Primary information written and complied by Mary Wilson Copeland, an Oakland native. Additional research and writing by Lynn Rose and Drex Bradshaw
The community of Oakland is a continuation of the houses along Route 10 as you pass by the old Chuckatuck High School, now Saunders Supply, all the way to Oliver Pools, then down Moore Farm Lane and back down Everets Road to Oakland Christian Church. In the early years a limited number of houses lined the road and were mainly on the east side. However, in the 1940’s the number of houses increased and today there are several settlements on both sides of Route 10 beyond the new Oakland Elementary School. Homes can also be found along Everets Road and down Butts Farm Lane.
There are several religious centers in the Oakland area. One is that of Oakland Christian Church at the intersection of Route 10 and Everets Road. Another is Little Bethel Baptist Church located approximately one half mile from Route 10 on Everets Road. Both of these churches will be discussed in detail in the church section of the book. Of special note is an article from the Suffolk News Herald on Sunday, July 20th 1969 by Roger H. Carroll dealing with a local family living on Moore Farm Lane. Walter and Louise Alice Daniels (better known as “Miz Lula”) were supported by Little Bethel Baptist Church. Walter was baptized there in 1968 and even with limited resources the members did what they could. The only method of transportation for Walter was his bicycle. The article was entitled Only Poverty, Filth Are Known to Nansemond Mother, Son “Wheel of Life Rolls Over Walter and Louise Daniels”. A copy of this article is on file at the Greater Chuckatuck Historical Foundation for your review as desired.
The Oakland area was rich in farm land with names such as the Butts Farm, Pembroke Farm, Haas Farm, Hall Farm, Saunders Farm and several others. The Butts and Pembroke farms had direct access to the Nansemond River while the Haas and Hall farms were on the west side of Route 10. The Pembroke and Haas farms are still under cultivation while the Butts farm, now owned by Buddy Creekmore, has been converted into an animal conservation area and all planting is done with the animals in mind. The Hall farm was tended by members of the Hall family.
The “Hall/Duck Taylor” and Albert’s store were the two primary African American stores in the Oakland community. Weekly groceries were purchased from the larger stores in the village of Chuckatuck just a short walk away.
At this point we would like to quote Mary-Wilson Copeland, a long time member of the Oakland community. She has provided an outstanding overview of the African American aspects of this community.
Black History of Oakland-Chuckatuck (Nansemond County/Suffolk, Virginia)
There is much joy, enthusiasm, revelation, and appreciation in looking back in the past from whence families came. The community of Oakland-Chuckatuck had many residents of the African-American population. The African-American community was established before 1866. However, limited information has been available about the residents.
The Little Bethel Baptist Church was founded and established in 1866. The center of the Black community at that time was the church. The families that worked prior to and were responsible for establishing the church were: Robert Edward, Juby Godwin, Callon Hall, George Hall, L. R. Hargraves, Parker Hawkins, Charlie Hines, Andrew Williams, and Emmanuel Wrench assisted by Reverend Reid.
The families of the original and earlier community were land owners. In this brief history various aspects of the family and community will be discussed: Church, Community Geography, Family Life, Children, Occupations, Transportation, and Education.
As was previously stated, Little Bethel Baptist Church was the central focus of the community. It was the place where family members looked forward to going regularly. It was the gathering place for worship and praise to the Lord Jesus Christ; a place where family members took time to create friendships, catch up on the community news and time to visit with neighbors and be neighborly.
Little Bethel Baptist Church was rebuilt in 1890, renovated and added an Educational Annex along with Baptismal Pool and heating and cooling systems in the 1950s. The Church was bricked in 1975.
The original and earlier community had homes that were widely separated. Most of the families were farmers. Distance between some home sites was a barrier to frequent visitation. There were no streets, only dirt paths through the woods or fields.
In the early 1900s family sizes increased, children became adults, got married, purchased land from or near their parents, built homes, and raised their families. Thus, houses were closer together. The amount of farm land decreased.
The community water sources were natural springs or streams, wells, and pumps. As the community family numbers increased, these were sometimes shared by one or more families. In the late 1940s, early 1950s the community leaders, Vernon Graves, Ernest Wilson, Junious Graves, Robert Blount, Horace Brown, Robert Smith and John Wesley Wilson got together and dug a deep community well that supplied running water to the residents. In the 2000’s the City of Suffolk took over control of the water system.
