A (Slightly Irreverent) Hog Island Childhood

While we were reviewing some oral histories in the BIC collections recently, we ran across the recording of Mary Frances Phillips Quillin. It was SO GOOD that we had to share some excerpts!

Excerpts from the Oral History of Mary Francis Phillips Quillin, recorded May 14, 2008

My name is Mary Frances Phillips Quillen. I was born on February 28, 1920 in Lewes, Delaware and I went to Hog Island when I was about 6 to 8 months old. My father was in the Coast Guard in Lewes and he wanted to go down back home to Hog Island, so he went in the store business and my mother was a postmaster. Daddy also went back into the Coast Guard. We lived there in the store and we had the post office in the store and we got along great. We served the lighthouse people (the three homes in there), and we served the Coast Guard station. We took care of them all. We even had coal. And Daddy would order a half a beef at a time. He wasn’t no butcher, but honey, he could cut it better than any butcher I ever saw.

Grandmother Phillips was born on Hog Island and my grandfather was born in Wachapreague. They met when they were children down on the island, going back-and-forth by boat. They got married and had my dad and they had a deaf daughter, Sereita. She was, they called them deaf and dumb, but they were deaf mute. Sereita went to the Virginia School for the Deaf and Helen Keller taught her. She could crochet anything you wanted. She could knit or build a house or anything; she was the most talented person I ever knew. And she taught me to sign before I learned to talk.

I used to smoke when I was about five and six and seven years old. I threw it in the toilet out back. We didn’t have an inside toilet. My great-grandmother came ‘round the back of the building, came into the house, she says: “Stanley, Stanley, come quick. The toilet’s on fire!” And it was Sereita and I in there with a cigarette. I was six years old and she was about nineteen or twenty or something like that. I smoked for a long time after that, but I never let nobody know it. I mean, I’d steal them out of the store. That was fun.

What did we do for fun? Well we played out in the road, we played out in the fields, we played in the grass. We had horses, cattle, sheep, all were wild. They would come mornings when they knew school was going to be opening up and they would chew the grass until they’d see us and follow us right up the road to school. In the afternoon, they’d do the same thing and they’d follow us right down the farm. Grandmother had a shucking house down on the end of the island and they had a lot of black children down there. We played with them a lot. But we were busy all the time because I was busy in the store.

UVA J-Term Engineering Students

NOTE: We received the sad news that BIC friend Art Schwarzschild passed away unexpectedly yesterday morning, March 15, 2017. We are still processing this terrible loss, but are encouraged that he brought so many students to his beloved Eastern Shore to share the wonders of Virginia's barrier islands. Re-reading the 2017 J-Term student writings reminds us that his legacy will live on through all those students.

We will miss you dearly, Art!

Art Schwarzschild in his element!

Art Schwarzschild in his element!


Each year in January for the past 4 or 5 years, the BIC has been honored to be part of a special UVA J-Term experience for engineering students. The brain child of UVA-LTER Director Art Schwarzschild, this class is an offering of the Science, Technology and Society program in the UVA School of Engineering.  

The January 2017 class was under the direction of UVA faculty members/instructors: Hannah Rogers (Engineering and Society), Art Schwarzschild (Environmental Sciences) and John Casteen (English and Creative Writing). 

At the end of the intensive program, the students present selected works (poetry, flash fiction, etc) at the Barrier Islands Center. We are always amazed by the depth of emotion and the unique perspectives that these brilliant left-brained engineering students bring to their creative writing work. We think you'll be blown away as well!  


Art & Music on the Farm 2015

Art & Music on the Farm

Everyone is scurrying around the BIC this week getting ready for Art & Music on the Farm 2015! I look forward each year to this fun community event because it highlights the very best of this region. I am forever grateful to the Gibb family for preserving the beautiful Almshouse Farm and to the BIC founders for choosing this remarkable site. This property always puts its best foot forward for Art & Music on the Farm, and I thank all of the many BIC friends who are working tirelessly to get the property ready – and the many volunteers helping out on Saturday.

