Her­itage So­ci­ety pic­nic hon­ors Kir­wan

The Kent Island Bay Times - - Front Page - By DOUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­times.com

CH­ESTER— The Kent Is­land Her­itage So­ci­ety held its an­nual pic­nic Sun­day af­ter­noon, Sept. 17, at the James E. Kir­wan House and Mu­seum in Ch­ester. This year the pic­nic was moved up a week ahead to co­in­cide with an im­por­tant date in Kent Is­land his­tory — the an­niver­sary of pos­si­bly the big­gest event that state Sen­a­tor James E. Kir­wan or­ches­trated to help save Kent Is­land from be­ing pur­chased by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to turn it into a mu­ni­tions prov­ing ground.

In 1917, the U.S. of­fi­cially en­tered World War 1, which had al­ready been blaz­ing in Europe. To ramp up the

war ef­fort and do a quick mil­i­tary build up here in the U.S.,the fed­eral gov­ern­ment was ey­ing Kent Is­land as a prov­ing ground.

Re­mem­ber that much of Mary­land was still very ru­ral in 1917, es­pe­cially the Eastern Shore. Not many peo­ple were con­cerned about the en­vi­ron­ment.

“Lo­cat­ing a prov­ing grounds like the one that was even­tu­ally lo­cated at Aberdeen on Kent Is­land would have changed the Eastern Shore dra­mat­i­cally,” said KI Her­itage So­ci­ety Pres­i­dent Jack Brod­er­ick. “It would have changed the his­tory of the Eastern Shore in ways most peo­ple can’t even imag­ine. I’m sure the Bay Bridge would not have been lo­cated where it is in the early 1950s had a prov­ing grounds been put here!”

Brod­er­ick added, “If peo­ple think the bay is pol­luted now, us­ing an is­land next to the Bay wa­ters for a prov­ing grounds for bombs would have con­tam­i­nated the Bay be­yond the toxic lev­els. The en­tire Eastern Shore would have been af­fected with a move like that.”

Sev­eral peo­ple who at­tended the pic­nic are na­tive Kent Is­lan­ders. One of those, Carol Fred­er­ick, was born on her grand­fa­ther’s farm at Love Point.

“Had the is­land been pur­chased by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for a prov­ing grounds, my fam­ily would not have been liv­ing here when I was born,” she said. Fred­er­ick, as a long­time mem­ber of the KI Her­itage So­ci­ety, has a very dear sen­ti­ment about her is­land home.

Nu­mer­ous oth­ers who moved here in more re­cent years said they would never have been able to have that choice, as the gov­ern­ment would have owned all of the is­land.

Harold Wil­son, who moved here from An­napo­lis, said, “I can’t imag­ine Kent Is­land be­ing turned into a prov­ing grounds. Se­ri­ously, were peo­ple go­ing to turn the place where English speak­ing peo­ple first had a set­tle­ment in Mary­land as a colony into a bomb site? Were peo­ple in 1917 that un­think­ing?”

Fol­low­ing a potluck lun­cheon, a spe­cial cer­e­mony was held hon­or­ing the late James E. Kir­wan for sav­ing Kent Is­land. Brod­er­ick spoke about Kir­wan’s three-anda-half month ef­fort lob­by­ing the U.S. Congress not to pur­chase Kent Is­land. Kir­wan ar­ranged for some 500 Queen Anne’s County cit­i­zens to go di­rectly to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to speak per­son­ally to con­gress­man.

In short, the ef­forts worked. “Be­cause the U.S. was now in­volved, send­ing sol­diers to fight in Europe dur­ing WWI, some peo­ple ac­cused the peo­ple of Kent Is­land as be­ing un­pa­tri­otic for ask­ing not to have their lands con­sid­ered for war preparation pur­poses,” Brod­er­ick said.

At ex­actly 3:15 p.m. Sept. 17, 1917, it was an­nounced by Congress that Kent Is­land was no longer be­ing con­sid­ered as a prov­ing ground by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. On Sun­day af­ter­noon, Sept. 17, 2017, ex­actly at 3:15 p.m., a can­non was fired three times in the Kir­wan back­yard, and a bell was rung at least 12 times.

Brod­er­ick said, “That, sym­bol­i­cally, is the only time we would ever have to hear a can­non on Kent Is­land, what James Kir­wan saved us from!”

The ring­ing of the bell rep­re­sented that Kent Is­land was free from the de­struc­tion that cer­tainly would have come to the is­land had a prov­ing ground been placed here.

Queen Anne’s County His­to­rian Mary Mar­garet Rev­ell Good­win read a procla­ma­tion signed by all of the county com­mis­sion­ers rec­og­niz­ing Sept. 17, 2017, as “James E. Kir wan Day.”

Fol­low­ing the cer­e­mony, Linda Col­lier, cu­ra­tor of Kir­wan House and Mu­seum, an­nounced that home­made ice cream would be served in­side the house to con­clude the fes­tiv­i­ties.

“Cap­tur­ing a mo­ment in time!” John Con­ley of Ch­ester, dressed as the late Sen. James E. Kir­wan, stands next to an old-time cam­era and man­nequin dur­ing the an­nual KI Her­itage So­ci­ety pic­nic, Sun­day af­ter­noon, Sept. 17.


Kent Is­land Her­itage So­ci­ety Pres­i­dent Jack Brod­er­ick, right, wel­comes ev­ery­one to this year’s pic­nic, Sun­day af­ter­noon, Sept. 17, at the James. E. Kir­wan House and Mu­seum in Ch­ester. Be­hind Brod­er­ick is lo­cal au­thor Mark Lidin­sky, who also spoke, rec­og­niz­ing the birth­day of long­time KI Her­itage So­ci­ety mem­ber Myr­tle Br­us­cup of Ch­ester.


Lo­cals en­joy a “hay ride” around the James E. Kir­wan prop­erty dur­ing the Kent Is­land Her­itage So­ci­ety pic­nic, Sun­day af­ter­noon, Sept. 17.

Part of the crowd at­tend­ing this year’s KI Her­itage So­ci­ety pic­nic at the James E. Kir­wan House and Mu­seum in Ch­ester, Sun­day af­ter­noon, Sept. 17.

Colin Carl­ton, 5, of Arnold cranks the old-time ap­ple squeezer as KI Her­itage So­ci­ety Pres­i­dent Jack Brod­er­ick watched over his ef­forts with in­struc­tion and en­cour­age­ment. Later, the fresh squeezed ap­ple juice was shared with those who came to the an­nual pic­nic at the James E. Kir­wan House and Mu­seum.

Mem­bers of the Shore United Bank looked at many of the ar­ti­facts as­sem­bled dur­ing the KI Her­itage So­ci­ety pic­nic, Sun­day af­ter­noon at the James E. Kir­wan House and Mu­seum, Sept. 17. From the left, bank em­ploy­ees, Lisa Mar­vel of Den­ton and Vice Pres­i­dent David Thomp­son with his wife Geri Thomp­son. Shore United Bank helped spon­sor this year’s pic­nic.

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