Street lights were added in 1960.
The family home usually was a two story wood frame house. Families were large.(John Wesley and Annie Davis Wilson had seventeen children, one was still born, and presently , nine siblings are alive). Kitchens were sometimes away from the rest of the house and other times they were attached. There was a table large enough to seat most of the family members for meals because they ate meals together.
The whole family worked together to make sure the household ran as smoothly as possible. Some chores were designated male and some female. The girls usually helped mother and the boys helped father. However sometimes jobs overlapped and they helped each other.
In the absence of electricity and long work days, family members went to bed early at night and got up early in the morning, at sun up. Light was provided by kerosene lamps. Heat was supplied by a fireplace, wood, coal, or kerosene stoves. The heat was allowed to burn out at night and restarted in the morning. If heat was kept all night, the wood stove had to be “banked” that night and/or someone had to get up during the night to add wood or coal to the stove. Quilts were made by the family for bed covering.
To make a wood or coal fire: Remove ashes from the ash pan; Place newspaper in the bottom of the stove; Place kindling wood (small sticks or dry tree limbs) in stove crossing each other so air can flow; Place small pieces of wood on top; Place coal on the small pieces of wood; Light paper with a safety match. Sometimes a little bit of kerosene is poured on top of the wood before striking the match especially if the wood is not dry enough.
Laundry was done by hand. Water was heated in iron pots outside or on the wood stove in the winter in number 2 or number 3 tubs. Clothes were boiled to clean them, and rubbed on the washboard, wrung out, rinsed, wrung out, blueing (a deep blue liquid added to last rinse to make whites whiter) rinse, wrung out then hung on an outside clothes line to dry. Clothespins were sometimes used. In the summertime tubs of water were placed outside in the sun to heat the water for washing. During freezing winters and hot summers the laundry still had to be done. An iron was shaped like the irons used today but it was made of iron, very heavy. The iron had to be put on the stove that was used for cooking and heat to get hot enough to iron the clothes. Clothes were also starched and had to be dampened for ironing. Starch was sometimes made from white flour or purchased in a dry form-Argo Starch comes to mind.
Families raised their food. They raised chickens, ducks, turkeys, cows, pigs, and they planted, harvested, and canned vegetables, and fruits. They canned enough of out of season foods to last through the winter. In December, hogs were killed, salt cured, and smoked. The other animals were slaughtered when needed. In addition, sweet potatoes were placed in a hill of pine straw for curing and storage. Other fruits as apples were dried and corn was dried and ground for cornmeal and some made into harmony grits. Families raised fruit trees, nut trees, and grapes. Berries grew in the wild and were harvested in season. All family meals and snacks were prepared at home. Snacks consisted of breads, sweet potatoes, and leftovers.
Fish and shellfish were also popular eats.
Most families had a sewing machine, foot operated, and thus, made most of the clothes worn by family members.
Recycle was the way of life. Nothing was thrown away. Feathers from the fowl were used to make bedding (pillows and mattresses), corn stalks were used for brooms, scraps from the table (not much) were fed to the domestic animals (chickens, cows, pigs), animal waste was used to fertilize the garden crops, leftover vegetable hulls, peels, skins, etc. were thrown in the garden to be plowed in the soil.
The raising of gardens continued, and in late 1940s electricity came to the Oakland-Chuckatuck community for the African-American residents.
Children did not have a lot of time to play because of the family chores that they had to do daily. With the moments that they had, they had lots of enjoyable times. Most of their play was group activity play. They made up their own games, played jump rope, baseball, played family, made mud pies, played church, played school. The girls played with dolls that they made using a soda bottle for the doll’s body and twine for her hair and with the ones they got for Christmas.
Christmas time was a special time. Children usually received one toy along with fruit and candy. Since candy was not eaten regularly, it became a real treat.
There were very few purchased toys. The children made their own baseball sometimes, their bats were sticks, ropes were from farm rope. One thing that the children use to make was cherry shooters made from reeds in the marshy land. They also liked to play cowboys and Indians and hide and seek.
