Along with its rich historical heritage, Soldiers Delight was also an economic delight to the earliest settlers. The area abundantly supplied with wildlife yielded many delightful dinners. Some early writings from the 1600s, by British Soldiers, give many details documenting the earliest settlements.
Deer was plentiful and was hunted by the local Indians. One of their techniques was to create controlled fires that forced the deer onto the open plain making it easier for the Indians to shoot them. These controlled fires had the added environmental benefit of eliminating the encroachment of wooded vegetation taking over the grassland. Fire allowed for new growth vegetation which was a staple food for the deer. The area with poor serpentine soils were slow to change over to forested areas. Farmers were delighted to use the grasslands to graze their cattle. However, grazing cattle were not as effective as controlled fires in controlling the pine tree encroachment that took place over the next century.
King George II gave land grants to some of the earliest settlers in Maryland including the Owings (for whom Owings Mills is named). Land grants were in the “Soldiers Delight Hundred” which had been documented by the King’s Rangers which patrolled the area in the 1600s, before more settlers moved in during the 1700s. English settlers stopped the process of controlled-fire-hunting. They also introduced small pox and other diseases which decimated the Indian tribes, leaving the area free for more white settlers.
A number of skirmishes during the Civil War were documented, adding to the areas important history. Following the Civil War, the settlers began mining the area as they discovered marketable minerals in the soil. In the 1800s and much of the 1900s, mining for chromite, talc, magnesite, soapstone, asbestos, and other minerals were quite profitable.
Isaac Tyson, Jr., a talented and gifted scientist, was a significant influence in the area. He began his career in his wealthy father’s grain business. His Quaker family lived near or in Baltimore. With his interest in sciences, especially geology, and with his father’s assistance, Isaac studied mining operations and mined chromite and manufactured chrome yellow pigments. He teamed up with Howards Sims to make paint and medicines from the minerals he mined in the 1820s and 1830s.
Once he discovered copper, chrome and iron ores in the area, he expanded his business in 1845. He began manufacturing chromium chemicals from the chromite and founded the Baltimore Chrome Works which he built near the entrance to the Inner Harbor in Fells Point (Baltimore City). After more than a century of success, mergers, and buyouts, the company was eventually bought by the Allied Chemical Corporation in 1954. Allied stopped its operations in 1985. It has been burdened with the responsibility of cleaning up the toxic effects of 140 years of chrome processing that damaged the local environment.
In Part V of the Soldiers Delight Series, we will take a look at Tyson’s development of chromite products and the other products it helped to develop as well as its economic impact for Baltimore.
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