A 349-Year Old Caroline County History Lesson

When Caroline County was created in 1773 from parts of Queen Anne’s and Dorchester counties, “Frazier Flats” is said to be the first land patented in the new County of Caroline. This is a brief history of that property.

In 1669, John Edmonson had sold 450 acres of his land called ‘Richardson’s Folly’ to Thomas Skillington, a shipbuilder from Talbot County who patented the land as “Skillington’s Right.”

Alexander Frazier, of Dorchester County, bought 390 acres in the region and eventually came to own all of Skillington’s Right, which he bought from the heirs of Thomas Skillington in 1753. Alexander died in 1763 and his wife Sarah deeded the land to their son, William Frazier. When Caroline County was created in 1773 from parts of Queen Anne’s and Dorchester counties, “Frazier Flats” is said to be the first land patented in the new County of Caroline. The Flats territory is included by two creeks, Skillington’s (now called Skelton) on the south and Edmonson on the north.

The plantation was surveyed in 1782 when it was “reputed to be in Talbot.” However, a tax return for the Great Choptank Hundred of Caroline County found this and several other tracts totaling 1,394 acres belonged to Captain William Frazier, who came from Talbot but was now residing in Caroline County. In those days, land grants were not definitely outlined and the grant included territory at the “second turning of the Choptank River,” hence a mistake in the number of bends in the river from its mouth would easily have placed this site of either side of the river.

Today, the view from Frazier Flats is much as it was when it was settled as “Skillington’s Right” nearly 350 years ago.

William Frazier married Henrietta Marie and built a beautiful Georgian brick mansion at Skillington’s Right. The house that stood at Frazier Flats, overlooking the Choptank River, was a large two and one half story, late 18th century, Federal style brick residence, five bays long and three bays deep. The brickwork was laid in Flemish bond and it was thought to be one of the best examples of domestic Federal style architecture in Caroline County. The house is said to have stood one mile from the gate into Frazier Flats. Most of the original furniture was made in Drury Lane, London.

The Fraziers bought additional land and eventually owned about 1,400 acres. Captain Frazier was a militia officer of the Revolution and served as a Justice of the Caroline County Court for some years. He was also a leader in organizing the Methodist societies in lower Caroline County and was a good friend of Francis Asbury, who was said to be the greatest of Methodist itinerants journeying along the Atlantic seaboard. Francis was often a visitor to the home of William Frazier, traveling there by ferry from the town of Dover in Talbot County.

The Fraziers had no children and when William died in 1807 Henrietta rented the farm and lived in Talbot County. She died in 1846 and is buried with William near their mansion. An interesting fact is that their surnames are spelled differently, obviously an error made by the stone mason. The stone slabs in the family burying ground bear this inscription:

Captain William Frazeir Born 1756 Died 1807

Henrietta Maria Frazier Died 1846 in the 84th year of her age.

The Fraziers are buried on the land that they were bequeathed in about 1763. Their tombstones are still in tact, although difficult to read. The stone mason made a mistake and spelled their surnames incorrectly as “Frazeir.”

William Henry Smith, who married Henrietta’s niece, Sarah, farmed Skillington’s Right from 1859 to 1865. The Smiths lived at Skillington’s Right for 29 years. On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, depriving him of his farm hands and he was compelled to discontinue farming. While farming in 1860, he managed to accomplish the additional work of building the Dover Bridge, connecting Talbot and Caroline counties.

Dutch immigrants began arriving in America in the late 1800s and in the 1890s the first of 50 Dutch families bought farmland near Bethlehem and settled what would become known as Wilhelmina Colonies (named for their Queen) in Caroline County. They diked and farmed the land, growing fruits and vegetables. In 1897, Hermanus de Boer bought the brick mansion and 130 acres, where he and his family lived. The Skillington’s Right residence was again inhabited, and also used as a place of worship by these Hollanders. However, after a time, these colonies began to move away and at present there are only a few of the former families living in the area. The de Boers sold the farm and mansion to George W. Lankford of Talbot County in 1909.

In 1954 much of the house was damaged by Hurricane Hazel and was then left to deteriorate. Historians Michael Bourne and JOK Walsh visited the Frazier Neck site in 1998 to salvage some of the architectural fragments from the house, and preserve them in the Caroline County Historical Society Museum. For many years Frazier Flats was owned by the sons of George W. Lankford, who grew vegetables and trees and hunted the land. There are many young people who have happy memories of picking vegetables and fruits there.

This historic area was also once the site of an Underground Railroad station that was operated by Harriet Tubman’s parents at Poplar Neck plantation, across the creek from Skillington’s Right. Not only is it home to Mount Pleasant Cemetery, but it’s also where Tubman herself escaped slavery in 1849 and would return in 1857, to rescue her parents from their owner, Dr. Thompson.

In 2005, Skillington’s Right farm was sold with an ambitious plan for a minor subdivision and the establishment of an equestrian community. By that time the house was nothing but a pile of bricks. The only remaining artifact, an exterior brick wall, now belongs to the Caroline County Historical Society. The hole where the home’s basement and foundation once stood was filled in.

The lengthy process required to obtain permits on the property took until 2007, when prices plummeted and banks would not make loans on land, even if it was historic and waterfront, so the property remained mostly unsold. Today, the real estate market has improved and all but one of the original six parcels have been sold. It is 17 acres, perc approved and ready for building. The acreage includes waterfront on Skelton Creek with woods, marsh and clear land, plus a boat slip on the Choptank, which is navigable for a small boat.

Interested people are invited to come and view where the County of Caroline began. The peaceful nature of the place remains intact and it is easy to imagine Mr. and Mrs. Frazier enjoying the same views of the great Choptank River, while rocking on their front porch.

Excerpts from The Chesapeake Bay Country and Maryland’s Colonial Eastern Shore by Swepson Earle as well as a report made by Michael Bourne and JOK Walsh. A History of the Preston area in Lower Caroline County was written by Dora W. Mitchell. The original manuscript was presented for preservation in May 2004 to the Caroline Historical Society. Many thanks to the Caroline Historical Society and their researchers for filling in the gaps.

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