Archives Of Maryland: Back River

VOLUME XLVI (Assembly Series, Volume 22)



Back River (also called in early times the North West River) and Middle River were formerly regarded as branches of Gunpowder River. Middle River was the middle branch; Back River the “back” or the north-west branch. Land was formerly continuous, in the shape of a long and narrow point, between the present Rickett’s Point and Spry’s Island, so that the mouth of Gunpowder River lay opposite the mouth of Middle River. Between Hart’s Island (formerly called Hooper’s or Todd’s) and the mainland no thoroughfare existed and the channel between Hart’s Island and Miller’s Island (formerly Bently’s) was probably narrower than it is today.

Entrance to the three rivers was between Spry’s Island and Miller (Bently’s). Island.

No lands were taken up in Back and Middle Elvers until 1658 and none in Gunpowder River proper until the following year.

“Planter’s Paradise” was surveyed for Thomas Cornwallis, Esq., August 28, 1658, “on the west side of Chesapeake Bay on the west side of the north branch of a river in the said Bay called the Back River, the mouth of the said River lying west from the south end of Pools Island.” This land was resurveyed in 1679 for William Cornwallis, being described as situated “on the west side of the north branch of a river called the Back River, the said branch being now called Middle River.” Evidently the present name of Middle River was not known in 1658.* The land in question lies on Middle River, between Sue’s Creek and Norman’s Creek.

“Wells’ Neck” surveyed for Richard Wells Sept. 1st, 1658, is described as situated on the north branch of Back River. This land was resurveyed in 1664 and called “Holly Neck.” The second survey describes it as lying “in Gunpowder River.” It actually lies on Middle River and Back River, between Sue’s Creek, Brown’s Creek and Booby’s Bar.

“The Lodge” surveyed for Patrick Forest, Sept. 3, 1658, is described as lying ” on the north side of a back branch of a river called the Back River.” This land lies on Back River in Brown’s Creek.

“Hooper’s Island” laid out for George Gouldsmith July 30, 1659, on the island now known as Hart Island, is described as lying “on the west side of the (Chesapeake) Bay, making the south point of Gunpowder River.”

This river is called North West River in three early surveys, vizt, “Balliston” and “Dickinson,” both laid out in 1659, and ” The Privilege ” laid out in 1670. In the description of the survey called the manor of “Wiske” alias “Danby,” laid out in 1659, the river is called North East River by mistake for North West River. “Watkins Neck” and ” Thurrells Neck,” both laid out in 1661, and “Walton,” laid out in 1662, are all described as situated on Back River ” within ye mouth of Gunpowder River.”

No further evidence is needed to show that Back River, so called from 1658 or earlier, was regarded formerly as a backwater or back branch of Gunpowder River, with which it had a common mouth.

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