The children and parents would listen to radio on Sunday evenings, and visit other family members who lived close by. The drive-in movie became popular in the 1950s. Black and white television was introduced and replaced listening to radio.
One of the most important occupations or jobs in the community was the delivery of the next generation. The job that Mrs. Carrie Bush did was midwife for the delivery of precious boys and girls.
Farming was the main livelihood of the earlier families. Some lived on farms owned by the Caucasians and worked the farms for them until they became able to purchase their own farms. When they purchased their own farms, some of the crops that they raised were peanuts, cotton, grains to feed their livestock. Since the Oakland-Chuckatuck community is surrounded by water, many became oystermen.
As time passed, farming became less popular as a means to support a family. Many men went into the United States Military, thus getting worldwide experience in other states and countries. After they returned, there were other jobs to be had Kirk Lumber, Lone Star Marl Company, Planters Peanuts, Lummis, Birdsong Peanut, Newport News Shipyard, Webster Brickyard, W. G. Saunders Lumber Company, Chuckatuck Ice Plant.
By this time women had begun to work. They worked as domestics, some traveled north to New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and other places to seek employment. Many of the mothers and their children worked on the truck farms harvesting white potatoes, string beans, strawberries, other produce and picking flowers. The older responsible children and teens chopped grass out of the peanuts in large fields.
Some became contractors, brick masons, electricians. Some of the men became longshoremen.
Entrepreneurs George Walker opened a community grocery store. Harvey Wilson learned how to lay bricks and taught his brothers and they taught their sons. Horace Brown had a community barbershop. He passed the trade on to his sons Lafayette and Glenn. Earnestine Cowling Brown, and Annie J. Boothe each had a home based business-they were Hair Dressers. McKenzie Roberts Wilson had her on Hair Dresser Shop; Carrie Jackson Hall was one of the community seamstresses.
The means of transportation varied. In the early history, family members walked, rode horses, and rode in horse and buggy. Mr. Daniel Hall rode a horse drawn cart up into the 1950s. The Steam boat was used for travel to Norfolk and Newport News and other distance places. They departed from Chuckatuck Creek.
The Trailways Bus came through twice a day traveling to and from Suffolk, Norfolk, and other destinations. One bus came in the morning traveling to and one in the afternoon returning.
When residents had to go to work, there was bus service by Mr. Shaderack Brown to Planters Peanut Company and Suffolk and by Hilton Hudgins from Hobson. The other persons that worked in other places such as the Shipyard, caught buses that came through.the community. Mr. David Jackson provided transportation on Saturday for those who wanted to go shopping in Suffolk. Other means of transportation was “thumbing a ride” with someone going your way.
From the 1940s, 1950s and on, students rode the bus to East Suffolk High School.
Oakland Elementary School was the school where the children attended. According to records, it is known to have been open in the early 1900s. Many residents completed the Oakland Elementary School. A larger number completed East Suffolk High. Some of those that attended college and those who received Bachelor Degrees were: Miss Ira Johnson, Mr. George Lewis Cowling, Ms. Dorothy Cowling, Ms. Helen Glover. Dr. Bernard Glover, S. Eugene Porter, Leroy Porter, Lawyer Leslie Smith (who was murdered in Washington D. C. in the prime of his career), Savannah Williams, Mary N. Wilson-Copeland, Sevella Wilson-Barcliff, Lorine Wilson-Watkins, Azurea Robinson-White, Joan Boothe-White, Larry Boothe, Lindwood Edwards, Shaderack Brown, Thomas Brown, PhD, and others.
This is a partial history of the African-American Community in Oakland-Chuckatuck, Nansemond, Suffolk, Virginia from 1866 to 1960.
If any important facts have been omitted or misrepresented and you can supply the information contact:
Mary can be reached at 1220 Exchange Road Suffolk, Virginia 23434 by phone 757 539-0904 or email firstname.lastname@example.org as of 2012.
The following information was provided by Peggie Beale Cobb.
“In addition to the history above the following African American families lived along Moore Farm Lane (called the “Ferry Road” by the Beale family) and Everets Road to Oakland in the 1930s.
