ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY
1608 - 1907
by Col. E. M. Morrison
A Brief History of Isle of Wight
Compiled for Distribution at the Jamestown
IN THE early spring of 1608, Captain John Smith, driven by the necessity of obtaining food for the famishing colonists at Jamestown, crossed the river (James), and obtained from a tribe of Indians called Worrosquoyackes fourteen bushels of corn. This transaction was the dawn of the history of Isle of Wight county, as well, almost, as that of America. Again, in December of this same year, Captain Smith, while on his way to visit Powhatan, who was then on the York River, spent his first night with this same tribe of Indians. And in the spring of 1611, after that terrible winter, in which five hundred of the colonists died of starvation and disease, that sad-hearted remnant of sixty emaciated, half-famished men, who had determined to abandon the colony, also spent their first night with this same tribe.
This tribe of Indians occupied a village near what is now known as Fergusson's Wharf, in this county, and their hunting grounds extended along the James River about five miles and inland about twenty, and had a fighting strength of forty of fifty warriors.
Captain Smith records that the king of this tribe furnished him with two guides, with whom he sent a valiant soldier, named Sicklemore, to explore the country around Roanoke Island for traces of the "lost colony" of Sir Walter Raleigh, with no successful result; and that he, the king of this tribe, warned him against the treachery of Powhatan; and yet this same savage, in a very few years, tried, and nearly succeeded, in killing every colonist on the south side of James River.
[p4] In the western part of the county, now Southampton county, there was another tribe, called the Nottoways, who were identified with our earliest history. They were intimately connected with the white settlers, and for more than one hundred years lived on their own lands, bartered the products of their hunting and fishing with the white people for guns, blankets, etc., sold to them their lands, and, except for their fondness for rum, seem to have been a peaceful and well disposed people, more sinned against than sinning. For in 1752 the General Assembly of Virginia passed an act declaring "that if any person or persons shall hereafter, under any pretense whatever, take from the Indians any of their guns, blankets or other apparel,such persons so offending shall pay to the Indian or Indians so injured the sum of twenty shillings for every such offense; and if the offender be a slave, he shall receive, for such offense, on his or her naked back, twenty-five lashes, well laid on." But generally the Indians were treated with the greatest kindness until the time of the great Indian massacre, in 1622, for the colonists were thoroughly imbued with idea of converting them to Christianity.
The first English settlement in Isle of Wight county was made by Captain Christopher Lawne and Sir Richard Worsley, knight baronet, and their associates, viz.: Nathaniel Basse, gentleman; John Hobson, gentleman; Anthony Olevan, Richard Wiseman, Robert Newland, Robert Gyner, and William Willis.
On April 27, 1619, they arrived at Jamestown, with one hundred settlers, in a ship commanded by Captain Evans. They immediately settled near the mouth of a creek on the south side of the James River, still known as Lawne's Creek (sometimes improperly written Lyon's Creek), which was, in 1642, made the dividing line between this county and Surry County.
[p5] It seems to be a fact that all new settlements are unhealthy, and this proved to be remarkably so; for within about a year Captain Lawne died, and the London Company, November 30, 1620, ordered that: "In regard of the late mortality of the persons transported heretofore by the late Captain Lawne, his associates be granted till midsummer, 1625, to make up the number of persons they were disposed to bring." It also declared that the plantation was to be henceforth called Isle of Wight Plantation, for which change of name we are very thankful, on account of the difficulty of spelling and pronouncing its former name , which it took from the tribe of Warrosquoyacke Indians. We find this name spelled in every conceivable way, some of them being Warrosquyoke, Warrosqueak, Warrasquoyke; nevertheless, it was several years before the new name of Isle of Wight was in general use among the colonists. This name was given it, very probably because the famous "Isle of Wight" off the coast of England had been the home of some of the principal patentees; at least, one of them was certainly from Isle of Wight-Sir Richard Worsley, who came over in 1608.
Many of the early settlers were of cavalier origin, and came from the city of Bristol, England, and its vicinity, and for many years, as shown by the old records, the "Bristol ships" made frequent trading voyages to this county, bringing with them, at every trip, batches of emigrants.
On November 21, 1621, Edward Bennett, a rich merchant of London, was granted a patent for a plantation upon the condition of settling two hundred emigrants. Associated with him in that patent were his brother, Robert Bennett, and his nephew, Richard Bennett, Thomas Ayres, Thomas Wiseman and Richard Wiseman; and in February, 1622, the "Sea Flower" arrived with one hundred and twenty settlers, under command of Captain Ralph Hamor, one of theCouncil. Among them were Rev. William Bennett and George Harrison, kinsmen of Edward Bennett. Their place of settlement was called Warrosquoyacke, or sometimes "Edward Bennett's Plan-
[p6] tation," and was located at the place on James River known as the "Rocks," the estate of the late Dr. John W. Lawson, who for many years represented this county in the General Assembly of the State, the Second Congressional District in Congress, and this county in the late Constitutional Convention.
On the day the patent last mentioned was granted, Arthur Swaine, Captain Nathaniel Basse and others, undertook to establish another plantation in the same neighborhood. Captain Basse came over in person and his plantation was known as "Basse's Choice," and was situated on Warrosquoyacke (now Pagan) River.
The houses of Captain Basse's Plantation were building when a great calamity happened to the infant colony. At midday on Good Friday, March 22, 1622, there were twelve hundred and forty inhabitants in the State of Virginia. Of these, three hundred and forty-seven, in a few hours, were killed by the Indians in the eighty settlements on the north and south sides of the James River, of which number fifty-three were residents of this county.
After the death of Powhatan, his brother, Opecancanough, who always hated the whites, joined all the tribes in Eastern Virginia into an oath-bound conspiracy to kill the whites, and we are astonished with what concert of action and secrecy this great plot was arranged when we reflect that the savages were not living together as on nation, but were dispersed in little hamlets, containing from thirty to two hundred in a company. "Yet they all had warning given them, one from another, in all their habitations, though far asunder, to meet at this day and hour for the destruction of the English."
So well was the dread secret kept that the English boats were borrowed to transport the Indians over the river to consult on the "devilish murder that ensued"; and even on the day itself, as well as on the evening before, they came as usual, unarmed, into their settlements, with their turkeys and other provisions to sell; and in some places sat down with the English on the very morning to breakfast.
Those who had treated them with especial kindness and conferred many benefits upon them fared no better than the rest. The ties of love and gratitude the sacred rights of hospitality and reciprocal friendship, oath, pledges and promises were broken or forgotten in obedience to the commands of their chief for the execution of a great, but diabolical, stroke of State policy.
With one, and only one, of all who had been cherished by thewhites did gratitude for their kindness and fidelity to his new religion prevail over his allegiance to his king and affection for his people. A converted Indian, who resided with a Mr. Pace, and who was treated by him as a son, revealed the plot to him in the night of the 21st. Mr. Pace immediately secured his house and rowed himself up to Jamestown, where he disclosed the inhuman plot to the Governor, by which means that place and all the neighboring plantations, to which intelligence could be conveyed, were saved from destruction; for the cowardly indians, wherever they saw the whites upon their guard, immediately retreated. Some other places were also preserved by the undaunted courage of the occupants, who never failed to beat off their assailants, if they were not slain before their suspicions were excited. By these means the larger portion of the colony was saved from total annihilation in a single hour by this well conceived, well concealed and well executed plot of those inhuman, but weak and simple, adversaries.
Some miraculous escapes are reported in the Worrosquoyacke settlement. The Indians came to one Baldwin's house, wounded his wife; but Baldwin, by repeated firing of his gun, so frightened them as to "save both her, his house, himself and divers others." About the same time they appeared at the house of Mr. Harrison, half a mile from Baldwin's, where was staying Thomas Hamor, a brother of Captain
[p10] Ralph Hamor, who also live nearby. The Indians sent a message to Captain Hamor that their king was hunting in the neighborhood, and had invited him to join them. The captain, not coming as they expected him to do, they set fire to a tobacco warehouse and murdered the whites as they rushed out of Harrison's house to quench the fire. Many were killed, but Thomas Hamor was saved by a chance delay. He remained to finish a letter which he was engaged in writing. When he went out he saw the commotion, and although he received an arrow in his back, with twenty-two others he fought his way back to the house, which, being set on fire by the Indians, he left to burn, and fled to Baldwin's. In the meantime Captain Ralph Hamor was in utmost peril. Going out to meet the king, he saw some of the wretches murdering the unarmed whites. He returned to his new house, where, armed with only spades, axes and brickbats, he and his company defended themselves till the Indians gave up the siege and departed. At the house of Captain Basse, in the same neighborhood, everybody was slain. Basse, who was in England at the time, of course, escaped. The consternation produced by this horrid massacre caused the adoption of a ruinous policy. Instead of marching at once bold to meet and drive the Indians from the settlement, or reduce them to subjection by a bloody retaliation, the colonists were huddled together from their eighty plantations into eight. Works of great public utility were abandoned and cultivation confined to a space too limited merely for subsistence. These crowded quarters produced sickness, and some were so disheartened that they sailed for England. All Worrosquoyacke, from Hog Island down the river for fourteen miles, was abandoned.
