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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Who’s Who on St. George Island, Mary Gale Adams

St. George Island

Mary Gale Adams’ “A Who’s Who of St. George Island” has been called “a true oral history” by Andrea Hammer, the St. Mary’s College English professor who launched an oral history tradition at the college which has today evolved into the SlackWater Center. Professor Hammer referred to both the content and the technical production of the volume.

“Who’s Who of St. George Island” was conceived, produced, typed, written, hand-bound, and covered by Ms. Adams. There are home remedies, recipes, lineages, and tales stretching back to days before deep water wells were dug and cleaning day meant hauling the laundry over water to  St. Mary’s City, before electricity, before automobiles.

Not included was a short tale she told of the intended spelling of her name as “Merry Gale.” She saw this spelling as marking her arrival as a sprightly breeze, which she remained throughout her life. That the family and neighbors she grew up along side would tell her their stories is no surprise to those who knew Gale, as she was always called. As with her brother Francis Jack, her middle name was her “calling name.”

We will be blending Gale’s stories in with SlackWater stories and Messages from the Captain. We hope you enjoy them. Indeed, as Ms. Adams opens “Who’s Who of St George Island,” we encourage you to use the comment section or email to follow her suggestion to “Write in this book. Fill in missing details, or correct inaccurate ones, add family notes, dates of marriages, and births.” 

Mary Gale Adams was born on St. George Island  September 2, 1940. She died February 25, 2009.  — Viki Volk


St. George Island is positioned 6 miles up the Potomac River from Point Lookout, MD, and traditionally home tst george island fishermeno 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


 “A Who’s Who of St. George Island”

Volume I

April, 1994

by Mary Gale Adams


from the Introduction: This book, written by people who know and love of St. George Island, is dedicated to the people of St. George Island. This is “just a start” of stories, records, skills, and personal thoughts. While it may not at all times be historically accurate, it does contain many truths. … Thanks to all contributors. Your happy attitudes make it a real pleasure for me. Thanks also to Hope Grace for her research and generosity. — Mary Gale Adams

St. George Island
‘Shirley … a friend I will always remember.’

I have always thought that the beach at the end of the Island is the grandest place in the world.

As children, my friend Shirley Crowder and I would comb the beach for bird’s eggs and sea shells. Back then there was a big variety of both. The shells were all sizes, shapes, and colors.

We would swim off the shore in shallow water, constantly looking out for sea nettles. When we got stung by them we rubbed the places with sand and went on playing. We put our bottles of pop deep in the sand at the water’s edge where they usually washed away. Sometimes we would cook hot dogs over a stick fire and ate them with a seasoning of sand. We tried to catch minnows with bent straight pins attached to a piece of string at a little bridge spanning the stream down on the beach. We would lay on our bellies dangling our strings and watch the insects on the water, periwinkles on the reeds that we tried to sing from their shells, tadpoles, and sometimes fiddler crabs. It was always fun finding horseshoe crab remains. I don’t think we ever found a live one.

Shirley and I walked all over the Island exploring as we went.

Back then the fields used to be burned off in certain places, and then wild asparagus would  grow. We could pick buckets of asparagus. at other times we would pick figs or blackberries, or somebody’s apples or pears.

We sold vegetables and flower seeds to make points for school. We sold raffle tickets for school or church raffles. And we collected Holy Cards.

On Saturdays we put on our scarves and piety and cleaned St. Francis Xavier Church. It was our chance to be important.

On Sundays we would sit in the choir loft with people that really could sing and we thought we could too.

After Mass there were the Sunday Comics in the funny papers and fried chicken at my house, often then we would go walking around the Island roads, acting very mature because it was Sunday and feeling quite pleased with ourselves. Life was good except that Shirley always wondered who her real parents were as she was adopted by Gracia and Silven Crowder. After Silvan’s death, Gracia married James Deagle.

I spent many a happy night giggling upstairs with Shirley. Miss Gracia and James were so patient. They must have said, “You girls go to sleep,” a thousand times. I remember we would get quiet after the warnings. … I suppose THEY finally went to sleep and didn’t hear us anymore.

  • To share more stories about St. George Island and other Chesapeake Bay communities email Jack Russell at  or give him a call at 240-434-1385.
  • To learn about tours and trips to add to your own Chesapeake history, check out Fins + Claws’ Leader Member Page.
One Response to “Who’s Who on St. George Island, Mary Gale Adams”
  1. Kim Fornango says:

    Hi Uncle Jackie, How wonderful to read this! It’s was 8 years ago today that we liost Mom,. September 25.
    She is so loved and missed♡♡♡♡♡

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