History Lives at Handsell !

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The Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance welcomes you to the 

Restore Handsell Project

It is time now for the annual Membership Renewal and Capital Campaign Support!  Please join us!

The NHPA was formed in 2005 to purchase and restore one of Dorchester County, Maryland’s most interesting and intriguing historic structures, an old ivy-covered brick building located in the middle of what is known as “the Indiantown”.  After just a little bit of research, we knew we were on to something BIG.  As the layers of the story unfolded, through research in archives, deeds, Wills and historic family letters, a better yet not fully complete story emerged of Native people, licensed Indian traders, English settlers, British attacks, merchant activity and structural devastation.  Much of the Handsell story is STILL a mystery, but it seems each day brings a little more light to this amazing, yet previously unknown saga of the Steele family’s mark on the Eastern Shore.

There is much here to learn about and see.  So please stay awhile, explore our pages and get to know us!

The “old brick house” at Chicone, known as Handsell, located in the Indiantown north of Vienna, Dorchester County, Maryland, was purchased by the Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance with a Preservation Easement from the Maryland Historic Trust.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, the site will be used to interpret the Native People’s contact period with the English, the enslaved and later African American story and the life of all those who lived at Handsell.

The "Old Brick House" now known as Handsell in 2003

The “Old Brick House” now known as Handsell in 2003

Handsell in October 2021

Thanks to to the Nathan Foundation and Preservation Maryland for funding the front door in 2020 and to the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority for funding the restored front porch in 2021.

General Info:  Information on the “Voices of Indiantown” Documentary Film


Plan to Visit us on Summer Saturdays from June 18 through August 27. Download the full schedule of special talks, walks and programs HERE.

July 2 through August 27 – Voices of Indiantown Documentary Film shown every 1/2 hour in the Handsell basement.

July 30 Summer Saturday Flyer


Nanticoke River Jamboree – October 8, 2022

NEWS about Handsell:

Enslaved Community Database – a comprehensive list of enslaved persons who are connected with the Rider-Billings-Steele families of Dorchester and 19th century owners of Handsell plantation. Download available HERE. (Last updated 3-20-2022)

Trustee Shirley Jackson was inducted into the Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame in 2020. 

Trustee Margaret Ingersoll was a recipient of the Harrison Volunteer Award 2021. The Harrison Volunteer Award has been presented by Preservation Maryland semi-annually since 1985 and is the organization’s oldest award. This award goes to individuals or organizations to recognize outstanding volunteer contributions to historic preservation in Maryland.

We are now offering Guide by Cell Audio Tours of the Handsell Historic Site to enhance the visitor’s experience.  You may also dial this number from your cell phone from anywhere to learn more about this important National Register of Historic Places listed site.

CALL  410-858-4173  for an Audio Tour of Handsell

Also in 2018, Handsell was added to Geochache!!


**October 2019  NHPA is again recognized by the Heart of Chesapeake Heritage Areas for “Organizational Excellence in Historic Preservation”.

**New Page – Handsell Before and After Photographs

A recent visitor to Handsell commented, ” The history of Handsell was very compelling. It survived all these years, standing proud and beautiful. It sat there stoically all these years, just waiting to be saved.  It is the most interesting site we visited in Dorchester County today.”  —Jeni Jasuta, Philadelphia, PA

HANDSELL HOURS:  Grounds are open to the public 7 days a week during daylight hours with Wayside Exhibits, Longhouse Living History Exhibit and Exterior Viewing of the Handsell House.  Special Group Tours by appointment, contact restorehandsell@gmail.com 

Handsell House is open for special events only:  Chicone Village Day and the Nanticoke River Jamboree and private group tours by prior request and appointment.  

 The Henry Steele family–do you know more than we do?  Please contact us with historic information about the Steeles in Dorchester County at restorehandsell@gmail.com

 Handsell History 101, the Short Version:

In 1665, Thomas Taylor was granted 700 acres of Land called “Handsell”  along the Nanticoke River in the location of Chicone Indian town.  In 1704 this land was made part of an Indian reservation by an Act of the Maryland Assembly.  In 1769 the properties were returned to the ownership of the English families who had possessed the land grants.