But it was not the nature of the Anglo-Saxon man to be for long intimidated by fear of these weak, cowardly wretches, who had inflicted upon them such a dastardly outrage; for, in July of the same year, they commenced to move against them, and in the early fall Sir George Yeardley commanded an expe-
[p11] dition against the savages down the river. He drove out the Worrosquoyackes and Nansemonds, burned their houses and took their corn. On May 21, 1623, Captain Roger Smith was ordered to build a fort on the Worrosquoyacke shore, opposite to Tindall Shoals, where Captain Samuel Each had a blockhouse in building.
In the summer of 1623 Captain William Tucker, of Kecaughton (Hampton), commanded an expedition against the Worrosquoyackes. He killed many, cut down their corn, and burnt their houses. And this state of fierce warfare continued to rage, with uninterrupted fury, until a peace was concluded in 1632, under the administration of Governor Harvey.
In the course of this warfare the Indians were not treated with the same tenderness which they had generally been before the massacre; but their habitations, cleared lands, pleasant sites, when once taken possession of, were generally retained by the victors, and the vanquished forced to take refuge in the woods ar marshes. Truly, the founding of our nation was no mere holiday amusement.
[p12] During the first hundred years a grant of fifty acres was given for the importation of every emigrant. The names of the "Head-rights" were given in the patents. From the records in the Land Office, the following are subscribed: "Land Grants: Martha Key, wife of Thomas Key, planter (as his personal dividend, being an ancient planter), one hundred and fifty acres lying on the easterly side of Worrosquoyacke River, opposite the land of Captain Nathaniel Basse";***John Moon, planter, two hundred acres in Worrosquoyacke, on the Worrosquoyacke Creek***for the transportation of four persons, viz.: himself, George Martin, Julian Hollier, Clement Thrush, who came in the Catherine, of London, 1623. Granted March, 1623."
A portion of this patent in "Red Point" still bears the name of "Moonfield," and one of the descendants of this John Moon,himself named John Moon, became a very rich man, owning a large portion of the land in "Red Point." The name is now extinct in this county, and it is astonishing how few of the names of the very first settlers have come down to us in their descendants.
It would be remarkably interesting to continue to enumerate these old land grants, but time and space will not allow it. Only three others will be mentioned, because the original patentees and their descendants have been prominent in the political and military history of our county and State, and the United States.
From this family of Hardy was descended the Honorable Samuel Hardy, the first representative in the Continental Congress from this District. He was one of the most able men in the earliest sessions of National Congress. He died in Philadelphia, while a member of Congress, on the 17th day of October, 1785.
Mr. Hardy was considered, by his associates in Congress, and other able men who had the pleasure of his acquaintance, as beingone of the most brilliant men of his age. He, on occasions, displayed great poetic inclinations.
[p14] The government of these shires or counties was modeled upon that in England. Lieutenant Colonels were appointed and commanded the troops in the wars with the Indians. Sheriffs, sergeants and bailiffs were elected; and, until 1691, every freeman was entitled to a vote, and indentured servants, at the expiration of their term of service, were allowed to do the same. In 1628-29 commissioners were appointed and required to hold monthly meetings in the different shires or counties; hence, the origin of the county courts.
The original boundaries of the county of Worrosquoyacke, or Isle of Wight, were: Northerly, by Lawnes Creek; Easterly, by James River as far as the plantation of Richard Hayes, formerly John Howard's; the southern boundary by certain creeks to the head of Colonel Pitt's Creek (this proved somewhat uncertain); and westerly into the woods indefinitely. In 1656, upon the petition of the inhabitants of Ragged Island and Terascoe Neck, then in Nansemond county, they were put into Isle of Wight.
A long dispute arose between the counties of Isle of Wight and Nansemond, continuing until 1674, when, by an Act of the General Assembly (then called the House of Burgesses), the boundaries were established as they now are, viz.: "That a southwest by south line be designed, runned and plainly marked from the river side of the plantation of Hayes, extending to the creek at or near the plantation called Nevill Oyster Bank; thence a line or lines up Col. Pitt's creek to the head of his lands; thence in a southwest half a point westerly line * * *"
The county is thirty seven miles in length and an average breadth of eleven miles, with an area of about three hundred and fifty square miles. It extends from 36° 38' to 37° 07' north latitude and from 0° 2' to 0° 36' longitude east from Washington. The land dips to the northeast from a plateau a little west of Bethel Church, and from that same plateau it dips to the northwest and west; the former,
In 1732 a considerable portion of the northwestern part of the county was added to Brunswick county; and in 1748 the entire county of Southampton was carved out of it. This large county, from 1734, has been known as the Nottoway Parish of Isle of Wight.
County Courts were established in 1751 by the appointment of eight Justices of the Peace, and four of whom could act and compose a court, the oldest in commission presiding. They were required to meet monthly, and the day originally appointed for this county was the first Thursday in each month, but this was subsequently changed to the first Monday and continued to meet on this day till the County Courts were abolished by the Constitution of 1902, when all matters adjusted in the County Courts were transferred to the Circuit Court, which meets on the first Mondays of March, June, October and December. The County Courts have long been a distinctive feature of Virginia, and the meeting of the people on court days was, in a measure, an education for them, for, in the early days, with no newspapers and few postoffices, dissemination of news was meager and slow other than by intercourse with those better informed. Notwithstanding the fact that the Court only meets in this County four times a year, the citizens of the county still gather on the first Mondays, at which time the Board of Supervisors hold their monthly meetings, and the courtgreen presents about the same appearance as it did in the days of the County Courts.
Judges were appointed for the County Courts in 1870. There have been only two incumbents in that position in this county, the Honorable George R. Atkinson for thirty years, and the Honorable C. B. Crumpler for four years, the term of the latter be-
[p16] ginning in 1880 and ending in 1884, Judge Atkinson again taking the bench. Judge Atkinson bears the distinction of being reversed but three times by higher Courts and was the oldest presiding judge in the State at the time the County Courts were abolished in 1904.
The county early provided itself with a Glebe Farm in accordance with a very early law. This farm was situated about two miles west of Smithfield, and is referred to as producing a very indifferent grade of tobacco. It is not now known who of the early ministers lived on it, but the last of them, the Rev. Mr. Hubbard, who faithfully remained at his post for years, lived, died and was buried there in 1802. Shortly after that date it came into the control of the county, its name changed to the "Poor House," and was long used as a residence for the indigent poor under the maintenance of the Overseer of the Poor. In February, 1900, this location was sold by the Board of Supervisors of the county and a less expensive site, for the same purpose, purchased very near the courthouse.
In 1654 it was ordered, by the General Assembly, "That on account of the inconvenience occasioned by the partition of Isle of Wight county by Pagan Creek, there should be held a monthly Court in each of the two parishes, successively, and that the commissioners shall select the places." Where this Court was held for the lower parish is not known. This act was repealed in1659. In 1642 the county, heretofore one parish, was divided into two. Lawnes Creek was the northern and Pagan Creek was the southern boundary of the Upper Parish; Pagan Creek the northern and the NAnsemond county line the southern boundary of the Lower Parish. They both extended to the North Carolina line, about ninety miles.
[p19] by the County Commissioners; but were taken out of their control and managed directly by the whole body of the General Assembly, with much loss of time that should have been devoted to the business of the general public. After many years their control was restored to the County Court and so continued until 1750 when the ferries were abandoned and bridges were adopted. These bridges were constructed by private parties and, for many years the owners were allowed to charge tolls. They were afterwards rented to the county, but tolls were charged to non-residents. Finally, in 1891, they were sold to the county and all tolls abolished.
