At the headwaters of the Tred Avon River, adjacent to the Chesapeake Bay in Talbot County, MD, a small port was first established back in the late 1600’s. In those days, when religion played a much larger role in defining the social and cultural structure for the population, Quakerism gained a strong foothold on the small port town and the Third Haven Meeting House (circa 1682-1684) was constructed. The same Meeting House stands today as the oldest religious building still in use in the United States and is thought to be the earliest dated building in the state of Maryland. Religious influences continue to carry on and today Easton is also known as a "Cathedral Town", and is also the location of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton.
In 1710, this small port became the official county town in Talbot County and was named simply, Talbot Court House. Not long after, the name was changed to Talbot Town. However most local residents and visiting sailors would often refer to their little village simply as “East Town” and in 1788 Talbot Town was officially renamed Easton. In the early 1800’s, Easton soon became recognized as the "East Capital" of Maryland. Centrally located in Talbot County, it became the center of trade and government for both the county and the entire Maryland Eastern Shore. Easton's first surge of affluence and building activity occurred shortly after the War of 1812. It was around this time that steamboats started plying the waters of the Tred Avon River and made their way to Easton Point until their eventual demise in the early 1900’s.
Easton was also distinguished for its numerous "firsts" on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Easton had the first newspaper, the first bank and was home to the first Federal offices. It also had the first brick hotel, the first gas plant, the first steamer line to the port of Baltimore and the first airplane service to from the east side of the Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore, MD.
More recently, Easton has been designated "the 8th Best Small Town in America". This small little port town has grown and developed to become a world renowned arts and cultural center with a population of over 14,000. Today, it is comprised of people who love living in a small town that can offer the best of so many worlds. Easton has highway access to large metropolitan areas like Baltimore, Annapolis, Washington, and Wilmington. It offers locals and visitors a little bit of everything from casual and gourmet dining, to shopping venues that offer everything from collectibles to fine antiques. It has eclectic art galleries, numerous public golf courses and of course, the splendid Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries right in their backyard. Easton has become a popular destination for those who love sailing, canoeing, kayaking, and crabbing. Easton has live theater, live music, gracious Victorian Bed and Breakfasts.
Weekly, Monthly and Annual activities and events are also held throughout the year.
- World Famous Easton Waterfowl Festival – (Sometimes referred to as the Easton Decoy Festival) Held on the second full weekend of November, right around the time when migratory waterfowl arrive in the area. Much more than just a decoy show, the Easton Waterfowl Festival features paintings, carvings, sculpture, decoys, crafts, kids activities, great food, and music throughout the historic town. 18,000 to 20,000 visitors attend this very popular festival each year.
- The Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival - Now in its 25th year offers the best in world-class chamber music. This two-week event is held every June at the Avalon Theatre in Easton and several other locations on the Eastern Shore.
- First Night Talbot – The town of Easton annually joins over 150 cites nationally and internationally to the celebrate the passing of the old year into the new on New Year’s Eve. This family-oriented, alcohol-free community festival features indoor and outdoor lively arts performances throughout downtown historic Easton beginning in the early evening and ending at midnight with a grand finale.
Other popular places to visit and things to do in and around Easton include:
- The Historical Society of Talbot County – Which maintains a museum with award-winning Federal-style gardens, a multi-purpose facility auditorium, and a unique consignment shop entitled Tharpe House Antiques. The Society also offers guided tours of the circa 1805 James Neall House, a Federal style townhouse; "The Ending of Controversie", a reconstructed 17th Century structure; and an authentic circa 1790 cabinetmaker's house and shop.
- The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum - The only museum dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of the entire Bay and its people.
- The Country Comfort Farm - Located on St. Michaels Road offers horseback riding at its finest
- The Pickering Creek Audubon Center - Offers Guided Walks on the 1st & 3rd Sundays of every month
- Little Ashby Vineyards - The first licensed winery on the Eastern Shore of Maryland is open for tours and tastings by appointment only.
- Plus numerous boating, kayaking, and sailing activities available in many nearby towns and villages.
Since it’s earliest days, Easton has been comprised of a people who came from all over the region just to do business and participate in county government. But in recent years, the proud residents of Easton have also endeavored to maintain their historic Town Center along with its Colonial and Victorian architecture. Today, the citizens of Easton, Maryland continue working together to promote an ever growing variety of activities so that Eastern Shore residents and their many visitors can come to town to relax and enjoy all that Easton has to offer.
