His Family’s Lived on this Remote Island for 374 Years

Jun 29, 2024 2.3M Views 4.9K Comments

Off the shore of Maryland is a remote island where early English settlers have lived since the 16th century. Here, life moves at a different pace, the locals speak in a distinct old-world accent, and the remaining crabbers stay true to their craft. Join me on an epic adventure with Smith Island local Jerry, equipped with 374 years of family roots on the island and epic stories about a completely different America.

► Jerry’s Email: [email protected]
► Jerry’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@theroguespointpirate7447
► Delicious Smith Island Cakes: https://smithislandbakeryllc.com/

► 🎞️ Video Edited By: Natalia Santenello

► Headlund – Small Mirage
► Headlund – Red Moon Rising
► Headlund – To Wonderland

[twangy guitar playing]
[Peter] Crisfield, Maryland,
we’re about to take a boat ride here
off to Smith Island.
Smith Island has roughly 200 people
living there to this day.
Their accent traces back to the early
English settlers from the 17th century.
I’ve been told
this place is stuck in time.
Some haven’t left
in weeks, months, even years.
We’re meeting up with an old school local.
A crabber who’s family’s
been there since the 1600s.
He told me, “Peter, I can show you
what our culture is about
and it’s totally different
than the rest of America.
Let’s do this.
[twangy guitar playing]
[Peter] Here we are
in Smith Island’s biggest city, Ewell.
[Jerry] The capital. [laughs]
-So Jerry, since the 1600s,
you told me your family’s been here.
Yeah, 1650 the first ancestor
was born here.
So it’s telling me they’re
actually here a little bit before that.
-Oh, wow.
[Peter] And then here
we have some old homes.
That one looks abandoned, huh?
-Somebody lives there,
they’re remodeling it.
-The one with the plywood on the windows?
So who lives out here?
People that grew up here obviously
and those that just want
to get away from society?
Yeah, pretty much people
who’ve already made their fortune in life
and want to retire somewhere peaceful.
[Peter] That place looks
a little haunted maybe.
[Jerry laughs]
Nobody’s every lived in that house
as long as I’ve been on the island.
There’s only a few places like that.
When I was a kid
every house had somebody in it.
Okay, so growing up here
what was the population?
I think when I was a kid
it was around 600.
-Okay, we’re down to two?
[Jerry] I’d say about
a hundred people left one year.
What year was that?
Somewhere around the early ’90s,
maybe ’95, ’96, somewhere in there.
Crabbing got really bad
and a prison opened.
So everybody… you know,
I don’t blame ’em.
It was healthcare,
and steady job, and steady money.
-Oh, prison on the mainland?
-No cops on the island at all?
-No, not now.
Used to be a sheriff here
a long time ago but not now.
-So you guys self-regulate?
-Yeah, pretty much. We know what goes on.
This post office used to fly
a British flag until the late ’60s
because we were Tories
until the revolution was over.
-Till the late what ’60s?
Yeah, used to fly
just under the American flag.
[Peter] Okay, so you have
a lot of affinity towards the Brits here?
-Yeah, back then they did
because they were pretty much
left out here to dry.
They had to side with the British,
they had no defense.
The Brits and French were fighting it out
here in Chesapeake Bay, right?
The American Revolution,
a couple skirmishes happened.
It was a little after.
I found a cannon ball not too long ago
that was from a skirmish in 1782, yeah.
That was when it was over, 1782.
-You found a cannon ball?
Yeah, it’s called chain shot.
I remember reading the history
of where I was standing at,
the British Commander ordered
the cannons loaded with chain shot.
Which is two cannonballs
linked in the middle with a piece of chain
and it’s used to take out
the rigging of a sailing ship.
-This place burned down recently?
-Probably five or six years ago.
A wild fire cut across here
and caused it to catch on fire.
-All right, this is the end of Ewell?
-Leaving the capital.
Going to Rhoade Point.
Going to the hood.
[both laughing]
-Is this where you live, Jerry, the hood?
-This is where I live, the hood.
The road to Rhoade Point,
only the brave drive it?
-Something like that?
-Yeah, it’s pretty calm.
[Jerry] All these places over there,
probably ten or so homes used to be there
before I was born.
-That green island there?
There was a dock there,
they called that the Docker’s Gut.
-Why is no one living there?
-There was a church.
Because after the farming,
they used it up pretty much
and then it was a lot of salt water,
you know?
The ocean was rising, and rising,
and all this land that used to be
farm land turned into marsh.
-This was farm land back in the day?
-Yeah, big stretches of it was.
They’re called ridges.
That’s where they came and lived.
If you dig into that
then you’re digging into Native artifacts
because they were there first.
I’ve dug several artifacts out of my yard.
Two arrowheads, and a lot of chips,
and stuff like that.
-You still have ’em?
-Oh, yeah.
That’s your dump?
You guys burn trash here?
-That’s what’s called the burn pile,
they put leaves, and old wood,
and stuff like that will burn.
This is all weight goods, they call it.
‘Frigerators, washing machines,
stuff like that.
All the metal, then that gets
loaded on a boat and took off of here.
And all the scrap from the burn pile,
that’ll get…
A bulldozer and a big truck
will come over once or twice a year
and scrape all that up.
This is where the pirate used to live.
Used to be called Rogue’s Point.
-The pirates lived?
One of the guys,
him and his nephew lived here.
-So pirates of the Chesapeake Bay,
that’s where this took place or…
-Naw, we talk about pirates,
we think jewels, and gold, and all.
