Stories Of The Chespeake Heritage Area Recognizes Award Winners

Eastern Shore Heritage, Inc., recently recognized nine individuals and organizations for their distinguished contributions to the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area.

“We decided that after our first three years, it was time to let the public know about these outstanding stories of leadership and innovation in the region,” said Paulette P. Greene, ESHI’S president. “We should celebrate the stories of our leaders as much as stories of our heritage.”

The awards were presented at an evening reception held at the Oxford Community Center on Tuesday, November 18. Also recognized were Oxford and four other towns that joined the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area’s certified region this year: Denton, Queen Anne, Queenstown, and Preston.

J.O.K. Walsh, long-time president of Caroline County Historical Society and the executive director of Caroline Economic Development Corporation, was given ESHI’s prestigious Legacy & Leadership Award. Walsh has been the innovative force behind the protection of literally dozens of buildings throughout Caroline County for many years and has pursued a vision for the growth of heritage tourism inCaroline County so that historic preservation is recognized as an economic benefit. Among his most prominent projects have been the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, the James H. Webb Log Cabin, Linchester Mill, and Denton’s new Arts and Entertainment District.

ESHI also recognized the following individual award recipients. The 2008 Tradition-Bearer was awarded to renowned and much-loved gospel musician Karen Somerville of Kent County. As founder and leader of the African American Schoolhouse Museum near Worton and the county’s African American Heritage Festival, Somerville has also passionately pursued the preservation of Kent County’s African American heritage. The 2008 Heritage Researcher was awarded to Patricia C. Guida of Caroline County. A talented and tenacious researcher who specializes in Caroline County records, Pat Guida most recently has established the historic boundary of the 2,167-acre Anthony C. Thompson Farm on Poplar Neck outsidePreston. The site, in many scenes from Harriet Tubman’s autobiographies, may soon become a “national park landscape.”

Organizational awards were given to the following Queen Anne’s County organizations. The Kennard School Alumni, Inc., received the 2008 Heritage Initiative Award for saving Queen Anne’s County’s first and only African American high school in Centreville. The building, owned by Queen Anne’s County in partnership with Kennard School Alumni, Inc., received Maryland Heritage Areas Authority funding and state rehabilitation tax credits to create a cultural heritage center. The Kent Island Heritage Society received the 2008 New Heritage Initiative Award for the completion and opening of the James E. KirwanStore Museum, a 300-acre site fronting on Kirwan Creek off Prospect Bay. The Museum preserves the country store which served both farmers and watermen in the early 20th century.

Talbot County organizations recognized included the following. The Tilghman Island Watermen’s Museum was awarded the 2008 Heritage Initiative Award for its exemplary work to commemorate the island’s significant maritime history. With the county’s help, the group has located a site for a permanent home for the museum. The Citizens of Tunis Mills received the 2008 Community Volunteer Award for creating an exhibit on their community’s agricultural and maritime history, with the help of the Historical Society of Talbot County, in time for the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage last spring. The research and exhibit included the neighboring villages of Unionville and Copperville. The Gilbert Byron Society and Pickering Creek Audubon Center received together the 2008 Heritage Partnership Award,for their work to preserve and restore the cottage of Gilbert Byron, the renowned and prolific author known as “the Voice of the Chesapeake Bay.” The cottage will become a classroom for outdoor education, literature and writing programs.

The Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area was begun in the late 1990’s by a group of citizens and public officials seeking ways for Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot counties to enjoy the benefits of the state’s heritage tourism program. The heritage area is managed by Eastern Shore Heritage, Inc. (ESHI), a not-for-profit organization. Today, the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area represents the collaborative efforts of nearly 75 nonprofit and governmental institutions and more than 600 local businesses involved in heritage tourism in four counties and 21 towns. Since the heritage area was certified by the State of Maryland in 2005, 25 nonprofit and governmental bodies have received funding from either Eastern Shore Heritage, Inc., or the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority. For more information about the Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area, visit