Village of Exit (also known as Exeter or Exchange)

Researched and written by Lynn Rose

 “Exit, about 8 miles north of Suffolk, was formerly at the head of Scott’s Creek, and in former days did much business with the farmers of the upper part of the county.  A packet ran from there to Norfolk regularly.  In those days there was a large grist and flour mill there and also a sawmill, but since that lake has been taken over by the city of Norfolk and enlarged, into Lake Prince, the mill is gone and the creek is damned up so that vessels cannot come further up the creek than the dam, and its transportation facilities have been reduced, but it has become one of the best fishing places in the country, and when open is visited by a great number of fishermen.”  Exit was the scene of the battles of the Revolutionary War and was then known as Scott’s old field ….  The Virginia militia met and drove the British from the field and forced them to cross the creek at Milner’s.”

Copied from “Nansemond River Power Squadron Flag Day 1986 with a History of Suffolk, VA. by W. E. McClenny

“Col. Tarleton, head of the British Cavalry, was attacked by Isle of Wight Militia at “Scots Old Field”, now known as Exchange, in Nansemond County, and met with a defeat, being driven across Milners Creek by the militia.”  This was c1782.

From “A Brief History of Isle of Wight County Virginia 1608-1907” by Col. E. M. Morrison

“The Virginia State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1897-’98”, Vol. No. VII Published by J. L. Hill Printing Company listed the following information for Exit, Virginia

General Merchants – Townsend Pfeifer, W. G. Saunders, A. E. Whiting

Mills – Corn and Flour – Smith, R.R.

Saloons – Whitley, A. J.

Post Offices – T. Pfeifer

Principal Farmers were listed as J. F. Eley, E. J. Matthews, J. R. Holland, M. C. Nelms, Sol J. Saunders, J. R. Archer, J. F. Stroud, R. E. Matthews, A. H. Saunders, J. R. Delk, E. L. Gardner, M. Gardner, J. F. Uzzell, E. W. Joshnson, E. M. Johnson, S. T. Ellis, J. J. Whitley

Treasurer of Nansemond County – S. T. Ellis

The GCHF has not uncovered much information on the people who lived in the Exit area except about the families who lived in the large house at the intersection of Lake Prince Drive and Exeter Drive known as Exeter Plantation.  Edwin E. and Almedia Hancock Phillips acquired the farm from Joseph Scott in approximately 1825.  Mr. and Mrs. Phillips built the present house.  There is a story about an earlier brick house being torn down “because numerous infants had died of a fever, as well as older people, and it was was declared unsafe for habitation.  This was passed down from two former slaves who remained at Exeter after the war – Uncle Andrew Hawkins and Aunt Anna Todd.” (1) In the early 1900s there was a sawmill and grist mill on the Phillips Millpond.  There was a post office at Exit which operated from 1889 to 1915.  In addition there were several stores.  Watermelons, barrels of potatoes and other farm produce were shipped from the farm’s wharf which is shown on some early maps.  Their daughter, Mary Anna, ran the farm during the Civil War.  The plantation was used at times as a headquarters by Union Calvary forces as well as a hospital.  After the war she married Sydney Trexvant Ellis who farmed and managed the land.   They had two children, Edwin Sydney Ellis and Almedia Hancock Ellis.  Edwin Sydney raised his family of three children, Ann, Emil and “Trez”, there until 1937 when the depression caused the 325.75 acres to be sold at auction for $10,000.  (2)

The farm was bought by Thomas J. Saunders, III and his wife Elizabeth who raised their daughter, Mary Ainslie, in the beautiful Greek Revival home.  Thomas Saunders operated a “truck farm” there raising sweet potatoes, corn, peanuts and other crops he would sell in area markets.  Mary Ainslie and her friend Lynn K. Rose remember sleeping on summer nights in the cool breezes on the screened porches. The beautiful home was surrounded by a white picket fence with very unique free-swinging gates.  The property was sold in 1979 by Mrs. Saunders.  The house and lot have been passed through several owners including Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Moore who painted beautiful murals in several rooms.  The peanut and potato fields have been turned into a housing development which is known as “Lake Prince Meadows”.

(1)  From letter written by Emil Ellis Wood to Roane Moore, August 23, 1995

From letters of Emil Wood and Sydney T. Ellis 1995

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