Watermen of the Bay

From the beginning of settlement in the Bay area, the terms "mariner" and "fisherman" were "long obsolete." Instead, the term "watermen" was solely used in the Bay to describe those who "went out on the waters for subsistence." More specifically, it was used to differentiate between those who lived off the land and those who lived off the water. (Warner 1994) In colonial times, "Maryland and Virginia were expected to produce tobacco while fishing was encouraged in New England." (Cronin 1986) The result was "massive surface erosion, faster run-off of water, ... and larger chemical burdens to the Bay" due to the extensive clearing of trees in the tidewater region, principally for the bare-field culture of tobacco." (Cronin 1986) Discouraged by colonial officials and thought to be "too perishable for the slow commerce of the day," residents of the Bay could not regularly traffic seafood and used the blue crab "only for local consumption" from the beginning of colonial times through the 19th century. (Warner 1994) It was not until 1873, when a rail line was extended to Crisfield, that an industry for blue crab was created in this area. (Cronin 1986) The increased speed of transportation, in addition to the use of manufactured ice, made fresh crab delivery possible.

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