Dynamic Sustainability: Maryland's Atlantic Coast

Photo of ponies on Assateague Island

Ocean City and Assateague Island

Dynamic Sustainability: Shoreline Management on Maryland's Atlantic Coast

1876-1933, Beginning of Divergence

Assateague Island

Two more Life-Saving Stations opened on Assateague Island in the late 1800s, and shipwrecks remained a common occurrence, including a presidential yacht that sunk off the coast of the Virginia portion of the island in 1891. By the early 20th century, the village reached its peak population of about 200; there were schools, churches, a general store, and the residents worked for the Life-Saving Service or the fish oil companies that had opened on the island, or they raised sheep and fished.

During World War I there was German U-boat activity in the waters off Assateague Island. Ships were sunk and crews were taken captive for a few days, but luckily there were no casualties.

After the war, fortunes changed for Assateague Village. In 1922 a new landowner purchased most of southern Assateague Island. His overseer refused to allow the villagers to cross the property to reach the fishing grounds at Tom's Cove Hook, which is at the extreme southern end of the island. The villagers began moving away once their access to the fishing grounds was blocked. They put their houses on skids and moved them across the bay to Chincoteague Island to the south.

More: Ocean City | Assateague

Reviewed 27 Sep 2016

Assateague Island

Assateague Island
Source: IAN Image Library


By the time the hurricane struck in 1933 and separated Assateague from Fenwick Island, all the residents of the village had moved away. Thus the physical separation punctuated what had been happening socially on the island, and it was left uninhabited and mostly in a state of wilderness.