Eastern Shore of Maryland
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Eastern Shore of Maryland

Coordinates: 38°48?N 75°55?W / 38.800°N 75.917°W / 38.800; -75.917

Maryland Eastern Shore counties.

The Eastern Shore of Maryland is a part of the U.S. state of Maryland that lies mostly on the east side of the Chesapeake Bay and consists of nine counties, seven of which have Chesapeake Bay coastlines. The region also contains Maryland's only coast on the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010 census, its population was 449,226, with just under 8% of Marylanders living in the region. The term "Eastern Shore" distinguishes a territorial part of the state of Maryland from the "Western Shore" of Maryland, land west of the Chesapeake Bay. The Eastern Shore is part of the larger Delmarva Peninsula that Maryland shares with Delaware and Virginia.

The Eastern Shore is largely rural, with the small city of Salisbury being the largest community. The economy is dominated by three sectors: fishing along the coasts, especially for shellfish such as the blue crab; farming, especially large-scale chicken farms; and tourism, especially centered on the Atlantic coast resort of Ocean City.


Crisfield, a major seafood center along the Chesapeake Bay

The Eastern Shore consists of nine Maryland counties on the Chesapeake Bay's eastern side--or eastern side of the Susquehanna River (the western border of Cecil County with Harford County; Pennsylvania borders across the Mason-Dixon line), with Delaware to the east and north, the Atlantic Ocean on the east, and Virginia's own Eastern Shore on the south. Maryland's and Virginia's Eastern Shore and all of Delaware form the Delmarva Peninsula.

The counties comprising the Eastern Shore are Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester counties. To the south, the Calvert-Scarborough Line separates Maryland from Virginia.[1] While comprising different boundaries than in the 17th-18th century, the Eastern Shore's geographic definition was set once everyone agreed on where Watkins Point--on the western side of the peninsula--is and where the Bay's shoreline began (since the bay side peters out into marshes and wetlands).

In 1668, Philip [Calvert] obtained Virginia recognition of Maryland's claims to present-day Somerset County, surveying a dividing line between the two colonies with Surveyor General of Virginia, Edmund Scarborough. Meanwhile, he negotiated treaties with Lower Eastern Shore Indian tribes harassing English settlers. These treaties defined standards of conduct for Indian-English relations, establishing an overall peace in the region.[2]

A farm in Kent County

The northern limit is harder to locate. Some dispute Cecil County as a true Shore territory due to Interstate 95's presence with its surrounding developments, proximity to and influence from nearby urban areas like Philadelphia and Wilmington, and a position straddling the Elk River-leaving 50% west of the Shore.

Like New Castle County, Delaware, Cecil County is crossed by the Fall Line, a geologic division where the rockier highlands of the Piedmont region meet the Atlantic coastal plain, a flat, sandy area that forms the coast. The coastal plain includes the Delmarva Peninsula and hence the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The geology of Delmarva is an inseparable part of the Eastern Shore, which has few rocky outcrops south of Kent County.

The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal crosses from Back Creek on the Elk River to Port Penn, Delaware. While it was a shallow canal with locks after its construction in 1829, it was deepened in the early 20th century to sea level, and physically separates the Delmarva Peninsula from the rest of the United States. Maryland south of the canal is considered the Eastern Shore by residents. The term Western Shore is used by Eastern Shore residents to describe all the counties of Maryland west of the Chesapeake Bay, but especially those of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area and Southern Maryland.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge

The north-south section of the Mason-Dixon line forms the border between Maryland and Delaware. The border was originally marked every mile by a stone, and every five miles by a "crownstone". The line is not quite due north and south, but is as straight as survey methods of the 1760s could make it. It was surveyed as a compromise solution to a century-long wrangle between the Penn and Calvert families of England. If the Chesapeake Bay/Delaware Bay watershed divide had been taken as the borderline, Delaware would be about half its current size.

Finally, although this has received less attention than other parts of Eastern Shore culture, commercial east-west ties between Delaware towns and Maryland towns were culturally significant in Colonial and Early American periods despite the border line (which largely cut through woods and swamps). Trade with Philadelphia was conducted by overland routes to Delaware towns like Odessa (then called Cantwell's Bridge) and Smyrna (then called Duck Creek). Agricultural products and milled grain were taken up the Delaware River by "shallop men" in small vessels called shallops. These cultural connections continue to this day.

