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Elmer Evans Inducted
Into The Fireman's Hall Of Fame

By Chris Parks

December 28, 1999

Elmer L. Evans of Ewell has been inducted into the Firemanís Historical Foundation of Delmarva Hall of Fame. Mr. Evans was honored during the Ewell Volunteer Fire Companyís annual banquet on December 28 (see adjacent story). He is the first member of that company to be inducted.

Mr. Evans was a young man when fire destroyed the Methodist Church and other properties at Ewell. At the time, Smith Islandís fire fighting capabilities were limited to a bucket brigade. In 1943 Mr. Evans entered the United States Navy and received training in fire fighting at Miami, Florida. Shortly thereafter he was assigned to the USS Chaffee as part of a five-inch gun crew. During World War Two he served with distinction in the Pacific Theater of Operations, receiving numerous commendations.

When he returned to Smith Island in 1946 Mr. Evans and several other veterans acquired a stationary pump and hose to assist in dousing fires. In the fall of 1957 Mr. Evans served as President of the Ewell Lions Club and organized a committee to study the feasibility of getting some fire fighting equipment on Smith Island. The Ewell Volunteer Fire Company was chartered in January of 1959, and Elmer was elected as its first chief.

Getting the first fire truck to smith Island required Mr. Evans and several other company members to travel to Washington D.C. and remain there for three days. In 1960 Mr. Evans played an important role in obtaining the land and overseeing the construction of Smith Islandís first fire station. He was also key in obtaining funding for the Ewell Recreation Center, a building that is still in use today.

In the early 1960s Mr. Evans organized training for himself and other firemen in Red Cross First Aid training at Camp Ritchie, Maryland. This was the first rudimentary Emergency Medical System on Smith Island.

From 1964 until 1966 Mr. Evans served as President of the Ewell Volunteer Fire Company. He has also served as a past President of the Somerset County Firemanís Association.

Mr. Evans retired as chief in 1970 when arthritis affected his health. "I told them when I couldnít go where I had to send my men I would quit being chief," Mr. Evans said. Elmer remained an active fireman for several more years. Today, at age 81, he still handles some of the Fire Companyís administrative affairs.

"Simply stated, we owe the existence of our Fire Company to Elmer Evans," wrote Chief Otis Tyler in his nominating letter to the Firemanís Historical Foundation of Delmarva. At the ceremony Mr. Evans expressed his deep thanks to the firemen who served at his side and under his command. His guiding principle was simple, and he shared it with the audience. "Take care of your firemen," he said.

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Smith Island Watermen
Hold Annual Dinner

By Chris Parks

November 11, 1999

The annual Tangier Sound Watermanís Association dinner is one of the most anticipated social events on Smith Island. This year was no exception as approximately 200 people packed the Ewell Recreation Center for a turkey and oyster dinner. Among the guests were Maryland State Senator Lowell Stoltzfus and his wife Sharon, 38th District Delegate and 1st District congressional candidate Bennett Bozman, Somerset County Commissioners Phillip Gerald and Charles Fisher, and Betty Duty from the Maryland Watermanís Association.

After dinner the audience was entertained by Smith Island watermen. Numerous awards were given out in various categories. The first award went to the waterman who got the most crab pots on his wheel. This honor went to Rhodes Point waterman Ed Landon, who thanked fellow nominee Harvey Corbin for moving his pots "off the coast of Africa" this season.

The award for the weakest radio was a tie between two watermen from Tylerton, Alan Smith Senior and past association president Dwight Marshall. The "Luther Burbank Award" went to Barry Bruce, who spent most of the crab season talking about the various herbs growing in his garden. The "Ball, Ball and more Balls" award went to Gary Guy, who talked daily about a variety of sports, all involving one sort of ball or another. The "Loose Lips" award went to Jamie Marshall.

Roland Bradshaw handed out special awards for the waterman who had to put up with the most from his wife. This honor went to Alan Smith Sr. and Eddie Evans Sr. Both of their wives, Hester Smith and June Evans felt the awards were undeserved. The award for women who put up with the most from their husbands went to Betty Jo Tyler and Beth Tyler. Their husbands Glad Tyler Jr. and Robbie Tyler were deemed hard to put up with.

The "Work Around the Clock Award" went to Dwight Marshall. "Rookie Waterman of the Year" honors went to Brad Laird. The "Diddle" award, given to newcomers who closely follow their fathers on the water was a six-way tie between Brian Corbin, Bobby Smith, Daniel Smith, Brent Bradshaw, Lee Smith and Brad Laird. "Mate of the Year" went to Tina Corbin. This is the first time a woman has won this prestigious title. The "Lunch Pail" award went to Barry Bruce for his cabbage lunch recipe.

The "Itchy Twitchy Jigger" award went to Harvey Corbin Jr., who was believed responsible for a sudden outbreak of the insects in Dover, De. after attending a NASCAR race there. The "I Just Canít Shut Up" award, awarded to the waterman who spends more time talking on the radio than actually working was given to Williard "Woosey" Laird and Mark Kitching. Neither waterman had any comments after receiving this coveted award.

