Assuming that you have been to Reedville, by land or by sea, you most assuredly would have noticed a lone masonry stack that has stood for over a hundred years, as a sentry in Reedville’s harbor, at Cockrell’s creek. She is a proud and well built remnant left from the great menhaden fishing industry of days gone by and Reedville’s golden age.
The great brick stack at Reedville has endured the ravages of time, peril from fire, violent storms and hurricanes as well as neglect, numerous lightening strikes and the unseen consequences of winters on the bay. She proudly stands over 130 feet from base to crown and is affectionately known by locals and visitors alike, as Reedville’s own “Statue of Liberty”. As members of the Save the Stack Committee will tell you, doing nothing at all is the greatest threat yet to Reedville’s lone surviving stack!
The Evolution of the “Fish Factories”
At one time in Reedville’s history, fifteen different fish factories lined the shores of Cockrell’s Creek, which earned Reedville the grand distinction as one of the most affluent towns, per capita, in the entire United States. Every cause has an effect and so it was necessity and opportunity that opened the door for prosperity in Reedville.
In case you might be wondering, what menhaden is, in short it is a very oily, bony fish which was available in astounding quantities, on the east coast and in the Chesapeake Bay. It is also high in Omega 3 and is used in a variety of products.
Reedville’s Founder and the Builders of the Stack
The founding fathers of Reedville’s menhaden industry had migrated south from the coast of New England (Maine particularly) and brought with them their own architectural styles and a new cultural mind-set. In the midst of all this activity, America was changing from an agrarian society to an industrial one.
Elijah Reed, for whom Reedville is named, was the first of several menhaden barons, who changed the course of history in this quiet and remote Northern Neck community. On his heels came Captain James Fisher and Mr. Albert Morris, who operated the Morris Fisher factory.
They hired their brother in law, a brilliant brick mason, with an engineering mind to build the stack. Interestingly, Morris and Fisher were married to sisters. Their stack must have made quite a statement on the waterfront and was surely a great advertisement for its builder. It is fortunate for us that the stack was overbuilt for its time and designed by its builder to withstand a host of perils, including the ravages of time. She was built to last.
Fire — the Odious & Insidious Destroyer
In 1912 a great fire devastated the Morris Fisher factory and also the entire waterfront. The Morris Fisher Stack survived the fire, when others did not. The scant remains of the once bustling factories and wharfs can still be seen along a portion of Cockrell’s creek by boat.
The Stack Today
Today the Morris Fish stack stands tall, with a slight lean of less than one degree, “not bad for 108 years” – which is remarkable. She now needs our help so that she can keep standing tall.
Just the fact that she is still standing makes her worthy of preservation. “The stack is an iconic landmark of Reedville and the Northern Neck’s menhaden factories, which were found throughout the Northern Neck. This is the last stack like this of any factory that operated in the Northern Neck.”
Through the years, this statuesque landmark has served as a visual aid to the watermen and sailors of the past. “When they saw the stack, they knew they were home.”
Get Involved — SAVETHESTACK.ORG
About five years ago a group of concerned citizens began discussing the impending need to save the stack. A group of watermen, fish boat captains, corporations, retired individuals and area residents began to meet and organize with the goal of saving the stack. They are a dynamic group of energized and passionate individuals with a common goal of restoring the stack to peak condition. What started as a committee of 10 now includes 25. Their bottom line was that none of them could envision Reedville without the stack.
“Omega Protein and their General Manager, Monty Deihl, who took the reins of running the Reedville Plant for Omega last year, have been more than supportive of our efforts. He is on our committee plus he actually came to me about restoring the stack after having heard that it is something we had tried to do 4 – 5 years ago.”
The Greater Reedville Association, which oversees the Reedville Fisherman’s Museum, also acts as the umbrella for the savethestack.org fundraising drive. All contributions are tax deductible.
In addition to individuals, various community sponsors and corporations are generously donating a portion of their proceeds or are contributing resources and dollars to save the stack. “We have a broad range of age groups presented in our membership, which includes natives, come here’s, come-back-here’s, visitors, part time residents and people from all over.” The organization operates in a transparent way with the general public and media in attendance at meetings. “People have taken what they have learned at our meetings back to their homes and neighbors. We have had two town hall meetings with over 100 people in attendance at each meeting.”
Plan of Action
According to Blaine Altaffer, immediate needs are the following: “Once we stabilize and restore the stack we will go to work on shoreline work, planting native shrubs and mounting plaques of the history of the stack and of Morris/Fisher level donors.”
The initial soil work done shows that the foundation is in very good condition for a structure of this type. Built on a firm foundation she has stood proudly for 108 years. If we are successful in our fundraising drive, the work we are about to embark on will ensure her viability for future generations.
Time is of the Essence
Currently Save-the-Stack has raised approximately $170,000.00+. We need $240,000.00 to fix and stabilize the stack itself and a total of $350,000.00 to do the shoreline work. “Hopefully we can begin work by the end of August, depending on fundraising. We hope to have at least the restoration of the stack itself completed by winter.”
Much has changed in Reedville since the great fishing industries of the past. Thankfully the need to band together and the sense of community necessary to save the stack is something that has not changed. For more information on the saving the Stack, community events and activities planned or how you can help “Save the Stack” go to www.savethestack.org. As previously mentioned in this article, all contributions are tax deductible. For more info, please contact the Reedville Fisherman’s Museum at 804-453-6529. Help keep the stack standing for another 100 years!
Thank you to Blaine Altaffer who talked with us about Saving the Stack. He is the sole source of this article in addition to information found online at www.savethestack.org.