Saturday, January 3, 2009
Facts and Figures
I wish I could say with some degree of certainty where I took this, but I can't. If I absolutely had to provide an answer, I'd say there's a good chance it was down New Point, but I don't really know for sure. That's what I am good at - approximate guesses but never any solid facts or details. That's what books are for, and thankfully I have some that talk about Mathews County.
Yesterday we had lunch next door at my parents' house, which used to be my paternal grandparents' house. Much of my grandparents' stuff, including papers, letters, books, clothes, toiletries, and eyeglasses are still there, and I had a field day rummaging through an old desk. I am not kidding when I tell you there was an unopened bill from the now-defunct Richardson's Drug Store. Seriously.
One of the books I discovered was a 1962 USDA Soil Survey of Mathews County, that my grandfather likely had because he was a commercial grower of daffodils in his retirement.
I will periodically be quoting some facts from this soil survey, because it is fascinating to me, which means it will probably be sleep-inducing to you, but at least you'll know this is not Chesapeake Bay Woman's feeble guesswork, or her distortion of the facts. I'll save that for the other six days in the week.
Here's some information on the agricultural history of Mathews. Go ahead and lay your head down, I'll wake you up when it's over.
"The Chiskiake* Indians grew maize (corn) and tobacco in this area before the first settlers arrived. They cut trees with stone axes and tilled the soil with tools made of stones and bones. In about 1657 the Indians left the area and moved westward.
In 1612 colonist John Rolfe discovered that tobacco grew well in this part of Virginia. This crop spread rapidly, and in 1619 it was the chief export to England. Exports of tobacco increased from 60,000 pounds in 1628 to 1,500,000 pounds in 1639.** Tobacco dominated trade in the bay area and became the medium of exchange. There was a tobacco warehouse on the East River.
...By 1940 most people in the county derived their income from the sale of seafood. A typical family had a small farm and practiced subsistence farming. Vegetables were grown and livestock was raised for home use; in addition, fish, oysters and crabs were obtained from the water. At present the chief source of income is still seafood, but subsistence farming is largely a thing of the past.*** Some residents work for the government or the shipbuilding industry and commute to York County and Newport News."
Chesapeake Bay Woman's Notes:
*I am almost 44 years old, and this is the first time I've ever heard of the Chiskiake Indians. Or, at one point I did know about them and the memory is completely gone. You decide. Also, my kids have found Indian arrowheads down along the shoreline. It's mind-boggling to know these things are multiple centuries old, yet comforting to know there is something around here older than what's currently growing in my icebox.
**As of this sentence, we have officially exceeded the recommended and allowable numbers or math-like references in a CBW post. Any additional numbers will cause circuitry overload and a deer-in-the-headlights gaze.
***It pains me to state that the seafood industry seems to be headed the way of subsistence farming but by golly we still make that commute over the Coleman Bridge into York County, Williamsburg or Newport News. I wish that were a thing of the past.
Nap time is now over. Please proceed to something more interesting, such as a root canal, but just promise to come back.