Reedville Fishermen’s Museum – Chesapeake Bay Heritage in Reedville, VA
The Reedville Fishermen’s Museum, an affiliate member of the Council of American Maritime Museums, is dedicated to preserving the heritage of the maritime history of the lower Chesapeake Bay, the watermen who have made their living there and the menhaden industry that has existed in Reedville for over a century.
The museum acquires, documents and displays materials that are historically important to the area’s fisheries and the lives of the watermen, and to further educational programs to interpret this maritime heritage. Two of their vessels – the skipjack Claud W. Somers and the deck boat Elva C. – are in the National Register of Historic Places.
The story of Reedville is linked to the commercial fishing industry that developed there in the late 19th century. In 1874 Elijah Reed transferred his menhaden fishing operation from
Brooklin, Maine to the Chesapeake Bay. He purchased the land on Cockrell’s Creek that is now Reedville. The industry flourished, especially in the early part of the 20th century. Today Reedville is one of the major ports for the landing of commercial fish in the United States, second only to Kodiak, Alaska.
The town’s Main Street, a National Historic District, is a mile long and flanked by water. The larger homes along Main Street reflect the prosperity of the early menhaden captains and plant owners. Most of the houses in the Historic District have been carefully restored. Today, operating from Reedville, is a large, modem menhaden fishing fleet with 13 ocean-going vessels. There are three smaller menhaden boats and numerous boats and people engaged in pound-net fishing, crab potting and dredging, soft crab processing, clamming and oystering.
The museum is located on the banks of Cockrell’s Creek on land once owned by Captain Elijah Reed. The William Walker House was built in 1875 on land bought that year from Captain Reed. It was occupied by the family until it was purchased by the Greater Reedville Association in 1986. The Association, primarily through the work of volunteers, restored the house and opened it as the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum in 1988. In the spring of 1995 the home was refurbished and refurnished and now represents a waterman’s home at the turn of the previous century.
A generous gift from Mr. Frank Covington enabled the museum to expand into a new building, the Covington Building, in 1995. This facility houses both our permanent collection and changing exhibits. The Pendleton Building, which houses our Boat Building Shop and our Model Shop, was added during our expansion program in 2003.
The museum is located on Main Street on the historic town of Reedville. On days when the Museum is open, its hours are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Museum Office is open from 9 a.m. to 5p.m., weekdays. For more information, call 804-453-6529 or visit www.rfmuseum.org.