The Ocracoke Foundation's (OFI) long awaited oyster restoration project is underway. Ocracoke is surrounded by oyster beds, many of which date to the mid 1800's. In the Gilded Age oysters were a big business and a major source of protein in restaurants and eateries in the days before refrigerated railroad cars made beef so popular. Surveys were commissioned, large companies created, and security enforced. The oyster wars were underway.
The Pamlico Sound is rich with oysters. The NC Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) and large private oyster operations undertake efforts to restore the oyster beds they access. Present day fisheries management guidelines guard against the disastrous effects of over-harvesting which led to depletion of the beds in the early 1900's by setting catch limits and rules on catch methods. Ocracoke oystermen oyster by hand only. They do not employ mechanical harvest methods. Ocracoke's oyster beds however are located in shallow water and any restoration effort calls for a shallow draft barge.
Gene Ballance, an Ocracoke shellfish researcher and commercial fisherman came upon oyster surveys during a research visit to the NC State Archives. The Francis Winslow II maps were produced in 1888 and identify the oyster beds surrounding the island. OFI's oyster restoration project will be able to restore these historic beds by using their new shallow draft barge (shown above). Gene Ballance and fellow Ocracoke oystermen will also conduct research on the beds during restoration efforts. Funding was made possible by the Golden LEAF Foundation through a grant made in 2008 to help create an industry around one of Ocracoke's assets, commercial fishing.
OFI is very fortunate to be receiving assistance from one of Winslow's ancestors Edward Sisson. With the family's blessing OFI will name the barge the Francis Winslow II. Mr. Sisson has provided us with a family history, research documentation and hopefully will be attending a barge christening in June with Winslow's granddaughter, Catherine Winslow Priest.
Francis Winslow II 1851 - 1908
Naval Academy Graduate 1870
Member Chesapeake Zoological Laboratory of Johns Hopkins
1881 Received the "medaille de seconde classe" from the Societe d'Acclimatation de France for oyster research
18?? Conducted Oyster survey of Chesapeake Bay
1887-88 Conducted Oyster survey of Ocracoke
1894 Commander with NC Naval Militia
Started Pamlico Oyster Company after retiring from the Navy
One of Winslow's brothers, Arthur is a founding father of NC State University. Graduated MIT in 1881 in geology and mining engineering, came back to NC as a young man to open an engineering consulting office. Notably, Arthur led a committee of energetic science-minded young men that petitioned the state govt. to found an agricultural and technical college. That institution, after several name-changes and combinations with other colleges, is NC State. A dedication of Winslow Hall is expected in early 2010.