-But I think there’s is
more like river pirates.
They were stealing your cargo.
Either right here or over that way
a little bit is where Marmaduke lived
From what I understand and have read,
they would bring in a boat they captured,
take all the pieces
and everything useful off of it
and then just use it for firewood.
[Peter] You don’t need
license plates here, huh?
-Eh, technically I think you do
but they don’t do anything.
You can buy a little $25 thing and then
it lets you drive around the island.
-But when you don’t have cops
then who’s gonna stop you?
[Jerry] This was my aunt’s house.
Two years ago now,
a tornado come through here,
and there’s a viral video of it.
It come right straight across here
and turnt right here, and she was
laying in bed in a little pile right there
and the whole building and all
had like covered her like in a cocoon.
She didn’t get a scratch on her.
-Wow, that’s crazy.
This used to be a restaurant back then.
back in the day there was a gift shop
right here on this little lot.
-[Peter] Methodist church?
-[Jerry] Yep, all three are Methodist.
But somewhere right around here,
from here on down to the end
this road is over 300 and some years old.
This piece of road right here.
It’s older than the USA.
It’s one of the oldest roads
probably in the whole country.
[Jerry] When you look you see
Tyler, Evans, Marsh, Bradshaw,
All the names are represented.
-What’s your last name, Jerry?
-My name’s Smith.
Oh, the island is named after you?
-You’re named after the island?
Actually from what I understand
the guy that his name was Henry Smith,
he came here in the 1600s,
somewhere around 1699,
and he… what’s called a patent.
They would, I guess the king
would grant tracts of land
and they’re called hundreds,
and it meant that a hundred people
could live on a tract of land.
This would probably been called
Rogue’s Hundred or something like that
or Bradshaw’s Hundred.
And it should be sufficient
enough size for a hundred people
could live on a tract of land.
-Hey, how you doing?
-All right.
[Jerry chuckles]
He’s a yarney too.
-He’s a what?
-He’s a tangierman.
We call each other yarney which means…
It’s just like
an old English word for friend.
It means friend.
So Tangier Island, for those
that don’t know, just south of here.
Seven miles in that direction.
[Jerry] How you doing?
[man] Very well.
[Jerry] We picked up some yesterday.
We went fish Monday, had zero.
Zero, so it was like, man…
Four or five days would be
a good soak time for them now
Just the kittie fish
is eating them all up.
-They eating oysters.
-They’re eating oyster too?
The man had it on their pictures.
He had oysters,
big clams, and a load of crabs.
How ’bout that?
He wouldn’t have… Uh-huh.
[both chuckling]
[tires skid]
[man in truck] I’ve seen you on YouTube.
-I’ve seen you on YouTube.
-Oh, yeah? Cool.
How you doing?
-Good, you?
-I’m loving it out here.
-It’s pretty nice. Bugs eating us but…
Nice to meet you. My name’s Chad.
-Chad, okay, nice to meet ya.
-He’s a Bradshaw.
-You’re a Bradshaw, Chad?
-I’m a Bradshaw.
-His family’s been here forever.
-Well, nice to see you.
-Take care.
You’re the first person
I’ve seen that’s famous.
[all laughing]
-[Peter] Jerry’s famous.
-[laughing continues]
[Jerry] See ya later.
[Jerry] I was wondering if somebody…
I knew it, I was like,
“Somebody’s gonna find… see him.”
-So does–
-I believe I recognize
your voice actually.
Not even from your videos
but actually your voice from somewhere.
-Don’t know where.
Coming into your dreams, Jerry.
-I’ll tell you–
-Or your nightmares.
I like to turn on YouTube and go to sleep.
So you might have come across YouTube
somewhere along the line.
It’s very possible.
-So what’s going on here?
-This house and my house, both of these
were built right around 1880.
-This is your house?
-Yes, this is mine.
This is my wreck. [chuckles]
-You got a leaky roof, Jerry?
-Yeah, Hurricane Sandy done this.
I’m gathering a lot of you guys
own your homes outright.
-You don’t have home insurance?
At the time they promised us
a load of stuff and we left.
We moved somewhere else for seven years.
When you leave a house like this open
for seven years you can see what happens.
-What about FEMA?
-They came in and said,
“Oh, we’re gonna build you a new house.”
They paid rent nine months, that was it.
So when it rains you’re having problems
with water going through?
I don’t even go in that part.
I just live in the back part of the house.
-Oh, okay.
-I come out here this morning
and cleaned up a little bit.
-This is your work shed?
-Are you guys called crabbers?
-Waterman is the old English word.
-This where the magic happens, Jerry?
-This is where the magic happens.
-And so this is the gateway to your work?
So you go off here, you’re bringing
the crabs back and you’re–
See the end of the wood,
the dredges sitting there?
-You throw this rope out and you drag it.
I got a video of shows how I do it
and you know, it’s hard work.
It’s all in your back
and in your hands, and in your arms.
Sometimes it’s side to side.
You don’t stop all day until you get home.
-That’s you crabbing?
And you upload these to YouTube.
I’ll leave the link
so people can watch it.
[birds singing]
-Is this what you guys
are doing to create a barrier?
-So when waves come in
this is a water break for ya?
-Yeah, up until a point but it’ll
probably get about this deep or so here.
-Oh, really? So what about your house?
You’re not on stilts.
-It’ll come in it.
It comes in it when we have storms.
That’s usually about once every two years.
-So the water comes over your floor?
Oh yeah, I have
a foot of water in the house.
-You just walk around in the boots?
