Watkin’s Point

Hand drawn map of Watkin’s Point referenced from 1612 map of John Smith drawn by Wendy Harty 2021

From a 1612 map drawn by Captain John Smith, is found the name Watkin’s Point. Elizabeth Watkins, my 8th great grandmother, born in 1633 at Accomack County, Virginia, is possibly a relative of James Watkins, who the point of land on the peninsula was named after. James Watkins was a soldier in the expedition of Captain John Smith in June 1608. Watkins arrived, as a laborer, on the first supply ship to reach Jamestown in 1608. It was Smith, who named the point after James Watkins.

That such an obscure place in Maryland, would have my maternal ancestor, associated with it is a fun fact, but that it also had contention is another fact. William Burton settled in part of Somerset County, Maryland and sold his land to Thomas Bagwell, a cousin’s husband of Woodman Stockley, John and Elizabeth Watkins Stockley’s son. In Burton’s affidavit in the boundary dispute between Penn and Lord Baltimore, he was called William Burton of Maryland, Planter aged 62 and said he had resided in the county of Sussex and Maryland for 48 years. His lands had been granted to him by Lord Baltimore. Thus when he died in 1744/45 he didn’t know that years later by the decision of the House of Lords that he had been in Delaware!

William Burton was also Justice of the Peace. In 1696, at the first court of Prince George’s County, the name was changed from Mount Calvert to Charles Town (named after the third Lord Baltimore, a Catholic.) Lord Baltimore retained title to the land in Maryland not yet granted, or nearly 2800 square miles of which only a fraction had been granted. And at the center of the problem Watkin’s Point became a costly public issue! For two more centuries no on really cared. When a line was cut for 15 miles through trees and marsh from Pocomoke River to the Eastern shore, the southern border was vague, from the mouth of the Patowmack river where there is a spring to the promontory called Watkins Point. It was not possible to determine latitude with any degree of accuracy. The 1608 map referenced above was about 17 miles out. So years later, when Penn and Lord Baltimore agreed to disagree, Lord Baltimore really didn’t care because the area was marginal land and had little value to either side, and it would become Delaware, not Maryland.

What they didn’t know was what lay hidden in the water around Watkin’s Point? 1840-1850 Victorian America developed a taste for oysters. The harvest in Maryland doubled from 710,000 to 1.4 million bushels. The peak harvest of 15 million bushels was reached in 1884 and the Oyster Wars occurred between Maryland and Virginia. Maryland hauled the Virginians into court and confiscated their boats, and gave them fines for over harvesting in their waters. In 1852 another survey was attempted but the findings were so controversial it took arbitrators another 20 years to resolve. To make matters worse the point had eroded and was under water. Watkin’s Point was intended to be the beginning point of the whole State of Maryland but you are left to ponder with scholars and lawyers what was really meant by “Watkin’s Point” and the southern boundary Lord Baltimore described.

This story will be continued in Woodman Stockley’s and Jane Roger’s my 7th great grandparents story because I don’t believe they knew where they lived either?

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