ISLANDS FOUND: 1608
ISLANDS FOUND: 1608
In the summer of 1608, John Smith started out to explore the Chesapeake Bay. He traveled fromCape Charles and went up the bay to the Potomac River, as far as present day Washington D. C.,and back down to Jamestown. It was actually two trips, for at one point he was very badly hurt bya stingray and had to return to Jamestown to be treated. During these two voyages, while lookingfor fresh water, Smith came across a group of islands in the middle of the bay. He named themthe "Russell Isles," for a Doctor Russel who was then on board ship with him.
This island group is today what are known as Smith's, Tangier and Watts Islands. Tangier Islandis about six miles below the Maryland-Virginia State line. At one point all the islands below thestate line were known as the "Tangier Islands" in Virginia's records. This among others includedShanks, Old Walnut Island, Piney Island, Queen's Ridge, Horse Hummock, South Point, andHog Neck, the latter three being attached to the lower part of Smith's Island in Maryland. The "s"was probably lost sometime after 1880 when erosion took its toll on these islands and theinhabitants moved to Crisfield MD, Onancock VA, or Tangier Island itself.
At that time what we now know as Tangier Island consisted of six ridges or long narrow areas ofland rising slightly above the marsh of which three are inhabited today. Main Ridge is today thecenter of town. The old church was in the same location as the present one on the northern end ofthis ridge and the land south of it was called "The Field." At one time it was planted with corn.Canton is the ridge just to the east of Main Ridge and is connected by a bridge. It was on thisridge the first settlement was made and for a while was more populated that Main Ridge. It isgenerally believed that the homes of the early fishermen were here while the other ridges wereused for farming. West Ridge is about a mile long. In recent times a sea wall was erected and ithas a small airport or airpark on it.
Oyster Creek Ridge or what remains of this has long been abandoned. Joshua Thomas' son, Johnran the first store on the island here. Canaan or "The Up'ards" is about a mile and a half abovethe others and although at one time it was connected to Main Ridge by a roadway it becameunreachable by land around 1923 and has not been inhabited since 1928. East Point Ridge was avery small ridge to the northeast of Canton. It was abandoned in approximately 1905, shortlyafter the houses on it burned. PATENTS
In 1670 Ambrose White received a patent for 400 acres called an Island in the Chesapeake Bay.the next year White assigned his patent to Charles and John West. In 1673 William Walton wasgranted 400 acres on the western island which was formerly patented by White. There is a similarentry in the patent book three years later but Scarburgh and West were the recipients instead ofWalton and in 1678 a formal patent was issued to both of them. Charles Scarburgh left hisinterest to his wife Elizabeth in 1702 and John West's interest went to his eldest son a year later.In 1713 two patents were granted to Elizabeth Scarburgh and Anthony West for Tangier islands.One was for 900 acres which included the original 400 acres and 500 acres more found within itsbounds. The other grant was for 170 acres of new land south of Tangier called "Sandy BeachIsland" which was probably the hook shaped part that is now attached to the main of the island.This was the first time Tangier Islands was named in the records. Although Elizabeth Scarburghleft her interest to her daughters, somehow the title went to her oldest son, Bennett. It then passedto Henry Scarburgh and then to a Charles Scarburgh. In 1762 Charles Scarburgh confirmed anundeeded sale of his half to Colonel Thomas Hall. The next year Hall sold this to WilliamAndrews as 475 acres. A CROCKETT TRADITION
A CROCKETT TRADITION
Tradition has it that Tangier was first settled by a John Crockett and his eight sons in 1686, whohad come to the island to tend cattle, but nothing has been found to verify this. The first Crockettof record on Tangier was Joseph, the son of Sampson and the grandson of John Tyler of Smith'sIsland MD. It was this Joseph who bought 475 acres of the Andrews land in 1778. It does notseem likely that Joseph tended cattle at all for he was left a inheritance by his grandfather JohnTyler, was bound to his uncle Thomas Tyler to be a weaver and learn his numbers, lived onSmith's Island MD with his uncle until about 1744, was mad constable of "Tangier Islands" in1763 and was given all of "South Point" by John Fish in his will of 4 April 1765. It was notlikely that a man of some means would be tending cattle. By 1799 the West part of the patent haddescended down to a John West who in this year left his interest to his son Anthony, who was tocomplete an unrecorded deed for 100 acres to Joseph's son John and the remainder was to besold. Joshua Thomas, who was raised on Smith's Island, living with his cousin David Tyler thereand had married Rachel Evans, the daughter of Richard, bought 75 acres of it. POPULATION 1800: 79 SOULS. POPULATION 1880: 589 SOULS.
