Mussel Camp

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Mussel camp…boat at the mussel camp

Imagine.. in the mid-1950s there were probably 300 working mussel boats on the Tennessee River. These boats collected mussels to use in the button or pearl industries. So, what do brailers, divers and other toe-diggers do with the mussels they harvest? They take them to camp… mussel camp.

These odorous camps are set up along the river and are a place mussels harvesters can take and sell their mussels. Once mussels are caught they must be opened and the camps have heated vats where shells can be steamed open. Heat is one of the best way to open mussel shells! You know another way? By doing nothing! Rotting mussels will open on their own. But most people prefer to speed the process along by heating these mussels…

Once these mollusks are opened, pearls can be extracted, meat can be removed and the shells can be loaded and hauled off to pearl farms, button factories or companies who use shells in decorative accessories.

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