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Way Back Machine

CIRCUS ACTS: Strange and Ridiculous Happenings Under the Big Top!

The traveling circus was a staple of small-town life on the Delmarva Peninsula in the early 1900s. Here are three stories that show just how strange things could get with those shows and their performers. Circus Act #1! The brawl in Seaford, Del., 1908 (with flying snakes!) You’ve seen old Westerns, right? The ones with scenes where two guys start fighting in a tavern and…
Mirror of the Almighty Tangier Island Camp Meeting Featured Image
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Way Back Machine: ‘A Mirror of the Almighty’ on Tangier Island, 1828

The modern-day tourism trade on Smith and Tangier islands dates to the 1960s, when tour boats first started shuttling curious daytrippers out into the middle of the bay. But visitors have actually been flocking to these islands for centuries. In 1821, one observer reported seeing more than 400 boats anchored around Tangier. He estimated the crowd attending that year’s Methodist camp meeting at more than…
CharactersWay Back Machine

William Major Parker: The Pioneering Black Keeper at Killick Shoal Lighthouse

Stories from the golden age of lighthouses in the 1800s tend to be white-men-only affairs for sad and obvious reasons—slavery, discrimination, and prejudice. But tantalizing exceptions to this rule are out there, including the remarkable story of William Major Parker and his career as a keeper on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. We’ll meet him in a moment. First, a smidgeon of scene-setting. The work…
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Strange & WondrousWay Back Machine

Six Bridges Over Troubled Water: A Dreadful Day in Chincoteague, 1922

NOTE: This is an excerpt from my book You Wouldn't Believe: 44 Strange and Wondrous Delmarva Tales. More on that one and my other books here. Oh, the hours of preparation and work that must have gone into the celebration planned for Chincoteague, Va. on Nov. 15, 1922! Local newspapers promised it would mark “the beginning of a new era in the history” of a…
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Saxis on a Saturday Night! Scenes from Days Gone By

Those of you who've been there know that Saxis is a remote, real-deal watermen community on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. I visited there while working on my book, Eastern Shore Road Trips #1: 27 One-Day Adventures on Delmarva. It's a quiet place nowadays, with one fun restaurant, one tiki bar, and a local history museum being the main attractions for visitors outside of the…
Featured Image Eastern Shore Produce Exchange
Delmarva WisdomWay Back Machine

When Farming on Virginia’s Eastern Shore Took a Turn Out of “It’s a Wonderful Life”

In the Christmas classic "It's a Wonderful Life," George Bailey is trying to do the right thing by his neighbors in small-town Bedford Falls. By setting up a community-owned banking cooperative--Bailey Building & Loan--he wants to offer those neighbors a fair, homegrown alternative to the bank owned by Mr. Potter, the greedy and heartless antihero of the piece. That 1946 film came to mind as…
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CharactersDelmarva WisdomWay Back Machine

When Accomac, Va. Put the Baptist in Jail, 1778

This excerpt from Eastern Shore Road Trips #2: 26 MORE One-Day Adventures on Delmarva comes from a trip centered on Accomac, the seat of Accomack County, Va. The town played an important role in the life of the preacher Elijah Baker (1742 to 1798), who helped get the then-fledgling Baptist faith off the ground and spreading through America. The most famous structure on the square…