For generations, the people of Smith Island, Maryland have crabbed the island’s waters, six days a week from 3 a.m. to at least 6 p.m., April through December. It is possible to read the names on the tombstones next to the church in the middle of town and prove that the present inhabitants are direct descendants of British colonists who first settled the island after 1657.
The island was originally named the Russell Isles by Captain John Smith in honor of Smith’s ship doctor, Walter Russell. Population peaked at 800 during the early 20th century, and today is about half that.
Inhabitants of Smith Island have a distinctive accent reminiscent of their British forebears and preserved by isolation. One noted custom is that islanders in cars and trucks honk their horns and wave. Although cars are few, there are bicycles (allowed on the ferry) and golf carts can be rented. Smith Island Center is a small museum in the tiny community of Ewell provides a spot for increasing numbers of visitors to learn about the Island, its history, economic and social life. The center includes permanent exhibits and a 20-minute film on the history of the island, the watermen and the Bay, the role of women in island life and locals’ distinctive speech.
For more information, visit http://www.smithisland.org/