Historic Timeline of Worcester County

c1200 - Although Native Americans had visited the Delmarva Peninsula for thousands of years, it appears the it is not until about 1200 that the first permanent settlements of native peoples begin. This coincides with the "Woodland" period Native America history. The tribes, which are part of the larger Algonquian-speaking Powhatan group successfully cultivate crops that supplemented their hunting and fishing

1524 - Sailing under the French flag, Giovanni da Verrazano becomes the first European to visit the area, when he lands in the approximate area of Chincoteague Bay. He explores eight miles inland to the Pocomoke River. He names the region Arcadia for its beauty and abundant flora.

1608 - Captain John Smith explores the Chesapeake, including the Pocomoke River

June 20, 1632 - Lord Baltimore receives a charter for Maryland from King Charles I

March 25, 1634 - The Ark and the >Dove land at St. Clement's Island on the Western Shore with the first European settlers.

1642 - Snow Hill is first settled.

1646 - The Treaty of Middle Plantation decentralizes Accohannock tribes . Some Native Americans leave their homeland, while others merge into the white and black population. Through family traditions, some of the Native customs and cultures live today

1670 - A settlement begins to develop at current day Pocomoke. In its early years, Pocomoke is an important shipbuilding center.  The town is also an important port into the twentieth century.   Its deep waters allow large vessels to load and unload their wares at the town's many wharves.

1677 - A land grant is given for Burley Plantation. In time, this area will grow into present day Berlin .

1678 - The scattered tribes of the Assateague (along with the Wicomicos and the Pocomokes) gather together in a single settlement, called Askiminokonson, near Snow Hill

1694 - Snow Hill is made a royal port by William and Mary.  The chief exports are cypress lumber and tobacco. The cypress lumber is especially important for masts and lumber for ships since the cypress wood does not rot.  The main imports are finished goods from England.

1722 - A peace treaty is signed between the English colonists and the Assateague tribes.

1742 - After the English settlers learn that some Native American chiefs are plotting against them, the Maryland government withdraw its recognition of the Assateague empire. They put severe limits on their freedoms. It appears that the attacks are planned by the Nanticoke tribe which lived some miles away along the river of the same. The Maryland authorities, however, consider all tribes to be the same. Most of the Assateagues move north to join with the Susquehanna tribe. A few remain in the area, living to this day near Indian River, Delaware. (Note - Because of their decreasing numbers, Native Americans of many different Eastern Shore tribes lived in the same settlements by this point. Therefore, it is difficult to know the complete history of the different tribes.

December 10, 1742 - Worcester County is formed from part of Somerset County. Snow Hill becomes the county seat.

1760 - The southern border between Maryland and Delaware is finally settled. The famous surveyors Mason & Dixon go on to afix the line up the side of Delaware as well as the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland.

1775-1783 - During the American Revolution, Worcester and the Eastern Shore are nicknamed the Breadbasket of the Revolution because of the amount of food produced for the Continental Army. Captain John Watkins trained a company of Worcester soldiers. They joined the Continental Army and served in the Battle of Long Island, where they were recognized for bravery.

During the war the Baltimore Salt Company opened a salt works on Sinepuxent Bay. Water from the ocean was evaporated, leaving only salt

1790 - In the first United States Census, Worcester has 7,676 whites, 3,836 slaves, and 178 free blacks. That same year a wreck-master was appointed by the state General Assembly because of the wide spread looting that occured whenever ships were wrecked on the shoals along the coast.

1812 - After distinguishing himself in the war with Tripoli, Stephen Decatur became America's most famous naval hero during the War of 1812.  In October of 1812, he defeated the British frigate Macedonian .  Greatly outnumbered, however, Decatur was eventually captured by the British fleet.  Decatur is killed in a duel in 1820 on the Western Shore.

1855 - New Bethel Methodist Church was founded, becoming one of the oldest African-American congregations in the country. In the same year, the Reverend Dr. Charles Albert Tindley is born. Tindley, a songwriter and man of faith, composed the Civil Rights anthem "We Shall Overcome."

1860 - By the time of the 1860 census, Worcester has 12,402 whites, 3,571 slaves, and 3,648 free blacks. The free blacks, although persecuted, are able to create a strong culture which influences the county's development

May 1, 1860 - The Delaware Railroad is expanded from Delmar down to Salisbury

1861 - The Civil War begins. Both pro-Northern and pro-Southern sentiment is strong in the county. County residents serve in uniform on both sides. The Pocomoke River and surrounding swamps is an important link in the Underground Railroad, allowing slaves to escape North

November 1, 1864 - Slavery is abolished in Maryland

1867 - Part of western Worcester County is merged with part of northern Somerset County to form Wicomico County. Salisbury becomes the county seat of Wicomico

1868 - The Wicomico and Pocomoke Railroad links Salisbury and Berlin. That same year regularly scheduled steamboat service begins between Newtown (Pocomke) and Baltimore.

1869 - According to legend, Issac Coffin rents out the first beach-front cottage in Ocean City .

1872 - The Worcester Railroad opens between Berlin and Snow Hill

July 4, 1875 - The Atlantic Hotel opens in Ocean City. It is the town's first large-scale hotel. It is during that same year that Ocean City is incorporated as a town

1876 - The Wicomico and Pocomoke Railroad builds a trestle across Sinepuxent Bay, linking Ocean City by rail to Berlin and the rest of the nation. During the same year the Worcester Railroad was extended south all the way to Franklin City, Va.

December 25, 1878 - The U.S. Life Saving Service (later part of the Coast Guard) opens a station in Ocean City.  The surfmen bravely venture out in all weather to save the crews of doomed ships.

Late 1800s - Numerous canneries develop along the railroads and Pocomoke River. These canneries allow the produce of Worcester farmers to be sent to faraway markets. Lumber also remains an extremely important industry. The Richardson, Smith, & Moore Lumber Company is the largest employer in the county.

1884 - The New York, Philadelphia & Norfolk Railroad is extended across the Pocomoke River into Pocomoke City and south all the way to Cape Charles, Virginia

August 7, 1893 - A fire destroys downtown Snow Hill and the early town and county records.

1898-1899 - On December 28, the "Blizzard of '99" blows in, lasting into the New Year.  Drifts of over ten feet paralyze the entire area

1916 - A state highway is built between Salisbury and Ocean City, through Berlin, making automobile travel easier in the county.

1922 - A fire roars through Pocomoke City.

August 23, 1933 - A hurricane cuts an inlet between current day Ocean City and Assateague Island. Before this point, the two were joined to form a single barrier island.

1941 - World War II begins, and the Worcester County branch of the National Guard is called into action. Several spotting stations open along the coast in 1942 to be on the lookout for German planes and submarines. All of Worcester County was under dim-out regulations. During the war, poultry farming also increased dramatically (today it remains extremely important to the local economy)

1952 - The Chesapeake Bay Bridge opens, making the Ocean City resort more accessible to the residents of Baltimore and Washington.

March 6-8, 1962 - An unexpected storm causes much destruction along the coast of the county.

Thank you to Jim Hudson and the Worcester County MDGenWeb
for letting us extract material from the timeline developed by Mr. Hudson for that site. You may want to take a look at the more detailed version .

Copyright September 8, 1999, Office of the Secretary of State.
Last Modified October 8, 2003.