley Merryman|
|19||3||Spring 1985||“A 19th Century Social Service,” by Richard Parsons|
|19||4||Summer 1985||“D-Day at Hart Island,” by Merle T. Cole|
|20||1||Autumn 1985||“The Cradock Tradition of Service – Part I,” by Joyce Layman|
|20||2||Winter 1985-86||“The Cradock Tradition of Service – Part II,” by Joyce Layman|
|20||3||Spring 1986||“The Cradock Tradition of Service – Part III,” by Joyce Layman|
|20||4||Summer 1986||“The Alhambra,” by Ruth Mascari|
|21||1||Autumn 1986||“Scott’s Tavern,” by Lisa S. Keir|
|21||2||Winter 1986-87||“Almshouse Revisited – Part I,” by Richard Parsons|
|21||3||Spring 1987||“Almshouse Revisited – Part II,” by Richard Parsons|
|21||4||Summer 1987||“The Presidents in Baltimore County – Part I,” by John W. McGrain|
|22||1||Autumn 1987||“The Presidents in Baltimore County – Part II,” by John W. McGrain|
|22||2||Winter 1987||“The Presidents in Baltimore County – Part III,” by John W. McGrain|
|22||3||Spring 1988||“Monkton View Farm – Part I,” by Katherine S. Simkins|
|22||4||Summer 1988||“Monkton View Farm – Part II,” by Katherine S. Simkins|
|23||1 & 2||Autumn 1988||“Forgotten Millwright, Isaiah Linton 1739-1775,” by Terry L. Linton|
|23||3 & 4||Spring-Summer 1989||“Log Houses – Myth and Reality,” by Ruth B. Mascari|
|24||1||Autumn 1989||“Lockard House,” by Michael A. Grimes|
|24||2||Winter 1989-90||“The Merryman Affair,” by Thomas F. Cotter|
|24||3||Spring 1990||“Mount Airy,” by William Hollifield|
|24||4||Summer 1990||“Windcrest: A Federal Country House,” by James A. Knowles|
|25||1||Autumn 1990||“Baltimorean in Big Trouble: Samuel Arnold, A Lincoln Conspirator – Part I,” by Percy E. Martin|
|25||2||Winter 1990-91||“Baltimorean in Big Trouble: Samuel Arnold, A Lincoln Conspirator – Part II,” by Percy E. Martin|
|25||3||Spring 1991||“Baltimorean in Big Trouble: Samuel Arnold, A Lincoln Conspirator – Part III,” by Percy E. Martin|
|25||4||Summer 1991||“Odell’s, A Model Mill,” by John W. McGrain|
|26||1& 2||Autumn 1991||“Romantic Gywnn’s Falls Valley,” by George E. Tack|
|26||3 & 4||Spring-Summer 1992||“Developing “Frederick Terrace,” by Michael A. Grimes|
|27||1||Autumn 1992||“Recollections of Riderwood and Bare Hills – Part I,” by Earl R. Greaver|
|27||2||Winter 1992-93||“Recollections of Riderwood and Bare Hills – Part II,” by Earl R. Greaver|
|27||3||Spring 1993||“Recollections of Riderwood and Bare Hills – Part III,” by Earl R. Greaver|
|27||4||Summer 1993||“Lake Roland Dam and Gatehouse,” by Ronald A. Thomas|
|28||1 & 2||Autumn 1993||“Mount Washington in Quotations – Part I|
|28||3 & 4||Spring-Summer 1994||“Mount Washington in Quotations – Part II|
|29||1 & 2||Autumn 1994||“More Pepper, More Sage (Hog Butchering),” by Earl R. Greaver|
|29||3 & 4||Spring-Summer 1995||“Gun Road : ‘Cannon Track’ to Suburb,” by Lucy W. Merrill|
|30||1 & 2||Autumn-Winter 1995||“Tax Assessor’s Portrait of a Country,” by Bayly Ellen Marks|
|30||3||Spring 1996||“Idaho Reds,” by Earl Greaver|
|30||4||Summer 1996||“Prettyboy Dam,” by Lauren Archibald|
|31||1||Autumn 1996||“Finding the Lines of Clynmalira,” by John W. McGrain|
|31||2 & 3||Spring 1997||“Gourmets All,” by Earl R. Greaver|
|31||4||Summer 1997||“Hannah More Chapel,” by John McGrain|
|32||1 & 2||Autumn-Winter 1997||“The House the Todd’s Built : Preliminary Investigations into ‘Todd’s Inheritance’ on the Patapsco Neck,” by Kathy Lee Erlandson Liston|
|32||3||Spring 1998||“Foul Farm Fowl and Other Birds,” by Earl R. Greaver|
|32 & 33||Summer 1998||“Aigburth Vale,” by Carol E. Hooper and William Hollifield|
|33||2||Winter 1998-99||“Where Are the British Soldiers Killed in the Battle of North Point Buried?,” by Kathy Lee Erlandson Liston|
|33||3||Spring 1999||“The Patent Medicine Show and Other Events at Rayville,” by E. May Cross|
|33 & 34||Millennium Issue 1999-2000||“The Millennium and the Census 1900-2000,” by William Hollifield|
|34||3 & 4||2001||“Calverton Mills,” by John McGrain|
|35||1||Winter 2001||“Sherwood Church : Early Gothic on a Hilltop,” by Jill Sobocinski|
|35||2, 3 & 4||Winter 2002-03||“Burk Family Reminiscences of Sweet Air and Long Green,” William Hollifield (ed.)|
|36||1 & 2||Fall 2003||“Motion Picture Exhibition in Baltimore County,” by Robert K. Headley|
|36||3 & 4||Spring 2004||“Limekiln Age and the Bottom Line,” by Kimberly R. Abe.|
|37||1 & 2||Autumn 2004||“The History of Industry in Baltimore County,” by Robert C. Chidester|
|37||3 & 4||Spring 2005||“Reminiscences of Union School,” by W. Evans Anderson|
|38||1 & 2||Winter 2005-06||“Baltimore County’s House of Refuge,” by John McGrain|
|38 & 39||Spring 2007||“The History of Motion Picture Exhibition in Towson,” by William Hollifield|
|39||3||Winter 2007 – 08||“The Baltimore Aero Meet of 1910 And the First Flight Over a City by a Planned Route,” by Barry A. Lanman|
|39||4||Summer 2008||“Warren, Maryland,” by Ann Eichler Kolakowski and Teri L. Rising|
|40||1 & 2||Autumn 2008||“The Northern Central Railroad and Parkton,” by Frank A. Wrabel|
|40||3||Winter 2008||“Baltimore County: Celebrating a Legacy 1659-2009,” by Barry A. Lanman|
|40||4||Spring 2009||“Rodgers Forge: A Metal Works Survived by Its Tue Iron,” by John McGrain|
|41||1||Autumn 2009||“Marble Hill: A Community at the Crossroads,” by Teri L. Rising|
|41||2||Winter 2009||“Farmlands,” by Teri L. Rising|
|41||4||Summer 2010||“Bay Shore Park Sparked by the Trolley System,” by John McGrain|
|42||1 & 2||Autumn 2010||“Cloud Capped (Baltimore National Cemetery), by Claire A. Richardson|
|42||3||Winter 2010||“Alexandroffsky, The Crimea and Orianda: Thomas Winans in Baltimore County,” by John McGrain|
|42||4||Spring 2011||“Castle Thunder, The Catons, and Catonsville’s Historical Myths, by John McGrain|
|43||1 & 2||Winter 2011||“’Best Cultivated Farm’ : The Backstory of Hayfields, Nicholas Merryman Bosley, and the Lafayette Premium of 1824,” by Teri Rising|
|43||3 & 4||Summer 2012||“The Montebello Water Filtration Plant I : Clean Water for City & Suburb Alike,” by Martha A. Hendrickson|
|HISTORY TRAILS EXTRA PUBLICATION|
|1||December 1975||Baltimore Countians in the Revolutionary Era – Part I|
|2||July 1976||Baltimore Countians in the Revolutionary Era – Part II|
(Brief preview and excerpt from History Trails 43, no. 3 & 4. To read more become a member of the society today!))