Article on Talbot County
Like the first Native Americans who traveled throughout this area many centuries ago, early European settlers were instantly drawn to The Chesapeake Bay’s wealth of natural resources and profusion of inland waterways for ease in travel. English settlers began arriving by boat in the 1630’s and they soon began establishing tobacco plantations and trading posts along the Choptank, Tred Avon, Wye and St. Michael’s (now Miles) Rivers.
In 1661, Talbot County, MD was established and named for Lady Grace Talbot, sister of the second Lord Baltimore.
For over a century Talbot County life centered on the magnificent Chesapeake tidewaters where tobacco often served as the currency that was bartered for English manufactured goods. However, the tobacco agriculture was eventually replaced by wheat, which was needed to feed Washington's Continental Army during the American Revolution. Later on, corn, tomatoes, fruit, and soy, along with dairy products and poultry became the mainstays of Talbot County’s agrarian culture.
Equally as important to the growth of Talbot County have been the maritime industries of shipbuilding, seafood harvesting and processing. The original trading posts became the vibrant small towns that supported all of these industries by providing centers for trade, crafts, and moderate manufacturing concerns.
Today these same small towns and institutions continue to lead the way along with a growing tourism industry that includes activities such as sailing, sport fishing, hunting & golf also becoming a strong influence on the economy of Talbot County.
There really is no other place on the Eastern Shore like Talbot County, Maryland. With over 600 miles of shoreline, including five rivers and dozens of smaller tributaries, Talbot County is a popular haven for geese, ducks and literally hundreds of other types of wildlife. Each small town in Talbot County has its own unique charm with strong pre-Revolutionary influences in architecture, culture and business being carried on to this day.
St. Michael’s along the Miles River is a primary destination for the many boaters on the Chesapeake Bay with its popular marinas, shops, restaurants and lodgings all set in a charming small town atmosphere. Oxford, MD is one of the oldest towns in America that has a long history of maritime activity. Easton is the cultural arts and crafts center of Talbot County.
These and many other local destinations have become attractive stops for people of all ages and backgrounds. With so much to do, and so much to see, all situated right in the heart of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Talbot County is a treasure to be cherished by everyone.
Small Towns of Talbot County
With such a wide variety of unique charms along with their early American influences in architecture, the many small towns located in Talbot County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore have become some of the most popular tourist destinations on the entire East Coast. Most were originally established as small trading posts along the banks of Talbot County’s four main tributaries that can be found along the Chesapeake Bay. These include the Choptank, Wye, Tred Avon, and St. Michaels, (now Miles) Rivers. Along with the growth of the region’s earliest agricultural and maritime industries, these hamlets quickly evolved into the small villages and port towns that they have remained being to this day.
Times change. But not always on the Eastern Shore. Unlike other major ports and cities in Maryland, the small towns of Talbot County have tried to maintain their easy-going way of life while the world around them kept constantly changing. Though, in recent years, many new improvements have been made to accommodate the ever-growing and valuable tourism market. These include everything from the restoration of many of the original buildings and structures built during the early days of English settlement to reviving some of the original roads and trade routes used back in the Eastern Shore’s pre-Revolutionary period. Even more recently, major highways have been widened and extended to ease the way for travelers on their journeys throughout Talbot County.
One of the first towns ever built in Maryland is located in Talbot County. Oxford, MD was originally founded in 1683. It was originally selected as one of the two ports of entry for the province and until the Revolutionary War, Oxford enjoyed prominence as an international shipping center. It was following the American Revolution that Oxford went into a long slumber due to the loss of its trade with the British Empire. Not long after the Civil War the addition of railroads helped make Oxford a major distribution point for the popular seafood bounty of the Chesapeake. Watermen would drop off their daily catches where crabs, oysters, clams and fish were processed and packaged before being sent to locations all over the country. The Oxford of today has become a popular spot for tourists who still come by land, by ferry and by sea. Gone are the seafood packing houses and once booming fishing industries. Instead, visitors find only a peaceful, quiet and serene village in a gorgeous setting along the banks of the Tred Avon River. And in most cases, that is all they want.
Further up the Chesapeake Bay and just off one of the tributaries of the Wye River, lies the small little town of Wye Mills. Wye Mills grew around the Old Wye Grist Mill, which produced flour for George Washington's troops at Valley Forge. Built in 1682, the Old Wye Grist Mill remains the oldest working mill in the state of Maryland. Located just outside this sleepy hamlet is the Wye Oak State Park which just recently lost its famous 460 year old Wye Oak Tree after a major thunderstorm. A popular destination for both motorists and cyclists, Wye Mills is located on Rt. 662, just 15 Miles from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Some of the sights that continue to be frequently visited are The Old Wye Grist Mill and Museum, the Wye Church and Little Red Schoolhouse.
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