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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

New Kent as Fisherman's Paradise- 1897

A long article, but with all the references to the most important men of the day and their interest in hunting and fishing in New Kent it is a worthwhile one . . .


Many of the Most Prominent Men of the City Devotees of the Sport-
Most Popular Haunts About Here and Down on the Chickahominy.

"Our plenteous streams a various race supply.
The bright-eyed perch, with fins of various dye;
The silver eel, in shining- volumes rolled,
The yellow carp, In scales bedropt with gold;
Swift trout, diversified with crimson stains,
And pike, the tyrants of the watery plains."

If one were to look all the way from "Abacus" to "Zodiac" in the great encyclopaedias at the end of the Query editor's desk, it is doubtful whether he would find when and by whom fishing was Invented. A diligent search of the government records of the most ancient peoples have failed to show the exact date when the patent was taken out. That this trick of getting the finny "set" into trouble and atmosphere and sunshine is a very old one is shown by the fact that the ancient history of the most ancient lands abound in fish stories. Not only so, but the further one goes on the back-track of history the more interesting tho fishes become, and time was when a prince went alibiing for a mermaid fair.

Fishing is a fashion. The boys on the streets have their times for kites, for tops, for rope-jumping, for track-die," and for being bad the year around; just so it is with the devotees of the fishing science, except that there are some who are very much in their relation towards fishing as are the boys to the last of their fashionable items. They just as leave go every Sunday in the year as every other Sunday, if their wives and their tender consciences would let them.

The great principle upon which fishing is done can be stated best font this way: "Everything comes to him that waits." No fisherman who has ever really been fishing- everybody knows that most of those who have the richest fishy history haven't the faintest idea how to bait a hook- understands this old adage to mean that every good thing comes to him that waits but "everything"- why! the same boat has been known to bring back hunger, wetness, disgust, madness, gladness, and fish; sometimes all the rest, with the last two still overboard.

It has been shown In many ways- mostly by actual trial- and by wide and long experiences, that everybody can't catch fish. The little scaly rascals positively refuse to bite at some people's hooks, and, in congress assembled some years ago, the fish world, with one dissenting vote- that of the eel- took a most solemn pledge, never, "under any circumstance whatsoever, to bite at a bait extended by feminine hands." They agreed to leave that for the men to do. Of course, some of tho weak-kneed little fellows, the dudes of the tribe, have broken their pledges, but afterwards were very righteously penitent for it; others have been fooled, and so have the men.

But to be a successful fisherman one must chew tobacco and smoke, must be able to say "cuss words" to yourself, and get mad, but keep your temper in the boat.

That city people say you must spit tobacco juice on your hook; the country people say not. The city sports say that's because the country sports chew such vile tobacco.

Since spring has gotten out of the lap of winter, and has begun to go abroad In the land, smiling like, the fishes have had plenty to eat, and so have the people. To the brave and warlike, the noble "Jeems" is now their great line of battle. Any sunny day (or Sunday) the banks of this limpid stream present a picture very much like that of an old unused ice-pond, full of barkless, black gum logs on an August day- terrapins everywhere. A gentleman whose grand-father fought in the War of Independence, and who has inherited something of this great sire's admiration for the First In War, was heard to say that a few days ago, when he went down the river about half a mile, he counted, with-out even including himself, 140 boats, containing anywhere from one to five people, 400 on the banks of the Manchester side of the river, 700 on the Richmond side-men, women, and children- three races, Caucasian, Malay, and Negro, all warring on the innocent, guileless little sporters under the water. This is no fairy tale, but an actual count, and then there was much of the shore he said he couldn't see.

They are anywhere the fish will bite- anywhere from Mayo's bridge to the flats opposite where the monitors were stationed. A boat is a good thing when one can be gotten, but it isn't at all necessary, and a great many inconveniences always accompany it. Somebody will be sure to go in it whom no amount of frowning and wishing down among the fishes will stop from talking; some-body is always along who didn't bring any dinner with him, and who is always asking "isn't it time for us to take a bite now"; somebody is always along who will insist on throwing his hook just at the place from where you caught your last fish, and then that somebody is along who won't catch a minnow, but will have the profoundest admiration for your finest specimens, and who has a sick child at home, and who, if you divide with him, give him your largest in the goodness of your heart-a very reluctant heart-will tell every friend of yours that he caught them and you did not "get a smell." Next day when you go out and hunt up those friends and tell them of your great luck, you notice they only smile, and when your back is turned they put it down against you' as a "fish story."