-Walk around in the boot.
Hit the recliner and watch TV
until the tide goes back down.
-Watch it come in, watch it go out.
-[Peter laughs]
See the minnows swimming all around.
-The minnows in your house?
Jerry, you have such a good attitude.
[laughing] Why not?
You can take your life any way you want.
You can blame every
little thing happens on you
and make it the worst possible life
or you can take what you have got
and make it the best possible life
and that’s the way I look at it.
So we’re taking the boat
to the next town? Yep, it’s off to itself.
-This isn’t your fishing boat is it?
-No, this is a friend of mine’s boat.
-Mines’ right over there.
-But this is better for cruising, huh?
-Yeah, better for cruising.
-You got a little school chair here.
-[both chuckling]
You get it there.
-[Peter] Get this one?
-[Jerry] Yeah, if you want.
Oh, there we go, rookie mistake.
-That’s all right.
When my son was a little kid that’s
all he wanted to do was tie the boat
and he’d get mad
if I didn’t let him tie the boat.
He’d make me go turn out and come back in.
Jerry, I can’t put it in words
and I’m in the honeymoon period
’cause I just got here,
but there’s a feeling here.
I tell you what, I’ve had people…
This is true, a friend of mine,
he came here from Pennsylvania,
and he was the kind of person
who worked constantly.
I mean like 2:00 in the morning,
he was a carpenter.
2:00 in the morning,
you could see him still working
and he’s been here
about two, three years now,
he’s back to island time.
[both laughing]
Did you bring out the Jaws shirt for
this shoot or do you usually rock that?
-That’s a classic.
-No I usually rock it.
But I thought… it was clean.
[Jerry] See that one down there?
That one down there,
that’s called Hog Neck.
It was a preacher from a long time ago.
His name was Joshua Thomas.
They called him the parson of the island.
He used to sail from Deal’s Island
down through here
and preach to all the islands
and he preached to the British
just before they invaded DC
in the War of 1812
and he told them they were gonna lose,
and they lost.
[twangy guitar plays]
[Jerry] This is one of my
favorite places to crab right here.
See the spot, the grass?
Can you see it now?
-Yeah, a little bit.
See that? That’s Tangier.
-Yep, right there is Tangier.
And over there you said
they have a totally different accent?
Yes, it’s completely different.
How do they speak?
It’s a morn drawn out. They draw
their words a little more than we do.
You would think
we would sound a lot like them
’cause they’re only seven miles away
but we sound more like
the people in Carolina.
They call it the Carolina Brogue.
-Your accent?
Okay, what is their accent?
Elizabethan, they say
they’re both Elizabethan
but theirs sounds a little
older if I’ll tell the truth.
They’re accent… God ‘mighty, these bugs.
-But it does sound older.
-[Peter blows away bugs]
-I’m gonna do this real quick, [laughs]
-Yeah, okay.
Wow, let’s keep this thing moving,
they’re crazy!
-That is savage.
-Yeah, we wouldn’t have got out the boat.
-We wouldn’t have lived that long.
-Okay, what’s going on here, Jerry?
-Right here in this little area right here
this is where John Tyler
first came to the island.
He was born right here.
Right in this one little place,
he was born here in 1650.
That’s my tenth great-grandfather.
Does it feel amazing
to be that connected to the land?
Yes, it is. Yeah.
Those are serious roots.
Wow, this is awful.
-I didn’t think they’d beat us there.
-[Peter blows bugs away]
-So this is where Smith Island started?
You got the US Coast Guard?
-Yeah, I guess he’s here
to check on somthing.
-I’m okay with leaving my backpack here?
-You’re fine.
I think we can chain it to the chair…
-So no crime on the island?
-No, very little.
I heard about somebody stole
somebody’s gas a little while ago
but that’s about the only thing
you ever hear about.
Somebody stealing gas or something.
Right, you can’t steal
a bicycle or a vehicle–
No, you’re gonna know where it is.
[boat creaks]
Jerry, I’ll impress you with my skills.
-I worked on Lake Tahoe one summer.
-Oh yeah?
And let’s see if I can do it one-handed.
-Oh, there you go. You got her.
-All right.
-Something like that.
-That’ll work, she ain’t going nowhere.
-So this is Tylerton.
Or Tylertown?
-Yeah, it looks like it says
Tylertown but we say Tylerton.
Like for the mountains we say, “Mainten”.
Oh, and we talk backward too.
I don’t know if you paid attention
to this one yet or not.
If I see a real pretty girl I’ll say,
“Damn, she ain’t purty none.”
That means she is.
-She ain’t pretty none?
-She ain’t purty none.
-And everyone understands including her?
Well yeah, you don’t want to
say that to a strange girl.
[both laughing]
One of my best friends in the world.
What are you doing, Danny?
-What are you doing, Jeff?
-Not much, just walking around.
My friend…
I thought that was you
but I weren’t sure, Jerry.
I figured we’d come down get some lunch.
-How ya doing?
-All right.
-How you doing, sir? Peter.
-How you doing?
-Peter Santenello… Santenello?
-Hello, ma’am
This one’s Ida.
-[Peter] She ain’t pretty none.
-Don’t call me ma’am.
[all laughing]
He knew it.
-He’s learning.
-That’s better, right?
[all laughing]
He’s learning, yeah.
We grew up together, me and Jerry did.
-How was he as a kid? Wild man?
Yeah, ’bout like we are the wild.
I guess we’ve simmered down
a little bit with age but…
-They were all wild
when they were younger.
