HOME OF BETSY BAYNARD AS A TYPE OF EASTERN SHORE SLAVE HOLDER
Looking backward to the days when forests stretched for miles over an acreage now covered by fertile farms, we see about five miles N.E. of Greensboro, some distance from the Eastern bank of the Choptank River, a small clearing appear. Soon arose a small unpretentious building typical of its day. Tall pines overshadowed it. At dawn the song of the woodland bird awakened the sleeper, while during the hush of eventide the call of prowling wild animals sent a thrill of fear through the listener. Such in the 17th century was the beginning of the Baynard plantation—the largest in the Greensboro section—extending over an area of more than six hundred acres.
Time was in the early slave days when tobacco flourished there, and Negroes, singing their weird melancholy songs “toted” the tobacco to their storeroom. From thence it was carried over the woodland road and delivered at the warehouse of William Hughlett for even in the 17 hundreds the dense green of Maryland pines had given way to the paler green of cultivated fields. First the Baynards planted tobacco, but later cereals formed the base of income; while in the last days of the plantation, to these were added the returns from tanbark and railroad ties.
In 1812 “Old Massa Baynard” died and Mistress Betty, then sixteen years old, became— under her mother—the Autocrat of the Plantation.
The home with its rambling Negro quarters had been enlarged and, while never ostentatious, held old china, colonial furniture, a grandfather’s clock and other antiques such as delight the eye.
There after her mother’s death Betsy Baynard lived alone save for her house servant, Myna, and two powerful dogs who stood guard day and night. Completing this plantation community were her slaves who fill their huts to overflowing, at times numbering more than two hundred.
Although not given to slave dealing, at the time of enlarging her house to obtain the needed money Betsy sold a servant “South into Georgia.”
“They say” the cartwhip was daily used as a ruling power among her colored people but the blows must have fallen lightly for many of her slaves remained contentedly on her plantation until old and infirm, and when she died ten years after the Emancipation some half dozen of her slaves were yet with her.
An amusing anecdote of the Baynard slaves relates that a young Negro, returning from a dance, in the cold, gray dawn went to the well for a drink of water. As his eye followed the bucket on its descent he saw something white. True to race superstition he believed it a spirit and ran to tell Miss Betsy of “De hand in de well.” She returned with him and found a sheep had fallen in and all but drowned.
A tragedy of the plantation was the death of Miss Mary Reid, a cousin of Miss Betsy’s, who at times made her home there. A slave girl, on being reprimanded for some delinquency, took offense and attempted revenge on Betsy by way of Paris green. The poison miscarried, resulting in Miss Reid’s death almost immediately.
As a memorial to the Baynard generosity stands Irving Chapel. While the name is that of the first minister, the plat of land on which Irving Chapel stands was donated from the Baynard plantation, and the lumber for the building was added on condition that the church members cut it from the forest. Miss Baynard also gave a sum of money, large in those days and sufficient for church erection.
Betsy Baynard died without direct lineal descendant. The land was sold in small sections, and is owned principally by Rosanna Richards, G. W. Richards, A. K. Brown and J. A. Meredith. All that remains to recall the story of other days is a portion of the old home which is yet in use by J. A. Meredith, and a small family burying ground with three markers—Written from material collected by Paul Meredith.William Baynard born 1769, died 1812.
Litia Baynard born 1773, died 1843.
Elizabeth Baynard born 1796, died 1873.
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