Watermen and a Working Harbor


Annapolis continued to be a working harbor in the nineteenth century, but with a different role. A century earlier, the city’s merchants shipped tobacco, fl our, beef, and corn to Europe and the West Indies. Boats brought farm produce, fish, oysters, crabs, and lumber to Annapolis for sale to residents of the city and nearby rural areas. Food and livestock went to the market house; seafood was sold from fish market stalls built on pilings at the head of the dock and at local restaurants; and lumber went to Johnson’s Lumber Company, located just north of here in the Hell Point neighborhood. Local families also supplied their own food by fishing, oystering, and crabbing.

During the winter, from September to April when oysters could legally be harvested, the oyster fleet made the dock and harbor their home port. At times there would be so many boats that it was possible for the watermen to walk across their decks from one side of the dock to the other.

Oyster dredging took place in deeper water on sailboats of several types, including skipjacks, bugeyes, pungys, and schooners. Many watermen worked from the decks of powered workboats, using long-shafted tongs to scoop up oysters from the reefs in shallow waters.

Dredging Oysters