November 15, 2018

Who’s Who on St. George Island/Camp Merreylande

St. George Island

The excerpts below are from Who’s Who of St. George Island, by Mary Gale Adams, April 1994, St. George Island, MD.

St. George Island is positioned 6 miles up the Potomac River from Point Lookout, MD, and traditionally home to some 200 families. Almost up to when these oral histories were compiled, in 1994, most families were supported by commercial fishermen and used boats for commerce and as avenues to travel around the Chesapeake Bay. — Jack Russell, brother to Ms. Adams

Camp Merryelande, by Mike and Terri Evans

Camp Merryelande was operated as a girls camp from the early 1900s to 1991 by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Most of the girls that came to the camp were students of parochial schools around Washington, D.C. It’s likely that they discovered the Island and the surrounding waters vibrant with life. Back then the bay was very productive with its abundant marine life. And the people of this Island were busy harvesting the seafood bonanza.

Many a woman has fond memories of  those summers spent at the camp. Now and then some come back with their families and grandchildren to reminisce and to show their loved ones where they spent many happy summers many years ago.

One woman told me that during World War II that the girls were constantly distracted by the whoosh of torpedoes being shot off from Deep Point. The girls were excited by this. “You’d think they were boys playing war games.”

Another woman told me of a terribly windy night. It was so rough, a spray was coming off the beach across the camp. Early the next morning there was the biggest skate you’d ever seen lying on the end of the pier. “It was the biggest that I had ever seen, at least five feet across.”

Another man said that he used to trade off maintenance chores at the schools in Silver Spring in exchange for a week or two of vacation for his family at Camp Merryelande. He pointed to the pier and said, “The best time to fish off the pier was when it was rough.” After he left I tried it and sure enough, he was right. The only time I caught fish was when it was rough.

Old timers tell me that before the [Storm of 1933] the little Island Creek was a harbor for skipjacks, canoes and buy boats and other vessels of the working fleet. The entrance to this busy harbor was between Camp Merryelande and Jimmy’s Island (to the east of the camp) and there was a sandbar from Deep Point heading south. It must have been a half a mile long and had a pond on it. After the “Storm,” the sandbar was washed eastward around the southern end of the Island and closing the entrance to Little Creek. Where there was a harbor channel, now there is a sand beach.

Times change, people move on. The old (torpedo) target range at Deep Point is soon going to be reclaimed by the restless waters of the Potomac, judging by the rusting and leaning seawall. Camp Merryelande is privately owned and is no longer a girls camp. All is not lost, however, Camp Merryelande is now a resort for the whole family.

Folks still leave with fond memories. Many return, looking forward to the old-time pleasures the camp had to offer.

The Lexington Park Leader brings tales from local history, SlackWater stories, and Message From the Cap’n as a compilation of important information we might need. We hope you enjoy and share them with friends. We encourage you to use the comment section or email artster694@gmail.com to fill in missing details, or correct inaccurate ones.

Or contact Cap’n Jack Russell at the email address above or 240-434-1385.

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