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Welcome: Mathews Maritime Heritage Trail

The Mathews Maritime Heritage Trail is a partnership project initiated in January 2009 to preserve the valued coastal landscape, and tell the colorful history of Mathews County’s nautical heritage.  Phase I of the project will focus on water routes, and will follow the90 mile Blueways Water Trail, a component of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network.  Later phases will include bicycle routes and scenic drives to allow local citizens and tourists a chance to explore and learn about the county’s natural and cultural assets.

With the earliest English settlement in 1650, Mathews County is rich in historical landmarks--buildings, churches, estates, cemeteries-- including a Courthouse, circa  1795, still in use today, centuries-old gravesites, a haunted house, and the Tabernacle, one of the last remaining outdoor pavilions for religious use.

Visit the historic Court Green where the Debtors Jail, Sheriff's Office and County Administration Offices have been in operation since 1795--although the uses have changed through the years. A monument, erected in 1928 by the Daughters of the American Revolution, stands in front of the courthouse near a memorial honoring Confederate soldiers.  

Take an online Historic Marker Tour of the county. Once you click the link notice at the bottom of the page a link to see a map. If you are planning stops in other nearby locations you will want to visit www.markerhistory.com. Then, check in with the  Mathews County Historical Society, headquartered in Tompkins Cottage circa 1815, the oldest wooden structure in the historic district, once owned by Christopher Tompkins, a prominent local planter, merchant, sea captain, and ship owner/builder, and the father of Capt. Sally Tompkins, the first woman to be commissioned an officer in the Confederate Army.

Thirty-nine churches--and many more cemeteries, some dating back to the 1600s--grace the landscape of Mathews County. Using the Historical Society's publication Tombstones of Mathews County as a tour guide, genealogists find a wealth of information when searching for their roots.

The third oldest lighthouse on the Bay, New Point Comfort Lighthouse was commissioned in 1804 by Thomas Jefferson. The 55-foot octagonal sandstone lighthouse sits on an island, separated from the mainland by the Hurricane of 1933. View by boat or from the New Point Comfort Preserve Observation Walkway.

Originally established as a community project, the Gwynn's Island Museum started out on a small scale. From the beginning it was obvious that there was a great deal of interest in preserving the long and colorful history of Gwynn's Island and  Mathews County. The Museum grew rapidly and by the end of the first year space for the many exhibits and artifacts had become limited, so plans were made to look for a new home on the Island. A 100-year-old building, originally serving as the Odd Fellows Lodge and later the Island's first public school, was donated in 1992 and restored by dedicated volunteers to what you see today.

Mathews Maritime Museum is owned and operated by the Mathews Maritime Foundation. Established in 1998, the Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting Mathews County's maritime and cultural heritage through research, conservation, documentation and education. 


Mathews' old houses come to life and share their stories in a soon-to-be-released book produced by the Historic Sites and Structures Committee of the Mathews CountyBAR NECK HOUSE Historical Society.

Bar Neck House



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