Monday, April 5, 2010

From Tears to Memories and From Tears to Memories II
by James W. Carpenter

Cemeteries aren’t usually the first things that come to mind when reminiscing about Chincoteague Island. Ponies . . . natural landscapes . . . perfect sunsets . . . Chincoteague oysters . . . yes – - but rarely cemeteries. However, Island native and author Jim Carpenter has filled two volumes with information about the graves of Chincoteague residents buried on and off the Island. His first book – From Tears to Memories – combines a ‘walking tour’ through the Island’s eight cemeteries with a sort of ‘who’s who’ of Island residents. The bulk of book looks like a very large table, with lists of names, dates of death, location of the grave and notes about family members. Spend some time with the book and you begin to get a feel for Chincoteague’s history. Discover who was the first merchant, who was the oldest volunteer fireman, and who was survived by 112 children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Carpenter is a Chincoteague native who retired from the Coast Guard and turned his interest in research and preservation of the Island’s cemeteries into the book. After completing From Tears to Memories, Carpenter realized that many residents were laid to rest on the mainland, he began to document gravesites in the Downing and John W. Taylor cemeteries in North Accomack County and published From Tears to Memories II.

For more information, click

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Chincoteague Revisited: A Sojourn to the Chincoteague and Assateague Islands

Chincoteague Revisited: A Sojourn to the Chincoteague and Assateague Islands
by Dorothy Camagna and Jennifer Cording

The book begins . . . “Surely few places on earth can rival this tiny island called Chincoteague. Whispers of its proud seafaring heritage echo in the corners of weathered fish houses and across wooden boat docks jetting into sheltered bays, before dissipating on a salt breeze . . . But there are other, newer rhythms here, too. In the mid-20th Century, a gold and white pony captured the imaginations of millions, with the release of the classic children’s book, Misty of Chincoteague. Soon visitors flocked to the island’s Pony Penning made famous by the book, and discovered Chincoteague’s other quaint charms.” Few other descriptions of the Island have captured the essence of Chincoteague so completely.

Dorothy Camagna’s gorgeous photography meshes nicely with Jennifer Cording’s text to give the reader a true sense of Island life. Separate sections of the book focus on the community of Chincoteague and on the Refuge, providing compelling stores of people, places and Island heritage. The final section – Transitions – highlights the fragile ecological balance of these and similar barrier islands.

Although we like all of the photographs throughout the book, Campagna’s aerial shots are particularly stunning. They capture the beauty and scope of the Islands in a way that those of us at ground level rarely see. If you haven’t visited Chincoteague, the images will make you wonder why you haven’t made your way here yet. For those who visit regularly, Chincoteague Revisited is a celebration of all of the reasons why Chincoteague is a special place. For more information, click

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day Trips in Delmarva

Day Trips in Delmarva by Alan Fisher

Fall is a perfect time to go exploring on Delmarva. The hot, humid days of summer have cooled just a bit but there is still plenty of sunshine. Hop in the car on a Saturday or Sunday for a road trip through previously undiscovered territory. If you’re not sure where to go, grab a copy of Day Trips in Delmarva by Alan Fisher.

The Baltimore Sun calls Day Trips in Delmarva “The best organized, best written, most comprehensive and practical guide to the Delmarva Peninsula.” The guide emphasizes the region’s historic towns, scenic back roads, wildlife refuges, parks undeveloped beaches and routes for car touring, hiking and bicycling.

Fisher has divided the book into 20 different ‘drives,’ some of which could be expanded to weekend trips depending on how long you spend in each location. Each drive includes a map with the routes clearly marked as well as a brief description and/or history of the location. Many combine a car tour with a walking tour so you can plan your trip based on the amount of time you have to spend. Easy to follow directions to the starting point for each drive are provided from both the north and the south to accommodate day trippers from either end of the peninsula. In most locations, Fisher includes directions to the local Visitor Center and encourages a stop to gather specific information about local events, tour schedules, restaurants, etc.

The tour for Chincoteague includes the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague Island National Seashore (southern section). Fisher provides a great overview of the available car and hiking routes on the Refuge and Seashore, with maps and estimated mileages for each.

The current (3rd) edition of Day Trips in Delmarva was published in June 2009, an indication that the information is as up-to-date as possible. To learn more, click here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ira D. Hudson and Family: Chincoteague Carvers

Ira D. Hudson and Family: Chincoteague Carvers by Henry Stansbury

If you are curious about the local decoy carvers on Chincoteague Island, Henry H. Stansbury’s Ira D. Hudson and Family is a good place to start your quest for information. First published in 2002 by Decoy Magazine, the book provides a history of the Hudson family of carvers as well as wonderful photographs of many of Hudson’s carvings. In his preface, Stansbury notes “The extraordinary body of work produced by the Hudson family of Chincoteague, Virginia in the first half of the 20th century will capture the attention of all who appreciate the finest of American Folk Art.”

