The story of Reedville, Virginia is linked to the commercial fishing industry that developed here in the late 19th century. In 1874 Elijah Reed transferred his menhaden fishing operation from Brooklin, Maine to the Chesapeake Bay. He purchased the land on Cockrell’s Creek that is now Reedville. The industry flourished, especially in the early part of the 20th century. Today Reedville is one of the major ports for the landing of commercial fish in the United States, second only to Kodiak, Alaska.
The town’s Main Street, a National Historic District, is a mile long and flanked by water. The larger homes along Main Street reflect the prosperity of the early menhaden captains and plant owners. Most of the houses in the Historic District have been carefully restored. Today, operating from Reedville, is a large, modern menhaden fishing fleet with 13 ocean-going vessels. There are three smaller menhaden boats and numerous boats and people engaged in pound-net fishing, crab potting and dredging, soft crab processing, clamming and oystering.
More information on the history of Reedville and the Northern Neck can be found in Reedville: 1874-1974 by Miriam Haynie. This book and others on local history are available in our Gift Shop.
The museum is located on the banks of Cockrell’s Creek on land once owned by Captain Elijah Reed. The William Walker House was built in 1875 on land bought that year from Captain Reed. It was occupied by the family until it was purchased by the Greater Reedville Association in 1986. The Association, primarily through the work of volunteers, restored the house and opened it as the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum in 1988. In the spring of 1995 the home was refurbished and refurnished and now represents a waterman’s home at the turn of the previous century.
A generous gift from Mr. Frank Covington enabled the museum to expand into a new building, the Covington Building, in 1995. This facility houses both our permanent collection and changing exhibits. The Pendleton Building, which houses our Boat Building Shop and our Model Shop, was added during our expansion program in 2003.
In 2005 two of our vessels, the skipjack Claud W. Somers and the deck boat Elva C. were entered into the National Register of Historic Places. This action speaks to the vital role that our local heritage – the heritage we work so hard to preserve – plays in this nation’s history.