-Yeah, we were.
So that’s the Tylerton accent
you’re speaking?
Yes, see his is
a little different than ours.
See, he’s a Tyler. He’s related
to the original John Tyler too.
-You’re related to John Tyler?
[Jerry] Yes, he’s
one of the John Tylers too.
What do you guys feel about the mainland?
Do you just feel like
you’re in your own world out here?
Like totally removed?
-Yeah, but more of the world’s coming in.
-How so?
Just… fast outboards and…
-I keep the people
moved in here… at bay.
[all laughing]
-You keep things in line out here?
-The do’s and the dont’s
-I am a Southern girl.
-I know, I can tell.
-I’m from West Virginia.
-You don’t like ma’am, that’s interesting.
Actually General Robert E. Lee
is my cousin.
We thought he married into our family
but we found out he is a cousin.
[Jerry] Cool.
I tell everybody I don’t behave
and put my Yankee flag up.
The world changed quick though.
[Jerry] It’s unbelievable,
I’m John Tyler’s tenth grandson.
-Is that right? Okay.
[Peter] So what’s going on on the island
today? We got a cart coming here.
I deliver the medicines
and packages here on Tylerton.
-You deliver the medicine?
So you drive around the golf cart
and deliver to homes?
-Oh, that’s great.
I can still but I’m legally blind.
I can’t see your face
so I couldn’t tell what you look like.
-You’re not missing out.
-You see who’s driving though. [laughing]
But you can deliver the goods
for people, help them out?
-Yeah, I use my glasses.
She knows the roads her.
She’s lived here so long
so she can drive if I’m not here.
-This is your cargo boat coming in?
-Yep, it’s one of ’em. Yep.
-This is how you get
all your food and everything?
-Yep, food and medicine,
lumber, whatever you need.
That’s how it comes over.
-So Captain Jasons–
I’ll tell you something
that’ll freak your mind.
-Okay, what’s that?
-I’m 20 years older than he is.
-Oh, wow. You robbed the cradle?
She was a cougar
when she didn’t know what cougar was.
[Jerry] ‘For they had a word for it.
-You started the cougar trend?
No, I said I’m a cougar,
didn’t even know it.
I gotta get the meds.
-Once a cougar, always a cougar?
-Actually two more boys
that’s our age done the same thing,
married older women.
-What do you think of the younger men?
Younger men?
Nowadays I don’t give two cents for ’em.
[all laughing heartily]
[Peter] What is this,
a six foot wide main road?
-This is your post office?
This is the little…
My sister used to be the postmaster.
-That is so cool.
I mean just everything
is scaled differently.
-See ya later.
[Peter] So this is normal to you, Jerry,
but it’s super interesting.
These narrow streets, these old houses,
it all feels so miniature.
-This is a little store.
-You wanna get something?
-Hey, how y’all doing?
-How you guys doing?
-How’s it going?
-It’s Coast Guard? Oh, cool.
-Oh yeah, it is Coast Guard.
-So you get a few tourists here, huh?
Oh yeah, I don’t know how bad
their tourists is down here but up home
when it’s heavy it’s like
a hundred people or more in an afternoon.
-For about three hours it’s a nightmare
then it’s like… all gone.
-‘Cause they come over
in the boat then go back?
So you got pretty much
everything you need to survive, huh?
-A nice little well-organized store.
-Hello, how you doing?
-I’m good, how are you?
[woman] Hope you don’t want a crab cake
’cause we don’t got ’em.
[Jerry laughs]
[Peter] Let me get you, Jerry.
I got this one, please.
Just these three drinks
or do you want something else?
-I want a Snickers bar please.
It’s good they don’t have crab because
you said we’re gonna do crab later.
-Like the freshies?
-We got better than that, oh yeah.
-I cooked them this morning.
-Thank you.
-Thank you, ma’am.
-Hey, how y’all doing?
-How’s it going?
[Peter] Do you guys like when
you got missions out here on the island?
It’s awesome, absolutely great out here.
-Souvenirs for the fam?
You don’t make many trips out here
so you try and stack up.
-Thanks guys, take care.
-See y’all later.
-Thanks, you too.
[Jerry] It was five stores down here
when I was a kid.
-It’s just one now?
-Five stores, one now.
-Another Methodist church?
-Yep, my dad’s buried right over there.
-Your dad’s buried over there?
-Yep, the fourth one back.
On this… clear to the church, Smith.
This one here,
you coulda bought this house.
A little while ago
that house went for ten grand.
-Are you serious?
-The house next to me,
the little one sold for taxes, $5,000.
5,000, that’s for a bad house, you know?
They need work
but you got the land ain’t going nowhere.
-That was ten grand?
-Ten grand.
[Peter] So when the tide is up…
-I can see there was water there.
I’m sure it holds water there too.
-It’s going all the way up to that lawn?
Okay, so when you were a kid you didn’t
have this problem on the island?
Not here.
Not around the homes and all, no.
Okay, so–
-That started in probably the late ’80s,
early ’90s, we started getting…
Used to be what they called spring tide
and fall tide.
-We’d have a week where the tide would
come up and inundate the land and all
but then it would go down every six hours.
But you would have a week of it
and then that’s it.
It wouldn’t be no more until fall.
-What’s it now?
-Now it’s anytime
the wind blows to the east.
[Jerry] This guy here, I heard
he was the guy who invented color X-ray.
Something to do with a colored X-ray.
-He’s since moved on or died?
-Yeah, it was a long time ago.
-See how the water will sit under a house?
