DCHS Celebrates a Milestone

As the Dorchester County Historic Society (DCHS) enters its 70th year in May, good things are happening, but it hasn’t been without its knocks in recent months. It’s impossible to proceed with the good news without first mentioning the huge loss of two noteworthy figures.

Shirley S. Jackson, volunteer extraordinaire, died on December 21, 2022. Then, with the holidays in sight, DCHS had to close due to illness. Regrettably, the society’s administrator Mitch Anderson then passed away on February 24, 2023. While the DCHS had been bouncing back post pandemic, it was knocked for a loop as the 70th anniversary loomed.

While feeling this immense loss, the society absorbed the gut punch and is beginning to awaken again. As of April 17, 2023, Zoë Phillips is the new DCHS Executive Director. Zoë began volunteering on the La Grange Plantation campus, where the DCHS is located, four years ago. While she was earning an Associate’s degree from Chesapeake College and then a history degree from University of Maryland Global Campus, Zoë then began an internship. As Mitch’s health declined, she was employed part time.

Zoë Phillips

Zoë said, “I was very sad to know I would no longer be working alongside [Mitch], and I thought a lot about what would happen to DCHS in his absence.”

Having worked closely with Mitch for several years, Zoë had experience with the society’s work and had hopes for DCHS to flourish. She explained, “I made the decision to apply for the full-time position as Executive Director. Now, with the guidance of our Officers and Board of Trustees, I am stepping into this role with a fresh perspective.”

Zoë is eager to get a number of projects underway. She welcomes the community to the La Grange campus on May 25, 2023, for a “Business After Hours” in conjunction with the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce. People may register online at www.dorchesterhistory.com to attend this special anniversary celebration. An all-day open house event is planned for later in the year as well.

Currently, she is busy organizing files, policies and daily operations and Zoë has plans to revamp the society’s branding, welcome new volunteers as well as members, introduce additional workshops, and engage more students, among many other projects.

She adds, “DCHS has much to offer, and it is my goal to ensure our organization not only survives but thrives. I intend to devote a lot of time and energy into our operations in the years ahead. We have so much history to share. If you happen to be in the vicinity of our campus anytime soon, feel free to stop in and say hello!”

Zoë hopes to share her love for Dorchester County and its rich history with as many people as she can. For more information, visit www.dorchesterhistory.com or contact Zoë Phillips at 410-228-7953 or dchs@verizon.net.

70 Years of the DCHS

The Dorchester County Historical Society, Inc. was formed in May 1953 by a small group of folks interested in preserving the rich history of the region. In February 1959, this group purchased a historic house, circa 1760, thanks to the generosity of benefactor Thomas Steele Nichols. He was given naming rights and chose Meredith House due to familial connections. By the mid 1970s it became obvious that the Meredith House could not contain all of the artifacts and documents that needed to be saved to tell the story of Dorchester County and its people.

The Dorchester County Historical Society is located on the former LaGrange Plantation in Cambridge. Visitors can visit the 18th Century Meredith House and the Heritage Museums and Gardens of Dorchester.

In 1981, the Neild Museum was dedicated in honor of J. Stapleforte Neild and houses a broad collection of artifacts that illustrate farm life in Dorchester, from colonial times to the present. It highlights the connection of work and family, showing them interwoven even today. In the mid 1980s, the Goldsborough Stable was moved from Shoal Creek Manor to its present location on the LaGrange Avenue side of the campus. This space educates about the many roles that early farmers had to perform to maintain their properties and equipment. Along the way, the Stronghouse was added to the complex and provides structure to the Barber Herb Garden.

By 2007, in need of more space once again, the Robbins Heritage Center was added, gaining more than 1,600 square feet of exhibit space. This museum holds exhibits highlighting the historic timeline of the county with interpretations about Native American History, the Earliest Settlers, Indentured and Enslaved, Following the Water, Hunting and Trapping and more. The Todd Research Center is located in this space and is very helpful to those searching family history or items of regional interest. Recently, this library was accredited as a Network to Freedom facility, attesting to the hundreds of original pre-Civil War documents pertaining to enslaved and free people of color. A Waterfront Walkway was completed in 2009 and gives a marsh and water vista to visitors, along with a Baywise Certified Garden.

The campus is known as the Heritage Museums and Gardens of Dorchester at La Grange Plantation and is the base of operations for the Dorchester County Historical Society, which is a qualified 501(c)3, nonprofit organization. Visit the Heritage Museums and Gardens of Dorchester at 1003 Greenway Drive in Cambridge from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Heritage Museums and Gardens of Dorchester
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