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Islanders and Watermen of the Chesapeake Bay: A Bibliography of Printed and Online Resources

This is a bibliography of water-related customs and occupations on the Chesapeake Bay of the eastern United States, especially in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. "Watermen" is the word used in the Chesapeake region for commercial fishermen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all locations mentioned are in Maryland. More information on recently printed books, including previews, may be available through Google Books and online booksellers. Some of the older books that are available through Google Books may also be available at the Internet Archive.

This site serves a partial bibliography for Waterman, a historical speculative fiction series inspired partly by the Chesapeake Bay oyster wars. For other bibliographies in this series, please see the main index of the Turn-of-the-Century Toughs Bibliographies.

Updated May 2015 with a minor correction.

Sections below:

General Studies

Architecture (Domestic) Boats Environment Lighthouses Anne Arundel County Calvert County Dorchester County Kent County Prince George's County Somerset County Talbot County Accomack County, Virginia

General Studies

See: General Social History: Maryland for historical maps, photographs, and documents.


Barrie, Robert, and George Barrie, Jr. Cruises, Mainly in the Bay of the Chesapeake (1909; 2000 edition). Edited by Craig O'Donnell. A pleasure sailor describes his travels along the Chesapeake. Part of Mr. O'Donnell's Fassitt Information site, with much historical information about the Chesapeake.

Brooks, William K. The Oyster: A Popular Summary of a Scientific Study (second edition, 1905). Available through Google Books. Contents: The Possibilities of Oyster Culture; The Anatomy of the Oyster; The Development of the Oyster; The Artificial Cultivation of the Oyster; A Talk About Oysters; The Remedy; The Cause of the Decline of Our Oyster Industry, and the Protection of our Natural Beds.

Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of Fisheries. Statistics of the Fisheries of the Middle Atlantic States for 1904 (1907). Available through Google Books. Includes a section on the fisheries of Maryland.

Ingersoll, Ernest. The Oyster-Industry (1881). Volume X in The History and Present Condition of the Fishery Industries, by G. Brown Goode. Available through Google Books. Prepared for the U.S. Department of the Interior, this massive survey of the oyster industry includes a detailed report by R. H. Edmonds on the Maryland industry, as well as a report on Virginia.

Maryland Directory (1878), published by J. Frank Lewis & Co. of Baltimore. "Being a descriptive compilation of the counties, towns, villages, and post offices and names of merchants, manufacturers, professional men, farmers, tobacco planters, peach growers, mechanics, churches and pastors; also price and quality of farming and other lands, and amount produced per acre; mountain, valley, and river scenery; suitable points for emigrants and others to locate; mills and mill owners; country merchants, and general stores; state, federal, judicial, municipal, town and county officers; hotels and summer resorts; shipping, express, postal and freight routes, taxable property and rates of taxation; newspapers, banks, bankers, benevolent societies, colleges, schools, and other new and valuable information never before published." Posted at Jeffrey Weaver's New River Notes site.

The Master, Mate and Pilot 1 (1908-1909). Available through Google Books. This official publication of the American Association of Masters, Mates and Pilots includes legislation, news, gossip, fiction, poetry, patents, advertisements, and jokes. See especially the Chesapeake references in "Light-house Board Information" (pages 27-28), "Baltimore Custom House" (pages 94-96), "Notice to Mariners" (page 264), "Obituary Notes" (page 478), and all mentions of Harbor No. 14 ("Rescue Harbor"), the Chesapeake chapter of the Association.

The National Geographic Magazine 24 (1913). Available through Google Books. Three articles that year touched briefly on the Chesapeake Bay: "Beacons of the Sea: Lighting the Coasts of the United States," by George R. Putnam, Commissioner of Lighthouses (pages 1-53); "Oysters: The World's Most Valuable Crop," by Hugh M. Smith, U.S. Deputy Commissioner of Fisheries (pages 257-281); and "Saving the Ducks and Geese," by Wells W. Cooke, Biological Survey, U.S. Department of Agriculture (pages 361-380).

United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries. Report of the Bureau of Fisheries 1904 (1905). Available through Google Books. Includes a report on the crab industry of Maryland by Winthrop A. Roberts.

