Kent Island and Kentmorr History

Kent Island

Little is known about the Indian settlements on Kent Island prior to the early 1600s, but it is believed that a peace-loving tribe of Matapeake Indians lived here. They were hunter-gatherers who did not long survive the arrival the first English settlers. Captain John Smith first explored Kent Island in 1608. One of his lieutenants, John Claiborne, claimed Kent Island for Virginia in 1631. He developed it into a thriving enterprise, trading furs with the Suquehannock Indians to the north and cultivating tobacco and grain. Claiborne named Kent Island after his birth place of Kent County in England. Claiborne's settlement included the first building for public worship on the Eastern Shore, erected on Broad Creek on Kent Island. Only the foundations of the original church building can still be seen. Nothing of the early Claiborne holdings remain, but gristmill stones from that settlement have been found on the farmland just to the north of the airstrip.

In 1632, King Charles I of England charterd Kent Island to Cecilius Calvert, second Lord Baltimore, after a dispute with Claiborne over ownership. Lord Baltimore seized the island for Maryland in 1638 and struggled with Claiborne for years over its control.

Agriculture and the harvest from the Chesapeake Bay dominated commerce on Kent Island for the next several hundred years. Kent Island became a favorite stopping place for travelers moving north and south along the Chesapeake Bay and east and west between the western shores of the northern Chesapeake and the Atlantic Ocean. There was a famous guest house at a ferry terminal at Matapeake. In the late 1800s, a thriving tourist industry developed on the north end of the island at Love Point, drawing passengers from Baltimore and other western cities via ferries.

For hundreds of years, Kent Island was a quiet place, a good place to farm and live and a waystation and summer haven for folks from the western shore of the Chesapeake. Ferries across the Chesapeake and railroads to other Eastern Shore cities were the main modes of transportation. The Chesapeake Bay bridge, dedicated in 1952, changed the dynamics of the island. With the new bridge (and the second span in 1973), it became very easy to get to the island from Annapolis, Baltimore, and Washington. Automobile traffic increased dramatically, and commercial development followed. Kent Island now hosts many businesses and residential neighborhoods. It continues to grow and develop. Stevensville, the only city on on Kent Island, now has about 34,000 residents.

Kentmorr Airpark

The beginnings of the Kentmorr Airpark trace back to 1945. Nathan "Bill" and Lillian Morris decided they needed a vacation home away from their home in Washington, DC, where Bill could fly his new Stinson airplane. They flew up the east coast, looking for farm land that could be converted into a grass runway They discovered a suitable location on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, 140 acres on Kent Island. Bill had a potato field plowed and planted in grass, and Kentmorr airport was born.

Over the years, Bill built a home for his family, "hangar bungalows" to house his friends, and ultimately a restaurant and marina. He divided the property and sold lots, where other people built homes for vacationing and for permanent residency. Bill had plans to develop the Kentmorr complex as an airpark, the first residential airpark in the country, and retreat for those who love boats and the Chesapeake Bay. In Highway to Pleasure, a promotional flyer published in the 1950s, he described the waters of the Chesapeake as "America's greatest fishing hole" and "yachtman's paradise" of Kentmorr Marina. He published another flyer on the marina, An Invitation to Visit Kentmorr Marina.

(click on either picture to see the whole flyer)

He also highlighted Kentmorr Airpark and the joys of having a home on a runway in A Thrilling New Vacation Ground--Kentmorr Airpark.

(click on the picture to see the whole flyer)

Bill sold the Kentmorr Marina and Restaurant in the 1970s. There are now 14 houses along the runway. The Kentmorr community around the airpark has grown, and continues to be supportive of the airport.

The airport has changed little since it was first planted in grass. It has been a popular destination of many visitors over the years in search of the perfect "$100 hamburger"--or in this case, the $100 crab cake.

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