This excerpt from Eastern Shore Road Trips #2: 26 MORE One-Day Adventures on Delmarva is the bonus section at the end of a chapter that leads you along a backroads journey through the countryside and little fishing villages that line the oceanside length of the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The chapter touches several times on the history of the barrier islands off of that shore, which used to be home several towns and settlements before a bad run of storms drove everyone off of the island in the early 20th century.
Way Back Machine: Aunt Harriet of Hog Island
Here is how the writer Hunter Alexander described Harriet Doughty, one of the most famous characters on Hog Island at the time he wrote an 1876 article about the place for Forest and Stream magazine.
The people of Hog Island number, all told, some seventy souls … all of whom are … rough, uncouth, and uneducated, but honest and hospitable. The prevailing genius, oracle, and general authority is old Aunt Harriet, and it is worth sailing twenty miles any day to meet her.…
No frightened children who were hushed into a shuddering silence by the wind, or strange tales of the nursery maid, ever imagined the face of an ogress or warlock more fearful than hers; the forehead is low, the eyes of a dark green, protruding from her head; her nose flat, with wide open nostrils, and her mouth cruel and savage looking, occupies half of her face, and is garnished with teeth as large as those of a two-year-old colt.
The countenance is that of a wolf, and her short, squat body completes the illusion. She is for all the world like the Weir Wolf, with the grandmother’s nightcap on, who lay covered up with bed clothes when little Red Riding Hood came home from her errand. Yet, looking so bad, no more kindly heart ever beat than Aunt Harriet’s and were I to fall sick in a strange place, I know of no one whom I would rather be tended by than the old woman of Hog Island.
Harriet Doughty lived for another 20 years after Alexander’s article was published. She died in 1896.
Notes & Links
• Here is where you can learn more about the book Eastern Shore Road Trips 2: 26 MORE One-Day Adventures on Delmarva, including where to buy it in stores and online. The book touches on stories from life on Virginia’s barrier islands several times in a chapter that leads you along a backroads journey through the fishing villages on the oceanside of the peninsula. A number of other trips in the book are set on Virginia Eastern’s Shore as well.
• If you scroll down to the bottom of that same link, you will find your way to information about the other Secrets of the Eastern Shore guidebooks.
• The image up top here shows the old town of Broadwater on Hog Island. One great place to get in touch with the history of Virginia’s barrier islands is the Barrier Island Center just off the highway in Machipongo. You can find the website of Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism here.
• Posted by Jim Duffy, 2019. Copyright Secrets of the Eastern Shore/Whimbrel Creations LLC. All rights reserved.