A sign of Suffolk history

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 21, 2005

A family came together Saturday to celebrate its rich heritage of working the waterways of northern Suffolk.

The &uot;family&uot; – nearly 200 current and former Hobson residents, some from as far away as Maryland and North Dakota – braved the heat to attend the village’s annual community reunion on Saturday. The highlight of the event was the long-awaited unveiling of the state’s first historical highway marker recognizing contributions of Virginia’s black watermen.

The $1,225 historic marker outside Macedonia Baptist Church, in the heart of Hobson, is a drive-by museum designed to give passersby a glimpse into the village’s history.

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&uot;This is a highly visible way to promote the community and the nation’s history,&uot; said Marc Wagner, a spokesman with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. &uot;Today is Hobson’s day to celebrate.&uot;

Tonging for oysters was a way of life for men in Hobson, a rite of passage that was passed along through generations. But oyster production in the Chesapeake Bay began to decline in the 1950s, signaling a new era for as a growing number of Hobson residents left home in search for other types of work.

The historical marker, the 23rd in the city, reflects an important part of Hobson’s rich history, said Horace Walker, a native who now lives in Richmond.

&uot;This is important for everyone in this community,&uot; he said. &uot;Somehow, the water has been a part of everyone’s life here – fishing, playing on the beach.

&uot;A memorial dedicated to oystermen is fitting,&uot; he said. &uot;This is how Hobson got started.&uot;

Commissioner of Revenue Thomas Hazelwood, whose family have been oystermen since the 1860s, agreed.

&uot;This is an appropriate memorial to the hard work of Hobson’s oystermen,&uot; he said. &uot;The oyster industry would not be what it is today if it were not for their contributions.&uot;

Mary Hill, a Hobson resident who led the campaign to get the marker, is hopeful the many that showed up at the reunion will leave with a better understanding of their heritage.

&uot;This is a big deal…and an important part of American history that has been overlooked for many years,&uot; said Hill, who has been working on many applications to have the community named to state and federal historic registers.