Ocean City is a modern resort on what was once called the "seaside" or "seaboard side". It is on a long north-south sandspit that is essentially a barrier island.[3]


Queen Anne's County courthouse

Early history

William Claiborne was granted land (part of the Colony of Virginia) in 1629 and named the land "Kent County". In 1631, he sailed north up the Chesapeake Bay from its south and west side to the area known today as Kent Island. There he made a fortified settlement that is considered to be the first English settlement within the Province of Maryland. Talbot County was formed in 1662. Cecil County was formed in 1674, by proclamation of the Governor, from eastern portions of Baltimore County and the northern portion of Kent County. Wicomico County was formed in 1867, as the 9th and last county, created from Somerset and Worcester counties.

Formation of the counties

Later history

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels

Ocean City was founded on July 4, 1875,[4] when the Atlantic Hotel opened on Assateague Island. At the time, Assateague Island was continuous from the Delaware state line to well south of Ocean City: the Ocean City Inlet was not formed until a hurricane in August 1933 cut across the south end of the town, although the inlet was cut not by waves sweeping inland, but by 4 or 5 days' worth of freshwater runoff from the coastal creeks running seaward. By 1935, government money had built jetties to make the inlet permanent, dividing Fenwick Island (north) from Assateague Island (south). Early transportation to the island was by train.

Until the 1820s, travel and commerce between the Eastern Shore and Baltimore were less important than the connections between it and Philadelphia. Water travel by sailboat and steamer linked the Eastern Shore to Baltimore more tightly beginning about 1813, when the first steamboat traveled the Bay. By the 1880s, railroad lines linked the Eastern Shore to Philadelphia and later, Norfolk, Virginia, by way of a railroad line straight south from Wilmington to Dover, Delmar, Salisbury, and Cape Charles. Maryland's Eastern Shore was served by branch lines running generally southwest from the main route. See List of railroad lines in the Delmarva Peninsula. The Eastern Shore's many branchlines were built after the Civil War by local companies; eventually all were controlled by the Pennsylvania Railroad (which also bought control of the steamboat and ferry routes), then Conrail and Norfolk Southern. Today the remaining active railroad tracks on the Eastern Shore are operated by short-line railroads Delmarva Central Railroad and the Maryland and Delaware Railroad.

An east-west rail route ran from a ferry terminal at Claiborne, west of St. Michaels, to Ocean City, via the Baltimore and Eastern Shore Railroad and the Wicomico and Pocomoke Railroad. Travelers could also take a ferry to Love Point on Kent Island, board a Queen Anne's Railroad train, and travel east to Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Automobile transportation across the Chesapeake Bay was by ferryboat until 1952, when the first Chesapeake Bay Bridge was opened for traffic.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s developers began selling lots on Assateague Island, south of the inlet. However, a storm on March 6, 1962 destroyed houses, shacks, and roads.[5] The state and federal governments intervened before reconstruction by creating the Assateague Island National Seashore and Assateague State Park.

An Eastern Shore Baseball League operated on three occasions between 1922 and 1949.[6] It was a Class D minor league with teams in all three states of Delmarva.

During the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in the United States, Baltimore City Health Department official Robert Mehl persuaded the city's mayor to form a committee to address food problems; the Baltimore-based charity Moveable Feast grew out of this initiative in 1990.[7][8][9] By 2010, the organization's region of service had expanded from merely Baltimore to include all of the Eastern Shore of Maryland.[10]


Although the Eastern Shore comprises more than a third of Maryland's land area, it has a population of 420,792 (2004 census estimate), about 8% of Maryland's population.

The most populous city on the Eastern Shore is Salisbury, and the most populous county is Wicomico County. The Salisbury metropolitan area is the only metropolitan statistical area, comprising Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester counties along with Sussex County, Delaware.