“The Montebello Water Filtration Plan I: Clean Water for City & Suburb Alike”
History Trails 43, no. 3 & 4
By: Martha Hendrickson
The Montebello Water Filtration Plant gave the Baltimore region national acclaim when it was completed in 1915. It was a significant achievement in both engineering and architectural design. In 1912, engineers began the architectural and engineering plans for the landmark which was a boon to the health and well-being of both county and city residents. Many experts combined their knowledge to design Baltimore’s first water filtration facility, and the facility is still in use today.
The Montebello Water Filtration Plant I in Baltimore is notable in several ways. Locally, as Baltimore’s first water filtration plant, it was a significant accomplishment towards improving living conditions, and it was a cornerstone of Baltimore’s modern water supply. In a larger context, it was part of a nationwide movement to build the first generation of municipal water filtration plants at the turn of the 20th century as a result of the Urban Progressive Era. At the time of its completion, The Montebello Filtration Plant was the second largest of its type in the nation and the most modern. In addition, its attractive architectural design and landscaping was an ideal of the national “City Beautiful” movement, giving it national distinction.
The Montebello Filtration Plant I is one of three major municipal water filtration plants in Baltimore, providing clean drinking water to residents of Baltimore City, and parts of Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel counties. It is located in Baltimore City at the intersection of Hillen and Harford Roads, just north of Lake Montebello. It was the first filtration plant in Baltimore and marked the beginning of the region’s modern municipal water supply as we know it today. With the completion of the filtration plant and water system, water was piped from Loch Raven Dam on the Gunpowder River (completed in 1914 at the elevation of 188 feet above mean tide), to the Montebello Plant, where it was purified and sent to a distribution system for residents and businesses.
The significance of the filtration plant to both Baltimore City and County cannot be overstated. While there is a demarcation on the map between Baltimore City and County, that line essentially disappears in terms of municipal services. The growth and well-being of the citizens of Baltimore County are inextricably linked to the water system that is run by the City, and the two voices were the same in demanding reforms in the early twentieth century. Not only is the water from these reservoirs and filtration plants what the majority of county citizens drink, but their watersheds provide recreation for city and county residents and visitors alike.
Several factors contributed to the nationwide movement of municipal water filtration plant construction and the innovative designs of the Montebello Filtration Plant: the Urban Progressive Movement, the acceptance of Germ Theory, and The City Beautiful Movement. Each of these independently notable topics occurred toward the end of the 19th century. This article will briefly touch on these topics, and hopefully shed light on how they influenced the construction of Baltimore City and County’s first water filtration plant.
Urban Progressives and City Conditions
With the Industrial Revolution came massive immigration to American cities resulting in a population increase that was neither planned nor anticipated. Baltimore was no exception. Between 1870 and 1900 the population of Baltimore increased from a quarter-million to a half-million people.[i] Even without considering the city’s population increase due to annexing parts of Baltimore County in 1888, other factors amounted to about one third of the total. There were immigrants from overseas, an influx of emigrating African Americans from farmlands, ex- confederates from Virginia, and farmers from the countryside all looking for employment in industrializing cities.[ii]
Meanwhile, cities were not well prepared for their surge in population and industry. Protective labor laws were virtually non-existent, there were few housing codes, and little-to-no government aid we are accustomed to today. Education was primarily for those who could afford it, while the poor often lived in cramped, overcrowded conditions, and commonly worked long hours in dangerous environments. Slums and tenement houses covered a great portion of Baltimore City.[iii] Compounding those problems was the prevalence of major communicable diseases. The deadly diseases of pneumonia, tuberculosis, typhoid, cholera and yellow fever were common conditions that affected anyone within their reach. With the rapid increase in population, city services were strained to capacity. Proper sewage disposal was unheard of, and clean drinking water was not readily available.
Two of the most dreaded and preventable diseases, cholera and typhoid, commonly spread by food and water contamination, were not well addressed because germ theory was relatively new and not widely accepted by scientists or the public. Although tuberculosis, an airborne disease, claimed a higher death rate (its vaccine was not developed until 1906, and did not come into wide use until the 1920s), typhoid was one of the most dreaded of epidemics.
Germ Theory & Water Supply
The now widely accepted fact that bacterial microorganisms in water and food were the cause of disease was not so evident to doctors or the public, even as late as the 1890s. Prior to the 1870s, a widespread belief was that disease was spread by vapors and atmosphere arising from filth – it was known as the miasma theory of contamination. Even after 1880, when two German scientists working independently of each other identified the typhoid bacilli, there were still those that held-fast to the miasma theory.[iv]
In Baltimore, the prevalence of belief in miasma theory is reflected in both the water system and city growth patterns. To avoid the conditions of “miasmic” disease many wealthy and privileged citizens had second homes to escape the bustle of the city; the Estates of Belvedere, Clifton and Montebello are examples. They were built on elevated land far from the more populated areas where the miasmic vapors of the inner city allegedly lingered. Because these estates had their own water supplies which were, for a while, uncontaminated, it appeared to prove the miasmic theory.