POPULATION 1800: 79 SOULS. POPULATION 1880: 589 SOULS.
The 1800 census of Accomack County showed that there were 79 people on the "TangierIslands," most of which were Crocketts or descendants of Crocketts. Farming was their chiefoccupation. By 1880 the population was 589 and by 1900 there were 1064 inhabitants. Thepopulation increased slowly between 1800 and 1850, and then rapidly until 1900.
In 1805 an event happened that had a great impact on the life on Tangier, the Chesapeake Bayand Joshua Thomas in general. The number of Methodist followers had been growing since theclose of the Revolutionary War and Joshua Thomas was hired to carry some people to aMethodist camp meeting on Pungoteague Creek. While there, he heard Lorenzo Dow, a verypowerful preacher speak and he along with others were converted. On arriving home he arrangedfor a meeting to be called. And, so, the Methodist Church was established on Tangier. The smallMethodist society, led by Thomas until he moved to Deal's Island MD met in homes until 1835when the first church was built. A list of members in 1825 includes: Henry Crockett and SallyCrockett, Priscilla Crockett, a widow, Zachariah and Polly Crockett, Daniel and Esther Dise,Rhoda Parks, Babel and Nancy Paul, George and Leah Pruitt, John and Elizabeth Thomas, andJohn and Anna Thomas. The church grew and prospered and in 1856 the first Sunday school wasestablished by Henry Crockett and Kathryn Sturgis; children and adults alike attended.
The War of 1812 did not have much effect on Tangier Island until 1813 when the Britishextended their excursions up the Chesapeake Bay. By March of that year the British had traveledup the Bay for about 180 miles. Shortly after, they arrived on Tangier Island. They had set up anumber of water wells on the beach and built several houses. They threw up breastworks andmounted a cannon on the south end of the island adjacent to Joshua Thomas' camp meetinggrove and also had plans to erect a hospital when summer came. At one point, about 1200 Britishsoldiers must have been on the island. In Summer of 1813, the British disembarked for theirattack on Baltimore from Tangier Island. The commanding officer asked Joshua Thomas to speakbefore they left--and his sermon warned of defeat.
Four epidemics have been wrought on Tangier. First, in 1866, came Asian cholera. Along withthis epidemic came a religious revival with repenting and praying when the people started to die.Bodies were quickly buried, many of them in their front yard and without stones, for there wereas many as five adults dying at a time. Both the Death Records of Accomack County and thedates on the graves with stones show that the island was hardest hit in the month of October. Inthe early 1870s, there were both tuberculosis and a measles epidemic, and in the 1880s there wassmallpox.
Besides sickness, the weather can be and was harsh at times. Many tropical storms andhurricanes hit the island. One such storm in 1821 "The September Gust" swept over the islandleaving great destruction. The winters can also be especially hard. Almost once a year the Bayfreezes, making travel to the mainland impossible for a few days. At least once a century, thefreeze was so great that people walked on the ice to get supplies. Today supplies are flown in. WATER HARVESTING
With the advent of the seafood market in the 1840s the Chesapeake Bay became busy withsailing ships that carried oysters and later crabs to major cities such as Baltimore and New York.The people gradually stopped harvesting the land and harvested the waters. With the coming ofthe railroad to Crisfield MD, their water crop could be shipped farther and oystering and crabbingbecame their main livelihood. Tangier Island today is a mixture of old and new. The people stillfollow the water along with Smith's Island MD and other bayside communities supply a greatamount of the nation's seafood. The majority of the people still follow the Methodist Religionthat Joshua Thomas brought to the Island in 1805. And, today, as in 1800, the population ismainly Crocketts and descendants of Crocketts.Page updated February 10, 2004 (wls)
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