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History of Holland Island

Settled in the last decades of the 1600s, Holland Island reached its peak population between 1890 and 1910. By 1910 approximately 360 people lived on the distinct ridges of high ground.

There were several general stores, a grade school, church, Red Men's Hall, post office, a full-time doctor and minister, and a thriving fleet of workboats, including schooners and 55 skipjacks.

There were more than 60 homes on the island. The typical home was roomy with many windows for the family to keep an eye on the sails of the boats working in the distance and to provide light during the daylight hours.

By 1920 the erosion from wind and tide was taking its toll on the island's bay (west) side. The islanders tried to import stones to build walls along the shore and even sank some old boats to slow the erosion, but lacking modern equipment and techniques, their efforts failed. By 1922 most of the residents of Holland Island were forced to leave. Many residents moved their homes, piece by piece, to mainland sites. Today, only one home remains. The island's size has been reduced by erosion from approximately 160 acres in 1915 to approximately 80 acres today. If left unprotected, this historical and environmental treasure will be lost.

Not all the residents of Holland Island left their homes. Many still rest in the island's burial sites. Two graveyards are left on the island, and one has been lost beneath the waves. Some families moved their loved-one's remains before they were claimed by the sea to the graveyard beside the old church. Of the two remaining burial sites there is a family plot of a dozen graves. The other, is the main cemetery with over 50 graves. Unless steps are taken now, those buried at these sites will be lost to the relentless tide.

In 1999, the Maryland General Assembly, concerned about the rapid loss of Bay shorelines and wildlife habitat, passed Resolution 13. This resolution requested that the Governor appoint a task force to study the issue. In early 2000, the Task Force published their findings. On page 8 of the Executive Summary, there is alarming information about erosion in the Bay. The Summary notes:

"The State of Maryland loses approximately 260 acres of tidal shoreline due to erosion each year, resulting in a loss of public and private property, historic and cultural sites, recreational beaches, productive farmland and forested areas."

"Each year erosion carries approximately 5.7 million pounds of nitrogen and 4.2 million pounds of phosphorus into the Chesapeake Bay, significantly degrading water quality."

"Each year erosion contributes approximately 11 million cubic yards of sediment into the Chesapeake Bay, intensifying the need for navigational dredging and diminishing water quality due to increased turbidity."

Dorchester County is the major loser in the erosion problem comprising 54% of total loss.