By Ali Nicole

On the Western side of Wicomico County, Westside Historical Society works to preserve the area’s history and heritage. With a 35 year history of their work in preservation and education, the society strives to continue its mission. Even during a challenging time, the society is pressing forward with the work it does to engage the community in appreciating the rich history of Wicomico County’s western region.

Officially developed in 1985—initially formed in 1984—the Westside Historical Society has worked to restore historical properties, collect and preserve history, and educate the people of the Eastern Shore about that history. When it began, the society was a group meant to represent the western side of Wicomico County and eventually would operate out of Mardela Springs, one of the towns located in this region of the county. The non-profit operates and maintains three historic buildings in the area which was once considered Barren Creek Springs.

Barren Creek Springs Presbyterian Church, Barren Creek Spring House, and Barren Creek Heritage Museum are all part of the operations and mission of Westside Historical Society. The group first restored Barren Creek Springs Presbyterian Church—built in 1842—and the building is currently utilized for such events as weddings, religious services, group meetings, family reunions, and more. Barren Creek Spring House is built around the location of a spring which was used during the 1900’s for bottled water and, as the spring still trickles, it is open to the public for viewing. The Barren Creek Heritage Museum houses the history of the west side of Wicomico County from the museum downstairs to the upstairs Family History Research Library.

Beyond the preservation of history in the buildings this society manages events are often held throughout a typical year in order to, “promote the understanding and appreciation of the history and culture of this region,” part of one of the society’s main goals stated on their website. The happenings are typically held across Wicomico and include such activities as lectures, tours, parades, 5K runs, basket weaving and more. One notable program held in connection to the Family History Research Library is the Family History Workshop.

The Family History Workshop is an 18-hour, hands on course of instruction in which participants research their ancestral line. The four sessions are each held in libraries with quality genealogical collections around the Eastern Shore in addition to the Family History Research Library. Interested participants must register for sessions via the Westside Historical Society website and the cost is $65 for the course. This, like many other events and programs across the shore and the nation, has been postponed for safety but there are plans to resume around late winter or early spring 2021.

Indeed, multiple programs were put on hold due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, but the work of the Westside Historical Society goes on. One event that may yet be taking place this year, dependent upon safety, is the 5K Jingle Bell Run. The run is a festive way to celebrate the holidays and is normally held alongside the Mardela Springs Christmas Heritage Festival. Keep an eye out for this opportunity to have fun and support the society.

Support of the Westside Historical Society is always welcome because it runs solely on volunteer and member efforts. While much of the usual operations are reduced at this time, the Barren Creek Heritage Museum is still operating until mid-November, the library continues to be maintained, and the society keeps moving forward. Sylvia Bradley, Executive Director, indicates the society adopted a new saying; “Looking toward the future and learning from the past.” Therefore, volunteers are still needed and appreciated. For those interested, Bradley indicates, contact the society via phone (410 726-8047) or email (

Another opportunity to connect with the society and support the work it does is through a membership. Members receive a newsletter and gain access to the Family History Research Library without a fee in return for membership dues ($15 for an individual and $25 for a couple). Members are located locally and nationwide.

Bradley spoke passionately about Westside Historical Society and the work it does by saying, “we’d like to preserve some feeling of what our history is and our heritage. It’s not just history, it’s heritage. We’d like children to know, not only who their great-great-grandparents were, but what did they did for a living; what is different about this area than other areas. What we really want people to have is a sense of identification with this heritage, even if they’ve just moved here.”