That’s what happens.
It’ll set there and little by little
that house will sink, and sink, and sink.
Is that why that house went for $10,000?
-More than likely.
-This one’s for sale.
-Yeah… Oh, I didn’t know that.
-What do you think? How much?
I would think somewhere in the 35 to 50,
somewhere in that area.
[Jerry] This is bad.
That is marsh.
These are muskrat…
-Muskrat trails?
-Yes, where the muskrats
have been all through here.
They really eat a yard up.
This weren’t this bad
just a few years ago.
-Oh man, that’s gotta be tough.
This is where my house was.
Our house was moved from Tylerton
over the Rhode’s Point.
-They built it here, put it on a ship?
-Yeah, and it wind up
sitting down there in the creek
’cause they had a bad storm and it sat
on a barge for about a week or two.
Tornado ripped the roof off of that too.
Probably eight or ten years ago.
[Peter sighs]
See now they’re saying
the house there is older.
I swear this one looks older to me.
-The red one?
-Yeah, doesn’t it look older
than that one?
-Maybe they just redid some things.
-Maybe so.
-This is a cute house.
-Yeah, I think so too.
-I think it looks like really old
-It is cool.
This used to be the crab co-op.
The women… I guess it still is
but I don’t think any women use it now.
There’s so few women to pick crabs.
So the men are out on the water,
the women pick the crabs?
Yes, what it would be, it would be
they save a bushel of their catch.
-And bring it to their wives to pick.
She would probably get
maybe around eight pound out of a bushel.
-I would imagine that’s closed.
-So where’s it happening now?
In their homes.
I bet it ain’t four women on
the whole island that pick crabs anymore.
-I was reading the other day that
the state had some new regulation
where you couldn’t do the crabs at homes.
-Oh no, you can’t.
-They got money for this.
We’re doing it here and now
it’s gone back to the homes obviously.
Pretty much because
it just ain’t enough to keep it running.
So the right setup on the island,
you got your home,
you got your crab shanty,
you got your boat,
you got your traps,
and you can live life on your terms
for the most part as long
as you’re doing the work?
Pretty much. Nobody tells me
what to do and that’s the main thing.
‘Cept when I was married, she’d
tell me what to do all the time. [laughs]
I’m sure single life’s
a little bit hard out here, Jerry
-Eh… Yeah, not really.
-Yeah, I mean–
-You’re seeing ladies?
They stumble around once in a while.
-What.. the–
-Not very often, maybe every two years.
-[Jerry laughs]
-Ladies from the mainland come over?
My last girlfriend,
she moved here for a few months
but she had a lot of children.
They didn’t really like the place.
I drove her out to Pittsburgh, I never
been that far in my life in my car.
-Oh my God, I got stuck in a tunnel.
Somewhere through Pennsylvania
and had like arch tunnels…
I’m not thinking I’m driving
a big ol’ U-Haul, a panel van,
and I went too far on the side
and caught, you know,
on the arch of the…
Had to hop out in traffic.
Here I am, from nowhere,
luckily the people there
must’ve seen this happen before.
Because everybody stopped and just
waited for me to get the van out of there.
I was like, “Oh my God.” ’cause if
they’da kept going, I’dda been scared
like, “I don’t know what to do.”
I remember one guy who spent
nearly his whole life,
he never left until
about a year before he died.
Wouldn’t leave the island.
[boat engine humming]
[Jerry] Right here the Maryland-Virginia
line cuts straight across the island.
-Right here was a store
and they would build half the store in
Maryland and half the store in Virginia.
That way if there’s anything illegal
going on on either side
they just shove it into the other state
and I’ve actually heard
about back in a long time ago
there’d be about men wanted
from Maryland or Virginia
and they would coy ’em into the store…
-And then a bunch of men would push
the wanted man over into the state
that he’s wanted in.
And I’d heard that had happened
to a couple people.
I think more or less for piracy
and stealing people’s
oysters and stuff like that.
Right, because the cops
couldn’t cross state lines.
No, couldn’t cross state lines.
-The sheriffs couldn’t cross state lines.
-Different counties, different states.
And of all the states in the country
I would say Maryland and Virginia
for a hundred years
had the most animosity toward each other.
I didn’t know that.
I don’t think any other two states
had quite the same animosity
toward each other
and it was all about oysters.
It was all about oysters.
‘Cause they moved this line.
this line’s a zigzag now.
-Virginia got that…
Because they weren’t happy
with not getting all the rocks.
All the oyster rocks.
-So the oyster wars happened right here?
-Right here.
One battle happened right there.
-So they’re literally
just fighting over oysters?
-Oysters, yep.
-‘Cause that was the currency?
-Possession of the oysters, yep.
Okay, and then in Civil War times
Virginia with the Confederacy,
Maryland with the Union, right?
Yes, but this is more or less
Confederate territory
This was Confederate territory?
Yeah, because I’ve actually found
French coins.
And I know French coins around 1865
were payment that the French
were helping the Confederates
and I found several French coins here.
-Do you have those coins?
-Oh, yeah.
If I can find ’em,
I got two trunks full of arrowheads
and old things that I’ve found
around here and all.
I’ll get through it.
We’ll see if we can locate ’em.
But yeah, I’ve got one from 1865 or three.
Right in this place over here,
this was a line store too.
There was four of ’em that I can tell.
They always talk about
the island being dry
’cause you can’t buy liquor here
but sometime in the past your could
because you go to either
one of these line stores
and the broken gin bottles are everywhere.
Okay, so you can’t buy alcohol
here on the island now?
