New signs of life in Tilghman

Plac­ards honor mem­o­ries of lo­cal boats, her­itage

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By DENAE SPIERING dspier­ing@ches­

— “There is a back­bone to this com­mu­nity, and that back­bone is hard work­ing wa­ter­man,” Tom Corn­well said.

Tilghman is a work­ing wa­ter­men com­mu­nity, and a new project aims to re­mind peo­ple of that rich his­tory. Any­one tak­ing a ride through the main drag of the is­land can see unique wooden boat signs hung high on tele­phone poles.

Each sign rep­re­sents a cur­rent Tilghman work­boat or one long gone from the is­land. Each boat has a name and a story to tell, and those sto­ries are what Ginny and Tom Corn­well plan to share with the world.

“There wouldn’t be a book with­out a a sign,” Tom Corn­well said. “And there wouldn’t be a sign with­out the boats.”

The signs started three years ago through a joint project with the Tilghman Wa­ter­man’s Mu­seum and Tilghman Is­land Youth As­so­ci­a­tion as a way to raise money for com­mu­nity pro­grams on the is­land, par­tic­u­larly TAYA and its af­ter­school pro­gram. Ginny Corn­well is the founder of TAYA and a pre­vi­ous ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

“We are ‘come-heres,’ as they say,” Tom Corn­well said.”We felt, as more and more peo­ple dis­cov­ered Tilghman as out­siders, we felt what was hap­pen­ing was peo­ple was see­ing a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of ‘come­heres.’”

Tom Corn­well said he be­gan to think peo­ple were see­ing Tilghman for some­thing it wasn’t.

“This town is here, and its quaint­ness, its char­ac­ter, its cul­ture is here be­cause it is a work­ing wa­ter­man com­mu­nity,” Corn­well said. “The idea was born to il­lus­trate the large num­ber of wa­ter­man that you don’t see.”

He said they wanted peo­ple com­ing over the bridge to be struck by the re­minder of what this town is re­ally about.

Corn­well said he wanted the wa­ter­men to be able to com­mem­o­rate their fa­thers’, boats, their grand­fa­thers’ boats or even their own boat.

“To show pride and re­spect, be it a his­tor­i­cal boat or a con­tem­po­rary boat,” Corn­well said. “We wanted to show what made this com­mu­nity what it is.”

Each boat sign is spon­sored yearly, and Ginny Corn­well said there is a wait­ing list for peo­ple who wish to spon­sor one.

The boats are hung in April just as the of­fi­cial crab­bing sea­son starts and re­main on dis­play through sum­mer and early fall.

This year, Ginny Corn­well hopes to do more with boat signs than fundrais­ing. She and her hus­band are de­sign­ing and cre­at­ing a book fea­tur­ing each one of the boats, the cap­tains and the sto­ries be­hind them.

“I came up with the idea to com­pile a list­ing of all the boats that are rep­re­sented with a sign and talk to the his­tory of them,” Ginny Cor­well said.

She said has be­gun con­duct­ing in­ter­views with wa­ter­men and plans to put a photo and a cap­tion by each boat.

There are about 115 boats rep­re­sented on the signs, and Ginny Corn­well plans to talk peo­ple con­nected to each one of them this sum­mer to com­plete her book by fall, just in time for Tilghman Is­land Day.

“It’s a lot of work, but it is so much fun,” Ginny Cor­well said. “And the wa­ter­man are lov­ing be­ing able to share their sto­ries, and that is what the book is all about.”

Tom Cor­well said the wa­ter­men are real char­ac­ters, and they love to tell sto­ries and what they have done, whether it is a hard­ship story, a funny story or a story of great har­vest. He said the wa­ter­men in Tilghman are proud of their his­tory.

“They are re­ally proud of their pro­fes­sion,” Tom Corn­well said. “They are proud of their boats. They are proud of their chil­dren. That’s why the boats are named af­ter their chil­dren. They are proud of their spouses. Boats are named af­ter their spouses and their com­mu­nity.”

One of the sto­ries is when Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Re­gan vis­ited the Lady Katie, a boat cap­tained by Stan­ley Lar­ri­more.

The fin­ished book will re­sem­ble a mid­dle school year­book, com­plete with graph­ics, photos, quotes and glossy pages. It will be about 40 pages long and will be pub­lished by Jostens.

The books will be for sale at Tilghman Is­land Day on Satur­day, Oct. 21, and the pro­ceeds from the sale of the books will go di­rectly to the Tilghman Is­land Vol­un­teer Fire Com­pany for new wa­ter res­cue equip­ment.

For more in­for­ma­tion on spon­sor­ing a boat sign, visit the Tilghman Is­land Post of­fice for a sign-up sheet. The cost to spon­sor a boat for a sea­son is $50.


The main street through Tilghman, where passersby can see more than 100 boat signs hung high on tele­phone poles, is shown. Each boat sign rep­re­sents a work­boat cur­rently in Tilghman or a boat from the past.


The main street through Tilghman, where passersby can see more than 100 boat signs hung high on tele­phone poles, is shown. Each boat sign rep­re­sents a work­boat cur­rently in Tilghman or a boat from the past.

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