I’ve created this page to help inform American Cruise Line’s passengers on some things of interest that pertain to our little city.
First is a little about our history and culture. Below that is a map/directory of some of the businesses that are scheduled to be open while your ship is in port. All of them offer inexpensive souvenirs, and even have custom pieces that can be shipped to your home.
Crisfield Fast Facts
-1608: When Capt. John Smith was mapping the Bay in 1608, he ran out of drinking water and feared for he and his 13 man crew would perish. Luckily, he found a natural spring not far from where your ship is docked.
-1620: First account of a European trading with Native Americans in Somerset County.
-1635: First naval battle of the Chesapeake Bay takes place in the Pocomoke Sound.
-1660’s: Certain Christian religious groups (Quakers, Presbyterians, etc), began fleeing certain places because of persecution and many of them settled in this area.
-1660’s-1700’s: Settlers begin populating Somerset County, many coming north from Virginia, others from Europe paying for their voyage across the Atlantic by becoming indentured servants after their arrival in the new world.
-1730’s: Somerset is building more sailing vessels than anywhere else in the Maryland Colony.
-1770’s & 80’s – Revolutionary War: Many locals fought with the Rebels in militias protecting farms from English sailors plundering and kidnapping locals to fight in the war.
-18th & 19th Centuries: The Tangier Sound and Pocomoke Sound (the waters around Crisfield), provide a perfect environment for piracy. Piracy widespread during this time.
-Early 1800’s: Lower Somerset life is based on farming in the summer and oystering in the winter. Communities were built up around the rivers and creeks, downtown Crisfield was still only water.
-The War of 1812: Hundreds from Somerset County fight in the war. British again raid local farms along the Pocomoke Sound. In the April of 1814, the Battle of Jenkins Creek transpired where locals got word of a looming British raid, locals ambush the English sailors and they return to the Bay.
-1820: The extremely large oyster beds in the Tangier Sound attract some of the major ‘up-North’ oyster brokers, they begin moving into the area. Maryland bans out-of-state oyster-boats from harvesting. This is the beginning of the ‘Oyster Wars’ that would last for almost 100 years.
-1840’s: One of the iconic Chesapeake sailing schooners, the pungy boat, was first built just north of Crisfield.
The Lady Maryland, a schooner used as a floating classroom, is a pungy.
-1866: Tracks were laid into town for the railroad, Somers Cove was officially a boomtown.
-c.1866: The first “bugeye” the forerunner to the skipjack, was built in Crisfield.
-Late 1860’s: Oyster Buyers, some from up north and many local, bought at the dock and shipped them on the railroad to metropolitan markets. When in port, the oystermen transformed Crisfield into a lawless town while visiting the saloons, brothels and gambling houses that were in abundance in the downtown area.
-1860-70’s: In attempts to make money in the off-season, Crisfielder’s began marketing something that had only been eaten during hard times, the blue crab. Crabs are now serves one of the most popular resources of Maryland.
-Early 1870’s: Locals began fighting to bring law and order to Crisfield, one account has Col. Thomas Hodson firing a shotgun into a riotous crowd of oystermen fighting in the street. It’s said that the group disbanded, moved a short distance down the road and commenced fighting again.
-1870’s: With Crisfield having become the richest area on the Eastern Shore, every speculator, investor and entrepreneur wanted to stake their claim in the town.
-1872: Crisfield became a town with elected officials, and with the locals wanting the debauchery of the oystermen caroused, bringing law and order to town was first on the agenda and a law prohibiting alcohol was implemented.
-1870’s: Sailing vessels congested Crisfield’s harbors bringing their product to port, this lasted well into the 20th century.
-1890’s-1930’s: Majestic churches were built all over Crisfield, along with many homes that demonstrated the wealth of the community.
-Early 1900’s: In the first few decades of the 20th century, Crisfield was the home port for more sailing vessels than anywhere in the United States. Crisfield was reputed as the seafood capitol of the world shipping millions of gallons of oysters, crabmeat and soft crabs each year.
-20th Century: As the railroad industry became replaced with interstate highways, sailing transport with diesel and the bounty of the Chesapeake declined, Crisfield’s landscape, and it’s history changed forever.
-21st Century: Crisfield is one of the last remaining seafood cities, and likely has the largest number of working ‘Watermen’ of any place on the Bay.
Crisfield, though still a ‘working’ town, is aggressively working to transform into a tourist destination, but doing so carefully to ensure it retains it’s heritage and culture.