About 1750 the courthouse was moved to the town of Smithfield and three substantial brick buildings erected-the courthouse, clerk's office and jail, at the corner of Main and Pierce streets. In 1800, Major Francis Boykin, the grandfather of Judge R. E. Boykin, of the Twenty-eighth Judicial Circuit of Virginia, of which this county is a part, donated the land upon which the courthouse now stands to the Commonwealth and erected some of the first buildings at his own expense. The public documents remained, for a short time, in a frame building, until recently a part of the old tavern, and afterwards placed in a brick building. This building not being large enough was added in 1822 and has remained the clerk's office till the present time, having a modern fire-proof vault added in 1892.
The records of the county have passed through many vicissitudes. During the Revolution Tarleton's British troopers made a raid on Smithfield with the intent to destroy the records, but they had been removed by the wife of the Deputy Clerk, Mr. Francis Young, who was an officer in the army and was with his regiment, to a farm near Smithfield, and there buried in a box and a "hair trunk," which trunk is still in possession of the Young family. To this lady's foresight and patriotism America owes the credit of the preservation of some of its very oldest records. These old records remained buried till after the surrender at Yorktown. The "Great
[p20] Book," now in the clerk's office and in its original binding, was badly damaged by worms during the time it was buried, but for this, as well as other records buried with it, it is remarkably well preserved, as, in fact, are all of the oldrecords now in existence. The oldest recorded document is dated in 1629.
During the Civil War (May, 1862) they were removed, first to Greensville county, then to Brunswick, and after the war brought back to the courthouse, all being preserved; which is very astonishing. Randall Booth, one of the negroes of Mr. N. P. Young, the clerk at that time, told, with much pride, of how he had remained in the woods and on the road for days at the time, with them. Any one who has visited the courthouse prior to three years ago will remember Randall. He was one of the "old-timers" and remained faithful to his "White Marster" till old age and failing health struck him down. From that time till his death his "White Marster" people remained with him, ministering to his wants and necessities. This type of the "Old Virginny Darkey" is almost a thing of the past.
The jail, built in 1804, was torn down in 1902 and a modern fire-proof structure was reared in its stead, of the most improved type. The courthouse was remodelled in 1903. The clerk's office has recently undergone many necessary repairs on the inside and an addition of a fire-proof vault, though the general exterior remains the same, from the front, as it was after being rebuilt in 1822. The old tavern, the residence of Major Francis Boykin, built, so far as can be ascertained, in 1762, stood in almost its original condition until 1904, in which year it received extensive repairs by its present owner, Mr. O. L. Batten. The exterior, however, is about the same as formerly.
All of these buildings stand in a grove on an eminence of about ten or twelve feet above the road, faced by a beautiful monument erected to the Confederate dead in 1905, a beautiful piece of architecture, reflecting great credit on the men and
The court green has been the scene of many a stirring occurrence, political wrangles and the like, and the old tavern's walls have housed many a convivial assembly, and has been long famous for the many parties and balls which have been attended by throngs of "ye gentlemen and ladies."
The county fronts northeasterly on James River and extends along the river for about eighteen miles. Between its shore and the river channel there are many hundreds of acres of natural oyster rocks and oyster planting grounds rented out by the State.
[p24] The streams which make into the land from the river are often bold and navigable streams. On the northeast Lawnes Creek forms the boundary, for about seven miles, between this county and the county of Surry; is navigable for five miles for vessels drawing five feet of water, and out of it are carried large quantities of lumber, peanuts and other products. Pagan River penetrates it for five miles to Smithfield; is navigable for vessels drawing ten feet of water, and out of it is carried large quantities of peanuts, potatoes, bacon, melons, citron, and various trucks, in the cultivation of which many in this neighborhood are engaged. At Smithfield the stream separates into two branches, one flowing northwesterly, called Smithfield Creek, which extends about four miles inland, navigable for small craft. At its head has been constructed a deep pond of most excellent water, from which the town of Smithfield is supplied. The other branch, flowing to the southeast, penetrates a rich and fertile trucking section for four miles and is called Cypress Creek, and furnishes facilities for heavy transportation. On the south and west, Chuckatuck, Brewers, Jones and Milners Creeks are of sufficient depth to furnish transportation facilities to large com-
[p25] munities engaged in agriculture and oyster planting. The Blackwater River forms its western boundary for about fifteen miles, separating it from the county of Southhampton. This is fresh water stream, navigable from Franklin, reaching the ocean through Chowan River, in North Carolina and the Carolina sounds, and is crossed, in many places, by good and substantial bridges, conveniently located, and for many months in the year afford excellent fishing. This stream send out innumerable branches, some of them of considerable size, such as Broadwater, Rattlesnake and Mill Swamps, which again break into numerous ravines, swamps and poquosins, which run far into the land and ramify into an interminable tangle, affording good ranges for hogs and cattle and an easy and quick way of defining the boundaries to tracts of land, for there is scarcely a farm in thedescription of whose metes and bounds the expression of "up the said swamp" or "down the said swamp" does not occur. This, however, is a very improper description, for, in fifty years, who can tell where the "main run of swamp" may be; and such descriptions may open the door for vexatious law suits; and, the swamps being held as common property of two contiguous land owners, may prevent its being utilized in the making of ice ponds, fish ponds, cranberry patches, for which some are ideal locations, or converted into useful pastures; and furthermore, there is a time coming, perhaps, when the water of these ravines and swamps will be conserved to furnish the power for the generation of electricity to warm our houses, cook our food and to cultivate our fields, for the present waste of fertility, fuel and everything else on our farms, will present to a quadrupled population the solution of a very serious problem. These many streams and swamps enable the farmer to drain his arable lands conveniently and with nominal cost.
The soil is a composition of the various sands, marls and clays of the Laurenthean formation, and being in the last Ocean Bench a good portion of it is alluvial and of remarkable fertility, where its nat-
There may be found every variety of soil, from stiff clays to light sandy; the former along James River and its tributaries; the latter as you proceed westward. All of it is susceptible to improvement by intelligent cultivation, the use of commercial fertilizers used with soiling crops. There are many farms whose productiveness have been increased two-fold, and some four-fold, within ten years by the above means.
The sands are most excellent in character for building purposes and can be found any and everywhere, and when contiguous to railroads, have, in considerable quantities, been shipped to the cities for the making of concrete blocks, a most excellent building material.
The clays can be found in very many places, of the very best kind for the manufacture of tile and brick, as shown by the stability of many old brick houses over a hundred years old in all parts of the county now standing whose bricks were made of clay found in their immediate vicinities, and that not manufactured in the best manner.
The marls can be found everywhere throughout the county along its many swamps and ravines in inexhaustible quantities. The deposits of this valuable mineral are of two kinds, red and blue, the former mixed with clay and often so rich in lime as to be nearly white, found in hundreds of places along the rivers, creeks and swamps, often forming great high hills of unlimited quantities and easy to obtain.
The blue marl can be found everywhere beyond tidewater in immense quantities. Although harder to obtain than the red variety, it has a greater fertilizing quality for land on account of the greater admixture of vegetable matter. It is, in fact, a semi-peat. A successful application of either of these marlswork a wonderful change in the productiveness of the land.
[p27] The American Cement Company has recognized the value of the marls of the county and has purchased hundreds of acres of land upon which are deposits, and some day, not far distant, gangs of men, with steam shovels and other appliances, will be tearing down these hills and conveying them away to be calcined into hydraulic cement.
The colonists of this county early commenced boat-building, to encourage which art the General Assembly enacted laws giving "rewards" of money to those persons who should build vessels of twenty tons burden and over.
The object of the General Assembly was to render the people quickly and thoroughly independent of the mother country, whose navigation laws required at first everything to be shipped in British bottoms or vessels owned by the shippers. That the colonists must have gone to work early at this business is evidenced by the following extracts from old records:
"In 1663 the General Assembly rewarded John Pitt, of Isle of Wight county, for building a vessel of twenty-three tons." In 1680 the appraisement of Col. Bridger's estate mentions a sloop that will carry twenty-eight tons." "In 1686, Thomas Godwin, by will, leaves to his wife three horses and her proportion of a sloop not yet appraised." And many other wills of like tenor are recorded, showing that many of the residents of this county owned their own vessels.
After 1611, when Lord Delaware came up the river with three ships laden with farming implements, horses, cows, hogs, and one thousand emigrants, we hear no more of "starving times." He met the sixty desperate, famishing men who had abandoned Jamestown, in the morning moved down the river as far as Burwells Bay, spent the night there waiting for a change of tide to assist them in the propulsion of their heavy, unsafe boats. Thus the abandonment of the colony was fortuitously saved by the intervention of "two tides"; the flood which brought Lord Delaware as far as Newport
After the great massacre, March 22nd, 1622, the colonists did not remain more than nine months from their farms, and on their return took possession of all the open lands of the Indians, and, we can well imagine, went to work with a zest to retrieve their ruined fortunes.
