Wood adds new entry to local history ‘Letters to the Little Ones’

Date Published: 
Dec. 15, 2017

What started out as a family history book, with Ocean View resident Gordon Wood Sr. writing little letters for 10 grandchildren, has turned into a book that anyone who loves reading local history can enjoy reading.

“It had started out — I had written some letters to my grandchildren, and they had some history in them. And then there were more letters and more letters… Then I started doing research on my mother’s family. I started doing research on my grandfather’s family — my mother’s folks who lived in Bethany Beach.

“So I started writing it in a form that other people could use it, and that led to a book,” Wood said. “I found things of interest to each generation, going all the way back to 1675, when Walter came to right near Pocomoke. There was so much information, I felt there was an obligation to make it available to others, besides my grandchildren who I wanted to have it.”

That book, “Letters to the Little Ones,” was first published in 2002; however, Wood recently had the second edition published through Salt Water Media.

Wood, who served as Ocean View mayor for two terms, moved to Sussex County at age 11 and graduated from Lord Baltimore School. He went on to become a chemical engineer and lawyer. He would return to Ocean View after retiring in 1997.

The book spans three centuries of Wood’s maternal family history, beginning in 1675, when Walter Evans, his eight-times-great-grandfather, left Wales for Maryland.

Evans eventually married Mary Powell of Pocomoke and, in 1702, went on to purchase a tract of land that today is part of South Bethany.

Wood worked with a number of individuals while researching for the book, including state historian Dick Carter.

“I spent so much time… I had all this information and felt that I had gotten help from all these people, that I wanted to make it available to everybody,” said Wood. “Then it became even more than that, because there were so many generations.

“I got interested in what each one of their lives might have been like, so I wrote a chapter on each of them. A lot of it’s fiction, based upon ‘other folks did this… other folks did this.’ That was it.”

He also calls attention to the Ocean View Homecoming event, which “was a big deal,” recalling people dressing up in the affair in hats and coats.

“It was a big deal. My grandmother and grandfather loved it, because they grew up here and they knew everybody.”

Life on coastal Delmarva, as one might expect, long revolved around the water and farming, an aspect illustrated in “Letters.”

“It was so isolated by the three bodies of water and the cypress swamp — plus the fact that, in the early days, nobody knew where the Delaware-Maryland line was, where it was going to be, so that there were no big estates built around here like you find elsewhere on the peninsula,” Wood explained.

“It was unchanged for over 150 years. There are tabulations of what people owned… what they had simply didn’t change for over 100 years. They were all subsistence farmers. There was no big manufacturing here unless it was food-based — there was a canning factory here in Ocean View.”

With that in mind, there is a whole chapter on Indian River schooners, owned by families whose names are still known in the area today — Lynch, Dickerson, Rickards, Gray and others.

Some history shared in the book did not come easily, which was most definitely the case when it came to learning more about his great-great-grandfather Henry.

“A great-great-grandfather should be easy to find, right?” said Wood. “He grew up here. I could find all sorts of property records. I knew he lived in Muddy Neck. He was my grandmother’s grandfather — Henry Dazey. It should be very easy… Around 1830, the ‘Dazeys’ started changing their names to ‘Daisey,’ and they finished that around 1870.

“I could not find Henry Dazey anywhere. I found that he signed on a schooner… I knew he went to sea and thought, ‘Well, he must have died at sea.’”

Prior to publishing the book, Wood contacted his cousin Barbara Slavin for her help in solving the mystery — which she did, by finding a “Samuel Henry Dasey” in Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church’s cemetery records.

“It was an artifact from the change. You can search forever for a name, but if you don’t know the right last name, you’re not going to find it.”

Wood said that, in the second edition of there book, there is also an 11th letter, for his granddaughter Sarah (named after his two grandmothers), who was yet not born when the first edition was published.

“The first edition, I brought it to a family dinner over Christmas — it was one of the best afternoons I’ve ever had in my life. I sat at the dining room table and the little ones… and I told them about the book, signed it for them, and they all marched out with a book under their arm and an extra 3 inches taller,” he said.

Now that the second edition is complete, Wood said he hopes to help his wife, Pat, write a book of her own, as he does not foresee any further editions “Letters.”

“I’m proud of it. There are things in here that aren’t written anywhere else. It was a lot of fun — kept me off the streets.

“‘Who is going to remember them when we who do are but a memory?’ he quoted from the epilogue. ‘There was more to this story than just the generations past. The unique, frozen in time, geographical isolation of Baltimore Hundred until the middle of the 20th century, and the forest, land and water resources molded the culture and heritage of our generations past into positive expression of both Baltimore Hundred’s isolation and resources.’”

“Letters to the Little Ones: The Three-Century Story of a Pioneer Family & Their Descendants Living in Baltimore Hundred” is available for purchase on Amazon.com.