Rappahannock oysters make comeback
by Larry S. Chowning
In the mid-1800s the county’s economy was driven by the East Coast oyster industry.
When the Civil War ended in 1865, one way for blacks and poor whites to make a living was catching and selling oysters.
In the 1880s, oyster buyboats came into the Rappahannock River from New Jersey, New York and elsewhere.
The oyster industry and related industries (boatbuilding, railways, tong making, etc,) were the main source of revenue for Middlesex County well into the 1960s. In the early 1980s, MSX and dermo, two deadly oyster diseases, crippled the industry, and only recently by changing growing methods and using disease-resistant oysters has the industry made a comeback. Several years ago oysters eaten at the Urbanna Oyster Festival were coming from the Gulf of Mexico, now most are coming from the Rappahannock River—a sign of better times!