United States Department of Commerce, United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. United States Coast Pilot: Atlantic Coast. Section C: Sandy Hook to Cape Henry, Including Delaware and Chesapeake Bays (1916). Available through Google Books. Gives detailed information on landmarks used to boat through those regions.

HISTORICAL STUDIES: Photography and Art

The Mariners' Museum: Image Collections. From the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia. Includes photographs of Chesapeake watermen.


Chesapeake Bay: Our History and Our Future. An online exhibit from the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia.

Chowning, Larry S. Chesapeake Legacy: Tools and Traditions (1995). Draws upon interviews with older Chesapeake residents to describe various aspects of Chesapeake life.

Cronin, William B. The Disappearing Islands of the Chesapeake (2005). "This book endeavors to document the losses to erosion that the islands of the Chesapeake have suffered over time." This illustrated book summarized the histories of each of the islands.

Maryland Magazine, assorted articles from 1976 to 1994. Illustrated articles on various aspects of Maryland in historical and modern times. Includes period photography and art.

Maryland State Highway Administration, Office of Environmental Design. Maryland Scenic Byways (no date). A more recent edition is available online in PDF format. A nicely detailed guidebook with much historical information. The volume is edited by Ann Jensen. Unfortunately, it lacks an index, but it includes photographs and many maps.

Mountford, Kent. "No matter what shells are fired in oyster wars, the resource always loses," Chesapeake Bay Journal (March 2003). Has a passage in which the author tries to determine what type of guns one of the Oyster Navy ships used.

Mountford, Kent. "Oh say can you see? Poring through the cloudy history of Bay's visibility," Chesapeake Bay Journal (November 2007). Explores how far one could see across the Chesapeake region in various eras.

Wennersten, John R. The Oyster Wars of Chesapeake Bay (1981). Describes the battle in the nineteenth and early twentieth century between the dredgers and tongers of Maryland and Virginia.


Bodine, A. Aubrey. Bodine's Chesapeake Bay Country (second edition, 2006). Edited by Jennifer B. Bodine. Captioned mid-twentieth-century photos by one of Maryland's most noted photographers.

Whitehead, John Hurt, III. The Watermen of the Chesapeake Bay (1979). Photographs interspersed with quotations from watermen.


Buckley, Michael. Voices of the Chesapeake Bay. With photographs by David W. Harp. Interviews with Chesapeake folk. Contents: Bay Beginnings, Native People of the Chesapeake Bay, Historic Chesapeake, Chesapeake Bay Ecosystems, Watermen, Boats, Chesapeake Families, Gone Fishin', Farming, Kayaks and Powerboats, Professional Sailboat Racing, Activists, Leaders. See also the Website Voices of the Chesapeake Bay, with MP3 interviews.

Leggett, Vincent O. The Chesapeake Bay Through Ebony Eyes (1999). An unfortunately brief and lightweight account of black culture in the Chesapeake, illustrated with photographs.

Meyer, Eugene L. Chesapeake Country (1990). With photographs by Lucian Niemeyer. Includes a chapter on watermen.

Okonowicz, Ed. Disappearing Delmarva: Portraits of the Peninsula People (1997). Interviews with people from Delaware and the Eastern Shores of Maryland and Virginia who hold occupations that are vanishing. Includes water-related occupations and historical information.

Tidewater Times. A periodical from Maryland's Eastern Shore that often carries articles related to the Chesapeake.

Warner, William W. Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay (1976). Winner of a Pulitzer Prize, this book includes historical information and some discussion of oystering.

Wennersten, John R. Maryland's Eastern Shore: A Journey in Time and Place (1992). Includes historical information. The sections on islanders and watermen discuss romanticization by the media.


The following locations were visited by the author while doing research for Waterman.

Anne Arundel County:


Calvert County:

Calvert Cliffs State Park (at Lusby).

Dorchester County:

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex (at Bishops Head Point).
Hoopers Island.

Kent County:

Rock Hall.

Prince George's County:


Talbot County:

St. Michaels.
Tilghman Island.

See also the museums and parks listed in the county sections below.

