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Barren Creek Springs

This is the third of the three articles written in 1938 by Elizabeth Phillips Myers which were presented to the Samuel Chase Chapter of the NSDAR. The article appeared in Vol. 10 No. 1 of the Lower Delmarva Genealogical Society's newsletter, "More From The Shore" in the Fall of 1990.

The next historic place as we continue our trail down the post road towards Vienna is Barren Creek Springs, where the "Medicine Water" used so much by the American Indians flows from the earth, pregnant with iron, sulphur and magnesium. The springs lead to Barren Creek (formerly called Baron), purported to have been named after a wealthy baron of unknown origin who settled here. Barren Creek was the largest stream flowing into the Nanticoke River, south of Marshyhope Creek, commonly known as Northwest Fork.

Barren Creek was the stopping place on the post road from Vienna to Princess Anne. There was much discussion concerning the name of Barren Creek and that of Russum. This tract of land was originally a grant from Lord Baltimore to a family by the name of Russum. The Russums finally sold it to the Brattans, and the family moved to Denton. Judge Russum, who later revisited his ancestral community, was the last of the Russums. The name of Barren Creek was at one time changed to Russum, later changed back to Barren Creek Springs. Many years afterwards it was given the name of Mardela Springs because of the proximity of the springs to the Maryland - Delaware boundary line. Markers of the boundary line may still be found on the old Phillips farm near Mardela.

Near Barren Creek is another pond of some historical importance, Black Water. Black Water was on the stage coach road from Laurel, Delaware to Princess Anne. It was at the crossing of Tussocky Branch where Patty Cannon tied Samson Hat, an interesting character in "The Entailed Hat", and the last man to live at the "Old Furnace".

The Indians were the first to discover the springs at Barren Creek. Until several years ago, huge tubs hewn from the trunks of trees for bathing purposes were in existence here. There is no doubt that the streams of Barren Creek and the springs were the healing waters of the Red Man. As the community became more populated, a hotel was built near the springs where people came to receive the medicinal benefits of the water. Barren Creek became, during the latter part of the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, the seat of social life similar the the historic old town of Quantico. These springs are reputed to be the oldest in the state.

This section of the country had a "Meeting Day" for people of the outlying districts to attend. It became a central point between the two counties, Dorchester and Somerset. On this day they sat in session to hear grievances, give summonses, issue legal papers, and execute deeds. These people discussed with fervor the program of the young nation, and were cautious about what political candidates they advocated.

The Harrison Rally in 1840 was the greatest political demonstration ever held there. It was here on the Fourth of July, 1840, that the people heard Reverdy Johnson, Charles H. Pitts, and Thomas Walsh of Baltimore campaign for William Henry Harrison for President. These speakers came from Baltimore on the steamer George Washington, said to be the first steamer to land at Vienna. From Vienna they crossed the river and were driven to Barren Creek Springs with a pair of horses. For many years afterwards, Fourth of July celebration here was considered an occasion of great interest.

Many notable leaders came from this section. In the early formation of the county, Joseph F. Brattan was a member of the School Board, H. Crawford Bounds was Superintendent of Schools. Robert F. Brattan was several times State Senator and was President of the Senate in 1880.

Ship building was a means of employment. Some of the vessels were built here as early as 1840. Many ships were built at Moore's Landing on the south side of the creek.

The old Presbyterian Church is one of the oldest buildings now standing in this section. Joshua Brattan willed in 1830 a house and ten acres of land to be used for a church until funds for the building of a church could be procured. The old church, which was built circa 1839, still stands on the banks of the stream. The first deacons of this old church were Joseph Brattan, Dr. Houston of Vienna, and Train A. Bounds.

Mrs. Myers added in a footnote: "A person may spend much time in research, trying to gather bits of history of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, but may we preserve the information we have now, that posterity may appreciate the vast wealth of historical background which surrounds him."

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