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Memories of Remlik Wharf

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Agnes Brown Miller

Agnes Brown Miller is honorary grand marshal of Oyster Festival

by Larry S. Chowning

Agnes Brown Miller was born in 1909 and grew up a short distance from Remlik Steamboat Wharf at the end of Lord Mott Road. Her childhood memories include the old Nelson Hotel, the daily arrival of steamboats to the wharf, and Urbanna’s Regal Theater that featured silent movies.

The Urbanna Oyster Festival Foundation has named Miller, 100, as the honorary grand marshal of the upcoming 52nd annual Urbanna Oyster Festival.

Miller, who now lives with a daughter at Topping, was born in a house on Brown’s Alley on Robinson Creek. Her father, Joseph Henry Brown, and grandfather, John Seymour Brown, were oystermen/farmers. Her grandfather came to Urbanna from Guinea Neck in Gloucester County to harvest oysters with shaft tongs in the Rappahannock River. 

Mrs. Miller’s father owned a small oyster shucking house on the shore and a shanty village along the creek bank. In those days, oystermen came from miles away to work the Rappahannock near Remlik, but because overland transportation was poor they rented shanties from Mrs. Miller’s father to live in during the winter.

The watermen also moored their boats at a dock near the shanties. They would work during the week and then go home on weekends and holidays to Gloucester, Mathews or elsewhere.

Mrs. Miller’s father also worked 25 acres of land on which he grew green peas and other vegetables for Lord Mott Corporation, which was just up the road from the wharf.

Mrs. Miller has fond memories of the wharf. “Steamboats would come to the wharf early in the morning when it was dark,” she said. “The boat had a big searchlight that threw light into our windows at home.”

She remembers when Willis Sharp Kilmer built a mansion across the creek from their home. Kilmer made a fortune selling a patent medicine, “Dr. Kilmer’s Swamp Root.” He bought Kilmer’s Point in 1909 and brought jobs and economic life to the region.

“After my sister’s husband died, Mr. Kilmer sent word that my sister could have any job she wanted at the mansion. Mr. Kilmer helped our community.”

Mrs. Miller recalls the early Urbanna Oyster Festivals of over 50 years ago. She was food manager at Middlesex High School and part of her job was to feed the many antique car owners who participated in the festival parade. 

She also prepared food for the annual Oyster Ball when it was held on Saturday night of the festival in the Middlesex High School gym.

Mrs. Miller said she is very honored to be named the honorary grand marshal of this year’s festival. “I’m thrilled and want to thank the foundation for honoring me and my family,” she said.

Charles Bristow, chairman of the grand marshal selection committee, said Mrs. Miller is representing the Brown family, which made its living working the river. “We are delighted that she has accepted the honor of honorary grand marshal.”

posted 10.21.2009

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