Muskrat shacks were a common site along the Delaware River. While taking a walking tour through the village of Port Penn I saw this shack. Muskrats served as a food resource for many, from fried muskrat to even steamed muskrat legs and smothered in onions. Yeah, this local meal isn’t on my list to try. I will admit I’m surprised to hear it’s still served in some restaurants. The Wagon Wheel, a restaurant in Smyrna, was known for their muskrat dish also known as “marsh rabbit”. As you noticed I said was as it closed back in 2015, but don’t worry. If you have a hankering to give it a try the Milford Moose Family Center is hosting an event on the 10th of February 2018. Yeah that’s right you can try everything from muskrat, raccoon, deer oysters and frog legs.
At one point in time I’m sure this area was full of these little rodents. This was the perfect feeding ground for them, full of cattail roots and small fish. With the females having two to three litters a year and up to eight in each litter. Well you can only imagine how many of these little rodents you would see running around here.
They weren’t only trapped for food but also their fur, known as pelts. Those who supported their families in this area used these skinning shacks. Their pelts were in high demand because of the warmth they provided, making coats, hats and other winter clothing. Some of these shacks were actually lived in, used as homes after the trapping season.
As for my ancestor I don’t know of any who were in this line of work. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn a few sampled this local meal or even wore a muskrat hat. I’m curious do you have any in your family history?