For one hundred years the principal crop was tobacco, which, at first, brought immense prices and was easily converted into money and other commodities in England. But the increase in the use of tobacco did not keep pace with the production in the virgin soil of the State, and the price, ever fluctuating, continued to fall until far below the costs of production. This brought about a most distressing state of affairs, entailing not only poverty, and, in many cases, ruin upon the planters, but as well upon all classes of society, and even almost blocking the machinery of government, for the salaries of the ministers,doctors, lawyers and clerks were paid in tobacco or its equivalent, and this was often hard to determine and the keeping of the accounts of the merchants and government officials, based on tobacco, was most uncertain, unsatisfactory and annoying. Many expedients were adopted at various times to limit the acreage in tobacco, the cultivation of "seconds" (suckers which came after the crop was cut) being prohibited and the adoption of a minimum price, etc. But they all failed, and this county early turned its attention to the cultivation of other crops, partly induced by its large water front, affording easy transportation, enabling the inhabitants to cultivate such bulky crops as corn and wheat.
For the regulation of the tobacco trade warehouses were erected at prominent points in the county, notable at Fergusson's Wharf, the Rocks, Fulghams (just across the river from Smithfield), Pate's Field (now Battery Park). All the tobacco
Long before the advent of steamboats there had developed a large export trade, either with England direct or with its colonies in the West Indies, as well as a coast-wise trade from Maine to Florida, as is attested by the foundation logs of a continuous line of old wharves occupying the entire water front of the town of Smithfield, many of whose houses were built over large, deep brick cellars for the storage of bacon, lard, etc. Thus was developed, early, that trade in bacon which has continued till the present, resulting in the acknowledged excellency of the "Isle of Wight Bacon" and the "Smithfield Hams."
Before the building of the Norfolk & Western Railroad and other railroads through the county, this trade reached out for thirty or forty miles into the surrounding counties, and in addition thousands of hogs were driven, on foot, from Kentucky, Tennesse and North Carolina to supply the demands of this immense trade, principally with the West Indies, in exchange for their sugar, coffee and rum. Pipe Staves for their sugar hogsheads, hoop poles and peas were also exported, and not always in English or Dutch bottoms, for we read in the old records of several men of this county who owned their own vessels, being rewarded by the General Assembly for their building, which has already been related.
In 1667 four Dutch men-of-war came up the river and destroyed twenty vessels that were trading with Isle of Wight and other Southside counties, which even shows the extent of the export trade at that early period.
No indigenous product more suitable for the wants of the colonists was ever furnished by any country than "Indian Corn," and had not the early settlers of this country been so busily engaged in the raising of tobacco to the exclusion of it there would have been no suffering and starvation such as there
[p30] was in the early times. But trusting in the idea of being able to buy or barter from the Indians sufficient for their wants, and not knowing how improvident these poor savages were, there was frequently such scarcity of this mainstay of their subsistence that the early laws required every owner of a plantation to cultivate, under sever penalty, at least two acres for every laboring person, and the constables were required to rigidly enforce this law; but it seemed a difficult matter to break them up from their habit of the cultivation of their best lands in tobacco. The General Assembly never interfered with the price at which corn was sold, and every man was allowed to sell at the best rate he could; nor did they interfere, but a few times, with its exportation, and then only in anticipation of a scarcity, the prohibition being immediately withdrawn.
The raising of cotton was early introduced and much of the land of this county is well adapted to its cultivation, but not very extensive crops were raised in early times, only enough for home consumption, until many years later when the cotton gin was invented; and then this county, especially the western portion, was largely engaged in its cultivation, and even now there is a considerable quantity raised in that part.
This county is the center of the peanut belt and the soil is admirably adapted to the cultivation of this crop, producing large white nuts which commands the highest price on the markets. The peanut was introduced into this county at quite an early date, but the exact time and by whom will never be known, but the indications are that they were brought to Virginia from Africa during the time of the importation of slaves, as there are some records extant stating that they were used for food for the slaves while being brought over. Prior to
[p31] the Civil War, 1861-1865, they were little known except in a few of the Southern States and were called "goober peas" or "ground peas." Since 1866 their production has increased most wonderfully. The method of cultivating them has also been much improved, and by the aid of especially prepared implements their production has been much cheapened. The production, per acre, varies at from twenty-five to one hundred bushels, and in a great measure, this is the money crop of the county, especially for those farmers whose distance from transportation lines forbid their cultivation of truck, which have to be handled hastily owing to their perishable nature. There are several varieties of peanuts, but the Virginia and the Spanish are the most distinctive types, the latter of which but very few are raised in this county, being small in size and of little demand except for confectionery purposes. A modern estimate would place the value of the crop of peanuts at not less than three million dollars in cash money for the nuts alone, and to this should be added the indirect profit to be obtained from the vines as a forage crop, on which horses and cattle eagerly feed when properly cured, and for their fertilizing qualities,and on the nuts which are left on or in the ground when digging on which the hogs quickly fatten.
The other farm products are oats, potatoes (Irish and sweet), of which large quantities are raised in the eastern portion of the county, and by easy and cheap means of transportation shipped to the northern cities. All fruits, large and small; all kinds of melons and vegetables find here a soil and climate admirably adapted to their growth and perfection.
In addition to the agricultural industries many saw-mills are annually sending millions of feet of timber for sale in the busy marts of the of the country, of which the Camp Manufacturing Company is the largest. This plant turns out about fifty million feet rough lumber, and about thirty million feet of dressed lumber each year.
The telephone service throughout the county is most excellent, nearly all of the postoffices having connection with local and long distance telephones, and a great many of the residences, thus enabling the farmers to keep in constant touch with the markets.
In James River, opposite to the shores of Isle of Wight, there are about twenty-five hundred acres of natural oyster rocks which are included in the survey made by order of the General Assembly and in government domain, open to all. The nearness of these rocks to the shore enables the oystermen of this county to obtain their full share of salable and seed oysters, the latter with which they seed their oyster planting grounds of about two thousand acres, scattered over the eighteen miles of river front as well as many creeks and estuaries leading from the river. The oyster business is immense, and for eight months of the year affords regular and exceedingly profitable employment to about five hundred men and boys. It is an exhilarating sight to see the oyster fleet on the 15th day of September (the first day of the fall season), repair to the rocks for their annual "catch." The employment of gasoline engines in the oystering boats within the last few years have rendered this business much safer, easy and reliable.
Market advantages are exceptionally good both by water and by rail. The former is furnished by the Old Dominion Steamship Company, plying twice daily between Newport News, Norfolk, Battery Park and Smithfield, the principal port, and by numerous sailing vessels, many propelled by gasoline engines that ply in the many inland streams, almost to their sources. The latter is furnished by the Norfolk & Western Railroad, the Seaboard Air Line Railway, the Tidewater Railroad and the Southern Railway, all of which traverse the western central and extreme westernsection of the county. These roads, together with the navigable streams, place all parts of the county within easy and quick communication with the markets of the whole country.
As evidence of the stability and prosperity of the county we invite the attention of the reader to the following table of taxable values of the property in the county for the year 1906, and which, it is well to say, is not, by not-fourth, the full valuation of the property, probably:
Hardy District ................................. $ 225,217.00 $ 588,877.00
Newport District ................................ 158,699.00 538,129.00
Windsor District ................................ 165,255.00 426,129.00
Town of Smithfield ............................ 418,847.00 435,600.00
Town of Windsor ................................. 42,897.00 70,909.00
Totals .............................................$1,010,915.00 $2,060,289.00
Hardy District ................................. $ 31,941.00 $ 67,386.00
Newport District ................................ 30,134.00 87,472.00
Windsor District ................................. 15,447.00 34,707.00
Town of Smithfield ............................. 4,827.00 14,600.00
Town of Windsor ................................ 223.00 2,275.00
Totals .................................. $ 825,272.00 $ 206,440.00
Total white and colored ................$1,093,487.00 $2,266,729.00
Total value of properties of all kinds ....................................$3,360,216.00
The Act of Incorporation recites: "Representation having been made to the General Assembly that Arthur Smith, of Isle of Wight County, having laid out a portion of his land on Pagan Creek into streets and lots," and, further, "that the location being healthy and open to trade and navigation," it was, therefore, ordered, "that the said parcel of land lately belonging to the said Arthur Smith be, and is, hereby established a town to be called by the name of Smithfield.