Mack Hargrave and sons Malachi, Robert and others
Sandy & Sarah Wooden and children, Walter, James, Bessie, Claire Crump Wooden married Booker Chapman, Opal, Sarah (“Toy”) married Dan Reid. Toy had a daughter Lois Jean. Opal’s granddaughter, Susie, married a Brown. The Wooden’s house later burned. Sandy worked at Kirk Lumber Co. and “Toy” once kept Lynn as a child.
Stephen & Polly Hall lived in a two story house on the Chuckatuck side of Little Bethel Baptist Church. This house burned, too. They had a grandson, Al.
Robert & Romine Strong – granddaughter Mildred
Louis Hicks – lived in a square house with flat top on opposite side from Audubon Road.
Mack Jordan lived on the corner of Everets Road and Audubon Road. House was torn down in 2010.
Hobert & Bessie W. Graves – Their daughter Eva Gee played at Little Bethel. House was on right after passing Audubon Road up steep driveway. Hobert worked at KLC as did his brother, Junius.
Albert & Winnie Glover – intersection of Route 10 and Everets Road. Ran a small store – 2 story building – lived upstairs. Albert also farmed. They had a son Sammy as well as other children.
Louis Bolling – lived on “Ferry Road” in “Aunt” Mag Joyner’s house (after she died) – 2 stories; beyond the Woodens on the Route 10 side. Mag Joyner delivered Peggie Ann.
George Crump lived on the Chuckatuck side of Oakland Church – in front of cemetery. He was the janitor for Oakland Church.
Here are more people that were living in the area.
When I was small there was a lot of fish fries, oyster roasts, possum hunting on bright moon lit nights and fishing at night off of the James River Bridge and the Kings Highway Bridge. Always a big crowd.
There was a wire cage attached to our barn where the possum were put. Pearlie Louis from the Ferry Road would get them to eat. He was a large black man who lived next to “Aunt” Mag Joyner.
Next farm on the Ferry Road was George & Emma Gayle and adopted son Edward Gayle whose son was Ernest Gayle. He died this spring. Note: Ralph Turner later lived here as well as Walter Daniels.
Next on the Moore Farm was George & Emma Simpson, children Tommy, William, Esther Mae, Thornton, Carlton and Ruth. There was an older daughter who was married. I do not remember her name.
Next to the Simpsons was Andrew Chapman who worked at the mill. (Last house on the right before Route 10. Andrew later lived off Moore Farm Lane to the left.)
Across the road on Rt. 10 in front of the Moore Farm was a two story house lived in by Virginia Carr and her mother and father. They moved to Chuckatuck next to the ice plant house on the hill.
Wilbur and Fannie Darden, Charles and Elsie lived on the Five Mile Farm and moved into the Carr house.
Across the road on Rt. 10 lived Russell Gayle, Lena, Russell, Jr., Rena and Jack. I think he worked on the highway.
Across the road from Oliver’s Pools was Willie Gayle, Pearl and daughter Mary Catherine.
I remember Nat Cowling lived behind the black lodge and walked to work every day to the mill. He always was singing and whistling all the way by the house. You always knew it was him.
Uncle Matt Crumpler played the pump organ at church. He taught the choir to read music. The choir was A.L. Beale, Fannie Darden and Elsie Darden, Gladys Newman, Pearl Pruden, Janie Pruden, Wilbur Darden and Rossa Bradshaw and Dr. I. W. Johnson sang with them. Mrs. Grace Chandler said all of the Beales could sing. They could have had a choir of their own.”
The Beale girls – Aunt Molly lived in Hobson. Don’t know last name or if she had children. Aunt Dora lived in Suffolk and married a Thompson – boy and girl that I know of. Aunt Lou – twin to Uncle John – married John Lawrence and lived in Smithfield – son and daughter. Aunt Nannie married Kenny Moody – daughter Ruby. Don’t know of others. All of the girls were accomplished seamstresses.
After the George Gayles died Ralph and Odell Turner, Orin, Fay and Sherman lived in the Gayle place for years before moving to Suffolk.
I am not sure Louis Bolling was any kin to “Aunt” Mag Joyner. He just seemed to pop up there one day and nobody knew him or where he came from. I don’t know that he worked except as a handy man.”