But the best plan is to jump up from the table, get your hat already in your hand, and say: "Wife, I am going fishing to-day; look for me when you see me." She hasn't made any preparations to go herself, and so you are safe. Get a long, small twine, tie a piece of wood to one end, a piece of lead or iron spike to the other, suspend three hooks from this end, one above the other, and you are ready. Any other preparations will defeat you, except enough change to buy a good [mr at] fish from the little negro who fished just below you, for the subject matter of the story. On the way to the river turn over all the old lodge in the way and get a few worms- not many- in your pocket or a tomato-can, and go by yourself to a high bank, alt flat down in the mud, plant your heels in the mire below you to prevent sliding, and with three squiggling worms on the three hooks, swing out the iron spike as far as you can, holding the stick of the other end between your knees. In this way you make the announcement of your presence to the sculls of innocents abroad- and wait. Hundreds go just this way from Richmond every day, and they catch any where from minus infinity to seventy-five apiece.

Colonel J. Bell Bigger1 says that when the dogwood is in full bloom then the finny tribe are feeding, cannibal-llke, on those of their kind, and the poor little minnow, twisting and wriggling about on Aberdeen and Cincinnati bass hooks, attracts the southern chub, the swift pike, and the gentle silver perch. And with his eye sparkling the Colonel continued: "Judges and Jurors, ministers of the Gospel, postmasters, statesmen, parliamentarians, and other common folks rig up bamboo rods with nickel-plated reels and plaited silk lines, and providing themselves with sandwiches and an antidote for snake-bite, off they go to the calm mill-pond or the fast tidewaters of the Chickahominy, for the while not caring for the arbitration treaty with old John Bull or any other two-legged quadruped. and forgetting for a time Gomez and the Cuban patriots2, and feeling perfectly indifferent as to the fate Sanguilly if he shall violate his pledge by going back to the beleaguered island. What enthusiastic fisherman is there who cures what Hanna thinks of the protective policy of Dingley & Co. as long as they can't lay an embargo on the soul-inspiring bite of an eight pounder, and this sport can be indulged in [in habiliments] of Democratic simplicity, and not tortured by tight-fitting swallow-tails as worn when mixing at the White House, where McKinley is surrounded by an army of fishermen, fishing for official favors. This city is a good starting point to fishing grounds. In ante-bellum days there were not so many professional rod fishermen as now. There were then J.A. Cowardin5, father of Colonel C. O'B., Colonels Thomas B. Bigger, Sam Myers, and Joe Atkins, and Messrs. Daniel Trueheart, Joe Allen, Dick Lorton, and other well-to-do folks, who would take their outings- fixed for sport and ramp pleasures. There were many ponds to go to. Young's, Vandeventer's, Gherhearts, Staples, Woolridge's, Ryall's, Bassett's, and others, but these ponds have not afforded much sport in latter days. I was fishing at Ryall's one day, a lone fisherman, when, lo and behold, I found the dead body of a man floating on its placid surface. Who he was, where he came from, how he got there, and where he went to I have never been told. The county authorities burled the mortal remains close by the water's edge.

There are many Covers of fishing in our city, among them State-Librarian Scott3 Weather-Forecaster Evans, Colonel John S. Harwood4, Dr. Judd Wood, John Baseler. Captain Wingfield, Judge Witt, Moore brothers, William Wood and son. Harry Smith, Tom Hulcher, Tom Christian, Dan Talley, Thad Foster, McThorton, Hay Thornton, Mike Macon, Rev. Messr. Nash and Dennis, and others. The favorite fishing places are Providence Forge Lake, Garlick's, Lee's, Walden's, Goddin's, and other ponds, and in the Chickahominy at Roxbury. Windsor, and Walker's. Avoirdupois don't count for much in the art of fishing. Billy Cuillngworth, of vast bodily dimensions, puffs and blows to land a seven-pound chub, while Ashby Jones, small in stature, don't make much myration at getting in a 137-pound tarpon. Fondness for fishing is not confined to any special class or avocation- Judges Keith and Cardwell, who are expounders of law and render decisions of their court with solemn mien, can laugh as loud and throw Judicial dignity as far off when they are wrestling with a six-pound chub as can Joe Jefferson, the noted actor, whose facial variations and farcical utterances can set the house in a roar. Joe Jefferson has fished with the late Excellency, Grover Cleveland, both of whom have acted their parts- the first as the author and dramatizer had arranged for him, but the latter himself being- the author and dramatist of many of our dramatic misfortunes. Would it not have been better for the Democracy if Grover had been asleep on the Catskill mountains for the past twenty years, the period that Jefferson in the play of "Rip Van Winkle" sleeps on that promontory?

