March 14, 2012

As a kid and even now I still spend many hours at the original farm where my grandfather grew up on the Nanticoke River.  I always refer to the farm as “the river” even though its name is “Hog’s Quarters.” (that is another story that I’ll save for later)  We have family BB Q’s, go fishing, target shooting, stargazing and I take my dog swimming there all the time.  It’s a peaceful escape on the water where I go for ‘me time’ and it’s only 2 miles from my house in Wetipquin.  My grandfather would find arrowheads and pieces of pottery growing up in the 1930′s and still finds them after every storm scattered along the shoreline.  He told me that when he had the main field on the hill plowed to turn up deep soil one year, he found rich, dark, composted circles bigger than a basketball in diameter.   They are spaced evenly apart that he believes this is where long house posts once stood.  To this day you can still see huge mounds of oyster shells all over the property which also indicates that a village might have existed here. The following photo is of the ‘hill’ on the farm where the long house might have stood and of one mound of shells we found.   

I thought they were ‘cool’ growing up but didn’t fully understand the value of his findings until I got older.  Native American names are  common on the Eastern Shore of Maryland (and sometimes very difficult to pronounce! ) and Wetipquin (wet-ip-kin)  is one of them. You see, my grandfather is a history buff like me and has always been one of my main sources for information.  My grandmother has been apart of the Lower Delmarva Genealogical Society for years and can tell you your family’s history and where they came from if you simply give her your last name.  They reads books, have tons of  history magazine subscriptions (which I get when they’re done with them :)), research old articles and have a quarterly newsletter on local history that is made for the Genealogical Society.  When you walk into their house it’s like walking into a museum and everything has a story to go along with it.  So after trying to research the meaning of ‘Wetipquin’ and the town’s history online, I figured I’d just go to the source :)

Wetipquin was home of the old Nanticoke Indians (used to pronounce the tribe as NantiQUack) that belonged to the Algonquin Tribe.  The main Nanticoke village was located in Vienna.  It stretched clear up to Laurel, Delaware and was an ideal location for settlement because of the waterways, open fields and wild game.   The actual Indian interpretation of Wetipquin is “land of skulls” or “burial ground.”   I’ll have to save the history of these Indians for another time but my grandfather told me that this town wasn’t always called Wetipquin.  In the 1800′s this town was called ‘ Wanamaker’ and was on the east side of what was Somerset County (Wicomico County didn’t come about til years later).  My grandfather grew up in the town when it was called Wetipquin but told me he wrote an essay for his senior year in high school in the 40′s about how it was called Wanamaker.  His only source was his great uncle and he couldn’t show his teacher any proof of his research.  It wasn’t until  1995 when he bought an old house in Wetipquin that he found his proof.  In the attic was an old arithmatic book that had and inscription on the inside cover. “Maddie Riggin, 1881.  Wanamaker, MD.”  There was also an old doctor receipt from February of  1889 with Wanamaker, MD written on it. (the total bill amounted to $5.00 including 19cents interest ;)) 

The history of the town of Wetipquin and the people that once inhabited it still amazes me.  I have copies of writings from John Smith’s journal and his documentation on the Indians of the Chesapeake Bay region and the Nanticokes.  Soon I will share with you how they kept their history, ceremonies they used to hold, tools they used, why they left the area and so much more. :)