CENTREVILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Historical Society, with the Queen Anne’s County Free Library, sponsored a lecture by author Jack Shaum of Chester Harbor Sunday afternoon, Oct. 27, in the library meeting room in Centreville.
Shaum, retired reporter with the Bay Times and Record Observer newspapers, presented a 50-minute pictorial PowerPoint presentation on a bygone, but valuable, time period in local history, “Lost Chester River Steamboats,” based on his book.
Shaum told the audience of 25, “I think this history about the steamboats that once went up and down the Chester River and across the Chesapeake Bay for more than 100 years (1821 to 1923) was about to be lost.”
Shaum did extensive research before writing the book. He also served as editor-in chief of the quarterly journal of the Steamship Historical Society of America. The book, which is in paperback, has many pictures and illustrations of the evolution of steamboats that graced the Chester River. The book is a quick and interesting read for people who enjoy history, especially local history related to the Chesapeake Bay.
“My interest in steamboats began when I was a lad of 8 years old, when my grandparents took me on a short excursion on a local steamboat on the Chesapeake Bay," Shaum said. "I remember the captain of the boat allowing me to put my hands on the big wheel that steered the steamboat, and from that, I was hooked for life.”
Shaum talked about how the steamboats were a vital economic lifeline for the Eastern Shore in the days before highways and the Bay Bridge.
“The vessels made landings at small country wharves where their arrival brought crowds of onlookers from the locals who lived here," he said. "It was a very colorful period in local history.”
The steamers touched the towns of Centreville, Rock Hall, Chestertown and Crumpton, especially, as well as many obscure little farm wharves along their way, carrying not only passengers, but livestock and freight.
“Lost Chester River Steamboats” sells for $21.99. It can be found at various stores around Queen Anne’s County, including Edward’s Pharmacy in Centreville, Baker’s Liquor Store in Chester and Love Point Deli in Stevensville. The book also is carried at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. Call before you go to make sure the book is still in stock.