"And whereas, it is expedient that trustees be appointed to lay off and regulate the streets and settle the bounds of the town, be it enacted, therefore, that from and after the passing of this Act, that Robert Burwell, Arthur Smith, Wm. Hodsden, James Baker, James Dunlop, James Arthur and Joseph Bridger be appointed trustees for the said town."
"Be it further enacted that it shall not be lawful for any person whatever to build or cause to be erected any wooden chimney, and if such wooden chimney be built it shall be the duty of the sheriff to tear down the same and demolish it."
The original survey and plat were made by Jordan Thomas, then county surveyor, and the corporate limits extended westward as Main street now runs only as far as the old brick culvert built under the street at Southall's old drug store. Theselimits were extended in 1856 as Main street now runs to the foot of the hill at the brick culvert adjoining the lands of Merritt Womble and A. G. Spratley. Again in 1902 the limits of the town were further extended as represented by a plot now in the mayor's office of the said town, and at the same time a new charter was granted.
[p38] miles from Washington, D. C.; on the south side of Pagan Creek, a bold and navigable stream, and at its intersection with Cypress Creek, forming Pagan River; five miles from James River; fifteen miles, about, from Hampton Roads; on an elevation of about twenty-five feet above the waters of Pagan Creek, and commands a beautiful view of land and water.
Smithfield is remarkably well located for health, comfort and business, being on a high table-land with the dip of the land running several ways. Its drainage is most excellent and the roads leading from it being located on high ridges, furnishing excellent and easy communication with the surrounding country.
In 1748 the two ferries before mentioned from Smithfield across Pagan and Cypress Creeks were established. The cost of ferriage over each is given as follows: 0s 4d (6 1/4c.) for each person, vehicle and horse; and the same system of tolls was, for years kept up, even after the ferries were abandoned and bridges built by individuals.
Before the building of railroads and the advent of steamboats, Smithfield, being the principal port of this county, had a large export and coastwise trade, as has already been recited, principally with the English colonies in the West Indies, the principal articles of export being staves, peas, hoop poles and bacon. The trade in bacon early gave rise to much attention in the feeding, slaughtering and curing of the bacon in this county, and especially as to the ham. One of the packing houses in Smithfield, being the oldest of the kind in this country, the house of E. M. Todd & Co., has been in the business for a period of at least one hundred and twenty seven years as shown by an old invoice dated April 30th, 1779, for hams furnished Ellerston and John Perrot in the Island of St. Eustatius, West Indies, by Mallory Todd, Smithfield, Virginia. Mentioned,
[p39] among other articles taken in exchange for hams, is one two-pound cannon, £13 6s and one hat £0 5s 4d. The trading vessel was named Parnelia, Francis Herbert, captain. The invoice is now in the possession of Mr. E. M. Todd, grandson of Mallory Todd, and the proprietor of the present establishment.
The shipment of cured hams, annually, from Smithfield, is about forty thousand. The supply of hogs furnishing these hams is limited, or else the shipments would be much heavier. It is a fact that the ham curers have their full supply of hams sold, asa rule as early as the first of March of every year.
About 1750 the county courthouse was moved to Smithfield and three brick buildings erected on the corner of Main and Pierce streets, which were, for fifty years used respectively for courthouse, clerk's office and jail. This is now the property of Mr. J. O. Thomas, who has for his residence the old courthouse. Across Main street from the courthouse was a large vacant lot called the "courthouse green," which, on court days, was filled with conveyances of all kinds used in those days. The stone steps of the little brick clerk's office was a favorite place for auctioneers to ply their trade in the sale of slaves, the hiring of slaves and the sale of other property. The county seat was moved to its present site in 1800, as heretofore stated.
In 1840 there were ten stores (of all sorts), one Episcopal, one Methodist and one Baptist church, and less than one thousand inhabitants. In 1906 there were twenty general stores, six grocery and fresh-meat stores, one cabinet maker, three undertakers, two druggists, three barbershops, one hotel, six boarding houses, five liquor stores, five eating houses, one saddlery shop, two dentists, three blacksmiths, five attorneys, eight ham curing establishments, of which the reputation of E. M. Todd & Co.
[p40] is world-wide, three shoemakers, six oyster dealers, four hay and grain dealers, two banks, one ice factory, one Chinese laundry, four lumber dealers, one planing mill, twenty vessels in the fishing and oystering business, one private school, one colored free school, one white public high school which gives a full course of instruction, including music, and affords to its patrons all the advantages given in any city high school in the State, and in which the prospective citizens will find ample and increasing school facilities for their children, three white churches-Episcopal, Methodist and Baptist, and two colored churches-Methodist and Baptist.
The town has well paved brick sidewalks and a smooth and solid roadbed, made of granite spall, for its streets. Nearly all of the stores and a great many of the residences are lighted by gas of an excellent quality, as well as the town, the gas being furnished by a plant recently installed. Its streets are beautifully ornamented by many old majestic trees, and numerable porches of the dwellings near to the street give it an air of cosy hospitality that is inviting. There are a number of large and attractive residences, both of colonial and modern style and architecture, which, being interspersed, render each other mutually attractive. The Smithfield Water Company furnishes an excellent supply of water for domestic purposes, which is inexhaustible and at a very high pressure, to the numerous public hydrants and fire plugs. This plant has been severely tested on several occasions and each time has met with the needs. The pressure is sufficient and the plugs sufficiently close togetheras to enable the town authorities to handle fires without the use of fire engines.
This water company has been in operation about six years, being, in the beginning, constructed on the very best lines and of the finest material, under the supervision of the general manager of the company, Mr. B. P. Gay, to whose undaunted energy and public spirit the town of Smithfield owes a debt of gratitude which would be difficult to pay, and a competent engineer.
[p43] There are four firms of contracting architects and builders employing about twenty carpenters; these and four brick masons are kept busy the year round with the building going on in the town and at times requisition has to be made on workmen outside of the town, so many new buildings being under construction as to render the local force incompetent to handle the business.
The town government consists of a mayor and six councilmen, elected every two years, a town sergeant, two policemen, a treasurer and a commissioner of the revenue. The following named persons have served as mayors of Smithfield:
The Gwaltney-Bunkley Peanut Company, a joint stock company, of which P. D. Gwaltney, Sr., is the president, founder and manager, is the oldest and largest establishment of its kind in the world. Its founder was one of the earliest pioneers in the business of cleaning and hand-picking the dirty nuts brought in from the farms; and, bringing to its management a natural aptitude to understand and develop the efficiency of machinery, joined to great executive and administrative ability, has, from very small beginnings, built up this business to its present enormous proportions. It ships its cleaned goods and shelled nuts all over the United States and Canada in great quantities. Its annual output, the enormous quantity of forty-five million pounds, furnishes continuous and remunerative employment to
Smithfield has one other peanut cleaning establishment-TheSmithfield Peanut Company. The owner and manager of this concern is Colonel C. F. Day. After many years of arduous labor, which has rendered him an expert in the knowledge and skill of handling peanuts, Colonel Day has succeeded in building up a fine business, giving employment to many hands. The annual output of this company, shelled and unshelled nuts, of all grades, amounts to about ten million pounds.
These two establishments have made the town of Smithfield the best market for the uncleaned peanuts of the farmers in this section, and when a new crop commences to move into town from the surrounding country, by teams and by water transportation, the business of the merchants and others move with it.
Horses and mules, 500, value........................................ $ 62,500.00
Potatoes, barrels, 40,000, value..................................... 80,000.00
Lumber, feet, 6,000,000, value....................................... 90,000.00
Watermelons, 300,000, value......................................... 15,000.00
Gasoline, barrels, 250, value.......................................... 3,000.00
Small truck, packages, 10,000, value.............................. 10,000.00
Coal, tons, 250, value..................................................... 10,000.00
Fertilizers, tons, 4,000, value......................................... 50,000.00
Oysters, tons, 1,758, value.............................................. 16,000.00
Peanuts, tons, 71,360, value............................................ 2,364,832.00
Miscellaneous, tons, 85,387, value................................. 4,164,040.00
The Home Telephone Company, developed within five years from one phone, namely; that of the Gwaltney-Bunkley Peanut Company, is now a joint stock company with two hundred and seventy-five stations, including forty postoffices, running into the
[p45] adjoining counties of Southampton, Nansemond and Surry; with cable connections with Newport News and Norfolk; with long distance connections with any city of the United States;connected with the Western Union and Postal Telegraph Companies, it offers, at cheap rates, exceptionally good service.
