Clamming on the St Croix River

Two men in row boat, a tug boat (the Marion), and a barge heaped with clams on the shore of the St. Croix River at Afton, Minnesota. In the drought year of 1911, the river channel was often, in places, no more than twenty feet wide. That was the year towns people reaped a harvest of clams. They did not eat the clams; they searched them for pearls. A gem quality pearl, pink, white, blue, or purple, the size of a pea, brought $100 or more. The imperfect pearls were called slugs. The Lake City Button Factory bought clam shells for the inner mother-of-pearl linings from which they made buttons. The farmers crushed the shells and fed them to chickens. To catch clams in quantity, a long iron pipe was used. Attached to the pipe were lines at the end of which were large three-pronged hooks. This device was dropped overboard in the shallow flats. The clammer then rowed away, dropping about forty feet of rope attached to the pipe. He anchored his boat and cranked a windlass which dragged the pipe along the bottom of the river and finally raised the bar up to the boat with clams caught (they clamped) on the large hooks.
Written by Richard Dieter.