From the shoreline looking across Crab Alley Bay I could hardly see Bodkin Island at all. What had become of the island of my youth? I wanted a closer look. My cousin Dan Hopkins offered to take my granddaughter and me there to check it out. On a late summer afternoon after the thunderstorms passed north above Love Point Dan, his wife, Sharon and son Sam, Annabelle Swift and I gathered our cameras, towels, snacks and cold drinks and set out for Bodkin. We pulled out of Thompson Creek into Coxes Creek and then into Eastern Bay to visit what was left of this land our ancestors settled.
What a shock to see this diminished place remembering it full of Loblolly pines, trees, shrubs, marsh and a hunting lodge. Once, a defining landmark Bodkin is slipping into Eastern Bay.
We anchored the boat off the island and formed a little landing party of swimmers. Delighted Annabelle and Sam climbed into inner tubes. Skimming the surface to avoid sea nettles in the familiar warm and salty Eastern Bay we swam over to, and then between, the broken sea walls to a little inlet. Then we carefully waded through broken bricks, oyster shells, rocks and other debris. We could see a clay bank about 6 feet high at low tide and an almost barren island. Skeletons of sun bleached and salt sprayed loblollies, Cormorants and Cormorant filled nests on flattened High Tide Bush, Baccharis hamifolia, greeted us. The young gangling Cormorants squawking and running every which way were frightened by our presence Some nests still held large speckled eggs. The nests were large, made of driftwood and leafy branches located on the ground unlike Heron and Osprey nests.
We circled the island walking over broken foundations of loose bricks and stones on a topsoil depleted surface of sand and clay. What was left of the vegetation was commandeered by the nesting Cormorants who by this time had settled back into their heavy nests. These Cormorants are new to Eastern Bay and Bodkin Island. The fecund Cormorants are destroying what is left of the island.
Bodkin Island wasn’t always an island. For thousands of years Bodkin was a neck of land and southernmost tip of Coxes Neck on Kent Island. This point was named Bodkin, meaning fishing hook or arrowhead. Bodkin Point would have been seen in 1573 by the Spanish explorer, Juan Menendez de Marques and in the early 17th century by John Smith on his voyage of the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay and clearly marked on his map.
DeSartine’s chart, Carte de la Baie de Chesapeake published in 1778 shows it still attached to the mainland. A hundred years later the 1878 Atlas shows Bodkin as an island owned by J. Jones.
Over a thousand acres were granted to Joseph Sudler by the fifth Lord Baltimore in 1742. Joseph Sudler and his wife, Ann Emory passed the plantation named Sudler’s Fortune to their son Emory Sudler. These are the same Sudlers for whom the town of Sudlersville is named. Gone is the Manor House, smoke house, dairy house, tenement houses, barns, stables , orchards, fences and fields, all crumbling foundations and broken dreams under the waters of Eastern and Crab Alley Bays. Before that happened residents drove their horses and buggies through the watery isthmus to their homes.
Now, no more than an acre in size, Bodkin Island is owned by the State of Maryland who at one time planned to enlarge it with soil dredged from the Kent Narrows channel. It would help if the State of Maryland stepped in and restored it with marsh grass and saltwater tolerant trees and shrubs.
We gathered again our little boating party for departure. Annabelle, secure in her inner tube balanced a heavy Indian stone tool we found. I swam and held a blue and white cloverleaf transfer ironstone shard and a broken piece of blue decorated clay pottery. There was much splashing and laughter from the kids as we pushed the inner tubes back to the boat gliding over sea nettles and our ancestor’s bones.
From the boat Sam and Annabelle turned toward the island and waved good bye to the Cormorants and a few seagulls, ” Bye,Bye Birdies, Bye Bye Bodkin”…………….