Meanwhile, in Europe, evidence resulting from the use of sand filtration to clean and clarify water helped to disprove the miasmic theory. In the late 18th century, before the discovery of bacteria, slow sand water filtration was used on small and large scales in Britain and Scotland with the main objective of removing suspended matter. In the areas where slow sand filtering was used there was a lower incidence of cholera, indicating the disease was directly the result of contaminated water and food.[v] Slowly, acceptance of germ theory grew, and author M. N. Baker stated in his book, Quest for Pure Water, that “by the 1890’s even the majority of the skeptics had recognized that, instead of being a mere straining process for the removal of suspended matter, filtration removed deadly germs of disease.”[vi] Although slow sand filtration was established in England, Scotland, and parts of Europe, no slow sand filtration type plant existed in North America before the Civil War.[vii]
Turning Points for Germ Theory in America
With many cities looking to improve water supplies in the 1890s, city planners and engineers debated the best methods to accomplish their goals. The turning point in convincing Americans to use filtration plants for combating disease came in 1893, with the Lawrence experimental station on the Merrimac River in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The State Board of Massachusetts established the station in 1887 to study water and sewage treatment in order to give advice on water supply and sewerage.[viii] Lawrence was one of the cities that had high typhoid rates (4 times the amount of the rest of Massachusetts due in part to upstream pollution).[ix] The results of tests and experiments were put into practice by the building of the Lawrence Filter Plant in 1893. After the plant went into operation the rates of typhoid were markedly reduced.[x] Allen Hazen, Chief Chemist at the Lawrence Station of the Massachusetts Board of Health, wrote the first treatise on water filtration in connection with public health. It was based on the experiments and successes at Lawrence and also a study of plants in Europe. It was published in 1895 and had a convincing affect on skeptics of germ theory while promoting the positive effects of filtration.[xi] Improvements were developed, and several years later, in 1895, the Louisville Water Company, and its Chief Engineer, Charles A. Hermany, set up the station to test a new type of sand filtration on the turbid Ohio River called mechanical or rapid filtration. George W. Fuller, Chief Chemist and Bacteriologist, conducted the tests under the direction of Hermany from 1895 to 1897. In 1897, George W. Fuller published results of the experiments in a report which became a landmark document on the new mechanical method of filtration.[xii]
These two new alternate methods of water purification – slow sand filtration and mechanical sand filtration – emerged as the most recommended for large scale use. Both factored into the decisions made in Baltimore. As more experiments were made, experts eventually favored one over the other given the conditions of the water to be filtered and their own individual experiences with each.
The two filtration processes required building two different types of filtration plants. Slow sand filtration used a combination of settlement techniques and filtering. Water was held in a settlement basin then strained through layers of sand. The rapid or mechanical filtration method was similar except that the filters were cleaned in place by backwashing them with a special process. This occurred several times per hour. This meant that all the filter beds were in continuous use and could process more water in less time.
As cities looked to improve living conditions, confidence was simultaneously growing in the use of water filtration as a method of large scale purification. Experts such as James Kirkwood, Allen Hazen, Edmund Weston, and George Fuller and their associates published important developments in the field and shared them in American Water Works Association (AWWA) and American Society of Civil Engineers publications. Two of the major pioneers in water filtration, Hazen and Fuller, along with their associates, had a direct influence in Baltimore.[xiii]
City Planning and the City Beautiful Movement
New attitudes towards municipal roles in the urban environment developed. In the same year that the Lawrence, MA water filtration plant went into operation, creating a turning point for germ theory, the World’s Fair of 1893, in Chicago, provided inspiration to leaders for planning in cities by showing how beautiful and functional planned cities could be. The World’s Fair “White City” was landscaped by the famous Fredrick Law Olmstead, and it was served by coordinated public utilities. It was one of the first examples of a planned city, completed with the collaboration of both architects and landscape designers working towards a unified result. It made a lasting impression on visitors by showing what could be achieved by broadening the scope of architectural planning. For many visitors, the fair was a stark contrast to the urban environment they left behind.[xiv] As they returned home, many thought of how similar improvements could be adapted to their own cities. It became important that the buildings of municipal utilities be attractive, have a pleasing design, and work well with an overall city plan. Thus, the City Beautiful Movement was born.[xv]
(To read more become a member of the society!)
[i]James B. Crooks, Politics and Progress, The Rise of Urban Progressivism in Baltimore, 1895-1911 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1968), p. 155.
[iii] Crooks, Politics and Progress, p. 4-6.
[iv] McCarthy, Typhoid and the Politics of Public Health, p. 10-1.
[v] M.N. Baker, The Quest for Pure Water (New York: The American Water Works Association, Inc., 1948), p. 115.
[vi] Baker, Quest for Pure Water, p. 119.
[vii] Ibid., p. 25.
[viii] Baker, Quest for Pure Water, p. 139.
[ix] McCarthy, Typhoid and the Politics of Public Health, p. 23.
[xii] Ibid, p. 228.
[xiii] Ibid, p. 140-1.
[xiv] Erick Larson, Devil in the White City (New York: Vintage Books, a Division of Radom House, 2004), p. 374.
[xv] Crooks, Politics and Progress, p. 127-128.
'"Best Cultivated Farm": The Backstory of Hayfields, Nicholas Merryman Bosley, and the Lafayette Premium of 1824'
(Excerpted from History Trails 43, no. 1 & 2)
By: Teri Rising
Hayfields Farm, located in the National Register Historic District of Western Run-Belfast in northern Baltimore County, is designated an official Baltimore County Landmark. Built by Nicholas Merryman Bosley, c. 1811, Hayfields was awarded the "Best Cultivated Farm" premium by the Maryland Agricultural Society in 1824, with Revolutionary War hero General Lafayette in attendance. Having no children of his own, Nicholas Bosley willed the farm to his nephew, John Merryman, in 1847, who thereafter expanded it and gained fame for breeding Hereford cattle. John Merryman is perhaps best known for the burning of the Northern Central Railroad (NCRR) bridges at the outset of the Civil War, which resulted in the famed Ex Parte Merryman opinion by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney. Nevertheless, Hayfields remained a farm into the twentieth century, until it was sold to Hayfields, Inc. in 1978, then to the Mangione family in 1986, who turned it into a country club by 1999. Its mansion and farm buildings are preserved and form the core of the Hayfields Country Club in Baltimore County.
