Keep the menhaden fish net reel

September 10, 2021

Last Sunday during a busy Labor Day weekend, a diverse crowd of 235 Lewes community members turned out for a rally to implore the Mayor and City Council to keep the menhaden fish net reel on the grounds of the Lewes Historical Society. A local rally of this size, over a holiday weekend no less, clearly demonstrates that the Lewes community values this significant historical structure and wants it to remain in place.

Speakers at Sunday’s rally shared how the menhaden fishing industry was a pivotal turning point for local African Americans in the midst of Jim Crow. These laborers’ essential contributions helped determine the success of the critical menhaden fishing industry for our community. The Rev. George H. Edwards Sr. spoke of the migration of the workers and their families from Virginia to Lewes. Robert Kennedy, a former employee of the fish factory, said there was equal pay, which created an opportunity to buy homes in our town and led to unique racial integration during the Jim Crow era. Tim Timmons, whose parents worked at the fish factory, pointed out the house that his parents (his mother still lives there) were able to purchase due to that employment. Alicia Jones gave a historical account of the African Americans who lived and worked in Lewes, and Esthelda Parker Selby shared the personal experiences of her mother and other factory employees. Trina Brown-Hicks played a live recording of songs sung by her father and others as they worked on “The Reel.”

We appreciate our board of education member Bill Collick for organizing this educational event in coordination with civic activist Alicia Jones Esq., the Rev. George H Edwards of Friendship Baptist Church and Diaz Bonville, master of ceremonies.

I was disappointed that the Mayor and City Council members did not attend Sunday’s event, because they missed the opportunity to be educated about the rich history of “The Reel” and understand its important place in the annals of our community and on the grounds of the Lewes Historical Society.

The attendance of so many community members during a holiday weekend confirms the will of the people that “The Reel” remain in place. If you agree with me and your neighbors who attended Sunday’s rally that “The Reel” must remain in its current location, please contact the Mayor and City Council members and/or attend the community hearing Monday, Sept. 20, at 6:30 p.m. 

Take a moment to stop by the corner of W. 3rd and Shipcarpenter streets to see the architectural wonder of “The Reel” and its historical marker.

Dr. Thomas M. Connelly
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