One of my Christmas gifts this year was the book Lost Communities of Virginia by By Terri Fisher and Elizabeth Gilboy. You might think from the title that the places mentioned in this book are ghost towns, but that term implies places empty of people. Rather, these are communities that have lost most of what they once were, and are just a few moving vans or obituaries away from really becoming ghost towns. I have only read a few of the entries in the book, but look forward to discovering the rest of the stories.
On Virginia's Eastern Shore there are several lost communities, any of which would have made a good entry for the book, but only Capeville got in. One place that didn't make the cut is Franklin City which is just this side of the Maryland line (not to be confused with the city of Franklin near the North Carolina line in Southampton Co). This past November I made a trek to Franklin City to see what could seen, which wasn't much as far as a town goes.
In the days when the railroad was the most reliable way to get commodities from here to there, Franklin City hummed. Train tracks were elevated above the marsh to the edge of Chincoteague Bay where the watermen of Chinoteague Island beyond, brought their oysters for shipment to hungry points north. Homes were built above the marsh, on either side of the tracks. A hotel, churches and stores followed, and the trade in oysters allowed the people of Franklin City to become quite wealthy by Eastern Shore standards. The oyster shells were discarded in such numbers that they helped bridge the gap between the marsh below and the houses above.
Events changed Franklin City. A causeway was built to Chincoteague Island in the 1920's allowing direct access to the oysters and other seafood, removing the need for any middlemen in Franklin City. Soon too, trucks, not trains, began carrying the salt delicacies to market. The fate of Franklin City was sealed by the hurricane of 1933, which washed away the sea level community, never to recover. Today there are just a few buildings still standing, with fewer still occupied, but the frostbitten marsh was beautiful in November, and the sky and sea are always there.
Stories like this fascinate me, and pondering societies that have too many eggs in one basket would be a good exercise for anyone contemplating the future.
(As is the norm here, any mention of any product, book or otherwise, is done so of my own volition unless otherwise stated.)