Nicholas Merryman Bosley established Hayfields on over 400 acres carved out of several larger land tracts in Baltimore County, including Nicholson’s Manor and Taylor’s Discovery. Land patents like Nicholson's and Taylor's were issued in areas around the coastal region, between the Patapsco and Middle Rivers, so harvests could be easily shipped using water routes in lieu of usable roads. Nicholson’s Manor was once a sprawling parcel comprising 4,200 acres. Originally patented by William Nicholson in 1719, it ran along the western run of the Gunpowder, between Waterspout Branch and the Shawan Cabin Branch (now the Oregon Branch).[i] In 1754, the land was sold at public auction in equal 1,050 acre plots to Roger Boyce, Corbin Lee, Brian Philpot, and Thinsey Johns….
"Castle Thunder, The Catons, and Catonsville's Historical Myths"
(History Trails 42, no. 4 excerpt)
By: John McGrain
Numerous sources, including Dr. George C. Keidel, Emily Emerson Lantz, Kate Mason Roland, several unidentified writers for the Sun, the American, the Argus, and an historic roadside marker describe an extinct structure titled 'Castle Thunder' as the early home of Richard and Mary Caton – for whom the town of Catonsville, Maryland is named. The sources repeat a legend that Castle Thunder was the Catons' home before completion of their residence Brooklandwood in 1793 in the Lutherville-Timonium area. A July 19, 1896 story in the Baltimore American also suggests prior to Castle Thunder the Catons lived at 825 Frederick Road, a two-story log house – a structure that operated as Catonsville's Friendly Framer shop in 2001, subsequently served as a cigar shop, and presently houses the A. W. O. L. skate board business. These stories about the Catons' residences at both Castle Thunder and 825 Frederick Road are suspect for various reasons. Contrary to the roadside marker and other sources, facts and primary source evidence suggests something entirely different – that Castle Thunder was neither the Catons' early home, nor did it even exist in the eighteenth century. Hence, the myths regarding Castle Thunder and the Catons are long overdue for some careful factual scrutiny and reconsideration.
The Catons needed a home from the date of their marriage in 1787 to the completion of Brooklandwood in 1793. Dawn F. Thomas, in The Green Spring Valley, cited invoices for the construction of Brooklandwood from 1790 to 1793; she also found the estate name mentioned in records of 1793.[i]
The first hint suggesting the Catons' residence on Frederick Road before Brooklandwood is little more than a myth is that Mary Carroll Caton’s father, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, was only a one-fifth owner of the land around present-day Catonsville. He was in partnership with more than 29 heirs of the original investors in the Baltimore Ironworks Company. In the late 1700s, the Catonsville area was the timber reserve of the ironworks, where employees cut trees and burned charcoal to feed the fires of the furnace at the mouth of Gwynns Falls. Therefore, it is difficult to believe that the businessman, Charles Carroll, would have unilaterally invested in a structure as large as Castle Thunder on land he did not own free and clear, let alone have the rights to offer the structure as a gift to his daughter and son-in-law.
It was not until 1810 when Catonsville's properties were divided into individual lots. West of present day Winters Lane was lot 105, allotted to Charles Carroll of Carrollton. East of that street was lot 106, which passed to Daniel Carroll of Duddington. Richard Caton, acting for his father-in-law, cut lots 104 and 105 into many small house subdivisions under the name of Caton Ville….
[i] Dawn F. Thomas, The Green Spring Valley: Its History and Heritage, vol. 1 (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1978), p. 222-3.
History Trails 42, no. 4
Historical Society of Baltimore County
The Susquehannocks’ Prosperity & Early European Contact
By: Adam Youssi
The Susquehannock Native Americans of North America have an impressive history. This tribe from what is now the eastern United States began as a very small nation along the northern Susquehanna River watershed in what became New York State. We know little of the Susquehannocks prior to their first recorded encounters with Europeans in 1608 when Captain John Smith of Jamestown, Virginia, encountered them on his voyage into the Chesapeake Bay. Archeology has taken on the task of establishing a pre-contact history of the Susquehannocks. Interaction with Europeans led to changes in the Susquehannocks’ culture, population, economy, and military strength. They developed major trade arrangements with most European colonial powers from New England to Virginia. They were among the few North American Natives to acquire cannons during the fur trade. Susquehannocks’ settlements and hunting grounds were found at the very center of the Mid-Atlantic fur trade and land rush in the seventeenth century, placing them in an advantageous, albeit precarious, position. Whether their locus of operations was intentional or by chance is debatable.
European trade, alliances, treaties and wars enabled the Susquehannock people to reach their greatest prosperity as an Indian nation. This should not imply their rise to power was solely because of interaction with foreign settlers, but without such relations their power would not have reached the heights it did. The Susquehannocks were involved in numerous conflicts with other tribes. Often, it was war with other Natives and the potential for economic gain that prompted them to interact with Europeans and acquire manufactured goods. The many different peoples and places with which the Susquehannocks were involved make for a complicated narrative. The narrative is also troubling in Native American history in that numerous historical and archaeological accounts are sometimes at odds with each other. While reviewing the events leading to the Susquehannocks prosperity, this essay also explores a few points of debate in their history and archaeology.
A Word On Methodology
Early Native American history is generally difficult to compile; this statement has been mirrored by many experts who have studied the Susquehannocks. First, Native American history is often an overlooked topic in history. Despite its enormously important relationship to North American origins, Native American history is a neglected field, perhaps in part because sources are often limited. Secondly, history is usually written by its victors. This general fact is exacerbated during particular periods of time. These periods in time appear when the only remaining witnesses and records of history are those produced by the survivors. Early Native American history is too often one of these instances. Thirdly, the Susquehannocks’ (and other Indian nations’) relations to Europeans involves many different languages. To thoroughly assess Native Americans’ roles in North American history one must prepare to read Swedish, Dutch, French, English and various Native languages too.
