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.


abb said...

No napper here - as always your words are written wonderful and hold my attention.

Never heard of those Indians either...and I'm a tad older than you.

My word verification for your "leave your comment" tonight is: REDUDE.
I like that.

abb said...

That should be "written wonderfully"

Now the word verification is: WEESI

Not as good as REDUDE, but still...pretty darn good!

Unknown said...

I think your posts are magnificently interesting : ). Those sound like neat indians! Your life is full of history!

Do you think that bill ever got paid?

Val said...

fascinating history - imagine chopping a tree with a stone axe!!! we find lots of stone tools on our place and i cant imagine doing anything that major with them. I wonder why the Indians moved west ...... John Rolf??
how cool that your kids found those arrowheads.
You are a great ambassador for Mathews - i am intruiged by all your stories. Maybe one day.....

Annie said...

yes, I quite enjoyed that too...

wonder why tobacco declined by 1940..too many poeple thought it was a good place to come and live and broke up the farms?


ps I am listening to the tennis. It is tennis season again..Aust open starts soon..
They are playing the Hopman Cup in Perth at the moment. And they have opened a brand spanking new tennis centre in!

Anonymous said...

I knew there were Indians, I just never knew the name. Good history!
I'm going to go find a Mastermind game today!

Bayman said...

I would love to see the soil survey, I have noticed that parts of the county have a rich redish clay, while others like over on the island, is more of a grey muck, once you go below the topsoil. It could be in part to the meteor that struck the bay eons ago. And to answer Bear's question, I think the county was named for Thomas Mathews, who was a Revolutionary War hero, but don't quote me on that.

Mental P Mama said...

LOL You had me at commercial daffodil grower.

Meg McCormick said...

That's a daring way to manufacture a blog post, CBW! I have some local (PA) history books that I'd like to post, somehow, but haven't figured out how to differentiate them for my readers from a double-dose of Tylenol PM. Still, I think you pulled it off. Indians! Who knew! There were indians in my own valley, too, hundreds of years ago. Maybe I should start there...

My verification word is not nearly as cool as TSannie's were. It's not even a word at all. Maybe it's an acronym for something naughty.

Anonymous said...

The WHAT Indians????

Believe it or not, we used to find arrowheads in Shacklefords....along with Revolutionary War & Civil War relics. Go figure!

Did your grandfather start the Daffodil Festival?

Word Verification: "supedryo"
Translation: "Michael Phelps looks hot in a Speedo."

Anonymous said...

Answer for Bear Naked:
It's spelled MATHEWS because the county is named for General Thomas Mathews ... he sponsored the legislation in the Virginia General Assembly to make this part of Gloucester a new county in 1791.

Anonymous said...

I can not confirm about thomas mathews revolutionary status but people of mathews had to go to gloucster for everything it was all one place and thomas mathews was the man who made the decision to spilt them it was actually a free gift thus the new area was named mathews after him.

second grade student sol
blahblahblah but very glad he could spit it all out thismorning!!!

Anonymous said...

john lee was writing at the same time sorry his version is much better than my second graders:)go figue he was a teacher!!!

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Wow. As Meg so deftly figured out, I quoted from the 1962 USDA Soil Survey because I had nothing else to write about. I had no idea I'd get on here at 10:00 a. and find 14 comments!

Thanks to John Lee and the other locals who answered the question about Mathews vs. Matthews.

This soil survey is about 45 pages long and has 3 or 4 very detailed maps. In spite of the fact that it's a soil survey, there are some very interesting tidbits of history included.

In the same pile of stuff as this survey, I found a speech my grandmother gave in Richmond to some state garden club or something, and included are facts and figures from Mathews and Gloucester daffodil farms - much of the data was provided by Mr. Dinwiddie. It lists the owners of all the farms and the acreage. Mathews at one point was the largest commercial grower in the state of Virginia with over 280 acres (Gloucester had 253, and the next closest county, Northampton, had 103).

Anyway, interesting stuff, and enough blog fodder to help me through the dry spells.

Thanks to you all for commenting. I now have to get ready for a planning meeting with Big Hair Envy. We're trying to figure out how to gather up all the local bloggers as well as some of the non-local blogging members of our network here. Stay tuned.

Have a great Saturday.

Anonymous said...

I'm not napping, I'm just sittin' here humming the tune to "Old Man River" and restin' my eyelids:)

pjhammer_1965 said...

fascinating! I'd never heard of those Indians before today.

"Choto" - pronounced shoto and now, let's use it in a sentence. If you come to CBW's blog you are choto learn something.

Anonymous said...

My brain is coming to life again after your Mathews history lesson. Great post, CBW, as always.

tj said...

...No pillow hugger here! Goodness girl, if I had a nickel for everytime you kill me in laughter, well then, I'd be rich! lol...

...I'm with TSAnnie up there about never hearing of those Indians, I'll have to Google 'em. And I'm, uh hum, also with her on the "bein' a tad older than you" part too... ;o)

...Great photo CBW! Blessings... :o)

Ann Marie said...

man i love this stuff. I have my granddfathers books from where he paid the local men to work with him on the boat.. that was a fun look thru.

oh and your picture. Not New Point. It is a no wake or low water sign over Gwynn's Island most likely on the way into the hole in the wall. just saying..

Meg McCormick said...

CBW and BHE, keep me posted. I haz wheels, can travel, and would happily look for an excuse to venture to your lovely neck of the... water.