‘Share Your History,’ Oct. 20, CSM Prince Frederick Campus

The Southern Maryland Studies Center is hosting Share Your History: Working the Land and Water on Oct. 20 at CSM’s Prince Frederick Campus to collect digital scans such as this photo of Clifford Lusby tonging for oysters in the Patuxent River near Solomons

Focus of SMSC Event to be Working the Land, Water In Southern Maryland

            The College of Southern Maryland’s Southern Maryland Studies Center (SMSC) in partnership with the Calvert County Historical Society and the Calvert Marine Museum is hosting “Share Your History Day: Working the Land and Water,” Oct. 20 at the Prince Frederick Campus.

            “We look forward to this event every year because it allows us to spread awareness of the Southern Maryland Studies Center, build new partnerships and add new materials to our collections,” said SMSC Coordinator Amy Richmond.

            Farmers and waterman from Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties are invited to bring historical documents and artifacts, including photos, records, receipts, association or club minutes, catalogs, ledgers, family correspondence, scrapbooks and other related materials to be scanned into digital files by SMSC staff at no cost. All items will be returned.

            SMSC’s current collection of oral histories includes several with remembrances of farming and life on the water, such as a 1978 conversation with Thomas Shymansky of Cobb Island, where he reflected on his life in the oystering business, beginning at the age of 9 years old under the guidance of his father. “On Saturdays I would go out with my father and watch him hand tong. The more we went out there and the more we oystered, the more we enjoyed it. It naturally gets in your blood,” Shymanksy recalls of his and his brothers’ experiences.

            Shymansky began his work as a full-time oysterer when he was 18 and remained with the profession for many reasons. “I watched my father oyster every day and when he came in in the afternoon and with his catch, boat and I figured some day that I would want to be the same way to follow his footsteps. You were your own boss. You had the freedom of the sea. It was an enjoyable life, one of the best.”

            Shymanksy said oystering was a lucrative business in the waterman industry, stating that two-thirds of a waterman’s income was made from oystering, factoring in crabbing and fishing as other means of income. “He depends more on oystering than he does anything,” Shymansky said of a waterman’s income.

            Shymanksy also spoke of his experience with Hurricane Agnes which hit the Atlantic coast in 1972 and how the storm affected his livelihood. “You could see the oysters that had rotted in the shells and floated to the top of the river, on top of the water. We went back later on and checked it, it was nothing but shells. Every oyster had died from the Potomac River and Wicomico River. I guess we lost millions of bushels of oysters.” The following year the State Department closed the rivers and waterman were denied access to oyster in those locations. Waterman were forced to travel to the Eastern shore to maintain their income, Shymansky said, and a year later seed oysters were planted in the Potomac and Wicomico Rivers to produce crops. Shymansky said the crop was never quite the same in those rivers after the storm.

            The end use of oyster shells was also a topic of conversation during the interview with Shymansky, in which he said that oyster shells were replanted on bars, oyster lumps and sand reaches as well as were ground up to use as chicken feed.

Shymansky closed out the interview discussing risks and rewards associated with his long-standing career. “I’ve never really had no fear in the water. I feel safe on the water than I do anywhere I go. Although I believe that every man should be as careful as he can into it, I say a good captain, a good boat, you have nothing to fear. But I always respect the water and I always will.”

SMSC’s Richmond said, “Living off the land and water has been important to Southern Maryland since the state was founded. Understanding history can help you understand how people live today.”

            The SMSC is located in the Library Resources Center (LR) on CSM’s La Plata Campus. “Share Your History Day: Working the Land and Water” on Oct. 20 will be held at the Prince Frederick Campus, 115 J.W. Williams Road, Flagship Building, Room 119.

            Those bringing items will be required to sign a release form to authorize scanning. To pre-register contact SMSC at 301-934-7606 or smsc@csmd.edu.

            For information on the SMSC, visit http://www.csmd.edu/Library/SMSC/.

            This event is made possible by the Southern Maryland Heritage Area

Consortium and the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority.

           

 

 

Share Your History: Working the Land and Water. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Oct. 20, College of Southern Maryland, Prince Frederick Campus, Flagship Building, Room 119, 115 J.W. Williams Road, Prince Frederick. Farmers and waterman from Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties are invited to “Share Your History: Working the Land and Water,” a day to share to bring historical documents and artifacts, including photos, records, receipts, association or club minutes, catalogs, ledgers, family correspondence, scrapbooks and other related materials to be scanned into digital files by SMSC staff at no cost. Materials will be scanned or photographed and returned to their owners. The digital copies will become property of the Southern Maryland Studies Center. Display tables will be available for those who wish to set up an exhibit presenting the history of their ancestors. To pre-register contact SMSC at smsc@csmd.edu, or 301-934-7626. For more information, visit www.csmd.edu/Library/SMSC. CSM is hosting the event in partnership with The Southern Maryland Studies Center, SMSC Advisory Committee, Calvert County Historical Society, Calvert Marine Museum, Southern Maryland Heritage Area Consortium and the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority.

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