I didn’t grow up on the Eastern Shore, but my father did and we often came here to visit family. Some of my earliest memories are of riding in the old station wagon across a great expanse of water on the narrow road which spanned it. I usually had my nose in a book, so my mother would make sure that I didn’t miss it. I would peer out the window at the waves far below as we traveled across the two-lane bridge to the other side of the Chesapeake Bay, where we would enter what seemed like another world. The land was flat and once the water had faded from view, the roads were lined with fields and pastures interspersed with towns that captured my young mind with their Victorian architecture and fading glory.
As an adult, I had the opportunity to move into such a town and into just such a house as I had always dreamed. (Little did I imagine I would one day marry a local resident and historian!) It inspired me to learn all I could about Ridgely and to use it as the background for my next series. This was achieved thanks to a gentleman who saw the value of his hometown and captured as much of its history as he could through old newspapers and interviews with senior citizens and compiled them into booklets. Tommy Rampmeyer’s collection was an invaluable resource to me as I researched the town’s history and development through the years.
The town of Ridgely didn’t come into being until 1867 when farmland owned by Thomas Bell and the Reverend Greenbury W. Ridgely was purchased by the Maryland and Baltimore Land Association. They mapped out their plans for a grand city which would boast wide boulevards, beautiful parks, prosperous factories and stores, and which would sprawl as far as the Choptank River, with busy docks and a successful shipyard.
This “dream city” died, however, when the Land Association went bankrupt within its first year. Ridgely consisted of only four buildings, including a railroad station, hotel, and two private residences. One of these was owned by James K. Saulsbury and was known as the “Ridgely House.” Today, it serves as the Town Hall building.
Ridgely would have remained no more than a crossroads on a map if not for the railroad. Lots were sold at public auction, the surrounding area was settled by farmers, and an economy based on crop production was established. Strawberries, peaches, huckleberries, vegetables, eggs, and poultry were shipped out to be sold in larger towns and cities throughout the Eastern Seaboard. The Ridgely train station became a bustling center of business.
Many towns on the Eastern Shore which are now rundown or mere stopping points on the way to somewhere else flourished during this age, when commerce depended on riverways and railroads. Thus, as a tribute to its roots—memorialized by the train station museum in the center of town—I named my series “The Ridgely Rails Legacy.”
This series chronicles the growth of the town as it follows three generations of women. The first is Ella Mae, a young woman who grew up on a farm just outside of town in the late 1800s. The second book in the series picks up with her daughter Sophie in 1915, when the United States is inching closer to The Great War. The third book concludes with Gloria, Ella Mae’s granddaughter, who experiences World War Two on the homefront. Each woman must face the unique obstacles of her era while holding on to her faith, to family, and to the men they love.
A sweeping saga following three generations of women through the most dynamic and rapidly changing times in American history, The Ridgely Rails Legacy series is also rich with local history and bound to be appreciated by both Caroline County residents and fans of historical fiction/romance.
Book 1: Where This Road Ends
1895--Ella Mae Hutchins knows exactly what she wants from life. Getting it turns out to be much harder than she expects. She has only two dreams: to marry Daniel Evans and to become a successful novelist. When neither dream seems achievable, she sets out to build a life without either.
Book 2: Along the Way
1915--Sophie is a teenager when the United States joins the Great War and mandatory conscription is enacted. All her dreams hang in the balance when her fiancé is drafted and sent to France to fight in the trenches.
Book 3: A Passing Mist
1943--After the United States enters World War Two, Gloria joins the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in hopes of adventure. Her escape is short-lived, however, and duty calls her back to the family farm—but returning to Ridgely means facing memories she’d rather leave behind. As she struggles to make peace with her past, a new challenge arises. German POWs are hired to help work the farm. Gloria never imagined she would find love again, and certainly not with a man on the wrong side of the war.
*All my novels are available for purchase in paperback or kindle formats on Amazon.