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Ch. 10: Pearl Fisheries of Venezuela & the Americas

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AMERICAN PEARLS
259
from its mouth, where they are found in great plenty and many very large. The other on the River Chiaha, which runs into the Coza or Cussaw River (as our English call it), and which comes from the northeast, and, after a course of some hundred miles, disembogues into the Gulf of Florida, about one hun­dred miles to the east of the Meschacebe.1
It is interesting to note that the first place mentioned by Coxe as the location of a great pearl fishery is not far from one of the most pro­ductive pearling regions of the last fifteen years, viz., the eastern part of Arkansas. The second place noted by him appears to be identical with the Iciaha, where, nearly two centuries before, the Indians exhibited the methods of their fishing to De Soto and his com- , panions.
Excepting Coxe's notice, for 250 years following 1600, little was heard of the occurrence of pearls within this country. This does not indicate necessarily that the gems were absent from the waters ; but, not using the Unios for food as did the aborigines, the residents had little occasion to open them and in this way learn of their con­tents. And even where pearls were occasionally found in mollusks opened for fish-bait, the people were in few instances informed as to their market value, and did not attempt to sell them, although the most attractive ones may have been treasured as ornaments or as keepsakes. This was paralleled in the diamond fields of South Africa, where gems worth thousands of dollars were used as playthings by the farmers' children. A jewel, like a prophet, is frequently without honor in its own country until the residents of that country learn of the great es­teem in which it is held elsewhere.
And yet, in some localities a few pearls were collected from time to time. The Moravians—familiar with the pearls of their native streams in Europe—gathered many from the Lehigh River near Beth­lehem, Pennsylvania, over a century ago;2 and from Rhode Island and elsewhere a few were obtained.
The first awakening to a realization of the value of fresh-water pearls in America occurred fifty years ago, when several beautiful gems were marketed from the northern part of New Jersey. The story of this find has been frequently told. A shoemaker named David Howell, who lived on the outskirts of Paterson, occasionally relieved the monotony of his trade by a fishing excursion to some neigh­boring stream, where he would usually collect a "mess" of mussels. Returning from one of these visits to Notch Brook in the spring of
1 Coxe, "A Description of the English     Meschacebe or Missisipi," London, 1722, pp.
Province of Carolana, by the Spaniards     82, 83.
call'd Florida, and by the French La Louisi-        2 "Allgemeine Handelszeitung," Leipzig,
ane, as also of the Great and Famous River     April, 1789, p. 218.
Ch. 10: Pearl Fisheries of Venezuela & the Americas Page of 650 Ch. 10: Pearl Fisheries of Venezuela & the Americas
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