The mail facilities are most excellent and consist of three daily mails, except on Sunday, when there is only one; three star routes, touching at twelve country offices, and, in every respect, the service is all that could be desired.
Transportation, by water, is exceptionally good, furnished by the Old Dominion Steamship Company by two fine river steamers, connecting with Newport News and Norfolk by two trips each, daily, and also by a score or more sailing vessels or gasoline motor boats, whose freight rates for heavy bulky articles are exceptionally cheap. Recently and office of Adams Express Company has been opened at the wharf of the Old Dominion Steamship Company.
The town of Windsor is a thriving town and is located on the Norfolk & Western Railroad about seven and a half miles a little west of south from Isle of Wight courthouse, and thirty-four miles from Norfolk. Its first dwelling and store were erected in 1855. In 1856 it became a depot of the Norfolk & Western Railroad (then the Norfolk & Petersburg R. R.), and has remained so until the present time, gradually building up its trade and population, and to-day stands as neat and compact a little town as one needs see.
It has long been the most important depot for the dissemination of mails, and from it several Star Routes emanate. It has a large, flourishing trade, many thousand bushels of peanuts and other farm products being annually shipped, and its people are well known for their hospitality.
[p46] It has four general stores, two groceries, two barber shops, one shoemaker, one millinery, three churches (Methodist, Baptist and Christian) one high school, one peanut factory, one planing mill, two eating houses, one blacksmith shop, one bank, two telephone offices, one telegraph office (Western Union), two undertaking establishments, one livery stable, one furniture store and one hotel.
The village of Carrsville is located on the Seaboard Air Line Railroad thirty-one miles from Portsmouth, in a thickly settled community. There are four general stores, each doing a good business; four daily mail and passenger trains; telegraph and telephone communication; express and money order facilities; rural free mail delivery, a graded public school; population one hundred.
The surrounding land is in a high state of cultivation, producing from twenty-five to seventy-five bushels of corn and from forty to one hundred bushels of peanuts per acre, annual shipment of peanuts 40,000 bags. The land hereabouts is alsoadapted to the cultivation of cotton and yields from $20 to $100 worth per acre.
The thriving village of Rescue, of three hundred inhabitants, is situated on the east side of Jones Creek, about one-half of a mile from its mouth, on a high bank, which gives it a commanding appearance from Pagan Creek and the surrounding country.
The land was originally a part of the farm of William Hines, from whose heirs, in 1882, William T. Carter purchased a tract of land, laying it off into lots and selling them. Since then the population has rapidly increased, its fine harbor making
It has three general stores, two white and one colored school, one Methodist church (River View), founded with a membership of one hundred. The Heptasophs have a commodious hall, with a membership of fifty or sixty.
Jones Creek penetrates about five miles beyond the village into the surrounding country, out of which a packet boat makes regular trips to Norfolk, and the village is otherwise in a prosperous condition.
An Act of the General Assembly in 1692, appointed certain places as ports of entry for collection of custom, and at which public warehouses for the storing of tobacco were ordered to be erected. Two shillings per hogshead was the duty, so the act reads.
This settlement has become the thriving hamlet of Battery Park, with a population of about two hundred, three-fourths of whom are engaged in the oyster business. The steamers plying from Smithfield to Norfolk and Newport News land at its wharf four times a day, carrying much freight, especially shad for the Northern markets in the early spring.
It has three general stores, three marine railways, two blacksmith shops, one oyster packing house, one Baptist church, one school house, postoffice, several builders of small boats, who have recently turned out some very speedy craft, and its inhabitants are the owners of some six hundred acres of oyster planting grounds, and it also has two daily mails.
The village Zuni lies on the Norfolk & Western Railroad, seven miles west of Windsor and on Blackwater River, the dividing line between this and Southampton county. It has three general stores, one blacksmith shop, one livery stable, one hotel, and, in recent years, has become to be a very fine
[p48] peanut market, made so by the hustle of its business men, often rivaling Smithfield in prices. It has a large territory from which to draw trade, which is thickly settled and in a very high state of cultivation. There are four passengertrains daily stopping at this point.
There are twenty-two other postoffices in the county other than the towns and villages heretofore named, each having one, and some two, daily mails. These offices are generally located at some general store and conveniently situated.
BACON'S REBELLION: In this, the first fight in this country for constitutional liberty, Isle of Wight, undoubtedly, bore her full part, although the record does not disclose the names of her citizens who actually participated, but history records that Colonel Joseph Bridger, of this county, the President of the King's Commissioners, had to fly to Accomack, where Governor Berkeley was, to protect his life from his enraged countrymen; and on the return of this "resolute old gentleman," after the death of Bacon and the dispersion of his followers, he became very active in punishing and bringing back to their allegiance those who had been his opponents. John Jennings, the clerk of his court, was one who espoused the cause of Bacon and was sentenced to be banished from the colony; but being very old and broken down in health and fortune and the time of executing the sentence of banishment having been, by appeal, extended several times, he died before it could be carried into effect. John Marshall, another prominents adherent of Bacon, was made to beg pardon in court on bended knees for "scandalous words uttered before the commissioners"; and the following recantation was subscribed by Ambrose Bennett, John Marshall, Richard Jordan, Richard Sharpe, An-
[p49] thony Fulgham, James Bagnall, Edward Miller, John Davis and Richard Penny: "We, the subscribed, having drawn up a paper in behalf of the inhabitants of Isle of Wight county as to the grievances of the said county, recant all the false and scandalous reflection upon Governor, Sir William Berkeley, contained in a paper presented to the commissioners and promise never to be guilty again of the like mutinous and rebellious practices." We further find that Colonel James Powell, while serving in the army of Berkeley, was wounded in the knee.
Revolution: Another century rolls around and the colonists are again involved in a war for preservation of their rights as British subjects, and in the long and tedious, but glorious war that followed the Declaration of Independence, its citizens bore their full share. Before a gun was fired in actual warfare, when the port of Boston was under an embargo, Isle of Wight county promptly came forward with a written expression of sympathy; and a vessel loaded with corn for her assistance was sent.
A complete list of the quota of soldiers sent to the Continental Army will never be known on account of the destruction of records in Richmond by Arnold and in this county by Tarleton; and only a very incomplete list can be offered; but it is known that the following were in the army with Washington: Colonel Josiah Parker, Major Francis Boykin, Captain James Johnson, General John S. Wills, Jesse Matthews, James Casey, Edward Ward, Robin Turner, Samuel McCoy, John Forrest, Henry Hill, Ben (Whalebone) Jones and Moses Atkins. We find that Sarah Atkins, the wife of this last named soldier, was allowed three pounds annually during his absence.
The militia companies were kept with a full complement of officers, for, in almost every court, we find orders supplying the vacancies caused by death or resignation; and although there was not much actual fighting in this county, and only three actual invasions by the British, but many threatened in-
Colonel Tarleton, at the head of a considerable body of British Cavalry, passed through the county twice, visited Smithfield (then the county seat) with the intention of destroying the records, but was foiled in that purpose as has been narrated already. They then visited "Macclesfield," the home of Colonel Josiah Parker, in the hope of capturing the Colonel, but were also foiled in this purpose; however, they destroyed many valuable papers they found there; and everywhere along their line of march they committed the most wanton destruction, carrying off the slaves, cattle, horses and other property. In one of these raids they were attacked by a body of Isle of Wight militia at a place called "Scotts Old Field," now known as Exchange, in Nansemond county, and met with a defeat, being driven across Milners Creek by the militia.
That the militia of the county saw considerable service is apparent by an order made at the term of court held in March, 1782, which reads as follows: "To His Excellency, Benjamin Harrison, &c. The court, in behalf of the inhabitants of the county of Isle of Wight, humbly represent the unhappy situation of their county during the last invasion. Being a frontier county, we were actually exposed to the depredations of the enemy, who not only landed almost daily on our shores, but repeatedly marched through the county, committing the most wanton destruction * * *.
"We further represent that during the last invasion, we had one-half of our militia on duty for the first three months and afterwards one-third part till about the 20th of November, and that in case of another invasion, to which we are liable, we shall need the assistance of others; and in view of all these facts, we have discharged ourselves from the operation of an act entitled An Act for the filling up of our quota of troops in the continental service."
