Baltimore, Dams, engineering, HISTORY, Jones Falls, Lake Roland, maps, Monuments, POLITICS, Public Works, Research, water history
When I first started researching the water history of Baltimore, and I came across a map of Swann Lake, I just assumed that it was called Swann Lake because the Mayor at that time was Thomas Swann, who later went on to be the Governor of Maryland.
Here is the man himself. In the journal I am presently transcribing, I came across this entry:
October 4, 1869: The Committee on Swann Lake submitted the following report: Having examined the minutes of the Board and the records of the office, with the view of ascertaining in what way and by what authority the Lake, so long called Lake Roland received the name of Swann Lake, would respectfully call the attention to the Board the following – That Mr. Charles Manning, Chief Engineer was asked to name the principal stream that supplies the Lake, by which with great propriety the Lake could be known. Under his direction the name of Lake Roland was placed over the door of the stop house and a map of Lake Roland was presented to the Water Board with the general and final report of the Chief Engineer on the completion of the Works. In this manner the lake became known to all our citizens, by a familiar and more appropriate local name. The Board of Water Commissioners, by resolution, posed at a regular meeting on December 26, 1861, approved and adopted what had been done in the premises…to be called Lake Roland. At some subsequent period the name on the door (Roland) was erased and Swann Lake inserted and a patch was made and placed on the map stating the same. In the opinion of the Committee, these changes and defacement were entirely unauthorized and would have been improper even if ordered by the Water Board. The Board has heretofore declared its opinion as to the impropriety of designating any of the public works by the name of an individual citizen, because of his connection with the City Government and your committee sees no reason why this Lake should be made an exception of. These views have long been entertained but have thought it best to defer presenting them until the present time, when by no possibility can it be supposed that you are in any way influenced by personal or political feeling. Ask that the Lake be referenced from this point forward as Lake Roland. Unanimously resolved.
So, one has to wonder – did a political adversary go and change the name from Roland to Swann over the door? And why would the Water Engineers continuously refer to the lake as Swann Lake? Every entry that I have summarized from the 1862-1869 journal notes “The work at Swann Lake…” or as such. Here is what the work at Swann Lake looked like. Even A. Hoen and Co. called it Swann.
Wikipedia has this to say about Thomas Swann – not too good a commentary!
Many believed once slavery was abolished in Maryland, African Americans would begin a mass emigration to a new state. As white soldiers returned from southern battlefields they came home to find that not only were their slaves gone but soil exhaustion was causing tobacco crops in southern Maryland to fail. With a growing number of disaffected white men, Thomas Swann embarked on a campaign of “Redemption” and “restoring to Maryland a white man’s government”. His strategy was built on the platform of entrenching white power and displacing independent African Americans. During this same time an oyster crisis in New England caused the oyster industry in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay to surge. Swann’s problem was that the Bay oyster trade was heavily African American. His solution; use government policy to push African Americans in the bay and replace them with, “White Labor, at reasonable rates wherever needed.” Even more egregious he enacted a law that encouraged white fisherman to harass black fisherman when he signed into law the states first ever “Oyster Code.” “And be it acted, that all owners and masters of canoes, boats, or vessels licensed under this article, being White Men, are hereby constituted officers of this state for the purpose of arresting and taking before any judge or Justice of the Peace, any persons who may be engaged in violating any provisions of this article. Furthermore, all such owners and masters are hereby vested with the power to summon pose comitatus to aid in such arrest.” Even more egregious, any property seized during an “Oyster Code” violation was auctioned off, with one quarter of the proceeds going to the white man who initiated the arrest.
Wow and as Confederate Monuments have been removed in Baltimore, I guess no one thought to remove the entrance of Druid Lake at Swan Drive that has his name emblazoned across the top of the arch!