Timeline

  • 200 Million Years Ago

    Oysters first appear on Earth.

  • 35 Million Years Ago

    The Chesapeake Bay is formed. A rare bolide (a comet- or asteroid-like object) hits what is now the lower tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, creating a 55-mile-wide crater. This crater influences the shape of the region’s rivers and determines the eventual location of the Chesapeake Bay. As sea levels fluctuate over the next several million years, the area that is now the Bay alternates between dry land and shallow coastal sea.

  • 11,500 Years Ago

    Paleo-Indian people arrive in the Chesapeake Bay region.

  • 10,000 to 7,000 Years Ago

    Ice sheets and glaciers continue to melt, flooding the Susquehanna, Potomac, James and York rivers. Water pours into the Atlantic Ocean and sea levels rise. The Chesapeake Bay's modern-day outline begins to form.

  • 5,000 Years Ago

    The first oysters colonize the Bay.

  • 2,000 Years Ago

    The Chesapeake Bay's outline now resembles its current form.

  • 1500

    The Native American population reaches 24,000.

  • 1608

    Captain John Smith first explores the Rappahannock River.

  • 1650s

    War and disease take their toll on Native Americans, whose population shrinks to just 2,400.

  • 1680s

    Colonists begin using hand tongs to harvest oysters from deeper waters. Prior to this, oysters were generally collected along the shorelines. Virginia lawmakers pass legislation to prevent wasteful fishing practices on the Rappahannock River.

  • 1701

    A Swiss visitor to the Chesapeake, Francis Louis Michel, was amazed at the number of oysters. He observed, "The abundance of oysters is incredible. There are whole banks of them so that the ships must avoid them. . . . They surpass those in England by far in size, indeed, they are four times as large. I often cut them in two, before I could put them into my mouth."

  • 1750s

    The first signs of environmental degradation occur. Colonists strip 20-30% of the region's forests for settlements. As a result, shipping ports begin to fill with eroded sediment, becoming too shallow for boats to navigate. Farmers begin to use plows extensively, starting a cycle of permanent tillage that prevents reforestation and leads to massive soil erosion

  • 1790s

    Dredging equipment appears in New England and is so efficient that local supplies are swiftly exhausted.

  • 1800

    New England fishermen travel to the Chesapeake Bay with the new dredges and begin taking serious tolls on Chesapeake beds. Virginia and Maryland eventually ban this equipment and create legislation that allows only its citizens to transport oysters in the state waters.

  • 1850s

    Railroads, canals, and steamboats allow the oyster market to reach consumers outside of the Chesapeake region. The number of oysters harvested from the Bay doubles in the last 10 years, from 700,000 bushels in 1839 to more than 1.5 million in the 1850s.

  • 1865

    Dredges are now legalized, and this proves a huge factor in the expansion of the industry. In that year, Maryland's harvest nearly triples to 5 million bushels and Virginians takes 2 million bushels.

  • 1875

    James Arthur Croxton, Rappahannock Oyster Co.'s founder, is born in Middlesex County, Virginia.

  • 1887

    A peak harvest of ~24 million bushels is taken from the Bay (nearly half the world's supply). Canneries located in Baltimore and elsewhere along the Bay are supplying not only much of the United States but other countries as far away as Australia.

  • 1894

    In an effort to defuse warring oystermen (the famed "Oyster Wars"), as well as encourage 'investment' in the Bay, the Baylor Survey was established to create private oyster leases.

  • November 24, 1899

    James Arthur Croxton leases 2 acres of Rappahannock River bottom, unofficially founding Rappahannock Oyster Co.

  • 1913

    William Arthur Croxton, Sr. is born in Middlesex County, Virginia.

  • October 15, 1954

    Hurricane Hazel strikes the Rappahannock River, destroying all of William and James Croxton's oyster beds, as well as their boats.

  • 1955

    Two hurricanes (Connie and Diane) flood the Rappahannock River, causing a drop in salinity that lasts less than two weeks, but a significant percentage of oysters in the upper end of the river die over just a two-day period.

  • 1961

    James Arthur Croxton passes away.

  • 1991

    William Croxton passes away and Rappahannock Oyster Co. ceases operations.

  • 2001

    Cousins Ryan and Travis Croxton are informed by their fathers that their family's century-old oyster leases are about to expire with the state. The two take over the leases with the intent to plant in the spring.

  • March 23, 2002

    Rappahannock Oyster Co. is officially reborn with the purchase of 3,000 oyster seed.

  • March 2004

    Le Bernardin becomes first account for the reformed company, soon followed by Jack's Luxury (NY), Shaffer City (NY), and Equinox (DC).

  • November 2005

    Ryan and Travis are named to Food & Wine Magazine’s Tastemaker’s List.

  • July 15, 2011

    Opened Merroir Tasting Room

  • September 2012

    Opened Rappahannock Oyster Bar

  • December 13, 2012

    Opened Rappahannock Restaurant at 320 East Grace Street, Richmond, VA.

  • February 2016

    Opened Rapp Session at 318 East Grace Street, Richmond, VA.

  • March 2017

    Opened Rappahannock Oyster Bar in Charleston, SC.