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Sam Phillips was a waterman in his early working life. He tonged
for oysters on Broad Creek near his home in Neavitt, MD not far
from St. Michaels. In 1951, he built his own bay boat and
another for his brother-in-law, Brister Haddaway. Sam
and Brister bought the trees to build the boats from a
local farmer and had them taken to a saw mill to be
cut into boards. Sam cured the boards and then built
the two boats by hand with tools that
would seem very primitive today.Later
in life he worked for the Maryland Department
of Natural Resources as Captain of the tugboat
"Big Lou" used to service navigational buoys on the
bay. Most these pictures are from 1960 and 1961.
Oyster boats frozen in dock

The creek is frozen and all the boats are stuck in port. Officer Wade Weatherington of the Marine Police looks at the frozen fleet.
Bay boat

The boat Sam built for himself (left) was 33 feet long and named the "Jan-Char" after his niece, Janice Higgins, and his daughter-in-law, Charlene Phillips.
Oyster boat with three oystermen

Three oystermen working hard for a good catch. Often oystermen worked together sharing in the sale of the catch and expenses for the boat.
Oysterman using tongs to lift oysters to boat

Raymond Higgins swings his oyster tongs with a load onto the culling board to sort oysters big enough to sell and throw the rest back to grow to legal size.
Buty boat for oysters

Dick Crockett's buy boat "Margaret Lea" waits for oystermen's catch. Marine Police Boat "Vera B." is tied aft and Officer Milton Higgins will check that only oysters of legal size are sold.
Boat with load of oysters

A good day's work for three oystermen. Now it's time to take the day's catch to the "buy boat". The sale price will be driven by market demand and the supply of oysters.
Putting oysters onto buy boat

Raymond Higgins shovels his oysters into a bushel container to be hoisted aboard the buy boat. They keep a tally to pay him by the bushel.

Two dredgers sailing away. There are probably less than a dozen skipjacks that dredge for oysters today.
Skipjacks dresging for oysters


Two skipjacks dredging for oysters under sail . These oystermen are called "dredgers" like those using the oyster tongs are called "tongers."


Sam Phillips aboard the Big Lou at the old steam boat wharf in Neavitt, MD. Sam would break ice in winter with the Big Lou to clear a channel to open water for oystermen.