The multitude of languages of documented encounters, combined with the relatively few records of the Susquehannocks requires the researcher to carefully review various Native American scholars’ work. Among other sources, this essay explores the works of various archaeologists such as Barry C. Kent, John Witthoft, Donald A. Cadzow, and others in order to support or contradict historical records and offer a pre-contact history of the Natives. Historians such as James Axtell, Charles A. Hanna, William A. Hunter, George T. Hunt, James H. Merrell and others will offer a degree of historical analysis concerning the Susquehannocks in the early seventeenth century. Along with these scholastic accounts of the Susquehannocks, primary source documents from the seventeenth century will be consulted. For example, the writings of Captain John Smith, Etienne Brule, Father Andrew White, Thomas Holn and others will offer insight into the Susquehannocks’ strength and locations in the early seventeenth century.
A Word on Susquehannock Pre-History
The Susquehannock Native Americans have had many aliases; the French called them the “Andaste.” The Dutch and Swedes used the Delaware Indians’ name for them, which was “Minqua,” meaning stealthy or treacherous. Toward their decline, the Susquehannock tribe was also known as “Conestoga” to Natives and Europeans in Pennsylvania. The name they are best known for now, Susquehannocks, is what Captain John Smith’s Algonquian-speaking guides referred to them as. Subsequently, Smith recorded them as such, with slight variation on spelling. Originally Smith, as well as Father Andrew White, recorded them as “Sasquasahannockes.” It is unknown as to what the Susquehannocks referred to themselves.
The Susquehannocks are often believed to be of Iroquoian ancestry, or at least culturally related. The name Iroquois is a twist on its original, Iriⁿakhoiw, by the French who added the “ois,” according to Donald Cadzow. The Iroquois migrated from the Mississippi Valley into what is now Pennsylvania and New York State prior to the tenth century.
The exact relation of the Susquehannocks to the Iroquois is an item of debate in the area of archeology. Barry Kent believes that the Susquehannocks represent a divergence from the Iroquoian people but still maintained a very similar cultural development. Kent’s Susquehanna’s Indians uses archeological evidence to trace Susquehannock culture from its point of origin in northern New York to southern Pennsylvania.
Throughout Kent’s study of Susquehannock cultural history one can observe their long migration southward along the Susquehanna River valley. Kent proposes that war and economic strain with the Iroquois in the north pushed the Susquehannocks toward the southern end of the Susquehanna River Valley. Iroquois scholars, like George T. Hunt in his Wars of the Iroquois, have determined that the Iroquois were under pressure from the Algonquins in the north during the time of the Susquehannocks’ migration. Therefore, the Iroquois ability to make war on the Susquehannocks was already strained because of the Algonquins. Because of this we must consider alternative options for the Susquehannocks’ migration.
Others scholars such as William A. Hunter have argued that the Susquehannocks were not only pushed farther south because of conflict with the Iroquois, but that they may have been drawn south in search of larger, better and safer trading opportunities. Both of these scholarly interpretations suggest explanations for why the migration occurred. The hostile trading environment was responsible for pushing the Andastes out of the north while a safer environment drew them southward.
Prior to elaborating further on migration, it should be noted that the migration southward by the Susquehannocks was not immigration to virgin land. Rather, the Susquehannocks in the late sixteenth century absorbed and conquered pre-existing Natives. This point should serve to further dispel any belief that North America was an empty land waiting to be claimed. It should also be noted, for later examinationthat this may have meant the assimilation of people that originally would not have been ethnically identified as Susquehannocks.
The conquests or assimilations of indigenous people in what is now southern Pennsylvania left large numbers of buried artifacts. The archaeologists who have excavated the area have unearthed the artifacts. One example of this is visible in the Shenks Ferry Natives’* villages of present day Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. There is evidence of cohabitation between the Shenks Ferry people and the Susquehannocks. Cadzow points to archeological artifacts that display the blend of culture in ceramic arts, as well as discoveries of simultaneously placed Susquehannock and Shanks Ferry artifacts at burial sites.
The excavated graves of the Susquehannocks have also revealed that trade with Europeans was taking place prior to European settlement. Documented encounters between Europeans and Natives have revealed the same fact. Captain John Smith noted that when he met with the Tockwhogh in 1607 they had “many hatchets, knives, and peeces of iron and brasse, we saw amongst them, which they reported to have from the Susquesahanockes, a mightie people and mortall enemies of the Massawomeks.”** Kent claims there were hundreds of North American fishing expeditions by the English, Spanish, Portugese and French in the sixteenth century. This would account for the Susquehannocks’ possession of small European trade goods by the early seventeenth century. 
Early European Contact & the Prosperous Susquehannocks
According to Cadzow, the Susquehannocks controlled all the upper tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay when they met Smith in 1608. They even had strong influence farther east according to recorded accounts of their pressure on the Delaware, or Lenne Lanape Indians. Smith was clearly very impressed with them when they met. However, his account of the Indians appears somewhat exaggerated. Smith claimed their size to be tremendous with deep and heavy vocals to match their immense stature. Additional European accounts also make outrageous claims of the Susquehannocks, recording their height at seven feet tall. While some archeologists excavated gravesites have found their height to be substantial, but not in the realm of seven feet, others have discovered evidence to completely contradict the outrageous claims of their height. This evidence will be examined later. Smith was so impressed with the Susquehannocks that he drew a picture of one on his 1612 map of the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries.
An article titled, “Did Capt. John Exaggerate? New Dig Shows Indians Weren’t Giants After All,” ran in the Lancaster County newspaper The Sunday News in 1957. The article outlines the archaeological dig of a supposed site of Susquehannock Indians. The curator of the North Museum, Dr. John Price, and State anthropologist, W. Fred Kinsey, as well as other experts on the Susquehannocks supervised the dig. Among numerous excavated gravesites a Susquehannock chief was unearthed and measured. He is believed to be a chief because of the ceremonial headdress he was wearing upon discovery. His height came to a staggeringly short five feet two inches. The rest of the graves fared no better in terms of the height of their occupants. In fact, there has not been an archaeological dig to date that has verified Smith’s claims. These excavations contradict a number of primary source accounts of the size and height of the Susquehannocks. Why then are they recorded as enormous when five feet two inches would have been short, even to seventeenth century Europeans? Unfortunately the article does not clarify the experts’ point of view on the matter.
