By Sam Serio
The peninsula known as the Eastern Shore of Virginia is made up of two counties, Accomack and Northampton. It is about seventy miles in length, extending from the town of New Church, Virginia to Cape Charles, Virginia. The widest parts of the peninsula are about eight miles. The country is flat and sandy. On the east the breakers of the Atlantic dash against it’s shores and on the west it is washed by the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
The monotony of the coastline is broken by the picturesque bays and creeks, many of which with their ox bowed bends, colonial homes with terraced gardens, blue sky and whispering pines suggest a foreign scene, or even a glimpse of fairyland.
The Indians gave the peninsula the name of Accawmacke, which in Indian lore meant land beyond the waters.
Our English ancestors on the Sarah Constant, the Godspeed and the Discovery for weeks plowed a dangerous sea until longing eyes fell on this friendly shore, where stately oaks, whispering pines, sweet-smelling myrtle, and Virginia creeper invited their willing feet to land. This they did and offered thanks to God for their safe delivery; but, as not one of the seven reasons given for the colonization by Orders in Council had been met, they named the point Cape Charles, embarked and sailed away. It is not strange that Captain John Smith in his journey of exploration in 1608 should have crossed the Chesapeake in search for this land.
The second landing was made on an island near the point and was called Smith’s Island, after the explorer. Smith found there a lake of salt. It was a fortunate thing that the party when it landed on the main land was met by Kiptopeake, the brother and co-ruler of Debedeabon, the “Laughing King of Accomack.” Smith describes him as the “comeliest, most civil savage he had encountered,” and John Pory recounts dramatically of how when he came to the Eastern Shore of Virginia looking for the salt lake, Kiptopeake invited him and his party into the woods where a supper was being prepared by his braves. While seated around the fire, Kiptopeake bared his chest and asked Pory if he saw a scar there, and when the former answered negatively, the latter replied, “No more is there inside toward the palefaces. Come to my country and welcome.”
Captain John Smith described the Eastern Shore of Virginia as follows, “ Heaven and earth seemed never to have agreed better to have framed a place for man’s habitation.” True in 1608, it’s true now; for nature, with man’s aid, has made this land of the myrtle and the pine a place without a parallel.
Today, the Eastern Shore of Virginia retains much of the natural charm that Captain John Smith discovered hundreds of years ago. Though the peninsula has it’s share of development including a vigorous tourist trade, it has grown at a much slower pace than any other area on the Eastern Seaboard. The Eastern Shore of Virginia remains an unparalleled family friendly vacation destination with numerous recreational options.