"John Tyler's family name can be traced through this Chesapeake Bay community back at least 300 years, and as many as a dozen generations. But a few years ago, he feared his generation might be the island's last.
Taking stock after Hurricane Sandy washed over the island, the state proposed using storm relief money to buy out 10 homeowners in 2013 — a step most of the island's 240 residents viewed as a first toward abandonment.
They did more than reject the plan. They organized Smith Island United, a de facto island government to stand up for their interests, and looked toward shoring up their home both economically and physically.
'This was our way of life and our heritage,' says Tyler, who left school after eighth grade to launch his own crabbing workboat some 45 years ago. 'We weren't going to take that sitting down.'"