When I was visiting my son in Washington, DC recently, I went to a breathtakingly beautiful exhibit of Katsushika Hokusai's paintings that is currently at the National Museum of Asian Art's Freer Gallery.
Herring and Shad
The Herring Workers
A few years ago, I carried a box of Charles Farrell's old photographs of the state's great herring fisheries back to one of the communities on the Chowan River where he took them. They are poignant and beautiful, and the herring workers in them are unforgettable, but I also find them a little haunting because they remind me of all that can be lost.
The Barney Slough Fish Camp, 1905
I love this photograph of fishermen at the Barney Slough Fish Camp back in the winter of 1905. They were shad fishermen and you can see them standing with their pound net stakes, just off Hatteras Island.
The Beauty of Old Fishing Nets
Far more than I usually do, I am noticing the beauty in even the smallest, most everyday parts of my world.
A Shad Camp, Neuse River, ca. 1890– The Men Singing as They Fish
A shad fisherman’s camp on the Lower Neuse River, possibly at or near James City, N.C., circa 1900. Fishermen constructed their huts out of cedar limbs or another supple hardwood and thatched them with saltmarsh cordgrass or black needlerush. Typically they bound them together with yucca fibers. These round huts with conical roofs were a spartan home away from home for shad fishermen and, occasionally, for their families.
Herring Week, Day 13– The View from Colerain: A Postscript
A final memory. I will never forget a day that I stood on a bluff over the Chowan River and talked with an old gentleman that used to be the head of the cannery room at the Perry-Wynns Fish Company in Colerain.
Herring Week, Day 12– The Last Seine Fisheries
Welcome to the penultimate installment of my special series on the history of the great herring and shad fisheries on Albemarle Sound. This is photograph of the the engine house on the east end of the Greenfield fishery in Chowan County, N.C., circa 1905. One of the great 3 and ½ inch thick warps (hauling ropes) ran from the sea-end fishing flat to this structure, where an engine with a steam drum hauled one end of the seine ashore.
Herring Week, Day 11– Fried Fish, Greens & Cornbread
Greenfield fishery, 1905. Welcome back to my Herring Week! In today’s post, we’re looking at the building that was called “the Office,” shown in the middle of this photograph. The fishery’s owner, Frank Wood, lived at the Office during the shad and herring season, along with his wife and children.
Herring Week, Day 10– Light in the Darkness
Welcome back to Herring Week, my special series on the history of the great herring and shad fishery on Albemarle Sound. Today I have just a brief scene that I want to describe that I hope will give you a sense of an important, but rarely appreciated part of the fishery.
Herring Week, Day 9– Salt
A historian has to love the clerks at the Albemarle seine fisheries: they kept meticulous daily records of the weather and water conditions, and the numbers and kinds of fish caught and their sales. They also broke the sales down into categories: corned, cut, raw and “at the beach.”
Herring Week, Day 8– Singing on a Moonlit Night
Welcome back to Herring Week! This is part 8 of my special series on the history of the great herring and shad fisheries on the Albemarle Sound, once one of the largest fisheries in North America. In today’s post, I’m looking at a photograph from the Capehart family’s Avoca fishery in Bertie County in 1877.
Herring Week, Day 7– Draft Horses & Ships at Sea
Avoca fishery, Albemarle Sound, 1877. Welcome back to Herring Week, my special series on the history of the great herring and shad fisheries on Albemarle Sound. Up to now, we've been looking at another fishery, the Greenfield fishery down the sound from Edenton, N.C. But today and tomorrow I'm going to focus on Avoca, in Bertie County, where, as you can see in this photograph, teams of heavy draft horses helped to haul in the mile-long seine and tens of thousands of herring, shad and other fish.
Herring Week, Day 6– The Fishermen
Greenfield herring and shad fishery, Chowan County, N.C., ca. 1905. One of the things that I most appreciate in Mrs. Rebecca Wood Drane’s commentary on these photographs is that she recited a list of all the names of the fishermen that she could remember.
Herring Week, Day 5– The Lay of the Land
Greenfield fishery, Chowan County, 1905. This photograph shows the eastern half of the Greenfield herring and shad fishery circa 1905. The fishery was located on a small bay on the Albemarle Sound, 12 miles east of Edenton and near the mouth of the Yeopim River. One of the fishery’s two fishing flats, the Sea Hawk, is steaming away from the shore.
Herring Week, Day 4– Down to the Shore
Greenfield fishery, Chowan County, N.C., circa 1905. This is a small, early season catch at Frank Wood’s fishery on the Albemarle Sound. A hinged board on the wharf has been raised so that the fish won’t slide back into the water.
Herring Week, Day 3– Rigging the Seine
Rigging the seine, Greenfield fishery, Chowan County, N.C., circa 1905. Here on our third day of looking at historical photographs from the great herring and shad fisheries on Albemarle Sound, I'm still focusing on what it took to get ready for taking the great seines and boats onto the fishing grounds.
Herring Week, Day 2– Tarring the Seine
Tarring the seine, Greenfield fishery, Chowan County, N.C., ca. 1905. Today I begin my weeklong look at one of the great fisheries in the history of North America—the shad and herring fisheries that flourished on the Albemarle Sound and its tributaries for more than two centuries.
Welcome to Herring Week
This week I am looking at historical photographs of the great herring and shad fisheries on Albemarle Sound and its tributaries. At this very moment, as has happened since time immemorial, river herring and shad here in North Carolina are moving out of the Atlantic and headed upriver to their spawning grounds. Historically, their arrival has been a time of celebration and a symbol of spring, hope and resurrection that is especially appropriate here at Easter.