Updated: Oct 10, 2021
Calvert County history devotees gathered at Jefferson Patterson Park recently saw up close why Carol McCabe Booker is winning praise for her new book, Cove Point on the Chesapeake — The Beacon, the Bay and the Dream.
Booker, featured speaker at the Calvert County Historical Society’s annual membership dinner, told of larger-than-life Cove Point characters over the years, including a Russian princess.
“It’s a story within a story,” said Booker, a veteran journalist and long-time Cove Point fixture, describing the young woman from aristocracy who fled from the Bolshevik Revolution.
The book, released last week, tells stories of exploration, heroism and scandals in a tiny waterfront community with a notable history, including a riptide referred to as “the devil’s grasp.”
Booker signed books for many of the 82 people gathered at the park pavilion on Sept. 23 for the Historical Society annual gathering. Several said afterward that they took particular delight in stories she told of Cove Point characters, among them Joseph Cook Webster.
Webster, who arrived from the Eastern Shore early in life to a store job, became a state senator, a wildly successful businessman with 4,000 acres of land, and a promoter of renown.
Preparing to sell lots at Cove Point in the 1930, he pronounced his venture “the biggest success in all of Washington beach history,” as Booker related the story.
“It’s what you call puffery,” she said. “He said in an ad that ‘everybody calls it the Atlantic City of the South’.
“Well, excuse me,” Booker exclaimed, generating laughter from the audience.
Natalie Scheffer — aka Princess Wolkonsky — was among those drawn to Cove Point from Washington, where she and others from Russian royalty had landed. She was a well-educated iconographer who married, and divorced, one of the most powerful men in Russia, Nicholas Wolkonsky, top adviser to the tsar.
Her sons and other Russian emigres joined her in her adopted Chesapeake Bay community, where Scheffer oversaw the building of a chapel for practicing their Russian Orthodox faith, Booker writes in her book.
“It was okay, but something was still missing” — the appropriate atmosphere inside the room, Booker told the audience.
“So she got up one morning and she went out to the chapel, where a ladder still stood. And she painted the most incredible icons on the walls,” Booker said.
Booker noted that the chapel sits near Deale in a collection of historic buildings at Herrington Harbour North Marina.