Sunday, March 08, 2015

The Sunday Blue Law On Tangier Island In 1920

Many of us are old enough to remember living under the “Blue” Laws, those laws that directed what you could do and what you could buy on Sunday.  On Tangier Island, Virginia in 1920 they had a very strict blue law.  It said on Sunday you were either in church or you were home inside your house – no sitting on the porch – but inside the house.  To ensure that law was enforced, the island selected Charles Christopher “Bud” Connorton as their constable or sergeant of police.  Charles Connorton was born in 1870 to Patrick H. Connorton (1843- ) and Matilda P. (1848- ).  Patrick Connorton parents were born in Ireland.  Charles was born around Lee on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  He was a teacher at the Onancock Academy for a while before deciding to make his fortune on Tangier Island. His father also moved to Tangier.  

Charles "Bud" Connorton was a well respected individual.  He worked the water with his pungy named “Robt L. Rodgers”.  He married Mary J. Crockett in 1897.  They had one daughter; Mary. In 1899 Mary Crockett Connorton died at age 28.

Richmond Times Dispatch August 27 1897

Peninsula Enterprise May 6 1899
Charles Connorton had a run-in with the federal government in 1899 when he assaulted a federal agent who was sent to Tangier island to make an arrest.  He also had a run in or two with the Maryland crabbers. The newspaper reports of the time would indicate he was a strong willed individual.

Richmond Times Dispatch 1893

He next married Priscilla Parks in 1909.  They had three sons named; Albert Wright, Charles Donald “Don”, and Melvin A.  Mary, his first born by Mary Crockett, lived with her grandparents Henry and Elizabeth Crockett.

In 1920 he was made a census taker for the island of Tangier.

On April 11th 1920, Sunday, Sergeant Connorton found Roland Parks, son of Henry. P. Parks, sitting on the porch of his brother’s store, definitely not in church nor at home.  He told Roland to go home. Roland started cussing but went home, however on arriving at home he decided to sit on the front porch.  Sergeant Connorton grabbed him to take hin to jail and in the ensuing fight Parks was shot. The family took Roland Parks the 12 miles to the Crisfield hospital where he recovered.  A gang of Tangier citizens went looking for the Mayor whom they found hiding in his attic and demanded Connorton be arrested.  Bud Connorton was not arrested but gave himself up volunteering to the Accomack courthouse and was placed on bail.

Found guilty of unlawfully shooting Roland Parks when he refused to go to church Bud Connorton was given a year in the State penitentiary at Richmond ,Virgina.

This shooting made the National news and a movie cameraman was sent to Tangier to do a story and movie about the event.  The people on Tangier closed ranks and ran him off the island.

After jail, Bud Connorton returned to the island and was made Constable or Chief of Police again. On April 25, 1925 Charles Connorton  was shot in the back by an unknown assassin and he died the next day of his wounds at McCready hospital in Crisfield.

Crisfield Times 1925

Priscilla Connorton continued to live on Tangier and was manager of D. Tischler, a clothing store. Her sons would move to Baltimore with the exception of Melvin who stayed on Tangier island.

1954 Crisfield Times

Roland Lee Parks would die in 1962.

The Salisbury Times April 24,  1962

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