The representation of artists and artisans of all types (pottery, wood, ceramics, agricultural products, and more) is always inspiring. I am convinced that the Eastern Shore boasts some of the most talented people in the world, and am always eager to see their newest work. I know you will be as impressed as we all are!

Wayne Henderson - Art & Music on the Farm 2014

Wayne Henderson - Art & Music on the Farm 2014

I also can’t get over the high caliber of musicians who travel across the state to join us for Art & Music on the Farm! These award-winning bands are emceed by two super smart historian-folklorists:  Dr. Gregg Kimball and Jon Lohman. They are here thanks to the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Be sure to check out the workshops in our newly renovated Education Building – it's an incredible opportunity!

Of course, bringing this music to the Shore does come with a cost, and we’re super pleased about the Grants and Sponsorships that underwrite the cost of the music and allow the BIC to make this special event available to the community at such a low admission cost. This year’s Headline Band Sponsor is Bay Creek, the Patron of the Arts is WHRO, and the Music Workshops are sponsored by a number of great local businesses. Grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts - Challenge America program are critical to this event as well. 

Our main rule here at the BIC is to have fun, so come on out on Saturday to enjoy browsing (and buying!) the best selection of regional art, crafts, flowers and libations while listening to amazing live music all day. 

We are looking forward to seeing you on Saturday!!

XOXO Laura

Recipe: A Winter Oyster Roast

Here is the BIC's recipe for the perfect Oyster Roast fundraiser:

1. Source the freshest local ingredients: 40 bushels of wild seaside oysters, 13,000 clams, umpteen barbecued chickens and pigs, 100 lbs of roasted peanuts from Suffolk, homemade Eastern Shore-style clam chowder and delectable mint brownies by Louise Oliver. 

2. Saute with a couple kegs of Back Bay Brewing Company's own Oyster Stout along with kegs of hard cider and other tasty brews, delicious cases of Chatham Vineyards wine, local Coastal Roasting Company locally roasted coffee. 

3. Sprinkle in an incredible crew of volunteers who showed up in droves to help plow, shovel and rake the grounds, set up the roasters, steam the clams, man the beer truck, greet guests and then clean up the whole thing afterwards. Add a pinch of the Nature Conservancy volunteers who collect and recycle the oyster shells.

4. Gently stir in a rich and varied silent auction including a selection of the finest hand crafted objects and art, dining and adventure packages donated by local artisans and small businesses.    

5. Add some very Generous Sponsors, including our favorite Eastern Shore oyster houses: Ballard Fish & Oyster Company, H.M Terry Co, J.C Walker Bros. and Ocean Cove Seafood, as well as Jones Zittrain Wealth Management Group of Merrill Lynch, Tankard Nurseries, and Hall Automotive with their new light trucks and commercial vans. 

6. Toss with a host of other local and regional sponsors, including Bay Creek Resort & Club, ESLAND, Rayfields Pharmacy, Michael L. Sterling - Vandeventer Black, LLP, Shore Bank, Wilbanks Smith & Thomas Asset Management, Wolcott Rivers Gates, Atlantic Animal Hospital, Back Bay Brewing Co. Chatham Vineyards, Drs. Savage, Sabol & Visser – Orthodontics, Eastern Shore Animal Hospital, Eastern Shore Events & Rentals, H.W. Drummond, The Insurance Market, Leatherbury-Broache & Co., Mattawoman Creek Farms, Mobile “Pig-Nic” Catering, Moore’s Portable Solutions, PNC Bank, Ralph W. Dodd & Associates, Sharp Energy, Shooting Point Oysters, SunTrust, Tidewater Insulators, Tommy Arnold, Inc., Turner & Turner and Willie C. Randall of Edward Jones. 

7. Season with the best guests ever coming from as far as Boston or as close as Machipongo.

8. Serve cold - or warm around some large heaters - and enjoy! 

Makes 600+ servings.