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Somerset County, Maryland

Somerset County, Maryland
Somerset County Courthouse
Seal of Somerset County, Maryland
Map of Maryland highlighting Somerset County
Location in the state of Maryland
Map of the United States highlighting Maryland
Maryland's location in the U.S.
Founded August 22, 1666
Seat Princess Anne
Largest town Princess Anne
 • Total 610 sq mi (1,580 km2)
 • Land 320 sq mi (829 km2)
 • Water 291 sq mi (754 km2), 48%
Population (est.)
 • (2014) 25,859
 • Density 83/sq mi (32/km²)
Congressional district 1st
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4

Somerset County is the southernmost county in the American State of Maryland. As of the 2010 census, the population was 26,470.[1] making it the second-least populous county in Maryland. The county seat is Princess Anne.[2] The county was named for Mary, Lady Somerset, the wife of Sir John Somerset and daughter of Thomas Arundell, 1st Baron Arundell of Wardour (ca 1560-1639). She was also the sister of Anne Calvert, Baroness Baltimore (1615-1649), who later lent her name to Anne Arundel County, which was erected in 1650 as the Province of Maryland's third county.

Somerset County is included in the Salisbury, MD-DE Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is located on the state's Eastern Shore

The University of Maryland Eastern Shore is located in Princess Anne.


  • History 1
    • Initial settlements 1.1
    • Invasion from Virginia 1.2
    • Early county leaders 1.3
    • Boundary disputes with Delaware 1.4
    • Settlement growth 1.5
    • Religious communities 1.6
    • Native Americans 1.7
    • Subsequent counties 1.8
  • Geography 2
    • Adjacent counties 2.1
    • State protected area 2.2
  • Demographics 3
    • 2000 3.1
    • 2010 3.2
  • Law and government 4
    • Sheriff 4.1
  • Communities 5
    • City 5.1
    • Town 5.2
    • Census-designated places 5.3
    • Unincorporated communities 5.4
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Initial settlements

Somerset County was settled and established in part due to a response to the Province/Dominion of Virginia passing a law in 1659/1660 requiring Quakers in the colony to convert to Anglicanism or leave the colony. A group of Virginia Quakers living in Accomac County, Virginia on the southern tip of the future Delmarva Peninsula, petitioned Charles Calvert, third Lord Baltimore in 1661 to migrate further north on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay to the territory under his governance, and the governor saw the opportunity to fortify the borders of his territory on the Delmarva Peninsula against the pressing encroachment of the Virginians.[3]

The Royal Charter that Lord Baltimore had received from King Charles I in 1632 had granted Maryland the land north of the entire length of the Potomac River up to the 40th parallel. Later surveys authorized by Baltimore on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay indicated that the southern boundary would continue across the peninsula at the mouth of the Pocomoke River marked on the north shore by a rock outcropping labelled as "Watkins' Point". The Virginian Quakers settled just a bit north of that point, on the southern bank of the Annemessex River in November, 1662, and a separate group of Anglican Virginian settlers were granted permission to make a second settlement further north along the Manokin River.[4]

In conjunction with the two new settlements, Baltimore set up a three-man commission for the Eastern Shore territory, made up of two Marylanders and one Virginian. Its purpose was ostensibly to oversee the territory and the establishment of new settlements and maintain a detailed recording of all land and civic transactions in the area; but in fact Lord Baltimore intended to use the commission to reinforce Maryland's claim to the area and to monitor any encroachments by the Virginians.[5]

