In late 2020, Marker Nine partnered with the Guinea Heritage Association to design and launch a special “Christmas in Guinea” fundraising t-shirt.
But why Guinea? Where is Guinea? What’s the connection?
Read on to learn more. Marker Nine co-founding families have a deep connection to the community and a love for all things Guinea (and Bena).
What and where is Guinea?
The area known as Guinea began to be defined by land patents in the 1600s.
According to the Guinea Heritage Association, "the Lower Gloucester land patent was granted in the 1650s, first by John Perrin in 1651 for 400 acres and then by Edward Dobson in 1653 for 950 acres."
A portion of the Dobson property would much later be called “Bena,” supposedly "after a woman that one of the Hall brothers fancied."
Today, in the simplest of terms, Guinea is the name given to the collection of small communities including Achilles, Bena, Jenkins Neck, Big Island, Rowes Haven, Severn, Perrin, and Maryus - just to the west of Gloucester Point.
All it takes is one turn and a few miles of driving off of Route 17 and you’re there.
The aptly named Guinea Road will take you through to the heart of the local community and past a few of its landmarks. Marvin’s (technically the Achilles Shopping Center), “Buck” Rowe’s (formerly a store and now a museum), and Union Baptist Church are among the most recognizable spots of the area.
What’s in a name?
The early history of Guinea is muddled, to say the very least.
Little local history pre-1900 had ever been recorded and for now, most can only speculate at the origins of the Guinea name.
There is some historical evidence of the title being given to residents of the Guinea area since the early 1700s, however no concrete evidence of an origin is known.
With that being said, there are several theories and local legends that provide a root for the name.
The first and less notorious of the two legends suggests that merchant sailors hailing from Guinea, West Africa were shipwrecked and landed in what is now considered to be Guinea, Virginia.
The second and slightly more popular theory concerns British soldiers who remained in the area after the Battle of Yorktown. Depending on who you ask, these soldiers could have been deserters, escaped prisoners, or even Hessians.
The thread that ties all the loose ends of the legend together? The currency used was the British Guinea.
Guineamen and Life on the Water
Even though early Guinea history is spotty, one thing we do know for certain is that, from the start, working the water was everything. Perhaps more than anything else, Guinea is truly known for its connection to the York River and the Chesapeake Bay via the hard work and dedication of the Guineamen.
What is a Guineaman? That’s the title given to Guinea’s local watermen (and women). They wake up at dawn to take out their gorgeous deadrise boats (or skiffs) out to fish, crab, or harvest oysters. They have faced intense heat, blistering cold, and harsh weather for generations. It’s hard work and a noble trade.
Guinea Heritage Association
Want to know more? Connect with the Guinea Heritage Association here.