Monday, October 25, 2010

Williams Wharf

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 because it is but otherwise I wouldn't be exercising I'd be talking.

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.


Kay L. Davies said...

What a wonderful place it must be -- for all of the reasons you mentioned. Historically it is fabulous, and just imagine the crowds there must have been when it was a bustling entry port! You couldn't have gone walking there without meeting hundreds of strangers instead of a handshaking handful of friends. What a very attractive part of North America you live in, CBW. You need never be lonely, but you can be alone when you want solitude. Perfect!!
-- Kay, Alberta

BayBrowder said...

I run on Williams Wharf Road almost every day...starting and finishing at Williams Wharf Landing. CBW....after reading your blog, I'll know not to stop and talk if we pass. Is it OK if I wave and shout...."Hi, have a great day"?
Williams Wharf Landing is a wonderful, historic place in a beautiful setting on the East River. It is terrific that the Mathews Land Conservancy has developed it as a place for public access forever.
Approximately 200 people were at the Landing last Saturday for the 3rd Annual Bobby Stewart Memorial Distance Run/Walk.
The 3rd Annual Pet Castle Distance Run and Pet Walk to benefit homeless animals and the Land Conservancy will be at Williams Wharf Landing on Saturday, April 9th next spring. Local folks, please mark your calendar.

deborah said...

Very interesting history! Imagining a bustling wharf with intriguing people..great pictures. I'm so glad you've found a peaceful place to walk and unwind!

AverettLadyNana said...

Mercy, my grandfather, father, mother would never recognize it! I have fond memories growing up down there. Playing in skiff, climbing oyster piles, waiting for the boats to bring in the oysters, watching the trucks loaded with cans of oysters, watching the shuckers shucking the oysters, watching the oysters being put in cans and cans sealed, watching the trucks loaded with cans of oysters to be taken from there to the Mississippi River, and all points north and south. Playing in the office. And playing with the many cats who took up residence there. Especially Christmas when I'd get in the station wagon with my grandmother and great-aunt and we'd deliver gifts of gallons, quarts, pints of oysters to family and friends...

Anonymous said...

I rode down to Williams Wharf over the summer to check it out. I had not been down there in years. It is quite a nice setup for the crew team...beautiful too. My grandmother used to tell me about the steamers coming in there years ago. About the walking, I have the same problem in my neighborhood too. It's hard to get that old heart rate up when you have to stop every few minutes! I try to go in the evenings right before dark so most of them are in for the night!

Trisha said...

You have such interesting places round you! Thank you for sharing apart of your world with all of us.

Meg @ Soup Is Not A Finger Food said...

I love the vibrant colors of the mural!

Same thing happens in my neighborhood - always someone wanting to stop and talk and, often, hand you a beer. Seriously.

Daryl said...

Ah what a nice thing, a place to walk alone and think. Here in order to do that you have to put earbuds in and tune in a station or CD that lets you think ...

Mental P Mama said...

I wanna come down for that Pet Run/Walk in April! Love that building;)

Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

the place to be...I like that!

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Kay-It is a great mix of both worlds here - very easy to seek out people when you need/want company and just as easy to be alone, just not in your own neighborhood some days. You should take a trip to visit sometime, you'd love it.

BayBrowder- If I pass you on W.Wharf Road I'll definitely stop and talk, as long as we can keep walking while we're chatting. (I'm sure I couldn't keep up with your running, though, so you might want to just wave so I don't slow you down.)

deborah-The pictures from back then are incredible. Once I figure out how to use my scanner I might be able to post some. (p.s. This really means my son needs to find time to show me how to use the scanner.)

AverettLadyNana-What a fabulous, priceless contribution. Thank you! Come back again tomorrow where I'll be asking questions about Hicks Wharf. If you have stories, please let me know.

Trinia-Believe it or not evening time, just before the sun goes down, is when it's the most difficult to walk around here. If I don't go first thing in the morning (and I don't, I do need to sleep some) then all chances are shot - so I have to go somewhere else, such as Williamsburg (where I work) or here at Williams Wharf. It's crazy.

Trisha - Thank you!

Meg-That's really funny.

Daryl-But at least you don't have people flagging you down to talk. You're sort of anonymous. There's no such thing as anonymity in Mathews except on Halloween, which may well explain my fondness for the holiday.

MPM-come on down!You can walk Buddy if Dora can't make the trip. I'd suggest Gustav, but we don't want to traumatize the county. Or you.

NNG-It was indeed The Place.

Thanks to all of you for reading and commenting.

foolery said...

Meg, that is NOT a problem.

I love to walk around here sometimes, but it sets off every dog in the neighborhood, so early mornings are out. Also? We're talking about ME, so early mornings were already out.

What a beautiful place you live in.