Lost History Notes: U.S. Marshal Frederick Douglass entertained with President of Dorchester & Delaware Railroad in Cambridge; planned to speak in Somerset County’s Princess Anne

From research collection of William Alston-El and Old Anacostia Douglassonians. Copyright enforced with full force of US Constitution and Criminal Code.

Before presentation of “The Lost History of Frederick Douglass in Cambridgelast September at the Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center in downtown Cambridge the consequential September 1877 visit of United States Marshal of the District of Columbia Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass, in company with Hon. John Mercer Langston, to Cambridge was unknown in the local, regional, statewide, national and international mythology of the Eastern Shore’s most famous prodigal son.

With nearly 100 people attending the dual presentation of Master Eastern Shore Historian Dr. Linda Duyer and Old Anacostia Douglassonian John H. Muller, hosted by Honorable Mr. Donald Pinder and Honorable William “Bill” Jarmon of the Harriet Tubman Organization it is evident there is an abundant interest in the lost history of Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass within Cambridge and adjacent communities of the Delmarva Peninsula.

Continuous scholastic investigation has yielded more context and perspective to the lost history of Frederick Douglass in Cambridge and the expanse of the Delmarva.

Closely connected within and to Shore communities through associations and affiliations with both the Baltimore Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Delaware Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Dr. Douglass was associated with fraternal organizations on the Shore led by members of the Bailey Tribe, as well as networks within fields of education, politics, and journalism on the Delmarva.

Covering unknown tens of thousands of miles criss-crossing the country and world by ferry, steamboat, stage coach, street car and railroad for more than a half-century Dr. Douglass was a travelling man.

On several occasions across years of research we have found Dr. Douglass involved with what today would be called public policy issues of “urbanism,” such as petitioning the United States Senate to approve a proposal for extended service of the Anacostia and Potomac River Railway Company, a company in which Douglass was an investor and held stock.

As an advocate for organized labor and integration of transportation accommodations, there are several lines of discussion Dr. Douglass and W. Wilson Byrne, President of the Dorchester and Delaware Rail Road, could have maintained during the course of their entertainment in Cambridge.

“Dorchester and Delaware Railroad.” Poor, Henry V. Poor’s Manual of the Railroads of the United States, 1870 – 1871. Vol. 3. New York: 1870. p. 451.

Based in Cambridge, Bryne organized investors and a survey in the late 1860s, with the line from Camrbridge in Dorchester County to Seaford, Delaware completed in 1869.

In future posts we will discuss more of the lost history of Frederick Douglass and the railroads as it relates to a collection of railroad lines, train stations and executives. We know folks out there love railroad history and therefore the lost local history of Douglass on the Shore is also the lost local history of Delmarva railroads.

Ghost Visit of Dr. Douglass to Princess Anne, county seat of Somerset County

During the course of known and lost visits Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass made to the Shore — St. Michaels, Talbot County (June 1877); Easton, Talbot County & Cambridge, Dorchester County (September 1877); Easton, Talbot County & Cambridge, Dorchester County (November 1878); Queenstown & Centreville Queen Anne’s County (October 1879); Salisbury, Wicomico County (February 1880); Wye Island and Wye House [Talbot County], June 1881; Denton, Caroline County (November 1883); Port Depost & Rising Sun, Cecil County, (December 1885) and Easton & St. Michaels [Talbot County] (March 1893) — we have found at least three “Ghosts Visits.”

These are at least three occasions Douglass had confirmed and intended to visit and speak within a community of Maryland’s Eastern Shore yet for reasons beyond his control, such as bad weather grounding travel across the Chesapeake Bay, he was unable to meet his ambitious schedule.

Along with Ghosts Visits to Caroline County (1879) and Kent County (1889) we can confirm Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass had full intention to speak in Princess Anne, the county seat of Maryland’s southernmost Somerset County (1877).


Frederick Douglass and John Creswell; Maryland’s “Forgotten Abolitionist” from Port Deposit in Cecil County, Maryland

To uplift the lost history of Dr. Frederick Douglass on the Eastern Shore we must carefully consider the connections and contributions of Douglass to the ecosystem of Maryland’s expansive network of reformist circles including the church, secondary and higher education, editors, Women’s Rights, Civil Rights and temperance, among other issues and causes of progressive public policy and public administration.

From small-town council members to county commissioners to Baltimore mayors to governors to U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators, Dr. Douglass knew generations of Maryland politicians of both parties at the municipal, state and national levels.

As a Border State the sectional divisions of the Union and the Confederacy, which tore the country apart, divided and separated regions of Maryland, as well as prominent families. President Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus and deployment of federal troops to enforce martial law impacted Baltimore City and areas of the Eastern Shore.

With the adoption of a new state constitution in November 1864, which abolished slavery, the process of Reconstruction began in Maryland before the conclusion of armed conflict.

During the Reconstruction of Maryland a prominent lost figure of local and national influence was Port Deposit’s John Creswell (1828 – 1891), an associate of Dr. Frederick Douglass.

According to, ” Forgotten Abolitionist: John A. J. Creswell of Maryland” published by Dickinson College’s House Divided Project:

In 1864, Creswell helped secure passage of an antislavery constitution in Maryland, the first (and only) popular vote for abolition in any U.S. state. He also led off the final congressional debates for the Thirteenth Amendment in January 1865, with an eloquent address that showcased the changing times. Nor did Creswell stop with this newfound embrace of freedom. After the war, the Marylander also became an unlikely advocate for equality of opportunity. While serving as a Postmaster General during the Grant Administration, Creswell helped to integrate and modernize the federal post office system.

Douglass and Creswell share stage at 15th Amendment rally in Baltimore

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Staunton Spectator. 31 May 1870.

Due the persistent proclivity to continue to whitewash the history of Dr. Douglass in Maryland, and across the country, very little is known beyond base and rudimentary mythology.

Therefore it is incumbent and extra necessary for Old Anacostia Douglassonians to set up throughout the state of Maryland and on the Eastern Shore to uplift the sacred lost history whereas several statewide institutions supported with public dollars have contributed little to nothing to further a scholastic understanding of Dr. Douglass.

As evidence of the general nature of the Lost History of Douglass in the state of Maryland, a very generous and respected “street historian” out of the Upper Chesapeake / Lower Susquehanna region of the Delmarva was unfamiliar with the connections between U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, and Postmaster General John Creswell and Dr. Douglass.

It appears from initial research Douglass and Creswell traveled in the same circles of Radical Republicans and Women’s Right advocates with Baltimore City being the crossroads of their collective activities and contributions.

Library of Congress.

The most noteworthy connection of Postmaster General Creswell and Dr. Frederick Douglass was the lecture stage they shared in May 1870 at parade festivities celebrating the passage of the 15th Amendment, which supported the first generation of African American Congressmen and Senators entering the halls of the United States Capitol.

This history has been tragically lost.

But remember we are getting a taxpayer funded statue of Douglass in Annapolis? Save me the vapidness and speechifying of the mythology. Enough with the disgraceful historical illiteracy of the state.

Show and tell the lost history of Dr. Douglass. Your time is up. It’s a new day in local history. Get at me before I get at the lost history.