At the very end of Route 614 below Mathews Court House lies Williams Wharf, currently the home base of the Mathews crew team, the Mobjack Rowing Association, and the Mathews Land Conservancy.
I drive down here every once in a while to go walking, because the road is flat, relatively straight and none of my neighbors are there, so it's possible to walk for an hour without having to stop and talk.
Isn't that a strange problem, having to locate a place where nobody knows you so you can walk without stopping to chat? It sounds anti-social
Seriously, whenever I go walking down my lane it's one thing after another. This neighbor waves you over to his yard to catch up. That neighbor is arriving home from the grocery store and stops in the middle of the road to talk. Another neighbor's dog is on the loose. Or the census people want to know who lives in the empty house and how long it's been sitting vacant and whether the people who own it have children, hamsters or freckles. For example.
Anyway, sometimes it's best to do your exercising as far away from distractions as possible, and Williams Wharf Road is an excellent place for a walk.
It's also a peaceful spot to take photos or just relax. There is a boat launch and a pavilion overlooking the East River. Hicks Wharf is visible across the way.
According to Mathews County Panorama, A Pictorial History of Mathews County 1791 - 1941,"Mathews was an official port of entry for the registration and enrollment of all United States and foreign vessels from 1802 through 1844. Vessels over 20 tons were "registered" while those under 20 tons and engaged primarily in the coasting trade were "enrolled." During this period records in the U.S. National Archives indicate that over 10,000 vessels called at the port of "East River," many several times with some making this their permanent port.
Located at Williams Wharf, the Custom House was the center for maritime activities in Mathews County. Since all incoming and, at times, departing vessels had to see the customs agent, the wharf became a meeting place. Ship's masters, mates, crewmen seeking employment, owners, chandlers, builders, riggers, merchants and many others gathered there for the latest "intelligence." Many businesses were located at the wharf and those who did not usually had their agents at the chandlery next door to the custom house. By 1808 there was even a "taxi" (carriage service) between the wharf and the Court House."
My grandmother, who lived in Gloucester, used to talk about coming to Mathews and Williams Wharf when the steamers and floating theaters were in town. It was The Place To Be.
It still is, albeit for very different reasons including being the one spot where I can walk uninterrupted.
For more photos and information on the history of Williams Wharf, click here.