The Handsell Historic Site pays tribute to the Nanticoke and Chicone peoples upon whose lands the Handsell House now sits. Located in what is now Dorchester County, these lands were formerly incorporated into a Native American reservation. The State of Maryland agreed to use the lands for this purpose in 1720, but in 1768, less than fifty years later, the state legislature approved a law that allowed for the purchase of these and all remaining Chicone lands.
The Nanticoke River, dividing Wicomico and Dorchester Counties, is named for the Nanticoke peoples. The nearby Choptank River, located in Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot Counties, is thought to take its name from the English language derivative of the Nanticoke word, “tshapetank,” which translates to, “stream that divides” or “stream that flows back strongly.”
Handsell House is owned and operated by the Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance, and is open to the public for visitation. On its grounds, the Cicone Village features a replica longhouse and other elements of historic Indigenous life in the area. The House also hosts annual events to commemorate tribal peoples of present-day Maryland.
Image: Handsell House, Dorchester County, MD (Library of Congress)
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