Senator Stoltzfus was given a special presentation by Tangier Watermanís Association President Chuck Marsh for his continuing support for watermen in the state legislature. Stoltzfus received a model skipjack built by Smith Island waterman John F. Evans. "We have a very high regard for watermen and all that you do," Stoltzfus told the audience. "We know you work hard. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

Stoltzfus warned the watermen that they were in for a tough fight as the state considers new regulations. A bi-state commission is currently studying regulations that will attempt to reduce crab harvests next year. Among the proposals being considered are another mandatory day off, shortening the crabbing season by another month and increasing the legal size of crabs.

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Ewell Library entrance

Ewell Library Goes Online

by Shelly Hitchings

February 12, 2001

For ten years Jean Johnson, the Director of the Somerset County Library System, has been working to automate the way library books are checked out. Her goal was realized in February when the Ewell branch went Online. Ewell Branch Library is the last of the countyís four libraries to get computers. The delay has to do with the phone lines that run to the countyís most rural areas. Deal Islandís phone lines were upgraded last year, allowing Jean and her team of librarians to automate Deal Island School Library in October of 2000. After a member of Ms. Johnsonís staff applied pressure with a campaign of daily telephone calls, Verizon installed new phone lines here in January. Finally, on January 25, Jean Johnson and her team rearranged the Ewell library to accommodate three brand new Dell computers. Library staff members Rose Cottman and Lucille Hayward gave the library its new look while Eastern Shore Regional Library technicians Bob Long and Daryl Fuller set up the computers.

Ms. Johnson returned to Ewell this Wednesday with Lyn Windsor, Liz Palmer and Cindy Vessey to teach Branch Manager Christine Marshall and Circulation Assistant Anita Kitching how to register patrons and check books in and out using the new automated system. Library patrons are now able to search the Internet, use Sailor, Marylandís public information network, access a variety of new resources, request and reserve books and print out articles right from the new computers. Best of all, books requested through interlibrary loan will be delivered to the dock twice a week. "Students and users have access to the world," said Jean.

Cody Bradshaw and Michael Downing Cody Bradshaw and Michael Downing use the new computers to research mammals.
Michael Downing and Cody Bradshaw Michael and Cody show off the posters they made with information they got from the library's computers.

All of this has been accomplished with federal grant money from the Department of Library Development Services. Ms. Johnson wrote the grant and was awarded between $16,000.00 and $17,000.00 in February 2000. Lily Dyson of the Maryland Association of Public Library Administrators suggested that the Smith Island Cultural Museum should be brought Online, too, and increased the amount of the grant so that it could be done. "Nobody should be denied access to information. Computers are tools. Another way to get authoritative, quality information quickly," said Jean.

Liz Palmer will be here on the 15th and 16th to show the public how to use the new computers. If you wish to learn, stop by the library to sign up. Donít forget to register for your new library card. With it you will be able to check out books, track your reserved books, and see if you have overdue books or fines. "Libraries are the last free educational institution in the world." Jean concluded. "I believe that reading changes lives."

The Ewell Branch Library is now as big as any library in the country. Students and patrons have access to information from all over the world. Come in and take advantage of it. It's free!

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Faith Carries Watermen
Into New Season

By Chris Parks


May 2, 2001

For as long as there have been watermen on Smith Island, there has been an abiding faith among them that God will provide. For retired waterman Jennings Evans, survival and faith go hand in hand. "There is no logical way to understand how this island has survived without Godís protective hand."

That was the theme for a gathering of watermen and their families on Sunday, April 29, at the Chesapeake Bay Foundationís educational center in Tylerton for the third "Blessing of the Fleet." According to Duke Marshall, the event was conceived by the residents of Tylerton in 1998, and with the help of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has become a part of the kickoff for the crabbing season.

This yearís event seemed especially important with the threat of new regulations hanging over the waterman and a slow start to the annual crab harvest. "This comes at a time when crabs are scarce," said Pastor Rick Edmund. "We do what we can and leave the rest to God." This season could be a test of faith for  waterman in every community along the shores of the Chesapeake. Coming off the poorest recorded harvest in history, the forecast for the coming season promises to be no better. It is almost certain that watermen will be restricted to an eight-hour work day, and face a shortened crabbing season.

There were readings from the Book of Psalms by Rhodes Point Waterman John Tyler,  and a reading from the Book of Mark by Tylerton resident Nancy Clayton. Watermen Everett Landon, Barry Bruce and Charlie Marsh told emotional stories of close calls out on the water, and of their ultimate deliverance, which each of them credited to a higher power.

Since the end of the Civil War, 33 Smith Island watermen and one woman have been lost to drowning or other causes while working on the bay. During a "Ceremony of Remembrance" their names were read by Eddie Evans Sr., Roland Bradshaw and Matt Clayton. One of the names, Denise Evans, was the brother of Mr. Evans.

When the last name was read, Miss Margaret Marshall, the oldest resident on Tylerton, placed a wreath in the water in their memory. A moment of silence followed.

Pastor Edmund prayed for the safety of the watermen, a bountiful harvest, and for wise decisions by the legislators and executives in Annapolis. Then each boat captain was presented with a fish symbol as a reminder of the faith and hope that had been expressed by the approximately 100 island residents in attendance. The ceremony was concluded by the ladies of the Smith Island Crab Picking Coop, who sang "Keep Me Safe 'Til the Storm Passes By."

Pastor Rick Edmund
Fish Symbols
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