When you cross the Deal Island Bridge, you enter a different way of life. Deal Island is the home of the Labor Day Skipjack Races and Land Festival, and also home to some of the men who make their living from the bountiful waters of the Chesapeake Bay -- this is watermen's country.
At the foot of the bridge you can see local watermen unload their day's catch observe a soft crab shedding operation, see how an oyster hatchery works, watch crab pickers' fingers fly, or take pictures of a skipjack. All of this can be done at Deal Island Harbor. Park the car and enjoy. Catch crab from the bulk-head. Fish, swim, and sunbathe at the beach. Go fly a kite, the breeze almost always allows it. Enjoy all that Tangier Sound has to offer. Put your boat over at the public ramp and catch your own wonders of the Bay!
Drive down the Island (it's only 3 miles long) and stop at some of our historic sites. The Bank building was opened in 1912 and closed after the crash of '29.
The "Parson of the Islands", Rev. Joshua Thomas, conducted much of his ministry from the site of his Chapel located behind St. John's M.E. Church. This was the site of many camp meetings, followers from Smith and Tangier Islands would arrive by boat to gain inspiration from Rev. Thomas.
Stop and tour the cemetery; family tragedies are recorded here along with many interesting epitaphs. Each church you pass will have its own cemetery with concrete slabs covering the graves. Because of the high water table on the Island, graves cannot be dug to the standard depth. The small, white church standing alone -- like a beacon -- has served the Island's Black community since 1877.
In Wenona, you will find a small, very snug harbor with several skipjacks, the last of the 19th century oyster fleet. These single-masted vessels still dredge for oysters each winter. State law allows them to use their "yawl boats" for power only on Monday and Tuesday. From 1,000 skipjacks at the turn of the century just over 20 remain and fewer than that still work today. The rest are at the bottom of the Bay, in guts somewhere, or just plain gone. Can the remaining ones survive the present to preserve part of the past for the future?
Stop and chat with locals at the family-owned and run soft crab operations. Soft crabs from Deal Island and Wenona are shipped (fresh and frozen) all over the world.
We're glad we could take you on this tour of Deal Island. Please feel free to stop again (in person) and at any place you choose! We're friendly here and we value your company. Please come back!
On your way to Deal Island, don't overlook these other historic towns: Monie, St. Stephen, Chance, Dame's Quarter, Champ and Oriole
You'll head toward Deal Island from Princess Anne, the County seat and stopping off point for all of Somerset County. We have heard that Princess Anne, Maryland is the next best thing to Williamsburg, Virginia. The major difference is that the historic buildings in Princess Anne are original, whereas those in Williamsburg are restored.
The trip down Maryland Route 363 takes you by many quaint little towns and villages with some rather unusual names. One thing binds them all together--this is watermen's country. You have entered a world of days gone by, a part of the country where people still make their living the way their ancestors did--from the bountiful resources of the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuarine system in America.
Monie & St. Stephen
After passing through Monie and entering St. Stephen's notice on your right the St. Stephen's Methodist Church. Built in 1870 and retired in 1990, the building is one of the better preserved late nineteenth and early twentieth century structures in this small town. Located in this vicinity is the Bozman-Fitzgerald house, a 1900 farmhouse with a style that you will see repeated over and over as you continue your drive. The three-bay facade with center cross gable was very common for turn-of-the-century farmhouses in this area. Also near Monie is the site of the birthplace of Maryland Governor Levin Winder, the only governor to have his state invaded and occupied by a foreign power. When the British sailed up the Chesapeake in 1813, causing havoc in most of the nearby communities. Winder ordered his militia to help defend Baltimore.
Begin your drive through the flat, marshy area. Don't be surprised to see a graceful blue heron flying along beside you. Egrets abound and it is unusual not to see a few.
Champ & Oriole
Take the time to visit Champ and Oriole, two small villages located on Maryland Route 627. Located at the intersection of the Champ and Oriole roads is the St. James Methodist Episcopal Church. Built in 1885 by the sons and daughters of former slaves, the landmark now stands in disrepair. A move is underway to restore this part of history to its original state as a memorial to the area's first residents.
Renamed after the Maryland State Bird, Oriole boasts the Joseph Croswell house, built on the western edge of town, north of St. Peter's Creek. This home is considered one of the most unusual in Somerset County because of its cruciform shape. The most striking feature is eye-catching--twin three-story towers. This house represents a wonderful photo opportunity. The house is now privately owned.
Oriole has two very historic Bed & Breakfasts. On the west side of St. Peter's Creek at Crab Island is the Hyland House. Originally named Myrtle Grove, this home was started in the late 18th Century and rebuilt around 1820. This beautifully appointed home offers a magnificent view of its grounds and St. Peter's Creek--the construction site of many skipjacks.
Elmwood, a Federal style plantation house built in 1820, graces the shores of the Manokin River. Every little town that you pass through on the drive has many distinctive examples of early architecture and each home or site has its own story. The serious history buff will find many of the stories in Paul Baker Touart's Somerset: An Architectural History published in 1990 by the Maryland Historical Society Trust and the Somerset County Historical Trust, Inc.
Dame's Quarter & Chance
The marsh grasses, members of the Spartina family, are absolutely breath-taking in their beauty in the winter with a coat of ice on their tips. Canada geese have been seen taking a stroll along the side of the road. The marsh leads you to Dame's Quarter; once known as "Damned Quarter", this town and Deal Island("Devil's Island") were "notorious dens of pirates and other unmentionables." Many men of the cloth devoted themselves to the saving of their souls.
When you reach the Dame's Quarter Post Office, turn left on Riley Roberts Road and follow it until the end--yes, it will end. You are driving through a wildlife refuge--don't disturb the residents! Hunting is allowed in season and at the end of the road can be found a small boat ramp and a wonderful place to fish, crab and take pictures.
Back on Route 363, the next town you reach is Chance. The community was originally known as Rock Creek from before the Civil War. With the building of a new post office the name needed to be changed so mail wouldn't be sent to the second existing Rock Creek, MD. The story goes that the name Chance was proposed since people thought there was not a chance a post office would be built. The post office was built and the name was changed to Chance.
Keep an eye out for Rock Creek United Methodist Church as you drive through town, a reminder of the settlement that preceded Chance. Visit this impressive house of worship which remains a centerpiece of the community.
From the brochure: Tourist Guide to Deal Island, published by Island Seafood Deli, Inc., Deal Island, MD