Fact Sheet

  • Talbot County is one of the oldest centers of European settlement in the New World.
  • Talbot County has more than 600 miles of tidal shoreline, the most of any county in the United States.
  • The first English settlers arrived by boat in the 1630s, established tobacco plantations along the shores of the rivers here and on its countless creeks and coves.
  • Talbot County was established around 1661 and named for Lady Grace Talbot, sister of the second Lord Baltimore. The county seat, first known as Talbot Courthouse and later as Easton, was established in 1710. It was known as the “East Capital” of Maryland because the Eastern Shore’s courts and governmental offices were located there.
  • Its first town, Oxford, laid out in 1683, served as a port of call for vessels from all over the world.
  • Its early shipbuilding center, St. Michaels, created the swift, sharp-hulled sailing craft later known as the “Baltimore Clipper” famous in the War of 1812.
  • Many of Talbot’s early settlers were Quakers, seeking a haven from persecution. Their Third Haven Meeting House, completed in 1684, is still a house of worship.
  • Several Talbot Countians played key roles in the Revolution, including  Mathew Tilghman and his son-in-law, Tench Tilghman, who was General Washington’s aide. Tench Tilghman was famous for his ride to carry the news of Cornwallis’ surrender to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
  • Much of the War of 1812 was fought on the Chesapeake Bay. The town of St. Michaels was attacked by British ships in August of 1813. Young Perry Benson, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, acted as Brigadier General to head a citizen army which repulsed the British attack. Later legends developed that lanterns hung in trees had caused the British cannons to overshoot the town.
  • Talbot County had one of the highest percentages of “free blacks” in the country in the years of slavery. This population of African-Americans produced in Frederick Douglass, the nation’s greatest 19th century advocate of black freedom and justice.
  • The Civil War found the county deeply divided, with scores of fighting men on both sides. Unionville, a Talbot County town, was settled by Union soldiers who were freed slaves returning to their home county.
  • In post-Civil War times, the county gained national note as a site of summer homes for wealthy Northerners and a vacation resort for summer boarders from nearby cities. Steam boats crossed the Chesapeake Bay daily and connected with the railroads to provide easy access.
  • Completion of the Bay Bridge in 1951 brought increasing population pressure and ended the county’s isolation.
  • Tobacco agriculture was replaced by wheat crops to feed Washington’s Continental Army. In more recent years tomatoes, fruit, and dairy products, and today corn, soybeans and poultry, have become the county’s primary crops.
  • In the past, the maritime industries of shipbuilding, seafood harvesting and processing dominated the economy. Today, industries include water-related tourism and sport fishing. Several vibrant small towns have supported both the farming and maritime industries by providing centers for trade, craftsmen, and moderate manufacturing concerns.
  • Today Talbot’s largest industry is still agriculture, although health care is close behind. Retirees from other areas have created a new economy in the area.
  • Talbot County’s population is approximately 38,000 people.
  • Famous Talbot Countians include Frederick Douglass, Colonel Tench Tilghman, Edward Lloyd (Governor of Maryland), and baseball players Frank “Homerun” Baker and Harold Baines.