Architecture (Domestic)


Foster, Gerald L. American Houses: A Field Guide to the Architecture of the Home (2004). Partial preview available through Google Books. Includes a section entitled, "The Chesapeake Bay Tidewater Heart," which provides much information on the development of the five-part plan of architecture in the Chesapeake region.

See also related entries in Anne Arundel County, Calvert County, and Prince George's County.



Burgess, Robert H. Chesapeake Sailing Craft, Part I (1975). Illustrated with many photographs by the author.

Holly, David C. Tidewater by Steamboat: A Saga of the Chesapeake: The Weems Line of the Patuxent, Potomac, and Rappahannock (1991). Includes illustrations.

Schroath, Jody Argo. "Tales of the Lost Ark." Chesapeake Bay Magazine (August 2008). "In the waning days of the Age of Sail, many watermen were true nomads, building their own floating homes and following fisheries around the Bay."

Tilp, Frederick. The Chesapeake Bay of Yore: Mainly about the Rowing and Sailing Craft (1982). With illustrations. A remarkably detailed account of the Bay's past by a man who began sailing on the Chesapeake in 1930. The book includes his own memories. Contents: A Way of Life, Rowing and Sailing Craft [with detailed descriptions of each vessel], The Great Forest, Shipbuiliding, Maritime Artisans, Negro Americans, The Glorious Oyster, The Canning Industry, Riverside Stores, Underwater Archaeology, Maritime Vignettes, Folklore, Marine Police, Molasses and Rum, Museums, Henry Hall Report, Shipyard Sites, Shipbuilding Woods, Wharves, More Bay Craft, Glossary, Bibliography.


Bugeye: A Chesapeake Legacy (2009). Description. Part of the Outdoors Maryland series produced by Maryland Public Television. Describes how two men built the first bugeye to be sailed on the Chesapeake for many decades. Includes historical information.



Shreve, Forrest, et al. The Plant Life of Maryland (1910). Includes information on the weather. Google Books edition and Internet Archive edition.


Horton, Tom. Bay Country (1987). Illustrated by Charles R. Hazard. Essays about various aspects of the Chesapeake environment, including islanders and watermen.

Lippson, Alice Jane, and Robert L. Lippson. Life in the Chesapeake Bay (third edition, 2006). "An Illustrated Guide to the Fishes, Invertebrates, Plants, Birds, and Other Inhabitants of the Bays and Inlets from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras." Contents: Ecology of the Chesapeake Bay; Sand Beaches; Intertidal Flats; Piers, Rocks, and Jetties; Shallow Waters; Seagrass Meadows and Weed Beds; Wetlands; Oyster Bars; Deeper, Open Waters.

MODERN STUDIES: Writings and Photography

Plant, Ian S., and Tom Horton. Chesapeake Bay of Light: An Exploration of the Chesapeake Bay's Wild and Forgotten Places (2007). Pairs photographs with essays.

See also the books by Tom Horton that are listed below, in the entries for individual counties.



Nichols, F. "Our Coast Lights." The Rudder 24, No. 2 (August 1910), pages 49-56. Available through Google Books. The article includes a summary of the duties of the average lightkeeper. Although the author does not focus on the Chesapeake, the article shows a photo of the screwpile version of Thimble Shoal Lighthouse, which was destroyed the previous year.

Talbot, Frederick A. Lightships and Lighthouses (1913). Includes an index. A general book on the construction of lighthouses, with brief references to Chesapeake lighthouses. The final chapter is on the keepers' duties.

United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of Lighthouses. The United States Lighthouse Service 1915 (1916). Aimed at the general public, this short book includes minor references to Chesapeake Bay lighthouses. Contents: Duties and organization, Jurisdiction, Cooperation, District limits and offices, Aids to navigation, History and growth of the Lighthouse Service, Development of lighthouse work in Alaska, Types of construction of lighthouses, Lighting apparatus and illuminants, Distinctiveness and characteristics of lights, Visibility and candlepower of lights, Fog signals, Buoys, River lighting, Lighthouse depots, Light vessels, Lighthouse tenders, Personnel and civil-service systems, Light keepers' quarters, Saving of life and property, Lighting of bridges, Private aids to navigation , Laws for protection of aids, Publications, Engineering and fiscal matters, Exhibits of the Lighthouse Service, Past and present officers of the Service.