The same archaeological dig is more thoroughly presented by John Witthoft, W. Fred Kinsey and Charles H. Holzinger in Susquehannock Miscellany. Unfortunately for the historian, the authors failed to account for the conflict between historical sources and archaeological evidence. One might arrive at the impression that Witthoft blatantly discredits early Europeans’ primary accounts of the Susquehannocks’ height as exaggerations. Witthoft’s writing comes across in that manner. However, his conclusions are slightly elusive and unclear. And arriving at the conclusion that Captain John Smith was either lying or greatly mistaken would be slightly pre-mature. After all, the account of the impressive height of the Susquehannocks’ occurred in various sources spanning a range of years. Can all these primary source accounts be discredited by one archaeological dig?
Etienne Brule is the second European on record who possibly interacted with the Susquehannocks. He was an interpreter for the Frenchman Samuel de Champlain. Brule’s account of the Susquehannocks from 1616 took place at the request of Champlain, who sought allies of the Huron for assistance in attacking Onondaga Fort. The Susquehannocks had long since been, and until their extinction continued to be, close allies of the Hurons. However, Hunter, the historian, determined this encounter with the Susquehannocks should be taken lightly. Hunter cited the fact that Brule was unaccounted for and failed to report back to Champlain until three years after the start of his expedition. Furthermore, Hunter determined the natives Brule spoke to were probably the Senecas or other Iroquois, not the Susquehannocks.
Despite the many questions and debates Smith and Brule’s accounts caused, it is clear that European trade with Native Americans was occurring regularly in the sixteenth to early seventeenth century. It was trade that moved the French to attack the Onondaga Fort, and trade that caused the Susquehannocks to migrate southward. The Susquehannocks were successful in indirectly acquiring European goods, increasing their prestige and power as a people. And although the Susquehannocks were prosperous prior to regular European trade, we will see that growing trade relations and increased European settlement spurred more rapid prosperity for them.
The Susquehannocks’ centralized location, and reluctance to set loyalties enabled them to take advantage of the competing Europeans, and obtain goods from numerous Natives tribes too. The Dutch had been very active in Albany and Delaware in the early sixteenth century. Hunter claims the European goods the Susquehannocks had upon Smith’s arrival were of Dutch origins. Because of their initial distance from the Dutch the Susquehannocks were required to trade with, or steal from, other Natives to obtain what European wares they had. They were able to do so very successfully and intimidate surrounding enemies in the process.
To their south the Susquehannocks could observe the Powhattan confederacy trading with the English near Jamestown. Meanwhile, they were using most of northern Maryland and Baltimore County as hunting and trapping grounds, but refrained from much confrontation with Powhattan. West of the Susquehannocks and the Susquehanna River valley were the Senecas. The Senecas found themselves in the worst position for trade. Hunt claims that the Susquehannocks were hijacking shipments being traded between the Senecas and Europeans, leading the Senecas to war with the Susquehannocks. He also stated that the Mohawks (to the east and north of the Susquehannocks), despite their joint membership in the Five Nations confederacy with the Senecas cared more about their own trade relations than the Senecas’ problems with the Susquehannocks. One may also ascertain that the blockade of the Senecas and the resulting war kept the Susquehannocks occupied, allowing the Mohawks to more easily make hunting excursions and trade along the Susquehannocks’ northern territories.
In 1626 the Dutch established Fort Nassau on the Delaware River at the mouth of the Schuylkill River. Their aim was to draw more trade from the Delawares, or Lenapes. However, the Susquehannocks quickly became interested in trading more directly with the Dutch in what is now southern New Jersey. The Susquehannocks responded aggressively to potentially closer relations between the Dutch and Lenapes. The Susquehannocks waged relentless warfare on the Delawares, causing them to retreat from some settlements and cease most trade with the Dutch. The Dutch were initially not pleased about the war but decided to accept the outcome to avoid conflict with the Susquehannocks. This information is derived from the primary source account of Isaack de Rasière. In 1626 Rasière reported to the Dutch West India Company that the Susquehannocks had met with the Dutch in Manhattan to begin trade. Rasière also indicated that the Susquehannocks were engaged in warfare with the Delawares.
After the Susquehannock onslaught, the Delawares continued to trade with the Dutch on a much smaller scale than was initially planned by the Dutch West India Company. By the mid-1640s, the Delawares had become completely submissive to the Susquehannocks and had to pay them enormous tributes. The Susquehannocks were able to easily secure trade with the Dutch once they conquered the Delawares by 1640. The Dutch quickly realized the unexpected benefit of the Susquehannocks’ victory over the Delawares. The Dutch seem to have found the Susquehannocks to be a stronger and more powerful ally who were able to secure better furs for trade because of their extensive territorial advantage.
Shortly after the Dutch relationship began with the Susquehannocks, the English also sought trade with them. They established forts on Kent and Palmer Islands in 1631 and began expansively settling the Chesapeake in 1634. They were the first Europeans to successfully begin a settlement west of the Delaware Bay and River.
English settlements were created and acquired more easily because the Piscataway*** Indians had begun abandoning their villages, citing Susquehannocks’ aggression, thus allowing former Piscataway villages to become new English settlements. The Piscataways were happy to allow the English to settle nearby. Father Andrew White, a Catholic missionary with the first European settlers of Maryland, displayed some ignorance of the Piscataways’ acceptance of English settlers when he stated that the natives “exceedingly desire civill life and Christian apparel.” The Piscataways were more interested in securing English protection, arms and wares against the more frequent Susquehannock invasions, as opposed to being “civilized.” Not to overstate White’s ignorance since he does briefly recognize that the Piscataways were warring with the Susquehannocks, but he believed the English had found allies in the Piscataways because of their desire for “civill life.”
By 1634, the Susquehannocks were claiming areas to the Choptank and Patuxtent Rivers. This expansion was due in part to the necessary land grab in search of larger hunting grounds. The unquenchable European thirst for furs was causing the Susquehannocks to continually expand. They were expanding in search for land more abundant with beaver furs.
This was an enormous expansion of territory for a people who formerly held only small portions of New York in the mid-sixteenth century. They now claimed the land just mentioned as well as most of Pennsylvania, and had strong influence even farther to the east, west and north of lands they claimed.
