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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“Planter’s Paradise”


It would appear that the larger rivers and the prominent points of land of the head of Chesapeake Bay had been given names by the English prior to the settlement of that part of Maryland. Elk River and North East River are mentioned as early as 1652 (Archives, Liber m, folio 277). We have already observed that Gunpowder River is mentioned by name in 1658, before any lands were laid out on its shores. The Manor of Spesutia Island, which was laid out for Colonel Nathaniel Utie July 25, 1658, is thus described: “an island lying near the western shore of Chesapeake Bay near the head of the said Bay formerly called Beare Point but now Spesutia, beginning at the southmost point at a marked oak and bounding on the east by the bay side 375 perches to a point called Beare Point. “Bear Point still retains its ancient name. Poole’s Island was surveyed under that name for Captain Thomas Morris July 27, 1659; but the name is older than the survey. A tract of land called “Planter’s Paradise” laid out for Thomas Cornwallis, Esq., August 29, 1658, is described as ” a neck of land lying on the west side of Chesapeake Bay and on the west side of the north branch of a river in the said Bay called Back River, the mouth of the said river lying west from the south end of Pools Island ““Planter’s Paradise,” it may be of interest to know, lies on Middle River between Sue’s Creek and Hog Pen Creek, and is the ” land of Cornwallis Mannor” proposed in 1684 by the Delegates for Baltimore County for the site of a town (Archives, Liber xm, folios 26, 86, 112, 139). remained in the Cornwallis family until 1731 (see deed, John Ross, g«nt., and Charles Carroll of Annapolis, surgeon, to Luke Stansbury, “Planter’s Paradise,” Balto. Co. Land Records, Liber T. B. No. A., folio 94). For the site of the manor see Unpatented Certificate 1199, “Paradise Regained,” Tobias Stansbury, 1754. Conquest,” a fort established on Palmer’s Island in the year 1643 (Archives, Liber iv, folio 275; also same, folios 230, 250, 291, 360, 361). Fort Conquest is mentioned as late as 1664 (Archives, Liber m, folio 500). Link


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“Plunger’s Point” in Sue Creek

I stumbled upon the mention of “Plunger’s Point” in Sue Creek while researching our neighborhood. I’m not sure where the Milton Shore they mention is located… posting this and will research more later –Scott

Death in the Finthen. Bad end of a sailing part. Butter Trader Ben Keen he drinking.

(Der Deutsche correspondent, June 14, 1901)

The 23 year old butcher “Ben” Keen, who in No. 25, South Front road, lived, came yesterday Afternoon at a sailing party, the he undertook with a friend, in Consequence of capsizing the sailboat, in which they were, to one sudden death by drowning.

His body was fished up and is now in the dad’s apartment of the deceased, Harry M. Keen, No. 821, West North Ave., Up Bahrt. Keen left last Tuesday after a shore to Plunger’s Point, near Sue’s Creek on the Middle River and stayed there ever since.

Yesterday afternoon at 1 o’clock be he gave himself with a friend whose Name until late last night not could be attained, to a Se gelpartie. As the boat approaches The Milton Shore capsized Suddenly as a result of a star ken gust of wind, and both inmates fell into the water. Keen, the one gu Swimmer was called his Friends that after Milton Shore should swim, and he who follow him. On the way, Hr. Keen, however, attacked by convulsions because he did not land on Shore, and about 20 minutes later you found his body about five ten feet from the site, where the accident occurred.

“Squire” Gibbons from Turkey-Point held one I’m asking about the corpse, and after the jury dies on death drowning verdict from had given the corpse in the house of the parents of the deceased sent to West North Avenue. Keen was single.


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