I don't have access to any vintage photographs of North Carolina watermen using oyster tongs, but this photo from Florida is typical.
|Oyster Tonging in Florida|
(Photo courtesy, State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/6894)
In the late nineteenth century oyster dredgers were brought into Pamlico Sound. Skipjacks (or oyster sloops) could harvest as many oysters in an hour as a tonger could collect in a day. This led to the Oyster Wars of 1891, when local watermen, armed with rifles and shotguns, drove the dredgers out of the Sound.
James Horatio (Raysh) Williams, Jr. was eighteen years old when the Oyster Wars irrupted. He wrote a song commemorating the islanders' victory. Most of the song has been forgotten, but these few lines survive:
"It was just about night,
They sank the ships out of sight,
And drove the Core Sounders away."
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a 1921 letter written by a former slave, Harrison Williams, to Ocracoke native, Martha Ann Howard Wahab. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112113.htm.