|from Rock Hall Web Site and Maryland Historical Society
Cecelius Calvert, Lord Proprietor of Maryland, granted a tract of land containing several hundred acres to William Toulson, in the year 1659. During the ensuing century and 1/2, the land known asTolchester changed hands many times, being subdivided among many different owners. In the early 1800's, John Thomas Mitchell purchased the entire Tolchester tract including the adjoining "Gresham Hall" and, also, what is know today as "the Mitchell House", built in 1743.
In 1876, the Mitchell family sold 1050 acres to John Ambrewster and wife, Sarah, of Camden, N.J., for $23,500. During the same period, Calvin Taggart and his son, E. B. Taggart, of Philadelphia, were operating a steamship line on the Delaware River with plans to expand their operation to include the upper Chesapeake Bay. A third party, William C. Eliason, entered the picture when he was employed by the Taggarts to work as a deck hand on the steamboat, Lamokin. The Ambrewster, Taggarts and Eliason, now captain of the steamboat, Pilot Boy, joined forces and formed the Tolchester Improvement Company.
The year 1877 saw the opening of an amusement park on ten acres of land, a somewhat primitive park, under the supervision of Captain Eliason. The resort included picnic grounds with tables, a few concessions, a bath house, a hand propelled merry-go-round, and a hand organ pulled by a goat. Thus was the beginning of the most popular beach resort along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, destined to provide entertainment and fond lifelong memories to millions of patrons during the next eighty-five years.
Maryland Historical Society
At times, the Tolchester Steamboat Company operated routes to Annapolis, and along other Maryland waterways including the Susquehanna, Sassafras, and Little Choptank Rivers. The Susquehanna, a screw steamer built in 1898, ran to Betterton, Port Deposit and Havre de Grace under the direction of Capt. John Kirwan. The Express, purchased in 1925, was a double-end side-wheeler with an extra deck to carry automobiles.
The original Tolchester Steamboat Company closed in 1936, and was taken over by a new company, Tolchester Lines, Inc. In the late 1950s the company was sold and resold, with the Tolchester Beach excursion service and park lands remaining in operation through the early 1960s. The land at Tolchester Beach was finally sold for development in 1962.
Tolchester Beach, in its prime, expanded to 155 acres and was serviced by six steamers and a ferry. Happy visitors stayed at the great summer hotel on the top of the bluff. Here were to be found a dance hall, a roller coaster, bowling alleys, a bingo parlor, a roller skating rink, the whip, dodgems, pony and goat carts, boat rides, a miniature steam train named Jumbo, novelty and candy shops, and popcorn, ice cream, hot dogs and kewpie doll stands.
At its height, Tolchester Beach attracted as many as 20,000 visitors a weekend from across the bay an the Eastern Shore. After flourishing for eight-five years, Tolchester Beach passed from the scene, finally closing in 1962.
Recalls Judi Leaming,"How many of you remember the era when the highlight of your summer season was the annual Sunday School picnic??? My earliest memories of Sunday School picnics was the magic and excitement of going to Tolchester Beach, a long-gone amusement park on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. A trip to Tolchester and a ride on the merry-go-round and the little train that chugged through a scarey_ tunnel were absolutely the most exciting thing that I could do. I never did get up the courage to ride on the rickety roller coaster! Those were the days!!! Even Disney World in all of it's animation and glory cannot wipe away those memories."