A sign of the past for Hobson

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 18, 2005

Motorists traveling Crittenden Road will soon get a glimpse of Hobson’s rich history as a village that produced generations of black oystermen.

On Wednesday, the Board of Historic Resources voted to erect a historical highway marker recognizing contributions that black watermen have made to Virginia.

The newly approved marker will be the first in the state recognizing contributions of black watermen, said Scott Arnold, manager of the state Department of Historic Resources’ historical highway marker program. It will be 23rd historic marker the city has received since the program started in 1927.

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The $1,225 marker will take about six months to produce, said Arnold. He expects the sign will be installed outside the historic Masonic lodge on Crittenden Road, pending approval from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Mary Hill, a Hobson resident who has been working on applications to have the community named to state and federal registers, is working with Arnold to coordinate a community ceremony for residents and city, state and federal lawmakers.

&uot;I’m so excited,&uot; said Hill. &uot;It was well worth the wait.

&uot;This marker gives us recognition of our heritage, not just in Hobson but for African-American oystermen all over Virginia.&uot;

Until about 50 years ago, when oyster production began to decline in Virginia, generations of Hobson men earned their living oystering on Chuckatuck Creek and the James and Nansemond rivers.

Historically, boys in Hobson began learning the trade from their fathers as soon as they were old enough to go out on the boats, said Hill, whose father and brothers worked on the water.

&uot;It was understood that they would be oystermen,&uot; Hill said. &uot;It was a requirement, just like going to church.&uot;

Curtis Jones, 78, worked side by side with his father harvesting oysters until he joined the military at 18.

&uot;Oystering is all we had to do,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s all my father ever did.

&uot;It’s in my blood, it’s in the blood of most old folks in this community.

&uot;This (honor) is a beautiful thing.&uot;

Virginia’s 2,100 official state markers are mini-roadside museums of sorts, said Arnold.

&uot;Virginia’s historical highway marker program for more than 75 years has been providing history lessons to the traveling public along Virginia’s scenic roadways,&uot; said Secretary of Natural Resources W. Tayloe Murphy Jr. &uot;These markers help educate the public about the important people, places, and events of our state and country’s history.&uot;