Invasion from Virginia

In 1663, activists from Virginia persuaded the Virginia Assembly to declare that the Virginia-Maryland border to be 30 miles north of the Pocomoke Sound, at the mouth of the Wicomico River; and ordered the securing of allegiance of all settlers south of the Wicomico River - including the Annemessex and Manokin settlements - to Virginia.[6] In early October 1663, a militia of men from Accomac County, Virginia led by a Colonel Edmund Scarborough arrived at the Annemessex settlement and attempted to secure oaths of allegiance under threat of arrest and property confiscation. At this point, Scarborough was on a personal mission to arrest Stephen Horsey (Born on Isle of Wight, England and immigrated to Northampton, Virginia, USA 1643) the leader of the anti-tax movement and a vocal critic of the colonial government,who, along with fellow Northampton County residents William Coulborne,Randall Revell, and Ambrose Dixon signed the Tricesimo die Marty 1651. Colonel Scarborough and his force of forty mounted men arrived at Horsey's new residence on October 11, 1663, whereupon the Commands of the Assembly of Virginia against Horsey were presented. Horsey was "arrested" by Scarborough, but Horsey refused to accompany the party back to Virginia, instead declaring that he was going to remain in Maryland and maintain allegiance to the King and Lord Baltimore. Colonel Scarborough and his force of forty mounted men was summarily tossed out of the settlement.[7] Unable to secure oaths of allegiance from the inhabitants of the Annemessex settlement Scarborough and company moved on to the Manokin Settlement, where they were received much more favorably. Nonetheless, although they were willing to swear allegiance to the Virginia government, they were not willing to rise up and initiate any action against the Maryland government, and so Scarborough returned to Virginia having utterly failed in his quest to take over southern Somerset County for Virginia.[8]

Early county leaders

Arriving in Calvert's Maryland on the Lower Eastern Shore, the new settlers had to go about establishing a government for their newly formed eighth county in the

  • Somerset County Library
  • Your Community Link: A Database of Community, Government, and Non-Profit organizations on the Lower Shore
  • Geographic data related to Somerset County, Maryland at OpenStreetMap

External links

  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ Torrence, Clayton, Old Somerset on the Eastern Shore of Maryland: A Study in Foundations and Founders, Whittett & Shepperson, Richmond, VA (1935); Reprint 2005, Heritage Books, Westminster, MD, pp. 13-15
  4. ^ Torrence, pp. 25-26
  5. ^ Torrence, pp. 15-16
  6. ^ Torrence, pp. 27-28
  7. ^ Torrence, pp. 39-40
  8. ^ Torrence, pp. 41-42
  9. ^ Torrence, pp. 61-62
  10. ^ Torrence, pp.300-301
  11. ^ Torrence, pp. 67-70
  12. ^ Scharf, J. Thomas, History of Maryland: From the Earliest Period to 1880, Louis H. Everts, Philadelphia (1880), p. 68
  13. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  14. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2014. 
  15. ^ Maryland DNR Deal Island WMA
  16. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  17. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 14, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved September 14, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 14, 2014. 
  20. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 14, 2014. 
  21. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  22. ^ 


See also

Unincorporated communities

The Census Bureau recognizes the following census-designated places (CDPs) in the county:

Census-designated places




Stephen Horsey was appointed as the first sheriff of Somerset County on August 22, 1666. The Somerset County Sheriff's office celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2011. The current sheriff is Robert N. Jones. Robert N. Jones has been serving as the sheriff since 1986. Sheriff Jones will be retiring in 2014.[22] }


Rex Simpkins is the President of the County Commission; Charles F. Fisher is the Vice President.

District Name Party
1 Craig N. Mathies, Sr. Democrat
2 Rex Simpkins Democrat
3 Charles F. Fisher Republican
4 Jerry S. Boston Republican
5 Randy Laird Democrat

Current Somerset County commissioners:

Stephen Horsey was appointed the first Sheriff of Somerset County on August 22, 1666.

Somerset County is governed by county commissioners, the traditional form of county government in Maryland. Commissioners are elected to four-year terms; all commissioners' terms will expire in 2010.

Law and government

According to the 2010 United States Census Bureau:


The median income for a household in the county was $29,903, and the median income for a family was $37,643. Males had a median income of $27,496 versus $23,035 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,965. About 15.0% of families and 20.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.4% of those under age 18 and 19.1% of those age 65 or over.

In the county the population was spread out with 18.5% under the age of 18, 15.7% from 18 to 24, 29.5% from 25 to 44, 22.2% from 45 to 64, and 14.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36.5 years. For every 100 females there were 114.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 119.1 males.

There were 8,361 households out of which 38.30% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.1% were married couples living together, 15.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.9% were non-families. 15.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.92.

