This column visits the faces of those who have benefited from the generous and tireless work of the nonprofits on the Mid Shore. Perhaps unknown to many of us, these individuals have had their lives transformed by the missions of these organizations and are giving back in unique ways to better our world. Amelia Blades Steward has been a freelance writer in our community for over 15 years and offers a glimpse into the lives of residents on the Mid Shore whom she has met along the way.
Memorabilia can stir feelings in all of us – whether it is seeing a vintage toaster and remembering breakfasts at grandma’s house or reminiscing about having an ice cream float while sitting on a stool at the local pharmacy. The Preston Historical Society has been working diligently to tell the stories of the people, places, and events of the area so that people of all ages can appreciate the rich history that has contributed to the unique quality of life of the region. The society’s goal is to promote the region’s heritage through historical research, education, and events.
According to Tammy Coulbourne, publicity chairman for the Preston Historical Society, “Every town in Caroline County has an historical society. We want to be a doorway to the past of the town of Preston, as well as to the neighboring communities of Linchester, Harmony, Choptank, Jonestown, Bethlehem, and Tanyard.”
Conversations about forming the organization began in 2013 and the first meeting was held at the old Provident Bank Building on the corner of Maple and Main streets in Preston. The group soon realized that the location was too small to hold meetings and house all the items that were beginning to be donated and loaned to the society. By 2015, the society found a new home at 167 Main Street, known locally as the Noble House, one of the oldest structures in town, dating back to 1833.
According to Tammy, in the late 1800s, the house gained its name when Judge Levi D. Travers bought it for his daughter and son-in-law, Manie E. Noble and Dr. Jacob L. Noble. Dr. Noble was the great-nephew of the original builder, Jacob Wilson, and maintained a medical practice in town. Eleven Noble children were raised in the house and the original dairy, used by the family, remains on the property. The house remained in the Noble family until 1984, after which it went through several owners, including the Coulbourne family who operated The Livery Stable in the building until the early 2000s. They added the large shed-like building on the back of the house which the Historical Society now uses for its monthly membership meetings and special events, like reunions, exhibitions, and lectures. This building also serves as the main entrance to the Historical Society.
This year, the Preston Historical Society is doing a major renovation of the second floor of the Noble House, removing wallpaper and repainting the rooms to showcase additional items in their collection. Another project that is underway is readying the property’s large storage building to house the society’s extensive collection of farm tools and implements, signs, and large farm equipment. The agricultural building is slated to open this summer.
Tammy adds, “We want to recreate a home environment in the historic portion of the house reflecting the periods of some of the furnishings in our collection.”
Although Preston appears to be a sleepy town you pass through on the way to somewhere else, there is a great deal of history and industry that happened in the area surrounding the town. Walking through the exhibits of the museum, visitors learn about how the region’s agriculture grew the need for local canneries and processing plants, which then influenced the growth in the area’s transportation industry – including Preston Trucking Company, “The 151 Line.”
Memorabilia from Preston Trucking, following its closing in 1999, includes Preston Trucking clothing, patches, hats, and toy trucks. There is even the re-creation of one of the company desks complete with equipment from the era when the trucking company was in its prime.
Other memorabilia in the museum includes a large collection of canning labels and cans from local canneries, including a sign, “When Tomato was King,” reminding visitors of the importance of truck crops throughout the town’s history. A large collection of the News & Farmer newspaper and its predecessor, memorabilia from Preston businesses, churches, the Preston High School, and even local physicians provides a glimpse into the town’s past. There is even a series of Life and Vogue magazine covers featuring Jean Patchett, a Preston native, who went on to become a famous international model, as well as a re-creation of a pharmacy counter to depict the town’s pharmacy.
Tammy comments, “We are looking for collectibles that tell the stories of the residents who lived here. We now have a Collections Committee which will decide which items we take into the collection. They will have to meet certain criteria which relate to our Society’s mission. We are also working on recording oral histories of Preston residents, to capture their stories.”
The Society recently sponsored a lecture, “Operation Homecoming” about the retrieval of the POWs from the Vietnam War by Lt. Col. Jack Messick, Ret., a former Preston native. Other recent lectures have included a speaker on the history of the Dover Bridge. Past exhibits have showcased quilts from the region, a special tribute to area veterans, and even a tribute to local school bus drivers.
The Preston Historical Society has also created a relationship with Preston Elementary School to host its fourth graders each spring. Students learned about local history through an indoor scavenger hunt in the museum and by playing old-fashioned outdoor games. They also created artwork highlighting their favorite parts of the museum.
Tammy reflects, “So many of the students were excited to see their family names displayed throughout the museum. We hope they come back with their families to visit again this summer.”
Upcoming events include a Reunion of Past Employees of Preston Trucking Company, Inc., The 151 Line, on Saturday, July 27, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For further information, call 410-829-9078. The Preston Historical Society will host an Ice Cream Social on Saturday, August 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to celebrate the expansion and renovations to the second floor of its building and the opening of its agricultural building.
The Preston Historical Society lists several ways individuals can become involved: become a member, make a monetary donation, or donate an item or items permanently to the organization. Donations made to the Preston Historical Society are tax-deductible.
The museum is open from April through early December on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., except for holiday weekends, and by appointment. Admission is free. The Preston Historical Society is located at 167 Main Street, in Preston, Maryland 21655. For further information, contact Tammy Coulbourne at 410-310-5454 or visit prestonhistoricalsociety.com or follow them on Facebook.