J. Millard Tawes Historical Museum and Ward Brothers Workshop

J. Millard Tawes Historical Museum and Ward Brothers Workshop

The J. Millard Tawes Historical Museum is located along the waterfront of Crisfield, Maryland. The museum traces the history of the lower Eastern Shore with exhibits on the beginnings of the Chesapeake Bay, the influence of Native Americans on the early colonists, seafood harvesting and processing, the history of Crisfield, and the evolution of that truly American art form, decoy carving and painting.

Crisfield has long been famous as a center of the Chesapeake Bay seafood industry. Those hardy individuals known as the Chesapeake watermen harvested oysters and crabs by the millions. The museum tells their story and that of the people who process the catch and transport it to markets throughout the United States and the world.

Tours of the Ward Brothers Workshop provide visitors with the opportunity to watch decoy carvers and museum interpreters continue the traditions and techniques employed by two master carvers -- the Ward Brothers.

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Image Credit: J. Millard Tawes Historical Museum and Ward Brothers Workshop


The Tawes Historical Museum is the starting place for the Port of Crisfield Escorted Walking Tour and the Ward Brothers Heritage Tour. The Port of Crisfield tour takes visitors through the port area of the City. One of the highlights of the tour is a visit to a modern crab and oyster processing facility where one can see first hand how the products of the Chesapeake are made ready for market.

The Ward Brothers Heritage Tour takes visitors back in time to the days of Lem and Steve Ward...the founders of the art form known as decoy carving and painting. A visit to their workshop and the little known Jenkins Creek area make this tour a truly unique experience.

Cedar Island Marsh Sanctuary is  a wonderland for everyone from birdwatchers to marine biologists.  There are over 300 acres to explore in the sanctuary and is used by everyone from marine biology teachers to kayakers. To ensure the sanctuary remains in its pristine condition, we ask you obtain permission prior to use.  We’re happy to issue a permit and you can obtain one for yourself, family or students by Contacting Us or calling 410.968.2501


The museum tells stories about American Indians’ interactions with Captain John Smith’s crew on the lower Eastern Shore.

The abundant seafood in this region was a primary food source for the tribes, and the European settlers quickly took advantage of this resource.

Chesapeake tribes collected oysters with wooden tongs and dried them to trade with inland tribes.

The English colonists built a network of fishing shacks and piers to harvest and process the seafood. They dumped so many oyster shells into the marsh over the centuries that new land formed.


Last updated: July 06, 2022
Bay Gateways Captain John Smith Chesapeake Trail