The History of Caroline County, Maryland, From Its Beginning, 1920, pp. 175-179

The Marydel Duel, Edinburgh


        About 1850, William Hall purchased a large tract of land.  This tract covered part of two counties, Caroline County, Maryland, and Kent County, Delaware.  It was covered by a forest.
        In a short time a small clearing was made by means of axes.  On this clearing William McKnett built a sawmill, where trees were made into lumber for building purposes.
        The first house build and owned by William Hall was just across the Delaware line.  Part of the house was a shoe shop, where the owner made and sold shoes.  This house is still standing, but is used as an outbuilding.
        Halltown, as it was then called, consisted of three houses.  This name was kept three years.  It was then changed to Marydel, taking its name from the two states in which it was located.

Erection of Hotels and Store

        Shortly after the founding of this little village, John Walters erected a building which served as a hotel and bar.  In a short time two others were erected.  One of these was built by George Jones, who not being able to secure a license for a bar, sold the building, which was afterwards used as a dwelling.
        The first store was owned and kept by James Smith.  The building is still standing and is occupied by Thomas McGinnis, as a dwelling.


        In those early days the inhabitants provided food for the winter days.  This was partly done by means of evaporating fruit.  So little of this kind of work could be done by hand that it was found necessary to build a factory for this purpose.  The first enterprise of this kind was carried on by Joseph T. George.  It is said that this one was the largest of its kind on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

The First School

        Perhaps you are wondering where the children first went to school.  A room in the "Evaporator" was used, and the school master was William Jarman.
        Later a school house was built about a mile from the village, on the Maryland side.  The children attended this school until it closed for vacation, which was early in the spring.  They were then allowed to attend the school on the Delaware side by paying the small tuition of one dollar per month for each child.

First School on Delaware Side

        This school was a two-story building, which served as a school house and church.  The first floor was used for school purposes, and on the second service was held each Sunday, provided a minister could be secured.
        Boys and girls in those days were compelled to attend Sunday School twice each Sunday, morning and afternoon.

The First Church

        The first building which was erected and used for religious service was the M.E. Church, South.  This building was about one-quarter mile due north of the village, on the right hand side of the railroad, just across the Delaware line.  The land surrounding the church was used for a cemetery.
        In 1871, the first M.E. Church was built, having as its minister A. S. Mowbray.  Another church was added to our number in 1918.  This one was the Roman Catholic.

Our Railroad

        If I were to ask you how people travel today you would say first of all by automobiles, motorcycles, the auto-bus, and then horses, buggies, carriages, and farm wagons.  But if I were to ask your grandfather how he traveled when he was a boy I would have a different story.
        In those days there were no automobiles and very few railroads in our country, and the railroad which we see from our windows was not there.
        The railroad which passes through our town (a branch of the P.B. & W. road) began at Clayton and was laid to a point then known as Jack's Bridge, between Kenton and Hartly.  In a short time another strip connected this point with Marydel.  The third strip reached to Greensboro, and thence to Oxford, which was the terminus.
        The first station-agent (Joseph T. George) occupied a very small building which still stands and is now used for a dwelling.
        After the railroad extended as far as Oxford, excursions were frequent.  This story has come to us: One lady was to take her first ride.  She was standing on the platform when the train came in, but made no effort to get on.  When the train had gone someone noticed her still standing on the platform and asked why she had not gotten on the train.  She replied, "Well, I thought the train took the platform along."

A Duel

        Back in the 70's occurred an incident which served to arouse our then sleepy burg and furnished food for gossip for many days to come.  It was the "Fighting of a Duel," the stage for which was set not far from the site of our present school.
        The principals were of national and later international fame; James Gordon Bennett, famous journalist of New York and Paris, and William May, noted clubman, traveler and explorer.  While the encounter amounted to but little at the time, it was said to have caused Bennett to move to Paris, where he died in 1918 preceded by a few months by the death of May in Washington, D.C.


        About two miles to the northwest of our little village is another village which was formed before our own.  In the early times it is said Patty Cannon's agents were busy in that part of the county.  They would buy slaves and bring them to this village and hide them.  The slaves were hidden in the attic of the hotel, which was then kept by Henry Whiteley.  This kind of work did not meet the approval of the proprietor, but when travelers came for lodging they were compelled to care for the slaves also.

Choptank River

        About one-fourth of a mile east of Marydel is the source of the Choptank River.  It begins as a tiny stream and widens until it becomes a ditch twenty feet in width.  It keeps widening as it gently flows along, until we find a large pond.  The waters of this pond turn the wheels of a mill known as the Choptank Mill, now owned by John Medford.  This pond furnishes good skating for the girls and boys of the surrounding country.  We find this stream winding its way through beautiful groves until at last we have the grand old Choptank.
        We are told in one of the groves along the west bank of the Choptank may be found a mound which was once the resting place of an Indian Chief who belonged to the tribes of Indians that made their homes in that portion of this county.  This Chief's body was, in later years, removed to Baltimore and kept as a relic of the past.                               MAUD HUMMER and Pupils.

The Marydel Duel

        The recent death of one of the principals, James Gordon Bennett, of Paris, formerly of New York, recalls the duel which took place here in 1876.  In some way Mr. Bennett and Fred May, of Baltimore, became estranged, presumably on account of the breaking of a matrimonial engagement by Mr. May's sister. A "field of honor" was deemed necessary.  A challenge was given and accepted.  Pistols were selected as the weapons and the authorities of five states became vigilant to prevent the duel.
        May was the first to fire.  He missed, but by so slight a margin that the bullet clipped a lock of hair from Bennett's head.  Then Bennett's pistol was raised slowly until it pointed directly at May's chest.  There was a tense second!  Calmly and deliberately Bennett then pointed the pistol upward and discharged it into the air.  The dueling party and principals escaped arrest by flight.
        The arrival at Marydel that cold, damp December morning of the dueling party, or rather the two parties, was unaccountable and the meaning of the visit was not known by the residents of the town and vicinity for several hours after the meeting.  In the party were eight good looking men, all dressed in fine apparel, several of them carrying blankets in their arms, it being later inferred that the blankets were to be used in case of death or wounding of the men.  They left the train immediately after its arrival and walked south down the track, one man of the party remaining at Marydel.  The man left behind proceeded to make arrangements for teams to take the eight men away in a short time, giving one excuse or another for the visit of the strangers and their hasty departure.  He climbed on the top of a box car on the siding and with a field glass watched the party as it proceeded to a secluded spot in the distance.  The farmer who lived nearest this spot heard two pistol shots and then after a short time the duelists and the friends of each man came back to town.  Bennett with his second, surgeon, and one other thing going to Clayton by a carriage, and May and his chosen ones to Dover, where they still eluded identification, and escaped.
        This affair is said by many who were close to Bennett to have been the real cause of his self-expatriation, since it was the only way by which it gave rise.  He spent nearly all his time in Europe after the event of Marydel, but he developed in New York one of the finest newspaper properties in the world.


        This school which was organized about 1892 took its name from the tract of land on which it was erected.

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