Pictured from left: Original Lake Packing Company owners William J. Cowart with his future father-n-law A. B. Headley.

In 1979, Lake Packing Company replaced the wooden building constructed in 1948 (pictured at top of page) with a metal structure. This is the only herring roe cannery in the United States.

Lake Packing Company, Inc. (LAPCO), is a 4th generation family owned business

Established on the Coan River in Lake, Virginia — A. B. Headley and his son-in-law, William J. Cowart, opened their cannery in 1908. This cannery processed herring, herring roe, and tomatoes.

The cannery was located on navigable water which allowed the shipment of finished product efficiently, since no paved roads or bridges connected the Northern Neck of Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland. Steamboats provided the only means of transportation to the market for the canned products. Cans, boxes, labels, and production machinery, all manufactured in Baltimore, were transported to Lake, Virginia by these same steamboats. The method of transportation changed in the early 1930’s, with the construction of paved highways and bridges. By 1932, trucks hastened the demise of the steamboat industry.

The Great Depression took its toll on LAPCO

In 1932, after the death of A.B. Headley, the cannery was closed. LAPCO was resurrected in 1948, by A.B. Headley’s son, S. Sewell Headley, and his nephew, S. Lake Cowart, Sr., son of William. A new building was constructed and once again herring, herring roe, and whole peeled tomatoes were processed.

The Federal Government provided a ready market for canned herring from 1946 – 1951. The U.S. Government bought canned herring to ship to Greece and other European countries after World War II in an effort to help these countries recover from the war. Herring roe was easily sold domestically, but when the U.S. Government stopped the European Aid Program in 1951, LAPCO discontinued this fish processing operation.

LAPCO resurrected the production of Herring Roe for the third time in 1987 and continues to market this product under the Tidewater label.

Lake Cowart, Jr., is the fourth (4th) generation to be involved in this company and continues to take pride in production of these fine products.

William J. Cowart built this Lake, VA steamboat dock, one of six on the Coan river. In 1909, all cans, boxes, labels, and machinery was delivered to the cannery by steamboats out of Baltimore. All canned product was delivered by steamboat to Baltimore to be sold.


Lake Packing Co., Inc.
755 Lake Landing Drive
Lottsburg, VA 22511




We're a 4th generation family owned business established in Lottsburg, Virginia.