Unfortunately for the Susquehannocks, their large land holdings and expanding influence brought them in contact with more Europeans and eventually with diseases. In the year of 1637 there is an account of the Susquehannocks reception of the smallpox disease. In the Jesuit Relations of 1637 there are accounts of the Susquehannocks being blamed for infecting surrounding tribes. An elaborate superstitious story was developed that determined that because of the Susquehannocks’ hostile nature they had been infected, and thus spread the disease to surrounding tribes. However, general knowledge allows the informed reader the understanding that the disease was actually a result of contact with Europeans. Despite this affliction, the Susquehannocks continued using European relations to expand their strength and influence.
In 1638 the Swedes entered into the fur trade on the Delaware River where they erected Fort Christiana. Once the Swedes had established themselves along the Delaware, the Susquehannocks were positioned within range to trade with and influence them, the English to the south, the Dutch to the east and northeast, and obtain French goods from the north.
It is at this period in time when the Susquehannocks’ influence assisted them in making great leaps toward their economic prosperity and military strength. The Susquehannocks were unwilling to set loyalties to particular European nations, contrasting numerous other tribes that did. As a result the Susquehannocks were able to trade with whichever nation was willing to offer them the goods they desired. Many Europeans were hesitant to trade firearms to the Indians, yet the Susquehannocks were able to obtain them relatively easily, first from the Dutch, then from the Swedes, and eventually from the English. The Susquehannocks smartly manipulated Europeans who were vying for influence in the New World. In the Annals of the Susquehannocks and Other Lancaster County Indians, H. Frank Eshleman quotes John Smith. In 1623 Smith declared that the Dutch, “furnished the Indians [Susquehannocks] with fire arms…that by their assistance they might expel the English.” Not only were the Susquehannocks able to obtain firearms and training from the Dutch, they were even capable of acquiring the use of a canon from the Swedes. This account of a canon is discussed by Hunt as well as mentioned by Thomas Holn, an early European settler. “There they have guns, and small iron cannon with which they shoot and defend themselves and take with them when they go to war.”
Accompanying the trade in firearms there are records of large controversial land sales made to the English. One of these sales was a highly disputed sale to William Clayborne, a member of the Virginia Company. In 1637 Clayborne offered witnesses to his claim of land from Virginia to the Susquehanna River valley, including Kent Island and most of what is now Lancaster County. An interpreter for Clayborne created a deposition that stated that Clayborne had lived in peace with the Susquehannocks. It continues on to mention that in April of 1637 an entourage of Susquehannocks came to Clayborne and sold the mentioned land in exchange for a large indemnity. If it is true that this sale was made, it served no use to Clayborne because in 1638 England made his claims void and forced the land to be forfeited to Lord Baltimore. This occurred because of Baltimore’s pre-existing patent to the disputed land. Because of the dispute, Hanna states that Clayborne attempted to set the Susquehannocks at war against the settlers under Baltimore, and in this Clayborne appears to have been successful. His apparent success will be clarified later.
The Swedes, too, recorded land purchases from the Susquehannocks. Because of their relatively late entrance into the fur trade, the Swedes were very aggressively seeking to buy land and contract with the Susquehannocks. As we have already mentioned, they were willing to trade canons to the Susquehannocks. In 1638 the Swedes bought land from the Susquehannocks, land that may have previously been sold to the Dutch. The land purchased by the Swedes ran from the mouth of the falls of the Delaware River, westward past the Susquehanna River, at about the point in latitude of Philadelphia.
Through these instances of land sales, firearms and fur trade, one can clearly grasp the reasons for the increasing economic and military prosperity of the Susquehannocks. Their ability to manipulate various Europeans served them well up until this point. It is at this period in time that the tables slowly began to turn against the Susquehannocks. While successfully navigating the rough waters of European New World trade politics until the 1640s, disease and incursions into “English territory” began to take their toll on the Susquehannocks.
As previously mentioned, the Susquehannocks had made numerous incursions into the land of the Piscataways, whom the English quickly befriended when settling around the Chesapeake in the early 1630s. These settlements continued to grow throughout the 1630s and into the 1640s. Very much as planned by the Piscataways, the English were soon at odds with the Susquehannocks because of the incursions. .
In the year of 1638 an act was passed that put the English settlers of Maryland in a state of defense. This fact bolsters the earlier statement that Clayborne urged the Susquehannocks to make war on Baltimore’s settlers because of his territorial dispute. The 1638 “Act for Military Discipline” required settlers to bear arms for the service of defense. If possible, all households were required to provide a specified number of able-bodied men and required to have and maintain arms. A fine would be incurred if the law was not adhered to. This is an excellent example of the fear that the Susquehannocks’ struck in the early colonists. The campaigns against the Susquehannocks that followed the act also lend credit to the possibility of Clayborne inciting warfare between the Susquehannocks and Europeans. Furthermore, they also clarify the military and economic clout the Susquehannocks had come to enjoy as a result of European trade.
In response to the Susquehannocks’ harassment of the Piscataways and the English settlers, Maryland prepared and sent an armed expedition to battle the Susquehannocks. However, the first campaign of 1639 came to a halt after reports that the Susquehannocks possessed firearms. Apparently the early European settlers were not bold enough to attempt to size up arms with those of the Natives.
The 1639 hesitation to engage the Susquehannocks in battle was not an isolated incident. The strength of the Susquehannocks was on numerous occasions feared and caused Marylanders much hesitation. Again in 1642, after the Susquehannocks, Wicomeses and Nantocokes were officially declared enemies at St. Mary’s on September 13, another militia was gathered to battle the Susquehannocks. This expedition too was deterred and convinced not to engage the Susquehannocks in battle. The result of this failed expedition placed Lieutenant General Giles Brent on the defensive because he was initially charged with the expedition’s implementation and success.
Despite the fact that diseases, warfare, and alcohol had reduced their people, the Susquehannocks’ ability to frighten and deter the Europeans by show of force was remarkable. Undoubtedly, their trade with the Dutch, Swedes and English under Clayborne had paid off. They were now capable of easily deterring European attack because of their accumulated arms, and their fearsome image. Even though it was public policy to resist and war with the Susquehannocks, the English administrators could not convince the settlers to battle.
In 1643 a third expedition was taken up. The third expedition was determined not to succumb to the fate of the previous two. Captain Cornwallis was given command of the expedition and sent fifty-three English against two hundred and fifty Susquehannocks. Twenty-nine Susquehannocks were killed in the engagement.
