Harbor Factories and Oyster Reefs
Pass Christian possesses some of the finest oyster reefs in the world. One is located just offshore, extending two and a half miles in length. For hundreds of years these reefs have afforded a source of supply to the whole coastal region. One of the earliest seafood plants was owned and operated by Dunbar-Dukate and Company. The plant was located at the present site of the Pass Christian Yacht Club. The plant was originally built in 1902 and was destroyed by the 1947 hurricane.
Workers arrived by truck or box car and were housed in special cottages owned by the factory. There was a large apartment building on Market Avenue which the locals called the "White Elephant", and was reported to house as many as 30 families. Additionally, there were the Row Houses consisting of rows of duplexes built one after the other.
The "Green Row" on Dunbar Street had 16 duplexes, and the "Red Row" on Woodman Avenue had 19 duplexes. These houses were eventually abandoned when in 1956 mechanical oyster shuckers were installed, thereby eliminating the need for so many employees.
The Pass Christian group of producing oyster beds consists of nine reefs, comprising an area of about twenty square miles. This
group of reefs is most significant to the state of Mississippi.
The Pass Packing Co
was formed on May 16, 1899, with George Brandt, F Andressen, Frank Sutter, TV Courtenay, JH Knost, and George H Taylor as its founding officers.
In 1903, unions became organized due to the long hours and intolerable working conditions for children and women.
This plant was bought out by the Dunbar and Dukate interests of Biloxi who also acquired the cannery at Bay St. Louis.
Besides seafood packer George Washington Dunbar, there was Ernest Hudson Merrick, who was one of the first importers of out of state labor for the seafood packing industry at Pass Christian, when in 1908, he started visiting the Pass during summers to escape the heat of New Orleans. During his summers he became interested in the potential of fishing along the coast and proceeded to build a fleet of fishing schooners and a factory for processing, packing, and shipping oysters and shrimp,”said one of his sons, Bill Merrick.
“He was one of the first to ship fresh oysters and shrimp to the north packed in ice. The delicacy of the Gulf Coast oysters created a large demand in the Midwest area and, as the business grew, my father was forced to import labor from Baltimore, Maryland, as the local help could not cope with the production required. The company was wholly owned by my family, and I believe it was called the Mississippi Packing Company. Dad sold out around 1912, and returned to the United Fruit Company in New Orleans, where he had been an officer before.
Oystering today is performed by independent boat owners from multiple states. The Pass still maintains a significant part in Mississsippi's Seafood Industry. Many of the fishers sell their catch of shrimp and oysters to Pass Purchasing where the food is stored and sold for export.