Annual Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area Awards honor preservationists

CAMBRIDGE — A seafood business, a restored country store, and a boat builder were honored for their roles in helping preserve and promote local culture during the annual Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area Awards.

The community was invited to submit nominations; the awardees were chosen by the Management Board of the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area. Awards were presented during an event at Ruark Boatworks in Cambridge on Sept. 22.
The 2016 winners are:

Accepting the Business Partner award for the J. M. Clayton Seafood Company was members of the Brooks family.

Accepting the Business Partner award for the J. M. Clayton Seafood Company was members of the Brooks family.

Business Partner: The J. M. Clayton Seafood Company

The world’s oldest working crab processing plant, the J. M. Clayton Seafood Company was founded in 1890 by Captain John Morgan Clayton. More than 125 years later, the company is still owned and operated by the Clayton family.

Today, Clayton’s is operated by the Brooks family — the same family that’s owned it from the beginning. The business is not only a landmark on Cambridge Creek, but also an icon in the seafood industry. Clayton’s helps keep the crabbing industry alive—working directly with about three dozen watermen, some of them grandsons of the watermen who dealt with Captain Johnnie back in the early days. Their “Epicure” crabmeat is offered everywhere from top restaurants in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., to Whole Food Markets.

Earlier this year, the company also received the American Treasures Award in the Culinary Arts & Foodways category from MADE: In America.

Dan Cada (center) won the individual achievement award.

Dan Cada (center) won the individual achievement award.

Individual Achievement: Daniel Cada

For 20 years, Cambridge resident Daniel Cada has been a volunteer with the nonprofit Dorchester Skipjack Committee, which owns and operates the skipjack Nathan of Dorchester. Cada has served in many capacities including sail crew (mate), member of the board of directors and currently as maintenance and restoration chairman.

In the past two years alone, Cada has shown leadership and organizational skills that have been vital to the Nathan. He has initiated a comprehensive annual maintenance program, restored the blocks and rigging, upgraded the hydraulic system, and more.
Through his decades of dedicated volunteer work, Cada has helped keep the Chesapeake Bay’s youngest skipjack in shape, in turn helping to share stories of the local oyster industry and Dorchester County with thousands. The Nathan attracts more than 1,200 passengers—both visitors and local residents — each year on its public sails.

The Meredith family accepted the Heritage Award for Organizational Excellence for the Bucktown Village Store.

The Meredith family accepted the Heritage Award for Organizational Excellence for the Bucktown Village Store.

Organizational Excellence: Bucktown Village Store

Jay and Susan Meredith have owned the Bucktown Village Store since 1999, but the family connections to the 19th-century country store go back much farther. The simple one-room building on Bucktown Road, not far from Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, was owned by Jay’s family long ago; his great-grandfather was the last owner in the family. Even before he and Susan were married, Jay had dreams of buying the building and bringing it back into the Meredith family. And so he did. The Merediths spent years restoring it.

Today, Jay and Susan are happy to open the doors to Bucktown Village Store for visitors from all over the world. The site, part of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, is believed to be the place of Harriet Tubman’s first public act of defiance. After Tubman declined to help a slave owner stop a fleeing slave, the slave owner threw a heavy iron weight to halt the slave—but hit Tubman in the head instead. She nearly died, and for the rest of her life she suffered seizures and health problems, as well as spiritual visions that she said helped her successfully guide more than 70 people out of slavery using the secret network known as the Underground Railroad. The Bucktown Village Store is protected in perpetuity by a historical easement.

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