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Worcester County, Maryland facts for kids

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Worcester County
George Washington Purnell House
Flag of Worcester County
Flag
Official seal of Worcester County
Seal
Map of Maryland highlighting Worcester County
Location within the U.S. state of Maryland
Map of the United States highlighting Maryland
Maryland's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 610: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
Country  United States
State  Maryland
Founded 1742
Named for Family of Marquess of Worcester
Seat Snow Hill
Largest community Ocean Pines
Area
 • Total 695 sq mi (1,800 km2)
 • Land 468 sq mi (1,210 km2)
 • Water 227 sq mi (590 km2)  33%
Population
 (2010)
 • Total 51,454
 • Estimate 
(2019)
52,276
 • Density 74.03/sq mi (28.585/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 1st

Worcester County is the easternmost county of the U.S. state of Maryland. As of the 2010 census, the population was 51,454. Its county seat is Snow Hill. It is the only county of Maryland that borders the Atlantic Ocean, and the only county bordering both Delaware and Virginia. The county was named for Mary Arundell, the wife of Sir John Somerset, a son of Henry Somerset, 1st Marquess of Worcester. She was sister to Anne Arundell (Anne Arundel County), wife of Cecil Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore (Cecil County), the first Proprietor and Proprietary Governor of the Province of Maryland.

Worcester County is included in the Salisbury, MD-DE Metropolitan Statistical Area. The county includes the entire length of the state's ocean and tidewater coast along the Intracoastal Waterway bordering Assawoman Bay, Isle of Wight Bay, Sinepuxent Bay, and Chincoteague Bay between the sand barrier islands of Fenwick Island and Assateague Island bordering the Atlantic Ocean coast. It is home to the popular vacation resort area of Ocean City, founded 1875, as well as wild habitats on the primitive wilderness areas on Assateague Island and in the Pocomoke River and Swamp.

History

Worcester County was created by the division of the formerly larger Eastern Shore's Somerset County in 1742. The county seat, which was previously located near the confluence of Dividing Creek with the Pocomoke River, was later transferred to the river port of Snow Hill, at the head of navigation of the Pocomoke, now near the center of the new county.

Both the areas of Somerset and Worcester Counties were divided into old colonial divisions of "hundreds", from south to north: Mattapony, Pocomoke, Boquetenorton, Wicomico, and Baltimore Hundreds. Later subdivisions of these hundreds added Pitts Creek, Acquango, Queponco, and Buckingham & Worcester Hundreds, all of which in turn eventually became election districts for the newly independent state following American independence. Competing territorial claims between the Proprietor family of the Calverts and the Lords Baltimore in the old Province of Maryland and the Penns of the neighboring Province of Pennsylvania to the north and of what later became the state of Delaware to the east led to the surveying of Worcester County's northern border, the "Transpeninsular Line" in 1751, though boundary disputes continued through the rest of the colonial period, not totally settled until the work of the famous Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon with their "Mason–Dixon line". In 1779, Stephen Decatur, the famous United States Navy officer and hero of the First Barbary War and the Second Barbary War in the early 1800s, and leading into the War of 1812, was born at Sinepuxent, near what is today the town of Berlin.

Originally settled by European immigrants of British and Irish stock, along with slaves of mainly West African descent, Worcester County was divided during the colonial period into several Church of England parishes, though Quakers, Presbyterians, and later Methodists also set up meeting houses. Like the border states in general, Worcester County had a high proportion of free people of color for many decades before the Civil War, due in part to the influence of initially Quakerism, and later Methodism.

Worcester County was primarily an agricultural area from its inception, first planting tobacco, but when the quality produced in the area's sandy soil could not compete with that produced elsewhere, growing wheat, corn, and livestock. Early industrial activity included the smelting of bog iron ore in a brick blast furnace to make pig iron at Furnacetown in the first half of the 19th century. The presence of large bald cypress swamps along the Pocomoke River led to logging, the manufacture of roofing shingles, and shipbuilding along the river at Newtown (later Pocomoke City). The arrival of steam-powered water transport and then the railroad opened urban markets to another of Worcester County's principal products: seafood, particularly shellfish. Oysters, clams, and crabs were shipped to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. Soon after the Civil War (to each side of which Worcester County sent soldiers), parts of both Worcester and Somerset Counties were combined to create, in 1867, Wicomico County. Also in the later 19th century, the seaside resort of Ocean City was founded.

Truck farming and the canning industry came to the fore during the early 20th century. However, both the seafood industry and truck farming declined after mid-century, due to overfishing on the one hand, and the opening of California's Central Valley to irrigated agriculture on the other, but the advent of the large-scale poultry industry filled this gap. The expansion of Ocean City since the 1960s has turned the northern part of the county from a summer resort to an expanding year-round community.