DeWie, Elinor. Lighthouses of the Mid-Atlantic Coast: Your Guide to the Lighthouses of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia (2002). With photographs by Paul Eric Johnson. Proceeds in a chronological fashion, with an appendix briefly summarizing the individual lighthouses.

Holland, F. Ross. Maryland Lighthouses of the Chesapeake Bay (1997). The outstanding feature of this illustrated volume is the period layouts and cross-sections for individual lighthouses.

Lighthouse Digest. Includes a bit of historical information on Chesapeake lighthouses, available via the search engine.

The Lighthouse Directory: Maryland Lighthouses. Includes links to other Websites with historical information about Maryland lighthouses.

Lighthouse Friends. Descriptions of lighthouses, with much historical information.

Trapani, Bob, Jr. Lighthouses of Maryland and Virginia: History, Mystery, Legends and Lore (2006). Anecdotes and timelines for each lighthouse.

Turbyville, Linda. Bay Beacons: Lighthouses of the Chesapeake Bay (1995). This illustrated volume has chapters for each of the lighthouses in Maryland and Virginia.

U.S. Coast Guard Historic: Lighthouses, Lightships, Tenders & Other Aids to Navigation Subjects. Includes historical documents.

Vojtech, Pat. Lighting the Bay: Tales of Chesapeake Lighthouses (1996). Includes photographs by the author. The book is divided themantically and is filled with anecdotes about life in the lighthouses. An appendix briefly summarizes the individual lighthouses.


The following lighthouses and lighthouse museums were visited by the author while doing research for Waterman.

Anne Arundel County:

The Barge House. A converted houseboat, on the grounds of the Annapolis Maritime Museum, that has exhibits on the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse, the last remaining screwpile lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay that is in its original position. Boat trips to the lighthouse are available.

Calvert County:

Drum Point Lighthouse. Now located at the Calvert Marine Museum, Solomons.

Dorchester County:

Hooper Strait Lighthouse. Now located at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels (Talbot County).

Anne Arundel County


Miliken, Peter, and Conor O'Neill. McNasby's Oyster Company: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Oystermen of the Chesapeake Bay. Prepared by middle school students, this documentary examines the history of an oyster packing business in Annapolis.


Anderson, Elizabeth B. Annapolis: A Walk Through History. Information on every historic house in the central part of the city, no matter how minor.


Annapolis Maritime Museum. A small number of exhibits in the building once used by McNasby's Oyster company.

William Paca House and Gardens, Annapolis. One of many Colonial homes in the city, this five-part Georgian mansion was built between 1763 and 1765. It includes a reconstructed garden.

Calvert County


Reid, Mayne. The Fatal Cord: and, The Falcon Rover (1872). Available through Google Books. The Falcon Rover, set in 1817, is a sailing novel that is placed in Calvert County. Detailed descriptions are given of the landscape and of Eltonhead Manor House, an abandoned Colonial home near Cove Point.


Sioussat, Annie Leakin. Old Manors in the County of Maryland: On the Patuxent (1913). Describes the history of Colonial manors in Calvert and nearby counties, as well as what the manors looked like in the 1910s.


Gray, Carter T. Calvert County (2000). Arcadia Publishing's Postcard History Series. Contents: North Beach, Chesapeake Beach, Prince Frederick, Solomons Island, Other Towns.


Dodds, Richard J. Solomons Island and Vicinity: An Illustrated History and Walking Tour (1995). Provides detailed descriptions of many houses and businesses, including ones that no longer exist.

Mountford, Kent. "Mariners's Safe Harbor Now Threatened by Ships," Chesapeake Bay Journal (November 2001). Traces the history of Cove Point and the nearby shoreline and manors, from the seventeenth century to modern times.

Mountford, Kent. "Sound of silence practically unheard of in the modern Chesapeake," Chesapeake Bay Journal (October 2008). Discusses the change in sound level on the Bay, especially in Calvert County.