Gubernatorial Election Results for
the Eastern Shore of Maryland
Year Republican Democratic Other Total
2018[11] 75.80% 131,649 23.02% 39,986 1.16% 1,279 173,657
2014[12] 71.45% 100,608 26.93% 37,919 1.62% 2,277 140,804
2010[13] 59.35% 92,231 38.19% 59,343 2.46% 3,827 155,401
2006[14] 62.05% 90,319 36.92% 53,748 1.03% 1,502 145,569
2002[15] 68.07% 90,000 31.19% 41,241 0.73% 970 132,211
1998[16] 59.02% 66,434 40.94% 46,079 0.04% 50 112,563
1994[17] 62.60% 65,585 37.40% 39,187 0.00% 3 104,775

As a whole the Eastern Shore is considerably more conservative than the more-populated Western Shore. The region has a history of strongly supporting Republican candidates for governor. The last three Republican candidates for governor-Ellen Sauerbrey, Bob Ehrlich, and Larry Hogan-have swept all nine counties.

At the presidential level, the Eastern Shore also leans Republican, although Kent and Somerset Counties have flipped back and forth for Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. The last Democrat to win Dorchester County was Bill Clinton in 1996; Cecil County has not gone Democratic since Jimmy Carter won the county in 1976, whilst Queen Anne's, Caroline, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties have voted Republican at every election subsequent to Lyndon Johnson's landslide.[18]

The Eastern Shore has long been a part of Maryland's 1st Congressional district.[19] Democrat Roy Dyson represented the 1st district from 1981 until he was defeated by Republican Wayne Gilchrest in 1990. Gilchrest held the seat until 2008 when State Senator Andy Harris defeated him in the Republican primary. Harris narrowly lost the subsequent general election to Democratic Queen Anne's County state's attorney Frank Kratovil. In 2010, Harris again ran for the district and handily defeated Kratovil after a single term in office. Harris had held the seat without serious difficulty since.

In the Maryland General Assembly, the Eastern Shore encompasses a portion of district 35B and all of districts 35A, 36, 37A and 37B, 38A, 38B and 38C. All seats are held by Republicans except for a state delegate seat in district 37A.



A view of the Ocean City beach, looking north from the pier

Ocean City's skyline, containing tall hotels and condominiums, stands out within Delmarva. At the southern end of the town, a recreational boardwalk spans over thirty blocks, containing carnival rides and games, restaurants, bars, arcades, and clothing boutiques.

Tourists visit St. Michaels on a neck surrounded by water; the colonial former port of Oxford; Chestertown; and isolated Smith Island in the Chesapeake Bay. North of Crisfield is Janes Island State Park, with camping and kayaking trails through marshlands.


At the southern end of the Chesapeake coast of Maryland, the town of Crisfield is home to a fishing, crabbing, and seafood processing industry.


The main economic activities on the Eastern Shore are vegetable and grain farming, seafood, large-scale chicken breeding (Perdue Farms was founded in Salisbury and is headquartered there today), and tourism. Tobacco was grown during colonial times. The agricultural economy switched to grain in the second quarter of the 18th century.[20][unreliable source?]



Various waterways provide a medium for commerce and boaters: the Atlantic Ocean; Chesapeake Bay; the Susquehanna River; and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.


The Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which connects the Eastern Shore with the Baltimore-Washington area and the rest of Maryland

There are three major routes onto the Shore:

  • The Chesapeake Bay Bridge spans 4.35 miles (7.00 km) of the Chesapeake Bay, and at the time of construction in 1952, was the longest continuous over-water steel structure.[21] A second parallel span was added in 1973 and a third has been discussed, most recently in 2006. A third span will not open, according to state officials, until about 2025. The bridges made Kent Island, site of the first English settlement on the Shore, into a bedroom community for Washington, Annapolis, and Baltimore. Kent Island is part of Queen Anne's County.
  • U.S. Route 13
  • Maryland Route 213

The two major highways on the Eastern Shore are U.S. Route 13 and U.S. Route 50, which meet in Salisbury.


The Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport, in Salisbury,[22] is the only commercial airport on the Delmarva Peninsula.

Airports for private planes include:


The Eastern Shore has made several attempts to separate from Maryland. Proposals were debated in Maryland's General Assembly in 1833-1835, 1852, and 1998. There were earlier proposals visualizing a state encompassing the Delmarva Peninsula. The 1998 proposal by state Senators Richard F. Colburn and J. Lowell Stoltzfus did not specify a status for Eastern Shore's nine counties following secession, but suggested the new state's name could be "Delmarva".[28]


Arthur W. Perdue Stadium, home of the Delmarva Shorebirds baseball team

The Delmarva Shorebirds are a minor league baseball team who play Class A baseball in the South Atlantic League at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium in Salisbury, affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles.