"The speckled trout are beauties, and our mountain streams abound with them. Salt water Inning is lively. The York, Rappahannock, and Potomac rivers and around Old Point and Ocean View, and in Mobjack Bay, and its several arms, you can find all the fun you want; but alas, for me! I cannot stand a rocking in a canoe or other skiff on the waves. My poor, weak, bilious, organic functions revolt, and I commence to cash up accounts at once. Have you ever been sea-sick? Don't look for any experience on that point. It is awful; take my word for it and let it alone. For sixteen successive days and nights did I toss and retch when I went across the briny deep to take a look at Portugal, Spain, Gibraltar, and noted places on the Mediterranean Sea. I will never do it again. Old Virginia's quiet waters are good enough for me, and this, my native city, is queen of all."

            IN ONE HOURS RIDE.
There are as many places as one can count on the fingers of both hands in an hour's ride from Richmond which are the Olympias nearly every day in the year of stirring piscatorial feats.

Providence Forge, where the Jefferson Fishing Club has its grounds, and which is frequented by many transients, is, perhaps, best known. The fish caught here which afford the greatest sport and are most earnestly entreated to bite, are the "chub" and "rock," and with which the pools and deep places of the Chickahominy at this point and the old canal abound. The mill-pond is also in a short walk from the depot, and is much the retreat for bodies who like to be pretty sure of getting a string when they go out of chub, pike, and silver perch, with which it is stocked.

A few miles further down the river is Windsor Shades, with excellent accommodations always at hand, and where any quantity of fish can always be bought.

Still further on the way is Walker's, to which nearly every train carries men and minnows. A club-house has recently been built near the water, and is managed by Mr. Clarke. Here the fishermen come, and are soon dabbling among the wharves at and below Cypress Bank, in the coves and around the stumps below Rock-a-hock. The "old wharf" is a famous place, and the "island" with  its cypress knees and stumps.

Just a little further down are waters about Pottersfield. Hickory-Neck creek, and the "Old Wears"; Cloud's, on the other side of the river, and the water-fences and wharves attached to Orapax- all these places are household words in the mouths of Richmond fishermen. Beside these, "Uncle Billy" Cullingworth6 has leased Vaiden's pond and made it an excellent place.

While the fish are sportinng in the waters and expending physical energy on others of their kind whom nature has made smaller than themselves, such still larger fellows as Barney Frishkorn, Judge S.B. Witt, and P. M. Cullingworth have been dissipating mental energy in constituting clubs and other instruments of organized warfare upon them.

There are three prominent and very active fishing clubs in the city- Jefferson, Old Dominion, and Church Hill, The officers and members of the Jefferson, Barney Frischkorn, president; James H. Christian, Providence Forge, master of tackle, and members- Judges S.B. Witt, E.C. Minor, and Isaac Christian7. D.C. Richardson, Messrs. Lewis Frischkorn, Valentine Hechler, Jr., A.Y. Stokes, James Botts, William H. Cowardin, Henry Ricks, W.A. Dickenson, Andrew Krause, Conway R. Sands, Simon Solomon. Samuel P. Waddill, and H.M. Smith. Mr. Smith has the honor of entraining and landing the largest "rock" of any member of the club-weighing 32 pounds.

The Old Dominion Fishing Club has for its officers Messrs. John F. Mayer, commodore; E.B. Hotchkiss, executive officer; W.M. Williams, secretary and treasurer; D.C. Richardson, boatswain; P.T. Conrad, steward. and James F. Vaughan, assistant Steward. Its remaining members are E.B. Taylor. J.C. Addison, Waller Scott. Tazewell Ellett, and John Whittet. This is the oldest organization of its kind in the city, and embarks on its nine-teenth annual cruise July 16th.

The officers of the Church-Hill Club are: John Pitt, president; J. Rudolph Day, secretary and treasurer; William H. Deane, steward.

- Richmond Dispatch 9 May 1897 

 1 John Bell Bigger, was Clerk of the House of Delegate from 1865 until 1879, and then again from 1883 until his death in1899.

 2 this article was written in the midst of the Cuban War of Independence.

 3 William Wallace Scott, State Law Librarian and former Clerk of the House of           Representatives.

 4John Stubblefield Harwood was an advisor to then Gov. O'Ferrall.

 5James A. Cowardin, founder of the Daily Dispatch, later the Richmond Dispatch. His son was Charles O'Brien Cowardin who succeeded him at the Dispatch.

 6William H. Cullingworth Postmaster of Richmond.

 7Isaac H. Christian, long time County Judge of New Kent and Charles City


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