Mountford, Kent. "Longtime Chesapeake Bay oyster grower crosses the bar," Chesapeake Bay Journal (March 2009). Article about a man who was born on Solomons Island in 1907 and whose father was born on Barren Island in 1870.

Mountford, Kent. "Chesapeake's mom-and-pop stores left in the dust of new highways," Chesapeake Bay Journal (April 2009). Traces the history of stores in Calvert County.


Calvert Cliffs State Park, Lusby. A pleasant two-mile hike leads through marshland to a fossil-strewn beach.

Calvert Maritime Museum, Solomons. A moderate-sized museum with displays on marine life, watermen's lives, and water transport. Includes the Drum Point Lighthouse.

Dorchester County


Foley, A. M., and Gloria Johnson-Mansfield. Dorchester County (2002). Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series.

Hedberg, Jacqueline Simmons. Hoopers Island (2007). Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series. Contents: Water Everywhere, Fine Old Houses and Early Families, Working on the Land and the Sea, Churches and Historic Graveyards, Getting an Education, Life Along the County Road, Leisure Pastimes, The War Effort, Special Islanders.


Foley, A.M., and Freddie T. Waller. Elliott's Island: The Land That Time Forgot. Drawing upon period photographs and islanders' recollections, the authors describe life in one of the most isolated communities in Dorchester County. Contents: Prologue; The Island: The Beginning; Out of the Mainstream [the island's isolation]; Abide with Me [religion]; "Golden Rule Days" [education]; Stores; "In Our time but not of It" [politics, postal service, justice, telephone, electricity]; Ships, Sloops and Shallops; Boatbuilders; Working on the Water [eeling, crabbing, oystering, planting oysters, oyster buyers]; Packing the Harvest; Working the Land; Other Island Trades [the domestic arts, builders, housemovers, innovative notions, blacksmiths, demon rum, the button factory]; Hummocks, Tussocks and Slashes [gunning, turkles i.e. turtles, muskratting, trapping, outdoor show, birders, modern trends]; Social Life; The Goodwill Water Company; The Call to Arms; Epilogue; Nicknames; Historic Boats.

Mountford, Kent. "The rise and fall of Bay's level determines islands' empires." Chesapeake Bay Journal (April 2003). Traces the history of Barren Island.

Mountford, Kent. "Longtime Chesapeake Bay oyster grower crosses the bar," Chesapeake Bay Journal (March 2009). Article about a man who was born on Solomons Island in 1907 and whose father was born on Barren Island in 1870. (Cross-listed in Calvert County section of this directory.)


Hooper, William T. My Years Before the Mast (circa 1970; 2000 edition). Edited by Gladys Ione Hooper. Memoir of a Hoopers Island waterman, covering the period from the mid-1890s to the storm of 1933. Part of Mr. O'Donnell's Fassitt Information site.

Jones, Ethel Booze (also recorded as Ethel Booze-Jones). To Hooper's Island with Love ([1998]). The author's memories of her childhood days on Hoopers Island. She lists all the neighbors she remembers (nearly the entirely island, it appears) and provides anecdotes about the neighbors and her family. No dates are given, but she mentions the measures taken by her older brothers during the Flood of 1933.


Meneely, Jane. "Song for the Honga," Chesapeake Bay Magazine (August 2008). The author visits Hoopers Island.

MODERN STUDIES: Writings and Photography

Harp, David W., and Tom Horton. The Great Marsh: An Intimate Journey into a Chesapeake Wetland (2002). A photographer and a writer kayak through the marshland of Dorchester County.


Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. The visitor center has a small number of exhibits on the refuge's wildlife.

Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Bishops Head Point.

Kent County


Rock Hall Museum, Rock Hall. One room displays equipment used by watermen, as well as model boats.

Waterman's Museum, Rock Hall. A three-room museum covering all types of water industries in the Chesapeake Bay. Includes a replica of a waterman's shantyboat (ark).

See also the watermen's section of Rock Hall Harbor (at the end of Caroline Avenue, off Bayside Avenue), which has a statue of a waterman.