No, no alcohol.
Never has been.
People make moonshine?
Uh, I did once. [laughs] A little bit.
But no, not…
-People bring alcohol, right?
-People bring it from the mainland.
-Okay, but you can’t buy it, interesting.
[Jerry] The people who came here
and the early pioneers,
I say they came here a lot
for the freedom.
They were poor.
These people were very, very poor
but I believe they came
so they could live free life.
Worship the way they wanted
and do the way they wanted.
They were willing to put up
with the poverty for the freedom.
-And things have changed,
society’s moved along,
materially people have more money now…
A lot more. I make more money in a day
than my parents made in a week.
But still that tune carries on
as in you’re out here for freedom,
you’re not out here to get rich?
No, nobody ever became
a waterman to get rich.
So that’s your priority in life,
you want your freedom?
-Enough to live off of.
And you’ll be way happier than if
you have a lot of money but no freedom?
[Jerry] And I think
America’s always worked…
Why it worked was because
you had this push and pull
from either side
and it kind of kept us centered.
Not going crazy this way
or not going crazy that way
but now people have just…
It’s like football teams,
you just choose a side
and I don’t care what your side does.
You know, it’s like I’m gonna
overlook everything my side does
just to support my side.
-Right, yeah.
-So you’re not on a side, Jerry?
No, never have been.
I’ve voted Republican,
I’ve voted Democrat.
I vote for the person
I think’s got the most intelligence.
I don’t want ’em to tell me
what I want to hear,
I want ’em to do
what I think they should be doing.
Personally I think
we all want the same thing.
-Oh yeah.
-We all want a nice life.
We want our children to thrive,
we want to thrive.
That’s it, we want to be left alone
to do what we want to do.
We don’t want to be overregulated,
we don’t want to be overtaxed,
we just want to live.
Just want to live without somebody
telling you what to do every five minutes.
[Peter chuckles]
This here’s a place called Little Thurfer.
It used to be
a Native American village here.
When I was a kid
my dad brought me here
and I sat right here on a little pile
of oyster shells and found 14 arrowheads.
In probably two hours.
You can’t see it now.
Tide’s a little too high for it.
But all in here’s
where you find arrowheads.
They’re all in these little holes
and all around in here.
They all wash out.
A lot of it’s gone, this was way out here
but at one time
there was a great big pile.
Probably knee high or so
of shells that went right across there.
You’d sit there and dig in these shells
and just find tons of arrowheads.
-Who was it here?
-Uh, I would think the Anamesic Indians.
-Okay, Chesapeake is a Native name too.
-Yeah, that means
Great Shellfish Bay, Chesapeake.
It used to be piles of oyster shells
and they were burnt.
You could tell that
they’d roasted these oysters
and more than likely they came in the fall
for the oysters and the ducks.
Because crabs are perishable.
I’m sure they ate ’em
but it would be perishable to ’em
Yeah, are these the stories
that have been passed down
or you’re just a history buff?
-Little bit of both.
I just love history, I do.
-You do?
[twangy guitar playing]
-What’s that out there in the water?
-She’s called the American Miner.
She was a liberty ship
built in the Second World War.
-It sank partially?
Yeah, they have it as a target.
They use it for to blow it up.
At night you’ll hear boom, boom,
boom, boom all night long sometimes.
My dad, when they first put it there,
they put her there pristine.
They said even the dishes
and all the silverware
was laid out on the tables
[Jerry] This is the school boat.
This is the boat the children take
to Crisfield every morning at 6:00 AM.
-So your son’s on that boat?
-My son’s on that boat right there.
He should be about the third seat up.
-That is so cool.
-That is the public school bus out here?
-That is the public school bus.
-How many kids going to school?
-They run that boat for three kids?
Because that’s by law, right?
A school bus has to go to someone’s home?
It’s only one kid aboard that,
they have to do it.
He’s probably asleep.
They all got their own pillow and blanket
and when they get on the boat
they go to sleep.
They sleep for the ride over
in the morning
and sleep for
the ride back in the evening.
-‘Cause they’re getting up so early?
[Jerry] Just be careful
when the sea comes.
Okay, watch out here, gonna be a little…
-[Peter] Oh, yeah.
-[Jerry] Oh, that’s good.
[water splashes]
[Peter] Okay, so getting back
to your place now.
-Full circle.
-Here’s the boat I work on.
-Miss Betty?
-Miss Betty.
So how many of you guys
are still here on the island?
-All together there might be
20 watermen on this island.
-That’s it?
So what were you saying about crabbing?
I had the camera off
but you were worried about
the small crabbers getting pushed out.
Well every time they make a regulation
it kind of pushes out a few crabbers
because there’s always a few crabbers
living on the margin.
Living, you know… Just barely getting by
and as soon as they make a regulation,
[snaps] that guy’s gone.
And then he’s gone, the crab buyers say,
“Oh, we lost another waterman or two.”
“We gotta bump up the price.”
but the price never gets bumped up
before we lose a few more watermen.
The young generation’s
not gonna be doing this work?
-Who’s gonna be doing it?
-I… Nobody that I see.
You think this is the end of it, crabbing?
I think there’s one boy over here,
he’s my son’s age.
I think he might go to the water
but that’s because his dad,
and his grandfather, and all,
are still working on the water.
So it’s possible that he might go work
but he’s the only one.
No one wants to.
-So how are people gonna eat crabs?
-That’s a good question.
But you know how that is,
as soon as there’s a gold rush, you know,
people come in in a hurry.