[p51] War of 1812: In this second war with Great Britain, Isle of Wight county was ready with her money and men to do her full part. No sooner than war was declared (June 11th, 1811), the raising of companies by voluntary enlistment went on actively, and before the end of the war (1815), several hundred men of this county had become soldiers of the United States. Ten companies, containing, in the aggregate, five hundred enlistedmen, were mustered into the service of the United States as the Twenty-ninth Regiment of Virginia Volunteers, of which Joseph W. Ballard, of this county, was major, in command. The officers of these companies were: Captains Wm. B. Moody, Richard Bidgood, Joseph Atkinson, James Atkinson, David Dick, Simon Gwaltney, Robert Jordan, John Lawrence, Robert Tynes and Charles Wrenn. Lieutenants David Dick, Robert West, Charles Wrenn, Joseph Godwin, Jno. W. Eley, Josiah Holleman, Willis Morris, Exum Eley, George W. Driver, Joseph Hodsden. Ensigns - Isaac Moody, Tristam Bunkley, George Wilson, Josiah Wrenn, Henry Applewhaite, Dawson Delk. In addition to the foregoing named companies Captain Shield mustered a company of forty-eight men, which was organized in Smithfield, entered the service February 8th, 1813, and served out their enlistment at Norfolk: Officers - Hamilton Shield, captain; Peter Jones, lieutenant; Archibald Atkinson, ensign.
In this war the enemy attempted very few incursions into this county and never far from their ships. The Twenty-ninth was called upon to show its mettle but once. The British attempted to land at the "Rocks" on James River, but Captains Dick and Wrenn, with their companies, poured such a well-directed fire into their ranks that they returned to their vessels immediately.
The British man-of-war, "Plantagenet," for several months lay off the "Rocks," and although her very presence and her occasional changing of position kept detachments of the Twenty-ninth busy watching her movements, after the reception given
Mexican War: In this war the scene of action was so far removed from this section and volunteers poured in in such overwhelming numbers, that the United States refused to received thousands, hence this county had no opportunity to participate in it in any organized method; but adventurous spirits enlisted in other places. James Davis enlisted in Captain Robert Scott's company of Richmond; Alfred H. Darden and Richard Parr, happening to be in Mississippi, enlisted in the regiment commanded by Colonel Jefferson Davis, and were in several battles. Benjamin Gale enlisted in Captain J. P. Young's company in Portsmouth.
The war between the States (1861-1865): At this time in the history of our county there was no political doctrine more universally accepted by the Southern people than that of "State Sovereignty." Without entering into a discussion of the questions involved it is considered pertinent to say that when the election was held to ascertain whether the people of this county stood for or against secession, there were eight hundred and sixty-one registered voters in the county and the same number were cast in the said election and every vote was for secession. This, too, in the face of the fact that this county was practically an anti-slavery county, for we read in the records an exceptionally large number of deeds of manumission and in the wills a great many clauses of the same character.
The first troops stationed in this county during this warwas the brigade of General John C. Pemberton, composed of Ramseur's Artillery of North Carolina, and the Third North Carolina Infantry, commanded by Colonel W. D. Pender. They remained about one year, being withdrawn in April, 1862.
[p55] mand of Colonel Dodge. This was in July, 1862. The reached the courthouse. A slight action took place near Ducksville between a detachment of the Southampton Cavalry and Spear's New York Cavalry, and a few horses on both sides were killed. In a short while afterwards a detachment of Dodge's Cavalry, making a reconnaissance eastward from the courthouse having reached the neighborhood of Carroll's Bridge, came near surprising a body of Confederate troops from Colonel Claiborne's command, who were worshipping at a nearby church. A timely warning was given and the Confederates rushed out and engaged the enemy, killing and wounding several and capturing thirty-two men and twenty-six horses.
In January, 1864, a Federal steamer in the James River was fired upon; the pilot and crew driven below deck and the vessel beached, but in a short while floated again by the assistance of the incoming tide, and carried the news to Newport News. Immediately the gunboat Smith Briggs, with about one hundred and fifty men, was sent up the river and to Smithfield, where the troops landed. They started into the country to intercept the Confederates and were met at Scotts Factory by Major Sturtevant with a section of artillery and a small force of infantry and cavalry. In the slight skirmish which followed, Lieutenant Giggett, of North Carolina, was killed. The Federal troops then retired to Smithfield, expecting to re-embark, but their vessel had gone and not returned. They were attacked the following morning by Major Sturtevant, and after a considerable action, forced them to surrender. While the fight was in progress the Smith Briggs returned and essayed to take part in the action, but Sturtevant's gunners soon sent a solid shot into her steamchest, which at once disabled here and put here out of commission. About one hundred and twenty prisoners were captured and a small quantity of supplies were obtained before setting the vessel on fire and blowing her up.
[p56] landed at Burwells Bay and proceeded a short distanced towards Smithfield and were me by a small Confederate force, and after considerable firing from long range retired to their vessel without any casualties on either side, so far as is known.
These constitute all the encounters of hostile troops in this county, but the Federal cavalry raided through the countyand armed boats came to Smithfield frequently; but two things, happily, prevented them from remaining long in the county and in Smithfield, namely; The presence of a considerable body of signal corps men and scouts, whose whereabouts were uncertain, and the burning of the two bridges at Smithfield, making of it a "cul de sac" which they dare not enter to remain long.
Spanish-American War: There was no organized force from this county which participated in this struggle of short duration, and which was over before many citizens could enlist; and there was moreover, in the beginning of the trouble, much diversity of opinion as to the justice or the feasibility of making up a war upon the issues involved. However, a few of the individuals in the county joined various commands. Among those who did service in this "late unpleasantness with Spain" were: A. S. Johnson, who was lieutenant in the Fourth U. S. Volunteer Infantry (Immunes), George E. Morrison, a member of Company G, Sixth U. S. Cavalry, which took part in the battle at San Juan, Santiago; J. E. Tucker, O. M. Johnson, Robt. Drewry, D. T. Crowley and John I Clarke, all of the latter being members of the Fourth Virginia Volunteer Infantry.
THAT many of the early settlers of Virginia were pious "folk" and deeply imbued with the missionary spirit, there is little doubt, for the very instructions of the London Company which Captain John Smith brought with him, contained large provision for the maintenance of religion among the people and for the conversion of the savages.
The Episcopal Church commenced with the settlement at Jamestown, and although it had many difficulties with which to contend, viz.: the untried experiment of the colonization of a new country; which demanded the greater part of the time of the colonists to gain a home and subsistence and protection from surrounding savages; the incubus of the moral degeneracy of the mother church in England; the scarcity of ministers, whose supervision and control was lodged in the hands of a Church dignitary, the Bishop of England, three thousand miles away. These, and other difficulties, greatly hampered the Church in the colony, yet its early ministers and many pious laity found time, amid the unusual and new conditions of their lives, to teach the catechism, and other religious instructions, to the children and servants; and it certainly speaks well for the religious principles of those men, early pioneers of American civilization, the readiness, nay eagerness, with which they undertook and did build that long series of old churches, ten or twelve miles apart, from the lower part of Norfolk county to and beyond the Appomattox River, a monument to their piety, and to the wisdomand forethought of the London Company and the Virginia House of Burgesses.
Having in mind these facts, can we wonder at the progress this country has made and the many blessings that have been showered upon us, when our very foundation was laid on the Word and teachings of the Almighty?
Its site is just where wisdom and common sense would have placed it; five miles from the river settlements, five miles from a church in Nansemond; five miles from two wide and deep streams, which would have cut it off from a church in the Upper Parish; on the main road leading from the settlement of Lawns Creek to those in Upper Norfolk.
The building of this church was begun in 1632 by Joseph Bridger, father of Colonel Joseph Bridger, one of the King's Council for the Colony of Virginia, who died in 1682, was buried on his farm, "White Marsh," about three miles from the church and his grave marked by a marble slab which has been removed and deposited in the church.
This old structure is in a remarkably good site of preservation and has stood well against the "corroding tooth of time," on account of the excellency of materials and the fidelity with which it was built, and the good fortunes of having had, at all times, some sort of a roof covering it, it being re-shingled about 1737, and again about 1838, with good cypress shingles both times.
Built of bricks, made of clay of the very best quality, found in its immediate vicinity, and put together with a mortar made from well burnt oyster shell lime and building sand, both of which can be found near by in great quantities, the sand being taken from the base of the hill on which it rests, the mortar becoming almost as hard as flint, preventing the displacement of a brick without tearing away a part of those to which it is attached, baffling the incursions of the would-be despoiler, has assisted greatly in its preservation.
