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About Deal Island

Deal Island, once a thriving community with many commercial activities and seafood operations is now a rather quiet section of the Eastern Shore. Surrounded on three sides by the Tangier Sound in the Chesapeake Bay, the island is three miles long and one mile wide and has two villages-Wenona at the lower end and Deal Island Village at the northern end.

In the early 1600's, when a group of ships sailed into the Chesapeake Bay, a hurricane hit causing one of the ships to run aground. The survivors who could see nothing but marsh and wilderness cried "this is Purgatory, the land of the Devil". For more than a century the Island was know as Devil's Island and was used by pirates in the bay as one of their hideouts. When the change came from Devil to Deal is not clear. Some say the v was dropped, and it became Deil, and then somehow became Deal.

Income on the island was, and still is, mainly from the water. The location made Deal Island a hub of ship builders, sail makers, and watermen. Seafood was important item in the diet and housewives salted fish and stored it for the off season meals.

Larger sailboats were used not only for harvesting the seafood, but for carrying to the Baltimore market. By 1878, the days of traveling by sail exclusively came to an end when steamboats started making scheduled trips to Chesapeake Bay communities. This drastically changed the pattern of living for the Islanders. The steamship wharf became the focal point for most of the Island's activities, both social and commercial.

The Island survived the depression and entered the 30's in a fairly prosperous state until a hurricane devastated the area in late 1933. The bridge to the mainland was washed out-every oyster and crab house was either swept away or badly damaged. The Steamboat wharf was destroyed, dozens of boats including the huge oysters dredges, crab boats wrecked, sunk or driven into the marshes. The Storm of '33 dealt a devastating blow to the local seafood industry.

In the years since the storm, Deal Island has rebuilt itself as a small, quiet community with its roots still deeply entwined with the Chesapeake. Each year, the island plays host to the Labor Day Skipjack Races and Land Festival, paying homage to the graceful boats of the bay with parades, boat docking contests, fishing contest, and a race of the historic skipjacks themselves.

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