Thursday, September 4, 2008

Odd Jobs

Wharfinger (wharf·in·ger) - an owner of a wharf

As I posted the other day, there are always a few things in the census data that I don't know the meaning of, as in today's post. I assumed from the name that the occupation was that of someone in the fishing or shipping business. It turns out that it is the owner of a wharf.

There isn't much out there (at least that I was able to find today) about the business of owning a wharf. From what I can gather, the owner of the wharf usually had a house/office on the premise of the wharf. A job description is pretty basic, he is the one who has custody of and is responsible for all goods delivered to the wharf as well as it's upkeep.

In the 1860 census of Port Tobacco, we have a wharfinger named Alfred Nalley (30 years old). There is mention of him being part of the 1870 census as well but I find no reference to him. Again, this is one of those times where the census data does not always match and also how inaccurate it can be for doing research.

As Port Tobacco was indeed a port town and many goods came in and out of the town, it would make sense to me that there would be more than one wharf owner, or a succession of owners over time. However, I haven't found any other references to them. That doesn't mean they're not out there!

I would be curious to know if there were more than one wharfingers in Port Tobacco? How many wharves were in Port Tobacco? Were they all commercial wharfs? Did the owners sell them before the river silted in? Were they aware of the silting problem before the town knew how bad it was getting? Lots of questions, very few answers. Just something to mull over and possibly research on another day.

- Peter

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