As of the census[21] of 2000, there were 24,747 people, 8,361 households, and 5,444 families residing in the county. The population density was 76 people per square mile (29/km²). There were 10,055 housing units at an average density of 31 per square mile (12/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 56.4% White, 41.1% Black or African American, 0.4% Native American, 0.5% Asian, 0% Pacific Islander, 0.5% from other races, and 1.2% from two or more races. 1.3% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. The largest ancestry groups in the County are Black or African American (41%), English American (16%), German (8%), Irish (8%) and Italian (1%) ancestry.



The State of Maryland Deal Island Wildlife Management Area, a protected area, is in the northwest quadrant of the county. It incorporates not only Deal Island but the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. It is 13,000 acres (5,300 ha).[15] It has over 9 miles (14 km) of flat trails.

State protected area

Adjacent counties

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 610 square miles (1,600 km2), of which 320 square miles (830 km2) is land and 291 square miles (750 km2) (48%) is water.[14]


The county has a number of properties on the National Register of Historic Places.[13]

In 1742, Garrett County in 1872).

Subsequent counties

As the English colonies expanded, many of the Native American Tribes left Maryland and joined with larger tribes in the Ohio River Valley or joined with their neighboring tribes to the north. Some of the descendants of the tribes of Maryland remained, intermarried with the Maryland colonists, and were integrated into Maryland society.

Native Americans

In 1689, partly as a result of the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 in England that exiled the Roman Catholic King James II and brought in by invasion the Dutch rulers William of Orange-Nassau and Mary of Orange (James II's Protestant daughter) later to become King William III, (1650-1702) and Queen Mary II. "Puritans" rose up in Maryland and deposed the Roman Catholic Maryland proprietary government. This action became known in Maryland as the "Protestant Revolution" of 1689, and resulted in the reversion of Lord Baltimore's proprietary charter and the Province being converted into a Royal colony (with a later government controlled by the king and his ministers), and later moving the founding capital of the Province from Catholic stronghold at St. Mary's City in southern Maryland on the Potomac and Chesapeake in 1694 to the more central, newly renamed Annapolis on the western shore of the Bay, opposite Kent Island. In 1692, the Provincial General Assembly established the Church of England as the "established church" of the Province, which put pressure on the Quakers and Presbyterians, whose numbers in the County began a slow decline until the American Revolution.[12]

Settlement of the county generally proceeded from the Chesapeake Bay eastward, and from old American Presbyterianism.

Religious communities

The territory continued to attract new settlers, primarily from Virginia; and by 1666, the territory had met the requirements to become established as a county in the province with its own local government. On August 22, 1666, Lord Baltimore issued a proclamation establishing the new county, including the establishment of a complete civil and military organization. The proclamation established a Sheriff and a military commander for the county, and five surveyors charged with laying out a highway to serve the county. In January 1667, the county administration laid out the five initial districts, designated as "Hundreds", into which the county would be divided. Additional hundreds were added as additional knowledge of the area was surveyed.[11]

Settlement growth

The northernmost boundary of the county was also in dispute. Baltimore believed his Eastern Shore territory to extend all the way up to the top of the peninsula, where the Delaware River meets the Bay. In the 1680s, William Penn claimed this territory as his own, however, on the basis of a conflicting deed. Penn, Baltimore, and their heirs began a protracted legal battle to determine the exact boundaries. Their compromise was to split the Delmarva Peninsula, however they disagreed as to whether the boundary line should be drawn at the location of Cape Henlopen or at Fenwick Island. Unlike the dispute of Somerset's southern border, there were few settlers in the frontier on either side to take issue. That boundary would finally be settled in 1763 when surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon incorporated the Transpeninsular Line as the definitive boundary between Delaware and Maryland.

Boundary disputes with Delaware

The Hundreds of Somerset County, Maryland as of 1669. Note the boundaries overlap with Sussex County, Delaware and Accomac County, Virginia.

[10] Horsey was able to count himself among the "Who's Who" list of the founding fathers of Somerset County. To add to this prestigious leadership role, Horsey found himself ensconced with the title of "Mister". Horsey sat as a regular member of the Somerset County Court through the winter and spring of 1666. It is not known how many times Horsey traveled across the Chesapeake Bay, but it is a fact that he traveled there in 1665 along with Captain Thorne and met with Charles Calvert, who personally swore in the two new county commissioners. From the beginning, Horsey established himself as a nonconformist and as someone willing to publicly stand up for his beliefs.[9]

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