You are here
Once Upon an Island: The History of Chincoteague (Paperback)
Special Order - Subject to Availability
Settled for more than 300 years, surrounded by waters which have for centuries provided both livelihood and recreation, known for ponies and wildfowl, seafood and seashore, “old salts” and decoys, Chincoteague Island, Virginia, is both colorful and storied. And never until now has its complete history been told.
This book chronicles the often surprising story of a place named for Indians who never really lived there, settled not by fishermen but by cattlemen, so individual that it refused to follow the rest of the state into the Confederacy during the Civil War. Here is a full account of how the famous pony penning came to be, of the boom and bust of the seafood industry, and of a hardy people who survived fire, flood, and isolation to build a community that has now been visited by millions. It is the story not of one island but of several – Chincoteague, Assateague, Wallops – and of their interplay with both the nearby Eastern Shore and with more distant places familiar to islanders who “went to sea” at an early age.
Among the characters in the story are an African prince sold into slavery who chose the island for his home once he was free, the man who changed the island’s history by introducing the cultivation of oysters, an artist whose first big “break” was a series of drawings of Chincoteague, a grande dame who traveled the world after being raised on a wild goose farm, a carver who sold for $4 a dozen decoys now worth tens of thousands of dollars, the “outlaw gunner” who stopped hunting ducks and started training them to do tricks for the stage, two brothers who became actors and opened off-Broadway in a famous musical, and even a U.S. President who caused an “elephant stampede.”
“Once Upon an Island” is both good, sound history and a “fun read” for anyone who is fascinated by colorful, celebrated Chincoteague Island.