Yes, the very first thing someone sees, and sometimes smells, as they approach the town of West Point is the Smurfit-Stone Paper Mill. Still known as the “Chesapeake Mill” or “The Mill,” many residents will tell you that the somewhat foul fumes is “the smell of money.” “If there is no smell, nobody is working.” No doubt, it has been the main employer in this town for decades.
But, to limit West Point’s identity to the mill is a bit unfair. In recent years, the town has become a fishing magnet. From late April to early September, the Atlantic Croaker is the main target for boaters and pier fishermen. Due to our close driving distance from Richmond, the town has the busiest Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries boat landing on the Middle Peninsula. The public fishing pier is packed with anglers who savor this delicious member of the drum family. Other favorite species include Spot, Catfish, White Perch, and Striped Bass (called Rockfish around here).
The town also boast a wonderful collection of Victorian homes. Most of the old houses in West Point were dismantled by the Union Army during the Civil War. As the town was incorporated in 1870, wealthy whites built fine, period homes along Main Street. Kirby Street was the center of a thriving black community. Polish immigrants settled just beyond the old town limits in Port Richmond. Through out the town’s history, there were the same major social hurdles as in most other places in the South. But, together we have formed a place of steady employment, a great school system, and stable neighborhoods.
We all come together for the West Point Crab Carnival. Each first weekend in October, we celebrate the town’s crab harvesting legacy. Vendors sell them hard-shelled, soft-shelled, crab cakes, and other favorites. Assorted crafts and gifts are on display as well. There is a parade along Main Street and a variety of entertainment to enjoy.
Please visit www.soaphoto.com/jaygresh to see other photographs in the “West Point- More Than The Mill” Album.
May all go well with you,
John Gresham- The Bay Strider