Life In The Oh-so Slow Lane

July 12, 1992|By ELIZABETH LARGE

Don't say nothing ever happens in the Eastern Shore town of Trappe.

There was the Great Fire of 1911. The Trappe bank robbery in 1932. (The thieves made off with $1,958.) And, of course, the day it rained millions of tiny frogs -- Sunday, Sept. 2 in 1928. Eyewitnesses swore to it.

But since then?

"I don't know if much new has happened," says Postmaster Lois Baker, who was born there in 1928.

What's happened since then hasn't been dramatic. Trappe is too far from the Chesapeake Bay to get bought up by outsiders looking for houses to renovate and places to dock their boats, so property has remained affordable. But over the years this small farming town, with its peaceful streets and low tax rate, has become a bedroom community for nearby Easton and Cambridge.

Trappe no longer has a bank or a grocery store or a pool room. Townspeople go to Easton when they want to buy clothes or eat out.

"But we do have suburbs," points out 85-year-old Margaret Stevens. The population (974) has actually increased since the last census because of its new housing developments, La Trappe Heights and Lakeview.

People like Ann Ayers from Minnesota have moved in. She admits she's homesick, but likes Trappe: "It's like all small towns. The people are close." Her husband, Art, who's from Trappe, always wanted to own a country store and cook for a living. So their place, Sullivan's Country Store, sells an odd mixture of duck decoys and Bold Detergent, animal pelts and Mountain Dew, while the deli counter in front offers homemade soups, crab cakes and home-baked goods.

Route 50 runs through the town, but if you want to get to Trappe's center -- the town hall or the volunteer fire department or Sullivan's on Main Street -- you look for the 73-mile marker off Route 50 east and turn right. And there you are. Only a couple of blocks off the highway and it's a different world. Some of the small clapboard houses along the almost-empty streets are shabby; but their gardens are lush, filled with irises and azaleas at the end of May.

Things are changing, though. One newcomer has applied for permission to build a helicopter landing pad on his property, according to Jim Dawson, who owns the Unicorn Used and Rare Bookstore. Mr. Dawson's family has lived in the area since the early 1700s, and he stays because "I like to walk outside and see the stars at night."

Trappe doesn't get much in the way of tourists except during the Maryland House and Garden Tour, when several homes and historic sites are opened to visitors. Dickinson House and Crosiadore, for instance, belonged to the family of John Dickinson, who wrote "Letters From a Pennsylvania Farmer" (1767), an attack on British taxes before the Revolution.

Trappe has other famous citizens. The town still celebrates "Nace's Day" in November. The Emancipation parade was originated by Nathaniel "Nace" Hopkins, who fought for the Union in the Civil War, then returned to the town and helped establish the first black schools there. He was also one of the founders of Scott's United Methodist Church.

Old-time baseball fans know the town as the home of J. Franklin "Home Run" Baker, who played for the Philadelphia Athletics and was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955. He retired in his prime to return home and live on his farm.

Town historian Dickson Preston tells the story of a local barber who is said to have remarked that Trappe was so dull that if he owned Trappe and Hell, he'd rent Trappe out and live in Hell. That, of course, is exactly why people want to live in Trappe these days.

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