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You know how some folks are always complaining about development and crowds and progress on the Eastern Shore, how they keep saying everything used to be friendlier and better back in the day?

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Well, those same kinds of people were saying those same kinds of things a century ago. The photo up top here is what downtown Chincoteague looked like in 1910. A writer named Maude Radford Warren had this to say about a visit to Chincoteague in 1913:

Once on the dock, in [the] old days, one was greeted with smiles, if not words, by a number of inhabitants to whom a stranger was so much of an agreeable rarity that he seemed like a household guest. … There was no mayor and no prison, and after the first rage, people forgave easily whatever crime was committed. Never surely was there such tolerance.

That was 15 years ago, and on revisiting one feared at first that the island was changed. One crossed the same water, but now in a gasoline-launch that screamed and pounded out the wonders of advanced civilization. The same green flats were there, the same mist that shaped itself into Chincoteague Island with the gay-colored houses.

But over the oyster beds were reared at intervals square boxes for watchmen who guarded the stock of the sea. Around the docks were no longer the few water craft with weather-beaten holiday faces, but many large, neat schooners, and instead of the row-boats and lighters everywhere were gasoline launches. One walked along the dock and people only looked casually; no longer are tourists rarities. …

One reached the hotel, and a chambermaid met one and led one up to the register. … “Things hain’t like they were when you came before,” [the chambermaid said]. “You can lie right down in the tub and let the water go all over you. … If you want to telephone any of your friends you can. We could have a telegraft if we wanted, but I reckon the telephone is quicker.” Quicker! Had haste come to Chincoteague?

Warren’s piece appeared in the October 1913 edition of Harper’s Magazine. Sorry, but I can not find a link that gives access to the whole article without going through a pay wall. The piece is included in this book, however: Seashore Chronicles: Three Centuries of the Virginia Barrier Island.

• Posted by Jim Duffy on Nov. 25, 2017




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