You may recall (or not) from an earlier article that smallpox possibly had a hand in the failure of the original company, The Washington & Chesapeake Beach Railway Company (W&CBRy Co). Quick refresher, this was the first company with the idea of a railway to a “seaside resort” (aka Chesapeake Beach). Well… some new and very EXCITING information has surfaced!
I’ll begin with a man named Herbert C. Speer. Mr. Speer was apparently very well-known as a teacher, principal, & superintendent of instruction for the state of Kansas from around 1860-1887.
At some point around 1888 he made a career change and became involved as a bond dealer. In 1894, he added to his resume and took over management of the W&CBRy Co., which is where we get to know him.
Here is where it gets INTERESTING:
The following story was relayed in 1895 in several Kansas newspapers. When Mr. Speer took over management of the W&CBRy Co., he invited several wealthy bankers who were to invest in this new seaside venture. They were to visit Chesapeake Beach to see for themselves its magnificence and how lovely the waterfront was. Their initial response was exactly as planned, the site was determined to be the finest place yet discovered. But as often happens, just when you think all is well, the unexpected occurred. The group was preparing to leave the beach when the plan collapsed.
One of the members of the group had brought their little pug pup on this outing. As reported by The Topeka State Journal 4/23/1895, the pug wandered too close to the water’s edge when “suddenly a big shark stuck his head out of the water, and the pug was gone.”
In another Kansas newspaper, The Advocate 4/24/1895, the reports were more colorful. Here are just a few of the quotes:
- “the painful disappearance of an aristocratic parlor pup at a prospective bathing beach defeated an alluring scheme…”
- A paraphrased quote: this “darling pug” ventured too close to the water’s edge and “the pug disappeared with one little squeak.”
- “One little yelp, a great wave in the water made by the hideous head of the sea shark, and the scheme so robust and promising withered and died.”
- “Upon investigation it was found that sharks made a specialty of patrolling in that locality.”
- And “The Eastern Shore farmer knew better than to venture too close to the water unless he was provided with a “boiler-iron armor to defeat the designs of the sharks.”
The article ends with the Chesapeake Beach seaside resort scheme quickly falling into disarray and into the hands of a receiver… all because of a darling pug pup and a shark.
Tall Tale?…. I should say so!
Now, I feel compelled to mention that this story appears to have only run in Kansas newspapers. Also, in case you haven’t already noticed the holes in this tale, I’ll point out just a few. While sharks did once frequent this area, they were prehistoric sharks, and just a wee bit before 1894, not to mention that was when the entire beach itself was under water (visit the Calvert Marine Museum to dive deeper into that story! https://www.calvertmarinemuseum.com/). ALSO, anyone who knows Chesapeake Beach, knows how shallow the water is, especially at the water’s edge… combine this with the short legs of a pug…. Well, does this make the offending shark a land shark?
I will conclude, that while I cannot say with certainty that did not happen, I can say that this precious poor parlor pug pup being eaten by a shark at the water’s edge seems a slightly tall tale. While the shark attack seems implausible, I will throw in a more plausible explanation… Chessie, the sea-monster that lives in the Chesapeake Bay.
**Research continues, however do note that the resort opened just 6 years after the “pug incident” of 1894… as far as I know, without shark OR Chessie sightings.