Salisbury hosts the largest bicycling event east of the Mississippi - the Sea Gull Century and two major Maryland wine and craft beer festivals.[]

Easton hosts a three-day artist event, the Waterfowl Festival, every November. Duck and goose hunting from blinds is a popular activity using carved wooden duck decoys, which can also be prized works of art.[29]

Media references

The 2005 film Wedding Crashers was filmed on locations at Maryland's Eastern Shore, including the historic Inn at Perry Cabin.

Chesapeake is a novel by James A. Michener, published by Random House in 1978. The story deals with several families living in the Chesapeake Bay area, from 1583 to 1978.


Towns and cities

County seats:

See also


  1. ^ A modern Worcester County highway map shows this location: (PDF)
  2. ^ Lois Green Carr; Edward C. Papenfuse. "Philip Calvert (1626-1682)". St. Marys City. Archived from the original on 2008-04-19.
  3. ^ City on the Sand, Mary Corddry. Tidewater Publishers, 1991.
  4. ^ Ocean City History Archived 2008-05-13 at the Wayback Machine. ococean.com. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
  5. ^ Assateague Island Administrative History Archived 2011-06-29 at the Wayback Machine The Becoming of the Seashore
  6. ^ MLB Top 100 Teams Archived 2008-06-22 at the Wayback Machine. MLB.com. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
  7. ^ Fuller, Nicole (February 28, 2007). "Moveable Feast, which gives food to HIV/AIDS, terminally ill patients, might turn away clients". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on April 17, 2016. Retrieved 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
  8. ^ Hill, Retha (June 9, 1990). "Meals a Godsend To AIDS Patients;Md. Program Helps Ease Burden for Homebound". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on April 16, 2016. Retrieved 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
  9. ^ "History of Moveable Feast". About Us. Moveable Feast. 2015. Archived from the original on September 18, 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  10. ^ "Gay Pride events to return to University of Baltimore, June 17-18". US Fed News Service. May 27, 2010. Archived from the original on April 9, 2016. Retrieved 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
  11. ^ "Data Files for the 2018 Gubernatorial Election Results". elections.maryland.gov. Retrieved .
  12. ^ "2014 Gubernatorial Election". elections.maryland.gov. Retrieved .
  13. ^ "2010 Gubernatorial Elections". elections.maryland.gov. Retrieved .
  14. ^ "2006 Gubernatorial Election". elections.maryland.gov. Retrieved .
  15. ^ "2002 Gubernatorial Election". elections.maryland.gov. Retrieved .
  16. ^ "1998 Gubernatorial Elections". elections.maryland.gov. Retrieved .
  17. ^ "1994 Gubernatorial Elections". elections.maryland.gov. Retrieved .
  18. ^ Sullivan, Robert David; 'How the Red and Blue Map Evolved Over the Past Century' Archived 2016-11-16 at the Wayback Machine; America Magazine in The National Catholic Review; June 29, 2016
  19. ^ "Maryland Election Districts Map". mdelect.net. Retrieved 2018.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ The Encyclopedia Americana: A Library of Universal Knowledge, Encyclopedia Americana Corp., 1919, p. 352, retrieved
  21. ^ Baltimore Sun - Chesapeake Bay Bridge Summary. baltimoresun.com. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
  22. ^ Wicomico County Tourism Transportation
  23. ^ Queen Anne's County Bay Bridge Airport
  24. ^ Dorchester County, Maryland Airport Division
  25. ^ Somerset County, Maryland Airport
  26. ^ Talbot County Government Archived 2011-04-19 at the Wayback Machine Airport Information
  27. ^ Town of Ocean City Archived 2011-04-02 at the Wayback Machine Official Ocean City Municipal Airport
  28. ^ Michael Dresser (February 11, 1998). "Saying so long to city bullies". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on January 11, 2013.
  29. ^ "Waterfowl Festival". org.htm. Retrieved 2018.[permanent dead link]
  30. ^ "Education Makers, Earl S. Richardson". The History Makers (www.thehistorymakers.com). Retrieved 2015.
  31. ^ "Paul S. Sarbanes, U.S. Senator (Maryland)". msa.maryland.gov. Archived from the original on 2 March 2018. Retrieved 2018.

External links

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