History of the Perryman Peninsula

This presentation provides a short video slideshow on the history of the Perryman Peninsula.

You can pause the video at any time be clicking on the video.

In order to move forward, we need to understand our history and legacy…
In 1608 – Captain John Smith sailed into the Bush River and encountered land inhabited by Iroquois tribes of Susquehannock, possible Masssawomek
“Heaven and earth seemed never to have agreed better to frame a place for man’s … delightful habitation.” Captain John Smith
Today, we can see similar sunrises and sunsets, and envision what those earlier inhabitants experienced. What remains of the Perryman Peninsula is a naturalist’s paradise, teaming with wildlife ranging from American Bald Eagles to deer, fox, opossum, otters, and wild turkeys. We must also acknowledge there is no recognition of the indigenous people of these lands who were driven out by the “development” that began in the 1600s.
What remains is a history of plunderers who took all they could for self-gain. History is repeating itself today, it the context of what is grotesquely termed “development.” What remains amid the plunderers is a broad and diverse community of concerned citizens who recognize our call as stewards of the properties entrusted to us. We accept responsibility for the land entrusted to us and for what happens during our time as caretakers of this land. On behalf of generations to come, we accept responsibility for fighting against such a perverse view of “development.”

Late 1600s / Early 1700s

1671 marked the creation of what is now Maryland’s oldest Episcopal parish – St. George’s Parish / Spesutia Church. Today there are nearly 20 houses of worship within five miles of the proposed warehouse development. These are small community congregations who look after their neighbors. In an ideal world, people would walk or bike to worship services, but traffic makes it dangerous today – particularly on Spesutia and Perryman Roads. We cannot ignore existing safety issues.

Late 1700s – 1800s: Slavery

The Hundreds of Harford County: Harford County was divided into “hundreds”. Some say a hundred was an area of 100 families, or an area capable of raising 100 men for militia. Spesutia Lower and Harford Lower Hundreds formed the Perryman Peninsula.
The 1776 census of Spesutia lower hundred reported 1,440 people: 790 (55%) were white, and 650 (45%) were black – of which four were designated as free. Proportionally, by any standards, a nearly 1:1 ratio of free to slave is significant.
According to HA-1722 Perryman, MD architectural survey file, the Perryman Historic District is PERRYMAN PENINSULA HISTORIC PRESERVATION eligibile for the National Register. Perryman is the only canning community to remain fairly intact. While the designation is primarily for the canning industry, the survey refers to the institution of slavery. See section 8. Significance – last paragraph, “Through both the Revolution and the War of 1812, the region remained a simple and heavily harvested rural area dominated by large, slave driven agricultural concerns.” The designated boundary is adjacent to the Mitchell property. https://mht.maryland.gov/secure/medusa/PDF/Harford/HA-1722.pdf.
According to 18HA193 Hopewell Farm Complex / BG&E Perryman Historic Site #1 & 2
Maryland Historic Trust (MHT) Phase II and III Archeological Database and Inventory:   See next to last page, last paragraph, Site 2 “…could provide information concerning Maryland’s Black population at the time slavery was practiced.” https://mht.maryland.gov/secure/synthesis/pdf/18HA193.pdf
We have an archeological – and a human – responsibility to learn more about the true history of slavery as practiced in our community.

Late 1800s / Early 1900s – Development in the form of APG and the Canning industry

In 1917 Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) was formed by the U.S. Government on 69,000 acres – 35,000 acres of upland, and 34,000 acres of swamp and tidal lands. War was underway; skilled labor was required; and evolved to scientific research; and contained and controlled evolution as a responsible neighbor occurred. It is relevant to note it took an act of Congress and two presidential proclamations, providing financial compensation for the 35,000 acres of upland and 34,000 acres of swamp and tidal lands, to persuade the farmers to leave their property. While the community and nation have gained from the presence of APG, and the well-paying jobs, we cannot ignore the area taken was predominantly owned by freed slaves and their ancestors. As is often the case with “development”, the creation of APG was at the expense of many minority landowners.
In 1920 F.O. Mitchell & Sons, Inc., harvested 200 tons of corn daily; produced 190,000 cobs if corn in a single season. As noted previously HA-1722, describes Perryman as the only canning community to remain “fairly intact”. Perryman evolved as a “company town” which was a form of slavery by another name. Brass tokens were used to pay cannery workers. Cannery owners issued their own scrip that workers could spend at local stores or exchange for U.S. currency at the end of the week. Cannery owners thrived based on the exploitation of workers. The practice of paying in tokens ended in the early 1950s with passage of federal wage and hour laws.
People here today can remember running barefoot down Perryman or Canning House Roads to get a “farmer’s dozen” ears of corn. 14 ears instead of 12 in case any were bad. The proposed development is one sided, and not equivalent to the concept of trust evoked by a farmer’s dozen. Clearly the property evolved as an ag-based business and has been farmed for decades. While this property might “technically” fit with “light industrial” zoning, who in 1997 envisioned the massive warehouses and traffic we see today, which bears no resemblance to its ag-based roots. By comparison, the county is currently re-evaluating zoning for farm breweries – businesses that grew from their farming roots.
This property is no different. It is a farm in the middle of a residential community. Yet, nearby Michaelsville has been put in the middle of a donut, surrounded by warehouses that have created traffic and safety issues throughout the Perryman Peninsula. This proposal is simply the reverse – to target development within the donut, surrounded by existing residential, and historic properties.
This development is a continued exploitation of many for the self-gain of a few. It will compound the existing traffic and safety issues, and irrevocably harm the environment.