Salisbury’s Cypress Swamp is still there — sort of

cypress map

As you travel along Riverside Drive, you may not realize that you have passed a remnant of Salisbury’s Cypress Swamp.

On the west side of Riverside Drive at Ridge Road a stand of trees shields from view a small swampy area which was once larger and appeared on old plats. This tiny swampy area, today bordered by a few single-family homes and townhouses, fronts the Wicomico River.

The swamp was mapped, just southeast of the Wicomico River, in the 1877 Atlas of Salisbury.

The swamp was mapped, just southeast of the Wicomico River, in the 1877 Atlas of Salisbury.

Development has eliminated the rest of what was defined as the Cypress Swamp.

Plats show that the swamp was once in the areas north of Wicomico Street along the river to near the north and east prongs of the Wicomico River. The Cypress Swamp extended to the east side of where Riverside Drive is today including areas where there are now businesses, even parts of the parking lot next to St. Francis de Sales Catholic church.

Properties along Camden Avenue in this area are perched relatively high above the once swampy area along the river.

In fact, if you raise your eyes up to above the buildings which include Bay Runners, you will see evidence of this higher ground. And you can see the historic structure known as the Thomas Hooper Roten House dated to circa 1839 (a building moved to the end of Camden Court from its original location at Camden Avenue).

Another area of the Cypress Swamp was located in the low-lying areas west of the Business Rt. 50 Bridge, an area shown on the 1877 Atlas of Salisbury as the cranberry bog. Today that area is the vicinity of the highway and Cypress Street. Aptly named, Cypress Street appears on the late nineteenth century Birds Eye View map of Salisbury.

Before it was known as the cranberry bog, a deed dated 1847 described the low swampy area as “Cypress Swamp,” transferring the property to Jehu Parsons from the Houston heirs, land that Peter Dashiell earlier conveyed to Dr. John Houston in return for medical care for his family.

Houses on Delaware Avenue and West Main Street were located adjacent to that cranberry bog which separated the West Side areas known as California and Jersey.

One house on the north side of West Main Street near Delaware Avenue, now a vacant lot, was rumored to have been a safe house for the Underground Railroad, where the swampy waterway at the back of the house served as a means of transportation, but the story has never been verified.

Seeing the Cypress Swamp name appear in historical documents became for me a curiosity.  When I think of a Cypress Swamp, the Great Cypress Swamp of Delmarva comes to mind, the huge swamps of southern Sussex County, Delaware and northern Worcester County, Maryland, about 50 square miles of wetlands forming the source of the Pocomoke River.

I was not expecting a far-from-great Cypress Swamp in Salisbury, but apparently there was one, small as it was. And if you take a peek, you can still see a piece of it along Riverside Drive.

Linda Duyer lives in Salisbury and is writing a book about the community’s history. Contact her at lindaduyer1@yahoo.com.

Linda Duyer lives in Salisbury and is n the process of writing a book about the community’s history. Contact her at lindaduyer1@yahoo.com.

Greg, I only added this plat in case you were interested.  In this 1925 plat, there is no Riverside Drive (today it runs roughly where the sewer lines are shown on this plat, west of Riverside Road.

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