Again in 1648 we find an account of the Susquehannocks’ enormous influence in the Americas. Eschleman cites the 1648 Jesuit Relations volume 23 that states, “The Andaste tribes [Susquehannocks] allied to the Hurons contribute in a great measure it is said, toward the matter of peace, either because the Onondagoes fear to have them as enemies or because they desire their alliance.” As previously mentioned in the citations, the Onondagoes are members of the Iroquois confederacy. This is an important fact to remember because it is at this time that the Susquehannocks were attempting to mediate conflict between the Hurons and the Iroquois. The Hurons’ relations with the Iroquois nations were coming under increasing strain, and the Hurons requested the Susquehannocks to either mediate, or join them in warfare against the Iroquois.
Skirmishes between the English and Susquehannocks continued throughout the whole of the 1640s, and it was not until 1652 that the Susquehannocks found themselves in a dire enough situation with the Iroquois to settle accounts with the English. The Susquehannocks realized they had met an equivalent or even more powerful force in 1650 when the Iroquois war began. The Iroquois had been long embittered by the Susquehannocks successful campaigns against the Mohawk and the piracy of Seneca trade from the early 1600s to 1620.
It was in 1652 that they signed a peace treaty with the Marylanders, which was again renewed in 1661. The treaty secured the Susquehannocks more ammunition, men, and cannons. These items were acquired in exchange for much of the territory that the Susquehannocks previously sold to Clayborne. Once this trade occurred the Marylanders could now officially claim the land they had settled from the Susquehannocks, and they could expect a cessation of hostilities since the Susquehannocks were otherwise occupied in their northern territories.
Into the second half of the seventeenth century the wars with the Iroquois took a serious toll on the Susquehannocks. This, along with numerous major smallpox epidemics severely restricted the ability of the Susquehannocks to make and continue war on the Iroquois. The Susquehannocks eventually were forced to capitulate and send ambassadors to request peace between themselves and the Iroquois.
Cadzow states that the Susquehannocks had reached the height of their power in the years between 1660 and 1667. However, he may have over simplified the statement. In the years of 1660 to 1667 the Susquehannocks had already become drastically reduced in number as was already stated by the account of Holn. Therefore it can be clarified that their civilization’s height came prior to these dates. Cadzow’s statement may be accurate in that the Susquehannocks, at this point in time, had achieved their largest number of ballistic arms and weaponry. This was made possible because of better trade relations with the Swedes and the English while warring with the Iroquois. However, their civilization’s population had already greatly suffered prior to the years cited by Cadzow.
In the year of 1672 the Susquehannocks were understood to only have had three hundred warriors remaining. However, little weight should be given to the accuracy of the numbers since the evidence of the Susquehannocks population remains inconclusive. Finally, by 1675 they had become completely submissive to the Iroquois, and found refuge in northern Maryland where they were resented by the colonists.
The history of the Susquehannocks’ early European contact is full of exaggerations, contradictions, and misrepresentations. This narrative has attempted to clarify and shed new light on the early history of the Susquehannocks. Archaeology has made evident that prior to the sixteenth century the Susquehannocks culture was very similar to their Iroquois ancestors. Conflict drove them away from the Iroquois while trade and more secure settlements drew them south. They indirectly discovered European wares and trade in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. It was trade that caught the attention of the Susquehannocks. Growing trade meant increasing interaction with Europeans. Though the present paper does not thoroughly engage the Susquehannocks history beyond the 1650s, common knowledge allows us to understand that Indian wars and European interaction was much the cause of the Natives’ destruction.
Prior to their demise as a powerful people and discernable cultural entity, it was the European trade that brought the Susquehannocks to the pinnacle of prosperity. Trade was what enabled the Susquehannock Native Americans to come into their own as one of the most affluent and prosperous Native American cultures of the mid-Atlantic region. It was initially trade with the Dutch that brought ballistic arms to the Susquehannocks. Trade, as well as their ability using piracy to cause economic hardship for the Seneca and surrounding tribes enabled their expansion. Eventually the Swedes desired the services and friendship of the Susquehannocks. The Swedish trade brought the Susquehannocks onto another level in terms of military might and influence. The English were able to briefly threaten the power and land holdings of the Susquehannocks. However, the threat of the English was shortly thereafter defused with the treaties and alliance of 1652. This alliance further bolstered the Susquehannocks’ power and achieved them their greatest military arsenal and prosperity. Therefore the Susquehannocks’ pinnacle of power was a result of the Europeans who are commonly solely associated with the destruction of Native American culture.
 Donald A. Cadzow, Archaeological Studies of the Susquehannock Indians of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical Commission, 1936), 16; Barry C. Kent, Susquehanna’s Indians (Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1989), 28-9; Andrew White, “A Briefe Relation of the Voyage unto Maryland,” in Narratives of Early Maryland, ed. Clayton Coleman Hall (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1953), 42.
 William A. Hunter, “The Historic Role of the Susquehannocks,” in Susquehanna Miscellany, eds. John Whitthoft and W. Fred Kinsey, III (Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1969), 13.
 Cadzow, cited by Kent, 19.
 John Smith, The General Historie of Virginia New England and the Summer Isles (Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons, 1907), 126, quoted in Kent, 26; Henry P. Bigger, The Early Trading Companies of New France (Toronto: University of Toronto Library, 1901), 23-4, cited in Kent, 26.
 John Witthoft, W. Fred Kinsey, III and Charles H. Holzinger, “A Susquehannock Cemetery: The Ibaugh Site,” in Susquehanna Miscellany, eds. John Whitthoft and W. Fred Kinsey, III (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1969), 110-1.
*** The Piscataways were settled along the Patuxent River in what is now Maryland.
 James Axtell, After Columbus: Essays in the Ethnohistory of Colonial North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 75-6; Andrew White, “Father White’s Briefe Relation,” in Narratives of Early Maryland, ed. Clayton Coleman Hall (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1953), 42.
 Jesuit Relations vol. 14, (1637), 9, cited by Henry F. Eshleman, Esq., Lancaster County Indians: Annals of the Susquehannocks and other Indian Tribes of the Susquehanna territory from about the year 1500 to 1763, the date of their extinction (Lancaster: Express Printing Co., 1909), 19; Cadzow, 20.
 Eschleman, 19-21; Charles A. Hanna, The Wilderness Trail or The Ventures and Adventures of the Pennsylvania Traders on the Allegheny Path: With Some New Annals of the Old West, and the Records of Some Strong Men and Some Bad Ones, vol. 1 (New York: AMS Press, 1972), 36.