If the crabs come back
with the right amount and the price
is right, people will get back into it.
-People will do the work?
[Jerry] When I first started
there was at least
a hundred watermen here… at least.
-Okay, but your son
isn’t following your footsteps?
-I wouldn’t think so.
He’s really smart so I really want him
to do something with his mind.
-You don’t want him crabbing?
-It’s too poor.
I don’t mind it but, you know…
-So with crabbing you have to
make your money while it’s here
and save that money
and live off it when it’s lean.
That’s what hurts you.
‘Cause then you ain’t got
no spare money to do nothing with.
[Peter] He’s returned.
We heard some things
banging around in there.
That’s what it takes
to get the things in there. [laughs]
You got like three cases of ’em.
I got tons of ’em
but these are the old ones.
These are 12,000 years old, 12 to 13.
These here are 8,000 to 9,000 years old.
This here’s around
8,000 to 9,000 years old
and all of these are all
at least 12,700 years old.
-How do you know how old they are?
-The clovis points are made
and they always have a
fluted channel.
That’s where they’re halfted.
-Like that.
You go by the style, see?
Now these are parallel flaked points,
see how the percussion…
-So this is the evolution of arrowheads?
This is the first,
this would be the second,
this would be the third
and believe it or not,
these are more scarce than any of ’em
because we had a time period
called the Younger Dryas
and it caused this whole East Coast
to turn to a desert
for about 2,000 or 3,000 yeas.
There was very few of this type
of Indian living here at the time.
-Oh, interesting.
This is one of the last shot
in the American Revolution.
This is what’s called chain shot.
This was another one like this
and there
was a piece of chain that linked the two
and they’d load ’em into a cannon
and they’d shoot it at the rigging
of a sailing ship
to take out all the sails.
That way they couldn’t sail.
And this one came from the Battle of 1782
in the straits called
the Battle of Kedges Strait.
I don’t think
they called it anything else.
But I was just walking and I think
I just seen like a part of it…
-I reached down and picked it up
and I was like,
“That’s heavy.”
then I looked around, “Oh, wow.”
and I though it was a gate weight.
They used to use old cannonballs
to pull the gate to on old houses
but then I remembered
reading the history book
and I’m like, “Oh, wait a minute,
this is right where the British…
The British commander said,
“Load chain shot.”
and this is probably
one of the chain shots
he loaded and shot that day.
[Peter] Paul Baker?
[Jerry] He come here one day
and he wrote copy number two.
He said, “I don’t even have one of these.”
-Oh, wow.
-He said he didn’t have one of these.
So that’s a book about the island here?
Yeah, so a friend of mine
a long time ago
came to my house and said,
“I have this book, you need this book.”
And I swear I take this book
with me everywhere.
-It goes with me everywhere.
-Can you open it?
What’s inside?
See, what it is,
it’s all the little towns all around here.
It’s got Smith… This is Crisfield.
-This is where
I got on the boat this morning.
-Smith Island here and different places.
-Let’s get out of the bugs.
-They are savage.
-Yes, they are.
[Peter exhales]
-Here, take the book.
I’ll put this in the house.
[Peter] Jacob, how are they in here?
That’s a huge difference, phew.
[Jerry] Now out here I’mma show ya.
See this? This is my house right there.
This was my grandpa’s house
that was right here.
This one… Mine’s 1880s,
they said this one’s around 1860s.
-So it was where the trailer is?
-Right there in front of the trailer.
-More houses back then, huh?
-Yeah, see this is…
If you look in here real deep
there’s like my grandfather
walking across the road here.
You have to use a magnifying glass
but my grandfather’s
walking across the road,
my uncles are here playing in a boat.
That house is still there.
That’s the pink one.
This one’s gone,
that one’s gone, that one’s gone.
This was a restaurant down here
on the border when I was a kid.
They just tore it down.
Right over here
was a big restaurant on the water.
[Jerry] John Tyler,
that’s his 11th great grandfather.
We went down to the John Tyler place
and I showed him where Smith Island began.
-11th great-grandfather?
-11th great-grandfather.
So it’s 374 years that I can trace
people in my family been on this island.
-Do most people
take it as seriously as you?
-No, people don’t care.
Very few people care.
There’s a few, you know?
It seems like if anybody
cares a little they really care a lot.
You know what I mean?
There’s not much of, “Eh, you know…”
-You’re either in it or you’re not.
-You’re borderline obsessed?
-Yeah, pretty much.
-Which is so cool.
-If I hear a little…
Like if I see old photos
I’ll post old photos.
I love posting old photos of people
that’s died around here
a long time ago and stuff.
You know, I just love the old stuff.
-So what do you think
you’ve gained living your life
versus someone that didn’t live in
a place with so many generations and…
I don’t know,
I guess a sense of anchorage.
I guess you can really say this is home.
[birds singing]
[metal clanking]
-[Peter] Fresh caught?
-[Jerry] Fresh caught.
-We caught ’em yesterday.
-Aw, thank you, Jerry.
You said you sell them
to Captain White’s Market near DC?
-And these are the best kind, blue crabs?
-Blue crab’s the best crab just about.
The people in DC or around the country
at nice restaurants
are eating crabs from here?
Oh yeah, DC definitely are.
They go right to DC, every crab we catch.
-Aw, this looks so good.
[Jerry] How do you eat ’em?
You break ’em in half?
[Peter] I haven’t done crab forever.
Cut the face off of it,
cut the dead man off, cut the legs off.
