The York River is arguably the most historically significant location for early colonial history found anywhere in America. European and Native American civilizations collided here. This was the land of Powhatan, Opechanacanough, Pocahantas, and the legendary explorations of Captain John Smith. No wonder this area’s colonial land patents (King’s grant lands) were so highly sought after by the first families of Virginia for the their Colonial plantations. The Washington’s, Lee’s, Anderson’s, Roane’s, Tucker’s, and Taliaferro’s settled its shores. History lives and breathes here. It is woven into the fabric of the estuary and its surrounding lands.
The Yankee Oystermen
The plentiful supply and quality of oysters from the York River caught the attention of Dutch businessmen from New York in the early 1800s up through the early 1900s. Soon schooner Captains were plying the York River and tonging oysters. Often these oysters would be replanted up north in areas such as Prince’s Bay off Staten Island Sound to replenish their overharvested oyster beds. The Dutch Captain David Van Name who settled on the east side of the Poropotank naming his land Starvation Farm, was one of the early pioneers of this planting technique.
The Wright’s, another Dutch New York family, took possession of Anderson’s Neck and worked the abundant oyster beds successfully just off its shores. Dutch Captain Aziel Post married into the local Tucker family and built “Riverview” on the York carrying on lucrative oyster trade with Mariner’s Harbor, New York for nearly a century. These oysters were highly sought after and were often marketed under the name of “Celebrated York River Oysters” by a multitude of watermen including the Wright, Richardson, Crittenden, Post, Conklin, and Roane families.