Linda Duyer: A record of remembrances of 1867

The dam for Humphrey's Pond was part of Isabella Street prior to 1900.

The dam for Humphrey’s Pond was part of Isabella Street prior to 1900.

Early in 1901, six articles by George R. Cooper were printed in the Salisbury Advertiser entitled, “The Long Ago, a series of papers on Salisbury 30 years ago.”

Think about that for a second, 30 years before 1901, a time when the town looked much different from today.

Cooper was not a native of Salisbury, but a self-described transplant. His arrival in Salisbury was actually earlier, as he related his first memory on arrival to town in 1867 when he was 13 years old.

He stood at the corner of Division and Isabella streets looking west and described the huge oak trees where the home of Gov. Jackson would later be built. He walked toward the tumbling falls, “a mass of seething, foaming, tossing spray and silvered water,” that of the dam at Humphreys Pond.

At that time there was a Humphreys Pond and a Humphreys Lake; the one he described is now Johnson Pond.

“Then, a gaunt, slim figure, slightly bent, came along for a morning’s outing. He stopped and spoke to me, patted me on the head and asked my name.” This was the “courteous and affable” Mr. Humphrey Humphreys, for whom this particular body of water was then named.

At the dam he saw the woods and the swimming stand, and two hunters, George W. Bell and John Long, in search of game.

Later in the day, Cooper got his first glimpse of the “inner busy bustling life” of Downtown Salisbury with Main Street “full of stores and very often lazy, sleeping salesmen.” He described a downtown that was plain, dark, wooden and lacking in show windows.

A three-story wooden frame structure stood at the northwest corner of Main and Division streets where now stands the old brick News office building seen today.

The third floor of the old wooden structure was the office of the newspaper The Eastern Shoreman.

He described the old town hall, or “Jackson’s hall” on the site where now stands the old Dorman & Smyth building, now called Parker Place.

The wooden building, with its narrow stairway leading to a room used for both entertainment and Circuit Court, was lit by coal oil. He remembered dances there, to “inspiring tunes of Matt Taylor’s violin.”

He remembered plays held annually and the stage manager Dr. L. Sydney Bell who would “rehearse you until you almost felt willing to cry quits, but that easy graceful manner of his and his affability always brought you around.”

H. Cathell’s cigar and tobacco store displayed a large wooden Indian girl out front holding a sign, a source of mischievous pranks.

He described a group of “primitive looking store houses” which sold and traded everything. “Muskrat skins, coon hides and the pelts of rabbits were bought here and exchanged for Western bacon, tobacco and molasses.”

Often could be found in the evening hours “traders sitting around the stores, ejecting streams of tobacco juice.”

Not far from the downtown Gillis store, he and his friends would chip in and buy a bushel of oysters “procured from one of the many canoes that lined the wharf.” The “old iron roaster (always kept under Humphreys & Tilghman’s store), would be hauled out and a good fire started under it” on which the oysters would be heated, beside a board set up with vinegar, pepper and salt and pounds of crackers for their feast.

He several times described the California area of town, on the west side across the Main Street Bridge.

He remembered the Byrd Homestead, “just above the rise of the road on the way to Parsons’ mill,” and the sloops, scows, and schooners along the river.

Be sure to record your memories, for you never know what valuable insights they can provide to future generations.

Linda Duyer lives in Salisbury and is writing a book about the community’s history. Contact her at


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