[cracking continues]
Let me see that camera, Jacob,
just gonna go in on your dad’s technique.
[Peter] There we go.
-This is how my mother
taught me how to do it.
I watched her do that for years and years.
-You put it in vinegar?
-Oh yeah, that’s the way I like it.
-You mind if I go no vinegar?
-That’s either way you want.
There’s no way of doing it.
People don’t understand
that we rarely eat crabs.
I might eat crabs two times a year.
Two, maybe three times a year,
maybe eat soft crabs once or twice.
Oysters once or twice.
Like a nephew of mine said,
when he grew up they ate
crabs because that was a meal
and he said he didn’t like ’em,
he don’t eat ’em.
He rarely eats a crab
of any kind, oyster, anything.
-That’s interesting.
-Because they were all so poor back then.
That was an actual meal
they had to eat more or less.
A woman that’s good at that,
she woulda jest went, brbrbrbra
and it woulda been that quick.
One woman, she could pick
five pounds in a few minutes.
-All right Jerry, let me give this a go.
Jacob going cameraman.
See, I could eat this… I say that now.
-I could eat this all day long.
-Oh, yeah.
-So good, mmm.
-Ain’t it good?
And I think they’re better
than any from like…
When we go down near the ocean
they have a iodine taste to ’em.
-But our crabs here don’t have that taste.
They have…
Yeah, there’s um…
You obviously taste the saltwater in them.
-Yeah, that’s what I was gonna say,
they’re sweeter.
They’re sweeter but a really nice balance.
That’s the way our oysters are here too
when they’re running good
our oysters,
they call ’em Kedges Strait’s oysters.
-They’re salty.
They got a real nice salty flavor to ’em.
-Jerry, that is so good. Oh, yeah.
So Jerry, I mean the job options here
are the post office
or the post office, right?
Pretty much, post office,
work at the restaurants,
or work at the cake factory.
That’s it
-So if you’re not crabbing or doing
one of those things, you gotta leave?
-Yep pretty much.
Some carpentry
but now there’s a lot of carpenters here.
So it’s hard to keep steady work
because you do one job
and by the time you get to the other,
somebody else has already took that job.
-So all the young people pretty much
move to the mainland these days?
-Everybody my age.
The only other person here my age
is the guy we talked to in Tylerton
this morning, Danny, my friend Danny.
He’s the only one my age here.
There’s a couple younger
and of course older
but the group that was my age,
just me and him.
So Jerry, you’re
an endangered species basically?
-Pretty much.
I feel endangered every now and then.
[all chuckling]
[water gently splashing]
[bird caws]
[Peter] Jerry and the grand finale, right?
-The cake!
-Not just a cake?
-Not just a cake.
The Smith Island cake.
-And that’s what you guys are known for?
-Oh, yeah.
Famous Maryland State’s
official dessert, yep.
The story of this cake is,
back in the probably late 1800s,
early 1900s,
the women would make this cake
for their husbands on the dredge boats.
They would go away in October
and come back in December.
So it was a couple months and the wives
would send ’em with these cakes
because they’re moist and the fudge icing
on it would hold the moisture in.
That way they could keep it
on the boat for something from home
they could have for a few weeks
and that’s how the cake started.
And their cake, believe it or not,
it’s from the factory
but it is almost identical
to what mom used to make.
-Oh, yeah?
Where does somebody get this?
Do they ship it off the island?
-Yeah, the guy that makes them here
on the island, they go everywhere.
I’m pretty sure he sends ’em too
but when I worked at the cake factory
they went everywhere.
We sent some… One went to Denmark.
-All right.
I’ll get the link of the business
and put it of the description of this.
-You think they’d want the business?
Yeah, I’m sure they would.
[water gently splashing]
All right Jerry, I want to thank you
for a few things today.
One is crabbers slash fishermen like you
allow people like me to eat great seafood.
Well, you’re welcome.
So without you guys we can’t enjoy that.
That’s good.
And it’s good to see where it comes from.
I mean we didn’t show it
exactly on the water today.
You said the fishing was low right now.
It’s not quite to the time
where they’re in here.
-They’re out in the deep water channel.
-Yeah, okay.
And then thank you so much
for bringing us into your world.
It’s very interesting.
-I’m glad you enjoyed it.
-No, loved it.
And lastly, you have a YouTube channel.
I’m gonna leave that link
down below, guys.
And also you said
if anyone wants to help with your roof…
Yeah, if you want
to fund the roof… You know…
One dollar, that’d be plenty.
-One dollar?
-One dollar.
Okay, so however someone does that,
I’ll leave your email.
Is that what you wanna do
or how do you wanna do that?
-That would work.
-Leave your email, okay.
If you wanna help out Jerry’s roof
I’m gonna leave the email
to Jerry down below here
and then if someone wants
a grand tour like I had today,
I know you’re busy
with fishing, crabbing, but…
-Sunday’s I’m free.
-Sunday’s you’re free.
Someone could hire you
to do something like that?
Sure, I’ll tell ’em
the history of the island.
Yeah, you’re very knowledgeable
about the island, Jerry.
It’s like a sponge.
That’s a curse, I don’t forget anything.
Some people forget it
and they’re all happy.
-It’s like I don’t forget anything.
[Jerry laughs]
That was awesome. Thank you.
You’re welcome, man.
What do you say on the island?
Like ahoy, matey at the end of something?
What do you say?
That was cheesy
but what’s the Smith Island saying?
-See ya later.
-See ya later.
Thanks for coming along, guys.
Until the next one.
[twangy guitar plays]

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