Handsell is one of the last remaining 18th c. brick dwelling houses in Dorchester Co.  Originally a grand,  two story Georgian home, a major event, possibly a fire at Handsell gutted much of the interior and weakened the rear exterior wall, causing a partial collapse of the structure.

After a  fire (cause undetermined), Handsell was rebuilt to the one and one-half story structure  we see today.  The interior woodwork is all original to the period of the rebuild in 1837 by John Shehee, a local farmer.

This brick dwelling house exhibits a unique façade with a protruding pavilion and Flemish bond brickwork, indicating the builder’s knowledge of contemporary design trends.

Handsell is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places!!!

 A more complete history of Handsell.

You can reach us anytime with questions by emailing: restorehandsell@gmail.com or call 410-228-7458.  Tax deductible donations by check should be made out to the NHPA in care of Miriam Zijp-Koedijk, 128 Regulator Drive North, Cambridge, Maryland 21613

15 comments on “History Lives at Handsell !

  1. Gage Thomas says:

    I was directed to you website by a piece of literature regarding the “Voices of Indiantown”. The website is very good, but I didn’t know who “NHPA” was…the first sentence immediately started talking about NHPA. It may simply be a matter of spelling out Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance in the very first sentence, followed by the initials?? It wasn’t until much later in the text that it was spelled out. I fully support the project and I think the website contains valuable information to solicit support. My comment is strictly constructive, for others who may visit the site. Best of luck in all of your efforts.

  2. Karen Shaw says:

    Yes, how can I view a copy of the, “Voices of Indiantown” documentary? I live in Dallas, TX and am willing to buy a copy. Please advise.


    Karen Shaw

  3. Michael Bourne, 24576 Langford Rd., Chestertown, MD 21620 says:

    Hi NHPA, I was waiting for the viewing of “Voices….” at the Caroline County Library and then at the last minut was unable to attend. So, I’m delighted to see that it is available to the public. I would like to order a copy. Please send an order form and I’ll fill it out ASAP. On the other hand I guess I could put a check in the mail and beat the rush.
    I’m looking forward to seeing the product of your efforts.

  4. Karen Shaw says:


    Does anyone have information or resources about the history of Petersburg, Maryland? If you know of any websites, please forward.




    My wife and I attended my family (JACKSON) reunion at the Handsell Home. I would like to thank all of the volunteers responsible for their work in preserving this historic site for all to enjoy. My wife and I would like to give a special thanks to Ms. Midge Ingersoll, Mr. Myerhoff, and the other volunteers for their efforts, wonderful knowledge, and time. This was a remarkable event.

  6. My grandfather and his parents were natives of Vienna in the 1800s. How do I get a list of the names of the slaves that were working at the Handsell House? I’m almost certain that Samuel Chase, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and signer of the Declaration of independence representing Maryland, was my ancestor, because my great grandfathers name is also Samuel Chase.

  7. I am the author of The Treasure of dead Man’s Chest. In the story, I claimed to have found a 70 page Royal Admiralty Navy transcript at the House of Lords Reading Room in London, England in 1982. In the story, the antagonist is Joshua Smoot, and one of the sea captains is named Henry Steele. I got an expectant phone call from your researcher, Margaret Ingersol with questions about those two characters. I am so sorry to inform your group that those two characters do not exist other than in my novel. I did not travel to England, there is no 70 page transcript, and most of what is contained in The treasure of Dead Man’s Chest is fiction.
    Sorry. Authors lie.

  8. teri says:

    Might you consider putting the House’s address on your website?

  9. Walda says:

    Wonderful completed part of history…thank you to all volunteers!

  10. Koketa Pinder says:

    My name is Koketa Pinder my grandfather was Bernard Pinderand my great grandmother was Mahalia G Pinder I can’t find any information about her

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