Stansbury is a decoy collector as well as an historian, having received his first Hudson decoy as a Christmas gift in 1980. He immediately became enamored with Hudson’s work and, over the years, has become a recognized expert on Hudson’s carvings. He begins his biography of Hudson with his final Christmas, in December 1948, and works backward, with Hudson’s life story intertwined with stories about life on Chincoteague Island and about duck carving as craft and art. One section includes a price list for Hudson’s decoys from 1928, with many listed at $10-15 per dozen; in recent years, one of his Goose carvings sold for over $75,000! Although Ira D. Hudson is Chincoteague’s most famous carver, other members of the Hudson family have carried on the tradition and Stansbury includes short biographies of many members of the extended family and includes examples of their work.

Ira D. Hudson and Family is an interesting and entertaining introduction to the life of Chincoteague carvers. Their love of working with wood and of making something both useful and beautiful is a theme that runs throughout the book. For more information, click

Monday, August 24, 2009

Voices of the Chincoteague

Voices of the Chincoteague by Martha A. Barnes and Linda S. Hartsock

Martha Barnes and Linda Hartsock frequently heard stories about life in the ‘old days’ of Greenbackville and Franklin City from neighbors and friends who had grown up in the area. Martha and Linda are “come’ere’s” but were quick to appreciate the heritage of the place they now called home. In 2001, they helped organize the first “Old Tyme Days/Community Reunion” in Greenbackville to celebrate the local heritage. As is often the case, it was clear that many of the stories were beginning to fade as the elders moved to nursing homes or passed away. Someone needed to begin recording the stories before they were lost forever – and Marty and Linda became the ‘someone’s who took on the task. The result of their efforts, Voices of the Chincoteague, was published by Arcadia Publishing in 2007.

Greenbackville and Franklin City are on the western coast of Chincoteague Bay – just across from Chincoteague Island. While the ‘voices’ are those of folks who lived and worked there rather than on the Island, their stories reflect a similar history. For many years, visitors to Chincoteague Island rode the train to Franklin City and then crossed the Bay by boat. Once the causeway to the Island was built, it changed not only life on Chincoteague Island but in Franklin City as well. Between the decline of the oyster industry and the increasing dependence on automobiles as the preferred means of transportation, Franklin City lost much of its commerce. The 1962 Ash Wednesday storm – the same storm that is memorialized in photos in the Chincoteague Downtown kiosk – wreaked havoc on the western shore of the Chincoteague Bay as well and effectively wiped out the remaining parts of Franklin City.

Voices of the Chincoteague provides a rare glimpse into Eastern Shore life through the words of those who lived it. The authors have faithfully recorded stories from a variety of residents and provided perspective with sections on local history and culture. For more information, click

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Beachcomber's Odyssey

A Beachcomber’s Odyssey, Vol. 1 by S. Deacon Ritterbush

Although A Beachcomber’s Odyssey isn’t specifically written about Chincoteague or Assateague Islands, it calls to the treasure hunter in all of us. The book is part memoir, part beachcombing guide, part nature identification, part history, part science and more. Each chapter includes stories from various beach wanderings throughout the author’s life and gives us a glimpse into her past experiences. Her entries about each place tell us about the memories it has for her, gives a bit of information about the area and often includes a description of a particular creature or treasure that is native to the area.

Volume 1 provides short descriptions of more than eighteen beachcombing expeditions, including several on the Chesapeake Bay, that gave the author not only treasures but life lessons as well. The reader travels with Ritterbush to such diverse places as Runaway Bay in Jamaica, Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, the Shetland Islands in Scotland and Emeline Beach in Tonga.

As Ritterbush says “Beachcombing is a liberating pastime. Meandering along a shoreline looking for treasure provides a break from my worries and the daily routine.” Her musings reflect a theme that others have expressed about their visits to Chincoteague. We’ve often heard visitors talk about their quiet morning walks along the beach on Assateague Island as one of the highlights of their visit. Those who understand the therapeutic value of a morning stroll along the Assateague beach will appreciate Ritterbush’s ability to weave her personal reflections around her beachcombing ‘finds.’ It’s a great book to read after you return from your stroll and are sitting on the porch with your morning coffee or tea. Or to read from home when the beach seems far away. For more information about A Beachcomber’s Odyssey, click here.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Chincoteague Island by James Tigner

Chincoteague Island by James Tigner

The annual Chincoteague Pony Swim and Auction is over for another year but there is still plenty of time to plan a get-away to Chincoteague Island. If you’re considering a visit, you may want to get to know a bit about Chincoteague before your trip. Once Upon an Island (which was the subject of this blog several weeks ago) tells the history of the Island. But if you’re looking for a good pictorial introduction, check out Chincoteague Island by James Tigner.

Jim is an antique dealer by trade but has found a wonderful niche creating pictorial books of mid-Atlantic areas – primarily areas located near the shore. Most make use of his extensive collection of postcards and mix older postcard scenes of the town with recent photos he takes for each book. The result is a wonderful combination of images that takes the reader on a visual - and historic - tour of the Town.

Chincoteague Island
includes a brief but comprehensive history of Chincoteague followed by over 100 pages of images depicting all aspects of Island life, from the early duck hunting to today’s pony swim and auction. One of my personal favorites is from a 1940’s postcard about the pony auction and shows Mom, Dad and son - with the pony peering out from the back seat of the station wagon. The caption reads ‘Takin’ a pony home from Chincoteague.’ No worries about seat belts back then!

Chincoteague Island provides both a great introduction to the Island or a memento of an enjoyable visit. For more information, click