[p61] cased by its original walls. The cathedral at St. Augustine, Florida, is the oldest church, but that has been destroyed by fire several times, but each time has been rebuilt. The "Old Brick Church" is the oldest church of the Protestant faith standing in America.
Tarleton's British troopers rested beneath the shade of the venerable oaks which surround it; the Virginia militia, in the war of 1812 bivouacked around it, as also did the Confederate soldiers of 1861. Many political speeches and barbecues havetranspired in the grove adjoining, whose shade has furnished the trysting place, for more than two centuries, of lovers.
The church was used but little from the outbreak of the Revolution to some time in 1830's when it was almost completely abandoned a prey to the elements. In spite of this fact the grand old walls stood a monument to the purpose for which it was built and to the builders. In June, 1887, the Reverend David Barr, rector of the church in Smithfield, passing the old church from his attendance upon a convocation in "Old St. John's" in Nansemond, another of the structures of the colonial period, discovered that, by a recent storm, what remained of the old roof had been shaken from its holdings and had fallen in or was tottering. He immediately undertook its restoration, and though fraught with difficulties of the most serious character,, chiefly the lack of funds, he begun the work, with great energy. Before he had completed his work, however, he moved to Washington, D. C., and the duty of its completion devolved upon his successor, the Rev. F. G. Scott, and the vestry of the church in Smithfield, notably among whom was Mr. R. S. Thomas, who, for his prolonged and assiduous efforts for the restoration of the "Old Church" deserves especial mention.
It stands to-day beautiful within and without, and filled with memorials to those connected with its own history and that of the colony. Its stained glass chancel window, eighteen feet by twelve, made in London, divided into twelve sections, each dedicated to some well known character, prominent in Church or State, is a most striking piece of art. All of the windows are of stained glass, memorials to those connected with its history, of beautiful design. Its carved altar and exquisite reading desk; its wine glass pulpit with its broad steps and high sounding board; its beautiful font, of the purest Carara marble, made in England, are especially attractive. The pews are of the original style, made of native heart pine. All these things impress the worshipper with a deep sense of solemnity when worshipping the "God of our Fathers," where they, themselves, some hundred years ago, worshipped; and to the transient visitor, it cannot fail to be interesting, both on account of its own intrinsic beauty and design and the historical memories of other and ancient days in the life of our country it brings to his recollection.
It is a well established fact that the Baptists establisheda place of worship known as Burleigh church somewhere in the vicinity of Mill Swamp, perhaps on the very site on which is located the present church, sixty years before it had an existence, for, at the solicitation of Baptist brethren in Isle of Wight, made to their brethren in London, the Rev. Robt. Wooden, in 1714, did reach this county and establish the old church above referred
[p63] to. In January, 1727, Caspar Mints and Richard Jones came over from England, settled near the church, and the latter was its pastor for over thirty years, then following twenty years of unrecorded history, and after a career of about forty-three years became extinct and was lost to history. In 1772, the Rev. John Meglamore, from Raccoon Swamp, now Antioch church, Sussex county, preached and baptized a number of people; these people, on July 2nd, 1774, met near the site of the present church and organized themselves into a Baptist church, with David Barrow as pastor, under his name. For seventeen years this church was called "The Church in Isle of Wight," or "David Barrow's Church." In 1791 it assumed its present name. This old church sent out colonies at a later period to Smithfield, Moore's Swamp, Tucker Swamp and Bethesda. The first meeting house of this church was built in 1832 and repaired and remodelled in 1895. It is now a brick structure with a seating capacity of several hundred. It has a large congregation and is in a flourishing condition. The yearly protracted meetings or revivals at this old church are of special note. While the same custom prevails in other churches in this vicinity, yet, on account of the length of time they have been held at Mill Swamp, the hospitality of its members and the magnificent spreads put upon the tables for the sustenance of the attendants upon these meetings, have made them, probably, more talked of at this church than at any other one.
There were two other colonial churches in this county, of the Episcopal faith, being the Bay church, about five miles from Smithfield on Burwell's Bay, (originally Worrosquoyacke Bay), on the farm now owned by Dr. W. D. Turner. It was erected in 1750 and after the Revolution, like many of the old churches, it was abandoned. About 1810 the estate upon which it was located came into the hands of those who had no reverence for it as a church, and it was pulled down and a kitchen built of the bricks,
[p64] and the backs of the pews were used to make partitions in a barn. The latter was struck by lightning and destroyed, the negroes always declared, by act of God. The bell was exchanged in Richmond for a brandy still.
The other church, called Isle of Wight chapel, was located about eighteen miles northwest of Smithfield and was erected about 1750. About 1820 it was burnt down. The site afterwards came into possession of the O'Kellyites or Christians, and is now Antioch.
The leading men of the county were not disposed to be harshin carrying out the laws of non-conformity against the Quakers, and although a few of them were fined, they generally met when and where they wished, and in 1699, their meeting houses were regularly licensed and the only complaint they had was that they were taxed to support the Established Church.
IN EARLY colonial times some little effort was made, by donations of pious individuals, to maintain a few free schools, separate and apart from the parochial schools which the ministers of the Established Church were required to teach or have taught in the parishes.
At a meeting of Thomas Bennett's men, had the 7th of February, 1625, we find that Benjamin Sims, who came over in ------------------ ship, was present. This man was a survivor of the Indian massacre and lived in Isle of Wight, near the "Rocks." He afterwards moved to Elizabeth City county and, by his will, in 1634, provided for the first free school in America. Funds from this donation are still used in the conduct of the high school in Hampton, Virginia.
In 1719 Rev. Thomas Bailey in a letter to the Bishop of London says: "There are four hundred families in my parish and four small free schools, taught by a Mr. Hunt, a Mr. Irons, a Mr. Gills and a Mr. Reynolds." Where these schools were located no one will ever know.
[p68] of Smithfield, purchased a lot and had built thereon a house twenty-eight feet by sixteen feet, in which should be taught six poor orphan children; the boys for three years and the girls for two years. The master was to receive twenty shillings and had the privilege of taking as many additional pupils as he might deem necessary.
This good lady died in 1774 and by her will gave "one hundred and twenty pounds to the school for the teaching of six more indigent children." Colonel Byrd says she was a lady who had "copied Solomon's complete housewife exactly."
This was the nucleus of a free school and remained as such for about twenty years when it became a private school at which many men of an elder generation of Smithfield were prepared for college and university education.
This building was conveyed to the Masonic fraternity in 1788 and had been in continual use as a Masonic Lodge for one hundred and eighteen years, the next oldest building for that purpose in Virginia, the Lodge in Richmond, having been, three years prior to this, dedicated.
These feeble efforts at public or free schools seem paltry, but there were good private schools in those days, nor were the people indifferent to the education of their children, for in almost all the old wills the testators made some provision or left some directions for their education.
The usual plan adopted was for some rich or well-to-do man to build a school house, employ a teacher for the education of is own children and to invite his neighbors to send their children and to help defray the expenses.
These early teachers, male and female, were generally from the Northern States, as the Southern youth, after the completion of their college education invariably rushed into the professions of law, medicine or politics; but these educators, from a section that we afterwards, for a time, learned to hate, were almost universally well trained, well prepared, conscientious and efficient teachers, and very man
[p71] of them took the Southern view of the political situation of 1861 and remained with us during the war -- a war fated with many direful results to this Southland, but none more disastrous than the complete annihilation of every school.
Immediately after the war, although its horrid devastationrequired every effort of the people to obtain a bare subsistence, efforts were made in many places to maintain private schools, the teachers being often partly paid in products of the farm; when, happily, for the moral good of the community and the salvation of the rising generation from almost complete ignorance, in 1870 the Public School System was adopted; which, at first, met with considerable opposition, largely on account of the necessity of providing schools for the negroes; but thanks to the inherent goodness of the people, a broader philanthropy prevailed and that feeling has happily perished.
From the date of its adoption to the present there have been but three County Superintendents of Schools, E. M. Morrison, for twelve years; Wm. S. Holland, for four years, and Dr. Gavin Rawles, the present incumbent.
The intellectual status of its corps of teachers has gradually improved until it stands equal to that of any county of the State, which felicitous result has been gained by free scholarship in colleges and the training at normal schools.
The county is divided into three school districts, which correspond to and bear the same name as the three Magisterial Districts, viz.: Newport, Hardy and Windsor; with the town of Smithfield as a separate district.
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[This "book" was transcribed by Mark A. Jordan, great great great grand-nephew of Col. E. M. Morrison, author].