Two major storms influenced the course of Worcester County history in the 20th Century: the hurricane of August 1933, which badly damaged Ocean City and Public Landing, but also cut the Ocean City Inlet and passageway between the inner bays west of the sandy barrier islands of Assawoman Bay, Sinepuxent Bay and Assateague Channel and Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, and the later Ash Wednesday "Nor'easter" of 1962, which destroyed much of the residential development on Assateague Island and led to the creation of the National Seashore and State Park.

The county has a number of properties on the National Register of Historic Places.

Geography

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 695 square miles (1,800 km2), of which 468 square miles (1,210 km2) is land and 227 square miles (590 km2) (33%) is water. It is the third-largest county in Maryland by total area.

The terrain is mostly level and coastal. The lowest elevation is sea level along the Atlantic Ocean and the highest elevation is 49 ft (15 m) in the northwestern part of the county along State Route 12 just south of the Wicomico County line.

National protected area

Adjacent counties

Transportation

Freight trains run from Snow Hill north to Berlin and the Delaware border on the Maryland and Delaware Railroad, and the main line (formerly Pennsylvania Railroad) from Philadelphia to Cape Charles, Virginia and Norfolk runs through the southwestern corner of the county, operated by the Norfolk Southern Railway north of Pocomoke City and the Bay Coast Railroad south of Pocomoke City. The Ocean City Municipal Airport is located near Ocean City, but has no scheduled service. The nearest airport with commercial air service is the Salisbury–Ocean City–Wicomico Regional Airport near Salisbury.

Major highways

  • US 13
  • US 50
  • US 113
  • MD 12
  • MD 90
  • MD 346
  • MD 528

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 11,640
1800 16,370 40.6%
1810 16,971 3.7%
1820 17,421 2.7%
1830 18,273 4.9%
1840 18,377 0.6%
1850 18,859 2.6%
1860 20,661 9.6%
1870 16,419 −20.5%
1880 19,539 19.0%
1890 19,747 1.1%
1900 20,865 5.7%
1910 21,841 4.7%
1920 22,309 2.1%
1930 21,624 −3.1%
1940 21,245 −1.8%
1950 23,148 9.0%
1960 23,733 2.5%
1970 24,442 3.0%
1980 30,889 26.4%
1990 35,028 13.4%
2000 46,543 32.9%
2010 51,454 10.6%
2019 (est.) 52,276 1.6%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010–2018

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 51,454 people, 22,229 households, and 14,598 families residing in the county. The population density was 109.9 inhabitants per square mile (42.4/km2). There were 55,749 housing units at an average density of 119.1 per square mile (46.0/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 82.0% white, 13.6% black or African American, 1.1% Asian, 0.3% American Indian, 1.2% from other races, and 1.7% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 3.2% of the population. In terms of ancestry the county was 18.9% German, 18.2% Irish, 17.1% English and 7.7% Italian. If people who wrote they were a combination of "Irish", "English" and "German" (in any order) were counted as one group, they would be 31.9%, and the largest group in the county.

Of the 22,229 households, 24.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.9% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 34.3% were non-families, and 28.0% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.28 and the average family size was 2.76. The median age was 48.1 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $55,487 and the median income for a family was $67,408. Males had a median income of $44,986 versus $37,785 for females. The per capita income for the county was $31,520. About 6.2% of families and 10.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.2% of those under age 18 and 6.5% of those age 65 or over.

Communities

This county contains the following incorporated municipalities:

City

Towns

Census-designated places

The Census Bureau recognizes the following census-designated places in the county:

Unincorporated communities

Education

The following institutions are part of the Worcester County public school system, governed by the Worcester County Board of Education:

  • Showell Elementary School
  • Buckingham Elementary School
  • Ocean City Elementary School
  • Snow Hill Elementary School
  • Pocomoke Elementary School
  • Berlin Intermediate School
  • Stephen Decatur Middle School
  • Snow Hill Middle School
  • Pocomoke Middle School
  • Stephen Decatur High School
  • Snow Hill High School
  • Pocomoke High School
  • Worcester Technical High School
  • Cedar Chapel Special School

In the fall of 2008 Worcester County has plans to open Worcester Technical High School to all residents of the county, to replace Worcester Career and Technology Center.

The following private schools also operate in Worcester County:

  • Worcester Preparatory School
  • Seaside Christian Academy
  • Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic School
  • Snow Hill Mennonite School
  • The Tidewater School by the Sea

Notable residents

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