The Isaac Covington Family

reprinted from The Daily Times, Sunday, May 31, 1992, written by Ruth W. Griswold

Covington family has long history

Editor’s Note: The following is part of a continuing series on the history of Worcester County, being presented in conjunction with the county’s 250th anniversary.

The Calvin B. Taylor House Museum, located at 208 N. Main St. in Berlin, is known by the name of the prominent banker of Berlin. Another family, however, is associated with the earlier history of the home.
Isaac Covington was the son of William and Sarah Tingle Covington, who died within a month of each other (she died Janu. 14, 1812 and he died on Dec. 16, 1811). Sarah was the daughter of Caleb and Elizabeth Tingle. E. Marshall Page, in Old Buckingham by the Sea, mentions a William Covington and William Tingle as members of Buckingham during the Revolution.

Isaac Covington married Amelia Franklin in March 1826. Amelia Franklin Covington was a member of Buckingham Presbyterian Church throughout her lifetime.

When his father died, Isaac Covington inherited 500 acres, a third of his father’s holdings. The other 1,000 acres were left to his mother and sister, Elizabeth Ann.

In 1823, most of the town of Berlin was located on what is now South Main Street. There were about 18 houses, two stores and several small shops.

In February of 1831, Isaac Covington purchased two acres of land from Edward Stevenson, whose home was located across from the site. This was part of “Mount Pleasant.”

In January of 1832, Isaac purchased another parcel of 1 1/4 acres. He had the gable-front home built, which now serves the town of Berlin as a museum. It is known by the name of the man who purchased it in 1893, Calvin B. Taylor. When he bought the house, changes were made to the rear of the house and to the windows. The front of the house has been restored to the original plan.

Behind the main part of the house, existing through the dining room door, a hyphen (or covered walkway) connected with the kitchen – a separate building. There were outbuildings: a carriage house for the two four-wheeled carriages mentioned in Isaac’s inventory, a smoke house and other buildings to house farming equipment.

It is likely that some farming was carried on here as well as his two plantations, “Sinapuxent” and “Swamp.”

The Covington family numbered five at that time: Amelia and Isaac and their three sons, William H., Isaac F. and Sidney C. George W. was born on Sept. 12, 1838 and Ellen Louise was born on March 4, 1841.

The household was run by a woman named Charlotte and a boy named Robert. There were also workers on the plantations.

Isaac, jointly with James Pitts, owned a schooner, a bay boat and a batteau. Hays’ Landing on lower Newport Creek was the Port of Entry for Berlin. The schooner was capable of West Indies voyages as well as coastwise trips.

There was some connection with Snow Hill which may be explained by the ownership of these vessels. Isaac was a member and vestryman at All Hallows Church in Snow Hill and his youngest son, George W., was baptized there. Isaac’s holdings and business affairs were possibly wider than evident from the limited reference materials available.

We can only surmise what life was like for Isaac Covington. It had to be a busy one. There were two plantations to run, plus the Berlin home and acreage. The shipping interests must have been time consuming. Need for two “four-wheeled carriages and horses for same” is evident.

That he took part in Berlin affairs is apparent from an item in Worcester County, Maryland’s Arcadia by Drs. Reginald V. Truitt and Millard Les Callette.

In 1842, an Agricultural and Horticultural Society was organized in Worcester County and the first annual fair of the society was held in 1842 in Berlin. Although there were categories for animals, vegetables, butter and flowers, no provision had been made for prizes for the handwork of the ladies of the town. Isaac Covington, along with Joseph E. H. Marshall and William B. Robins, came to the rescue by noting these articles with appreciation and the oversight in having no committees appointed to examine and award premiums for them.

Isaac died in 1845, leaving his widow, Amelia Franklin, s[ix]-year-old son, George and 3-year-old Ellen Louise. Whether or not the three older sons were still at home or had “left for distant states” is not known. Without records to confirm this, it is the writer’s conjecture that this was second marriage for Isaac and that Amelia Franklin Covington was much younger than he.

George W. Covington was to have a distinguished career. He was an educator, a lawyer, a U.S. representative in the 47th and 48th Congresses and also held other offices locally.

He stayed with his mother and younger sister during the Civil War, the three living in the Berlin home. After studying law under his cousin, John R. Franklin, he entered the Law Department at Harvard. Eye problems caused him to abandon his studies and while recuperating, he was offered and accepted the position of principal of Buckingham Academy.

The next year he resumed his legal studies, was admitted to the bar and began his practice in his home neighborhood as he would not leave his aged mother and his sister.

For this reason he did not offer his services to the Union, although he was an avowed Union supporter. (This was not true of all of the citizens of the locality as was shown by the necessity to have Union troops stationed in the Berlin area.)

Amelia Franklin Covington died on August 31, 1863. The Isaac Covington story would not be fully told without the question the writer has as to why Isaac was a member and vestryman of All Hallows Church in Snow Hill and had his youngest son, George, baptized there, while his wife, Amelia, continued to attend Buckingham Presbyterian Church in Berlin. George Covington was later to be instrumental in the building of the Makemie Memorial Church in Snow Hill. His cousin, Lady Kortright of London, England, gave $5,000 to the church in memory of her father, John Richardson. Later, a Kortright Chapel was endowed to Buckingham Presbyterian Church.

Ellen Louise Covington married Alexander Toadvine on June 14, 1893. George W. Covington married Sallie M. D. Bishop on Sept. 6, 1865 in All Hallows Church, Snow Hill, where he had been baptized and where his bride was a member. The Covington home was sold to John Bishop in December 1865; resold in July 1866 to R. Jenkins Henry. His widow, Esther H., sold the property to Calvin B. Taylor in June 1893.

At the time this article was written, Ruth W. Griswold was a docent at the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum. Though she learned much about the family for which the house is currently named, her curiosity was piqued about the earlier inhabitants and she plans to continue her research into the Covington family.

Mrs. Griswold has since discovered Amelia and Isaac Covington’s first three sons were baptised in St. Martin’s Episcopal Church near Berlin. Their baptismal records can now probably be found in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Berlin. Amelia is also buried in this church’s cemetery. After finding Amelia’s tombstone, Mrs. Griswold found only a six-month age difference between Amelia and her husband Isaac Covington.