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The Historical Society of Kent County is happy to be a portal to your Kent County heritage experience.
A scenic peninsula, on Maryland’s Upper Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, the County of Kent is less than a two-hour drive from Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Annapolis, and Northern Virginia.
Quaint waterfront towns, including Historic Chestertown, Rock Hall, Galena, Betterton, and Millington, offer sunset cruise charters, small beaches, kayaking, fishing charters, boating, sailing, museums, theaters, art galleries, brick sidewalk shopping, antiquing, farmers’ and artisans market, local seafood, including the Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab, and many 18th and 19th century structures.
Chestertown, the county seat of Kent, the Eastern Shore of Maryland’s oldest county, was founded in 1706 and served as a major port of entry during colonial times. Its brick sidewalks and attractive stores, art galleries, and restaurants beckon visitors and residents alike to wander, browse, and admire. A visit to Chestertown’s Historic District is especially worthwhile, and includes a number of fine colonial residences, the second largest district of restored 18th-Century homes in Maryland.
Chestertown is also home to Washington College, the nation’s tenth oldest liberal arts college, founded in 1782.
Rock Hall was originally called “Rock Hall Cross Roads.” Its main street was part of the first road cut in Kent County in 1675. Later, the village became the Kent County terminus of a ferry that ran between the Eastern Shore and Annapolis in colonial times; and both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson passed through it several times on their way to and from the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. While it still retains some vestiges of its former stature as a major fishing port, today it is probably better known for its many marinas and its fine seafood restaurants.
Galena is a beautiful town located in Kent County, on Maryland’s Upper Eastern Shore. The town was founded in 1763 under the name Downs’ Cross Roads after a local tavern owner, William Downs. The name was later changed to Georgetown Cross Roads before finally gaining the name Galena, after a type of silver that was once mined in the town.
Just minutes from the water, Galena provides easy water access for sailors, kayakers, and fishermen. With charming antique shops and restaurants, Galena is a perfect destination for a day trip.
The Town of Millington was originally chartered as a town by the Maryland General Assembly in 1798. The town was incorporated in 1890. Millington grew up as a small village located on the Chester River, sharing shores with both Kent and Queen Anne’s County. The land on which it is located was settled in the late 17th century. Over the years, the name of the town has changed – originating as Head of Chester, to Bridgetown around 1724, and finally in 1818 to become known as the Town of Millington.
Today, Millington is still a small town with strong echoes from the past. Millington is a walkable, self-contained town with a clear rural character and atmosphere. The head of the Chester River runs through the Town of Millington, offering beautiful water views and lovely public fishing areas with perch spawning in the spring, and catfish, spot, sunfish, yellow perch and the occasional striped bass throughout the remainder of the season.
Starting out as a small fishing village and a port for local agriculture, the town was eventually named Betterton after the family of Elizabeth Betterton by her husband, Richard Townsend Turner in 1851. Later, Betterton became a thriving beach resort spurred by the rise of steamboat traffic from Baltimore and Philadelphia which lead to the construction of piers and hotels. Tourism in Betterton was a major economic influence for years to come.
After the great depression and then the construction of the Bay Bridge, Betterton experienced a slow decline in tourist activity which led to deterioration of many structures. In 1976, Kent County used state funds to purchase the bay front property, cleared out the remaining structures and debris, and rebuilt the beach area as a public park adding a bath house, boardwalk, and pavilion.