History talk going ‘Barefoot in Fenwick’

It’s easy to wonder, while walking along the beach when the crowds have gone home for the winter, what it might have been like there in the previous two centuries, before the beachfronts became as developed as they are today.

The Ocean View Historical Society has a program coming up that will give insight into what life was like along the coast — specifically in Fenwick Island — in the 1800s and 1900s. On Wednesday, Jan. 22, Kimberly Grimes will give a lecture titled “Barefoot in Fenwick: Life on the Isle in the 19th and 20th Centuries.” The talk will be held at Ocean View Town Hall at 7 p.m.

Grimes, an anthropology professor, author of six books and co-owner of Made By Hand International Cooperative in South Bethany, is also a member of one of the first families to put down roots in Fenwick Island: her great-grandfather Adolphus Watson and her great-grandmother Amanda were among the members of the Fenwick Camp Meeting that brought worshippers to the beach in the summer.

She explained that, like Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach, Fenwick’s development came as a result of church retreats. But unlike those towns, the visitors to Fenwick Island were “local folks,” as opposed to residents of more distant metropolitan areas, like the Pittsburgh businessmen who were Bethany Beach’s earliest developers.

Before the camp meeting, Grimes said, “Adolphus’ father, Henry, used to putter back and forth” to Fenwick from Roxana to fish, clam and crab.

Not surprisingly, much of the early history of Fenwick was related to the waters surrounding it, which were not only a source of income but also a principal mode of transportation, since roads were rudimentary at best, Grimes said.

“Barefoot in Fenwick: Life on the Isle in the 19th and 20th Centuries” will focus on the years from the late 1800s to around 1970, Grimes said. Admission to the lecture is free for Ocean View Historical Society members and costs $5 for all others. The lecture is sponsored by the Coastal Towns Historic Village in Ocean View. Light refreshments will be served; free parking is available in the Ocean View town lots. Ocean View Town Hall is located at 32 West Ave., Ocean View.

By Kerin Magill
Staff Reporter