Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Fisherman's Wife

I've written before about my grandmother, Edith Mae Wilson Fulford. She was what you would think of when you hear the term "Fisherman's Wife."
Tink and Edith 1924

When needed she worked at the Fish house and I'm sure she hung many miles of fishing nets over the years. She would also clean fish if needed. One of the paintings hanging in her house was done from a newspaper photo of her cleaning mullet in the 1950s.

Although with seven kids and nineteen grand kids she made sure there were others available for that task later in life. She would just tell us go to the dock and get a mess of fish for supper. A mess was one of those quantities that everyone understood and fish was always mullet.   

By the time I was old enough to go fishing she was almost 60. She always packed a meal when we were going out, washed the slimy fish smell from the clothes that came back and somehow had supper ready when we got home, knowing when we would be back even if we didn't. She also made sure all the kids were at church on Sunday.

She grew up on a farm in Oneco, Florida and became a fisherman's wife by accident. Her parents drove the family the ten miles over a rough shell road to Cortez, Florida several times to visit the new Church of Christ and on one of those trips she met Tink Fulford. He didn't go to church much but his parents did and they introduced her to their son. Tink already had his own fishing boat and crew and I am sure it was obvious to Edith he was going to be successful as a commercial fisherman.

 He knew how to dress up when needed and taking her on a boat ride for a tour of Sarasota Bay or the Gulf of Mexico was something most Oneco farm girls had never experienced.

Edith Fulford abt 1975
The years of being a fisherman's wife took a toll. She had multiple surgeries due to physical wear and tear and you can see how arthritis left her hands in this photo.

I always thought she was unique in Cortez. She wasn't from North Carolina like most of the residents, wasn't related to any of the other families and didn't move there with her parents or husband. I recently discovered that she wasn't even unique to her own family.

In fact Edith was the third fisherman's wife in the Wilson family. Two of her first cousins had moved from Oneco farms to Cortez before her.

Her uncle Jasper Peter Wilson and his wife Georgia Tait Wilson had a farm in Oneco and he also took his family to visit the church in Cortez.

Jasper Wilson's oldest daughter Addice Eugenia Wilson married Harry Mann, a Cortez fisherman, on November 21, 1910. They had seven children, just like Tink and Edith. The Manns moved to Ft. Myers about 1930 and then ended up in St. Petersburg where he owned a Fish house at Snug Harbor.

Harry Mann died in 1966 and Addice in 1984. They are both buried in Major Adams Cemetery in Bradenton, close to Edith's parents.

Jasper Wilson's youngest daughter Martha "Mattie" Wilson married John B. Kight from Cortez on November 25, 1915. John Kight drowned while out fishing on January 11, 1918 when a severe winter storm hit the area without warning.

John Kight's name is missing from the Cortez Fisherman's Memorial, a $50,000 statue and plaque meant to remember fisherman lost at sea. I guess folks forgot about him by the time it was unveiled in 2001.

Mattie Wilson Kight, a widow with a one year old son remarried a year after John's death to William Roydon Wedge. They moved to West Palm Beach, Florida a few years later,  Mattie died in 1983 and is buried in the Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery

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