Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tink's Net Camp

The Florida Maritime Museum in Cortez, Florida is considering restoring an old building that was on my grandparent's property and asked me what I knew about it. Most of what I know came from my uncle Ralph Fulford who passed away two years ago. 
Fulford Fish Net Spreads 1954

Small buildings they called camps and net spreads were used back before the age of nylon and man made material when cotton was used for fishing nets. The fragile nature of cotton twine required a lot of maintenance. They had to pull the nets out of the boats every day, let them dry and treat them by pouring on a mixture of salt water and lime or the material would rot.

The spreads were wood structures over the water that allowed them to spread the net out so it would dry faster. The camps were small buildings, originally built on stilts over the water where they could store the dry nets and other fishing equipment. It also became a home for the single fishermen who needed a place to live during the fishing season. 

The one they call Tink's Net Camp was built it about 1935. Walton "Tink" Fulford (1903-1965) was my grandfather. He had one on the water that was destroyed in a hurricane that year and this was built to replace it.
Net Camp 1995

It was built by Dale Powell (1905-1991) and James Arthur Childers (1878-1951) from Oneco, FL. who were both related to Tink's wife Edith. Powell was married to Edith's first cousin Eva Urquhart and Childers was the father in law of Eidth's second cousin William Lawrence Wilson. Both were farmers who had a good reputation as carpenters and helped build other structures in Cortez.

The camp was originally located next to Tink & Edith's house and garage at the end of the present driveway. I guess he decided to build this one on land since the other one had been washed away in the storm.

In 1955 they bought a tractor for the nursery business. Tink decided to move the camp down to the water and build an addition to the garage to store the tractor. Ralph Fulford and William Nash Pringle moved it on rollers down to the water.

It was used to store nets and fishing equipment but in later years was used to live in by at least two older men. 

Tink Fulford Net Camp 2005
William “Billy” Ireland (1880-1957) was a friend of Tink’s and fished with him back in the 1920-30s. He was from North Carolina and moved to Cortez about 1910. He moved to Vero Beach in the 1930s and then to Ft. Myers. He was having health problems so Tink went to Ft. Myers and brought him back to Cortez in the early 1950s and setup the net camp for him to live in. He had a small stove and cooked for himself. He fished with a hook and line using a small boat and also had a small gill net. He mostly caught trout and red fish in the Kitchen but made enough to support himself.

After Ireland died in 1957 it was vacant until Tink’s brother William (Willie) Fulford (1901-1961) moved in about 1959. He had been living in St. Petersburg but was having health problems also and so he moved back to Cortez. He lived there for two years before he died in 1961. Willie didn’t cook in the camp, he just slept there. He ate with the family up at the Fulford house.

The net camp is still very popular with artists and photographers who come to Cortez to see the historic fishing village.

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