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Posted on: September 22, 2022

Town of Colonial Beach to Receive Potomac River Oyster Wars Marker

bw oystering with photo credit

Town of Colonial Beach to Receive Potomac River Oyster Wars Marker

VA Department of Historic Resources Approves Historical Highway Marker


Town of Colonial Beach, VA (CBVA) has a rich and colorful maritime history, notably the century-long Potomac River Oyster Wars, from 1865 until the shooting death of Virginia Berkeley Muse by Maryland Oyster Police in 1959. After more than a year of research, applications, and fundraising, the Board of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources has granted approval for a historical highway marker, the first within the Town’s corporate limits.


Efforts to secure the historic marker were led by Colonial Beach Parks and Recreation Director Robert “Bobby” Duke and Town of Colonial Beach Councilwoman Dr. Caryn Self Sullivan. A lifelong Colonial Beach resident, Duke conceived of the idea for the marker to promote heritage tourism in CBVA, enhance Town parks and green spaces, and for a more personal reason: Berkeley Muse was Bobby’s uncle. 


“While most ‘natives’ know about the Oyster Wars, newer residents and visitors may not, despite books and articles having been written about it,” explains Duke. “I’ve been working on securing this designation for about 18 months, so I am pretty excited to see it come to be. My Aunt Alice, who just passed away, said it best. ‘April 8, 1959 was a day no one who was there would forget.’”


Funds for the marker, a joint project between the Town of Colonial Beach Parks & Rec Department and Colonial Beach Greenspace, were raised via individual donations to the latter, a local charity dedicated to improving parks and greenspaces by adding amenities, improving ADA access, and increasing education through historical and interpretive signage.


“The Oyster Wars were up close and personal for watermen and their families here in Colonial Beach” says Councilwoman Self Sullivan, who interviewed a first-hand witness to the death of Berkeley Muse. “The establishment of the Potomac River Fisheries Commission in Colonial Beach, which was catalyzed by by Berkeley’s death, adds to the significance of this marker.”


The historical marker is expected to be received by the Town and installed on Colonial Avenue in early 2023. 


To learn more read the blog post “Potomac River Oyster Wars & the Death of Berkeley Muse” on our tourism website, VisitCBVA


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