The Taylor & Caldwell Cannery at Walkerton (October 2012)

The Walkerton boat ramp today is an active summer place. Boat trailers carrying speed boats and jet skis fill the parking area of the lower landing, while kayakers and canoeists prefer the quieter upper landing. Fishermen use the landing in all seasons, and duck hunters find the access convenient in winter. Occasionally there is a wedding ceremony on the island where sightseers find an attractive place to stroll. The truly observant can find native flowers blooming in the wet edges in three seasons of the year.

The scene was still busy, but distinctly different, sixty years ago when the landing was the site of a vegetable cannery owned by Taylor and Caldwell, Incorporated. Canning season began in spring with early peas, and ended in September with the black-eyed pea crop. The area was a bustling workplace for many men and women all summer long, processing butter beans and corn as well as peas. Fed by the harvest from nearby farms, the factory produced canned goods trucked to markets in Maryland, D.C., Virginia, and North Carolina.

Taylor and Caldwell owned several properties in the Walkerton area, most located in King & Queen County. Besides the cannery itself, the company owned farmland, warehouses, and workshop sites, plus they rented farmland in order to increase the supply of vegetables produced by the farmers who worked directly for the company. Independent farmers were contracted to deliver their own crops to the cannery. Bad weather and market conditions coincided to convince the company’s board of directors to cancel the 1960 canning season. 1959 was the last year the cannery operated.

The Stansbury Canning Company originally built a factory on this site in 1908. Henry P. Taylor, a Richmond native, worked for this company for the four years following his graduation from University of Virginia in 1914, and he returned to Walkerton in 1921 to purchase the cannery. His partnership with C.C. Caldwell began in 1926. It was four years later, in 1930, that the corporation was formed and the new factory built.

The history of the Taylor and Caldwell cannery and the people who worked there will be presented by Ben P. Owen and Page Owen McLemore at the next meeting of the King & Queen County Historical Society. Their grandfather, Henry P. Taylor, was associated with the Stansbury and the Taylor and Caldwell canneries for a period lasting for more than 40 years. Ben and Page will lead a conversation that will include a history of the cannery and the stories of the people who worked there.

The Historical Society invites all interested in the history of this area to attend this informal program. In particular, it is hoped that anyone with a memory of working at the cannery will come to share their stories, and perhaps to help identify people in old photographs.

This event will be held on Sunday, October 28, 2012, at 3:00 p.m. on the hillside above the cannery site in Walkerton from a tent on the lawn of the Riverside Hotel (also known as Dillard’s Hotel). This property is owned by the Carroll Lee Walker family. The Society is honored to be the family’s guest for this occasion. Refreshments will be served at the conclusion of the program.