In Kent County on Maryland's upper Eastern Shore, little but the seasons changes, some residents here say.
While malls, subdivisions and high-tech industry are heralded and sought after elsewhere, Kent largely eschews them.
The county seat, Chestertown, has, in recent years, taken on a toney look. But Kent's population of 16,695, the lowest of any county in the state, is unchanged from Revolutionary War times.
The county's economic mainstay is still farming. And in racial matters, black and white Kent Countians live much as before, in tightly segregated communities.
It's a way of living that some see as planted in the past, and as encouraging many young blacks to find their futures elsewhere. A high-ranking NAACP official, discussing job opportunities and social attitudes here, likens Kent County to the Deep South.
Set on a barely perceptible rise, Olivet Hill is one of a handful of black settlements outside the largely white towns that dot the flat countryside. This settlement doesn't appear on most maps, and it is largely unknown even among civil rights leaders in Chestertown, just 16 miles away. Its nearby neighbor is the all-white town of Galena, home to 349 persons, according to the last census.
Olivet Hill has perhaps 100 residents and 22 occupied dwellings -- including five trailers -- and five vacant houses. The residents range from infants to octogenarians, their homes from ancient ramshackle frame to contemporary brick and wood.
Those who can afford wells have them. Within sight of the tall water tower that serves Galena, several families fetch water from a roadside spring, from a neighbor's home or from the filling station in town.
There is one paved dead-end road leading into the community. Looping from it is a dirt lane known as "OP 410," a designation that means it belongs to "other people" and not the county or state.
Last year, the residents petitioned the county to improve the road. As soon as the "other people" deed over part of the right of way, the county plans to lay gravel, and later, slag.
It is a peaceful little community, where rabbits, deer and fox dart across the road, and where the presence of an outsider's car is immediately noted. It takes a long time to sink roots here. Said the Rev. Cleveland Carter, 73, "Well, I don't know too much about this hill. I just come up here in '54."
But everyone in Olivet Hill knows everyone else, and most are related to each other. Many are descended from Robert D. Peaker, a freed slave whose property has been handed down through the generations.
His granddaughter Catherine Carter, at 85 Olivet Hill's oldest resident, said he also sold plots to ancestors of current residents. The names of the old families, Briscoes and Whittingtons among others, dot the headstones in a tiny, freshly mowed cemetery adjoining the Olivet Hill Methodist Church and a small frame building that once was a segregated one-room schoolhouse for blacks.
The school closed in the late 1950s when integration came to Kent County. Today, under the auspices of the Olivet Hill Community Association, about 25 younsters attend Sunday school classes there.
The little community is bordered by woods and by barley fields owned by James D. Davis III, from whose great-grandfather, Cornelius Scott, Robert D. Peaker obtained his land.
Davis, a 71-year-old Galena real estate man, said, "I buy all the land up there I can, and the colored people up there don't like it. These people up there are fairly clannish and don't like to be invaded by white people . . . . In the main, these people take care of themselves, but we've been getting along with them for a long, long time.
"There's been a real nice rapport over the years. I have a handyman works for me, 50 years old. The poor boy's almost blind. When necessary, my farm tenant goes up there for extra labor."
Said Kathleen Burton, a descendant of Robert Peaker who lives in a solid brick rambler adjoining the church, "Up in Galena, that's strictly white, and back here is a black town from the beginning." She works part time in the Chestertown library, but by and large, she said, Kent County whites won't hire blacks, even at minimum wage. "They just don't want to change," she said.
Said Robert E. Burton, her 56-year-old husband and a New York City Transit Authority employe who commutes home on weekends, "If you were black and you came here from another state looking for work, you'd starve."
For years, the men of Olivet Hill worked as field hands on the white-owned farms, and the women worked as domestics in the homes of the white people. Mechanization reduced the demand for farmhands.
"This used to be a thriving little community, but people moved away," said "Miss Katie" Carter, who spent 50 years in Baltimore and New York before moving back in 1970.
Today, Olivet Hillites are, for the most part, either older people who've retired here after years in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York or younger people who work in nearby Delaware or Cecil County, Md.
Jean Wright, for one, is a social worker in Elkton, the seat of Cecil County. The 60-year-old daughter of Catherine Carter built a modern house with a pleasant back yard deck on six acres here when she returned home after living for years in New York City, which she said had "worn me out to a frazzle." Galena, she said, had changed only "a little little bit" in her absence.
The lack of opportunity for blacks in Kent County has brought the NAACP from Baltimore to Chestertown in recent months. The civil rights organization has charged that there is racial discrimination in hiring and housing.
Thus far, the NAACP campaign has focused on the county seat. Neither James R. Spriggs, Kent County NAACP chapter president who has lived here for four years, or Emmett Burns, the NAACP regional director, had heard of Olivet Hill.
"It's a sleepy, small county that is no different from the Mississippi Delta," said Burns, a native of that state. "In fact, the topography -- rich, fertile and productive -- reminds me of the delta. It's frustrating doing civil rights over here because the whites are so nice.
"They don't curse you out, hit you over the head, call you 'nigger.' They don't do nothing. They just are what they are, and they have no intention of changing without pressure."
Said a white woman in Chestertown, an outsider who said she has adapted to the ways of her new home, "There's a kind of institutional segregation down here, but don't quote me on that. It's not a hostile situation.
"The young people here have been urged by their families to go elsewhere for work , and if they have any aspirations, they get up and leave. Many white Kent County kids also have a limited view. They perpetuate the old view of everything."