Prince George's County


Fawcett, Waldon. "Country-Seats at the Capitol." House Beautiful 13 (1903), pages 330-337. Available through Google Books. Includes a description and photograph of "the old Calvert mansion" (i.e. Riversdale Mansion)

Maryland–National Capital Park & Planning Commission. Illustrated Inventory of Historic Sites: Prince George's County, Maryland (1993). A more recent edition is available online in PDF format. "This book presents the 260 Historic Sites which are designated and protected by the Historic Preservation Ordinance of Prince George's County, Maryland. It includes a photograph, architectural description and brief statement of historic significance for each of these sites." Includes a valuable "Heritage Themes" section that lists sites and districts in accordance with the following themes: Native Americans, Early Towns, Colonial Churches, Later Churches, Early Plantation Establishments, The Revolutionary Period, Commerce, Early Industry, Agricultural Heritage, Landings and River Crossings, Taverns, Thoroughbred Horse Breeding and Racing, The War of 1812, Civil War, Railroads, The Law, Education, Political History, Soical History, Black History, Suburban Growth, Aviation, Residential Architectural Styles (divided according to architectural style).

Pearl, Susan J. "National Historic Landmark Nomination: Riversdale Mansion" (1997). Includes illustrations, floor plans, maps, and detailed historical information.


While not always connected with the water, the mansions below were examined in order to learn more about Georgian/Federal mansions that were built in the Tidewater region.

Belair Mansion, Laurel. A five-part Georgian mansion built in the 1740s. The basement includes a work area for slaves. The furnishings represent various periods of the house's history.

Montpelier Mansion, Laurel. A five-part Georgian mansion built between 1781 and 1785. The rooms are furnished to show how they may have looked between 1800 and 1830.

Riversdale Mansion, Riverdale. A Georgian/Federal mansion built between 1801 and 1807, which ended up belonging to George and Rosalie Calvert. Rosalie was a member of the Calvert family which ruled over Maryland during Colonial times.

Somerset County


Horton, Tom. An Island Out of Time: A Memoir of Smith Island in the Chesapeake (1996). An environmental essayist describes what he witnessed during his three years living on Smith Island. Includes interviews.

MODERN STUDIES: Writings and Photography

Foster, Sally. The Private World of Smith Island (1993). A juvenile book with many photos of Smith Island life, particularly as it relates to children.

Talbot County


Bradley, Wendell P. They Live by the Wind: The Lore and Romance of the Last Sailing Workboats: The Garand Banks Schooners, the Square-Rigged Training Ships, the Chesapeake Oysterboats, the Fishing Sloops of the Bahamas (1969). The Chesapeake section of the book was written between 1953 and 1966. The author, who lived on Tilghman Island, describes life there. The centerpiece of his account is a passage recreating a day he spent sailing with "the oldest active captain on the Bay," who captained "the last gaff topsail sloop on the Bay." Captain Will Jones was eighty-four years old at the time and had followed the water since he was eighteen.

Lang, Varley. Follow the Water (1961). An early account of modern watermen's lives by a university teacher who became a waterman in the 1950s. More expository- than narrative, the book nonetheless includes a few passages describing the author's interactions with other watermen. Contents: Oystering, Conservation, Crabbing, Clamming, Fishing, Hunting, Boats, Accidents, The Character of Watermen.

Peffer, Randall S. Watermen (1979). A lively nonfiction narrative by a schoolteacher (yes, another one) who spent a year working with Tilghman Island watermen. See also the article he wrote more than twenty years later, "Chesapeake: Fishing with the Locals."

White, Christopher. Skipjack: The Story of America's Last Sailing Oystermen (2009). Twenty years after Randall Peffer spent a year as a Tilghman waterman, Christopher White spent a year as a Tilghman waterman, just on the cusp of a great change in the life of the islanders. (See also Mr. White's site map and bibliography.)


Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, Maryland. A large museum with several buildings on various aspects of Chesapeake life. Includes the Hooper Strait Lighthouse.

Accomack County, Virginia


Chowning, Larry S. Barcat Skipper: Tales of a Tangier Island Waterman (1993). A fictionalized memoir of a man who grew up on Tangier Island in the 1910s.

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