The Gilbert Byron house, the home of “the Chesapeake Thoreau,” image by author.
Writer Gilbert Byron
lived alone in this cabin for nearly 45 years on San Domingo Creek’s
Old House Cove. Within its three rooms, which he built himself, Byron crafted short stories and poetry, all inspired by the
people, places and landscapes of the Chesapeake Bay. A prolific writer
of the late twentieth century, Gilbert Byron published 14 books and 70
short stories, articles and poems during his writing career, and most were composed here.
Gilbert Byron. Photo by Tyler Campbell, shared with permission of the Kent County Historical Society.
Byron was a native of Chestertown, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and much of his work is set along the Chester River where he grew up and the lower Eastern Shore where he spent his adult life. Lyrical, keenly observant, and deeply steeped in place, Byron’s work reflects the end of the Bay’s era as the great highway and the great divider. His stories are inspired by a Chesapeake when rivers were roads traversed by steamboats and log-built descendants of dugout canoes, plied by hardy people Byron referred to as ‘elementals’— watermen and farmers who lived close to the land and closer to the water.
Image by author.
After his death in 1991, Byron’s modest
cabin, truly the original ‘tiny house,’ was preserved thanks to the
efforts of several Talbot County organizations. Relocated from its
little cove outside of St. Michaels and restored in commemoration of
Byron’s life and work, Byron’s cabin now resides at Pickering Creek
Audubon Center. It can be visited by the public for free, and once you lift a hook on the door, you’re free to explore the diminutive rooms that Byron built himself and imagine him gathering inspiration from the view over his beloved placid little cove.
Images by author.
A low sun turns/ Chesapeake’s yellow cliffs/ Into golden hills/ Stillness finds the evening/ calms the water/ And my spirit/ Joyous fish leap/ From the cooling river,/ The peepers whistle/ To the greying marshes/ In the darkening skies/ A passing heron cries/ A falling leaf/ A cowbell far away/ That flitting bat/ From night itself/ Ushers out the day.
“Chesapeake Evening” from The Wind’s Will by Gilbert Byron, 1940.
For more information on Byron’s work and life, the Gilbert Byron Society is an excellent resource: www.gilbertbyron.org