By Keith Chapman*
Speaking of Galesville, the weekend of 10/5/02 marks the celebration of the 350th anniversary of Galesville. We get wrapped up in what we do there, and after zipping around the West River and getting a few frosties from Joe we probably start to take the place a little for granted. But, take the time to look around and appreciate your venue - I think it makes the whole experience of sailing with our club that much better. Galesville has quite a bit of interesting history. Descendants of the original families still live there. Georgie, who most graciously rents her land for us to sail on, comes from one of the long-standing families. Galesville was once a thriving water port. Steamboat Landing restaurant used to actually be the docking site for steamboats, including the famous Emma Giles. Those of you up on your Fleet history will recall that Steamboat Landing was the original sponsor of the Fleet, and the boats used to be kept on the small bit of beach beside the parking lot. The first oyster packing house was opened by a fellow named Smith, who then sold it to a fellow named Woodfield, and then opened another one next door called Smith's. If you're really up on your Fleet history you'll recall that Woodfield's was the home of the Fleet for a Frostbite series when it looked like Georgie was going to build on her lot. Smith's is now a maritime construction company, having given up on the oysters.
Our "friends", the West River Sailing Club, originated in 1930 when Dick Hartge founded it as Our Own Damn Yacht Club. In that tradition, maybe we should revisit Galesville history and change our name. Speaking of Hartge, the Hartge family moved into the area from Shady Side in 1879 to build boats, log canoes, and the famous Chesapeake 20 sailboats that are still raced. Surely you've been by Hartges marina. Just keep driving past our catamaran club and you'll run right into it. They have a museum that is supposed to be sweet music to lovers of the town and things maritime. But it's also sweet music in that the Hartges made pianos as well! Fine ones at that, and they've made an effort to rescue some and you can see them at the museum.
When you come in Galesville Road you pass a funeral home, Hardesty's. Hardesty's actually started out as a blacksmith shop in town. Apparently some gypsies came to town requesting a coffin for a child that had just died and produced a string the length of which was the height of the child. They built the coffin and changed the nature of the family business. There were a handful of general stores, the West River Market and Deli is a surviving example, having originally been Kolb's. If you haven't been in the deli, you owe it to yourself to make doing so a priority.
Baseball plays a part in the town's history. The Galesville Hot Sox challenged some of the area pro teams, such as the Baltimore Elite Giants and the Homestead Grays. Some of the Hot Sox players were good enough to advance to the Negro Leagues. The team became integrated in 1967. When you first start down Galesville Road there's an abandoned farmhouse on the left. I know you've seen it, and I've often wondered about it. It dates back to the 1870s, and built by Henry Wilson, a slave who was freed in 1828. He became the first African-American land owner in Galesville when he built that house. I wonder if there are plans for it.
Needless to say, Galesville has slowed down a bit from its day as a busy port hustling tobacco and other goods on the steamboats to and from Baltimore and other ports. But the evidence of its history are around us, all we need to do is look! Who knows, some of those things we stick our dagger boards on might just be buried treasure. There were pirates on the Chesapeake, but that's a story for another day...
Check out the links to the Galesville site from our web site. You know, http//www.wrcra.org.
* A large number of the above facts were lifted from "For Galesville, It's 350 Years and Counting" by E.B. Furgurson III, The Evening Capital, Wednesday, October 2, 2002.