Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Chincoteague - Enchanted Island in the Ocean of Time

By Tiffany Amber Stockton

This month, it's time for a little background of unique facts about this little island called Chincoteague, just off the Eastern Shore of Virginia and to the east of the Delmarva Peninsula.


The history of human activity in Chincoteague, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, begins with the Native Americans. Settlers from Europe swooped in and overtook the land in the late 17th century, but until then, the Chincoteague Indians used it as a place to gather shellfish. They aren't known to have lived there, though, as the island lacked suitable soil for their agriculture. Marshland isn't usually great for growing much of anything except reeds.

Picturesque view of Chincoteague away from the populated
portion of the island (looking toward Assateague)
Once the European settlers inhabited the island, there was a series of disputes over who would own the island which led to patents being issued and a final resolution of an even split between two gentleman. Once ownership of the island was settled, it was used mostly as a place to house livestock, since they could feed off the marsh grasses and there was no need for fences or other enclosures to prevent the animals from straying. How far could the animals go when they're on an island surrounded by water? (grins)

This was what led to the origin of the ponies on Assateague, though there are legends reported of a Spanish shipwreck which left the ponies as cargo to swim to the nearest island. Historians believe the legend of the shipwreck simply became entwined with the history of the ponies until it was accepted as "truth." Funny how history does that from time to time. Makes me wonder just how much of unrecorded history is truly fact or merely embellished truths spoken from generation to generation until the truth and the embellishment can no longer be separated. Have you ever come across details like this?

Anyway, back to Chincoteague.

Stanley Jester (a distant cousin) harvests oysters by hand at low
tide in his oyster bed in the shallows of Chincoteague Bay
For the next hundred years or so, the island remained a place to house livestock for owners living on the mainland of Virginia. Then, following the Revolutionary War, residents realized the potential of business and industry through the abundance of shellfish in the area. This industry became so big, shipments went as far north as New England to the cities steadily growing there, and as I mentioned last month, my grandfather's family lived here. It was shellfish being provided to the White House under President Woodrow Wilson which led to my great-grandfather's cousin marrying the president while he was in office, leaving me with a family connection to "American royalty."

Throughout these years of shellfish and seafood industry, Chincoteague thrived. In 1876, a rail line completed a stop just 5 miles from the island with a steamship completing the distance. This gave oystermen an efficient means of getting their shellfish to market and began the wave of tourists escaping the city heat in the summer. Tourism hasn't slowed since.


* If you had an island similar to Chincoteague just a short swim across a narrow channel from where you lived, what would you do with it?

* Are you a fan of shellfish or seafood? What's your favorite?

* What recounting of an event do you know where the real truth has been fused with legend or unrecorded history? How much is true and what is legend?

Leave answers to these questions or any comments on the post below. Next month, I'll expand on the history of Pony Penning Day. Though the official celebrations are only 90 years old, you might be surprised as just how far back they go! Come back on the 9th of March to find out more.


Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having a very active imagination and cited with talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those childhood skills to become an award-winning author and speaker who has partnered with Nerium International in the anti-aging and personal development industry, helping others become their best from the inside out.

She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have one girl and one boy, a Retriever mix named Roxie, an Australian cattle dog named Timber, and two Betta fish. She has sold twenty (20) books so far and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and LinkedIn.

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