Wills’ Corner / Cherry Grove Road

Wills’ Corner / Cherry Grove Road

Wills Corner“There were many disputes between Isle of Wight and Nansemond Counties over their boundary lines.  In 1674 as act was passed by the House of Burgesses providing “Never-the-less, that the house and cleared grounds of Captain Thomas Godwin, who hath been an ancient inhabitant of Nanzemond Countie court, bee, remain counted, and deemed in the County of Nanzemond, anything in this act to the contrary notwithstanding…”  The home of Thomas Godwin I was at Wills Corner on the boundary line of Nansemond and Isle of Wight Counties.  His home was known as “Castle” and later as “Oldcastle”.  It is thought that his son Thomas II may have built the large house about 1710 and it stood until the early part of this century. (1)  “Apparently, the Godwins lived on both sides of the road between Wills Corner and Chuckatuck.  The farms known in the 20th century as the Percy Pitt place and the Mt. Ararat farm are on the west side of the road and there are several tracts on the east side of the road once owned by some of the Godwin family.” (2)   Thomas Godwin, II, son of Thomas I, married Martha Pitt Bridger who was the daughter of Joseph Bridger and Hester Pitt Bridger who lived on Brewer’s Creek, several miles from the Godwin home at Wills Corner.  Joseph Bridger and Hester Pitt Bridger’s father, Colonel Robert Pitt, were both Jamestown settlers. Thomas Godwin I and Joseph and Hester Pitt Bridger were the 7th great grandparents of Mills E. Godwin, Jr. and Lynn Kirk Rose and the 8th great grandparents of Leroy Pope, III.

1 & 2 – “Notes on the Mills Godwin Family of Isle of Wight County and Nansemond County, Virginia”  Mills E. Godwin, Jr. 1979, pp 5-7

There are two different thoughts on the location of Thomas Godwin’s house.  One thought is that it was located where Ann Gilliam Lovell now lives on Oliver Drive near the intersection with Route 10 in Isle of Wight County.  The other thought is that it was located on the rise of land east of Route 10 prior to crossing into Isle of Wight County from Nansemond County. The latter location was said to be the home of Lily Wills.  Because of the numerous Godwin homes in the area it is impossible to know the true location.

Another plantation in the area, “Poplar Bridge” was the home of Thomas Godwin, III.  This land was on the west side of Cherry Grove Road and stretched from the Smithfield road to area near “Cotton Plains”.  This land was passed down through Thomas III’s son, Jeremiah, to a succession of John Godwins. There were several grave stones on the property until recent years when the graves were moved to another family plot.

The following information is from Ann Lovell, a long time resident of Wills’ Corner.

 “In 1642 Isle of Wight County was divided into two parishes, called Upper and Lower parishes.  The Pagan River was the general dividing line.  Inhabitants of Ragged Island and Terrascoe Neck won their petition to be changed from Nansemond to Isle of Wight County in 1656.  In 1674 the House of Burgesses passed an act settling the old boundary dispute between Nansemond and Isle of Wight.  An interesting stipulation in the act was that “…the house and cleared grounds of Captain Thomas Godwin, who has been an ancient inhabitant of Nansemond County be deemed in the county of Nansemond, anything in this act to the contrary not withstanding.”

Mills E. Godwin, Jr. a descendant of this Captain Godwin wrote:  “The home of Thomas Godwin I was at Wills Corner, about one mile north of Chuckatuck on the boundary line of Nansemond and Isle of Wight counties.  It was known as “Castle” and later as “Oldcastle”. (1)

At one time it is also reported that there was a Christian Church located near here called Wills Chapel. (2)  Former members of Mill Swamp and Smithfield Baptist churches founded Whiteheads Grove Baptist Church in old Wills Chapel, a former Christian church.   The congregation moved to a new building on Joel Brock’s farm near Longview in 1844.  Under the leadership of the Reverend J. F. Deans of Smithfield Baptist, it moved to a new building at the present site in 1877.  The name was changed to honor John Whitehead, who had given the land. (3)

My dad, Barbee Gilliam, bought the store at Wills’ Corner in 1950 from the widow of a brother of Herbert Hall.  I remember going to the store with my dad right after he bought it and before he had opened it himself.  There was a pot bellied stove in the store and since I had put my hand in the snow before going in I put my hand on the stove to dry my glove and learned that you should never touch a pot bellied stove.

At the time he bought the store the woods came right up to the back door.  He was also able to buy some of the Wills’ property right behind the store and bulldozed the woods behind the store.  He then added a section larger than the original building.  Originally there were stairs going up to the apartment over the store from inside the store and a 2 room apartment over the store.  There was a large porch across the whole front.  He enclosed the porch, added two large bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs.  The porch became our living room.  The old sitting room where the steps were became our kitchen.  The store itself doubled in size.  He sold everything, clothes, sewing supplies, medicine, wine, beer, groceries, that wonderful cheese that came in the round wooden boxes, ham, side meat, salt fish and just about anything you could think of.

We lived in the apartment over the store and I learned to skate skating around the counters in the store when we weren’t busy.  It was the only pavement around.  At night the regulars would play checkers on a wooden checkerboard setting on a wooden nail keg in the back section of the store.

On Sundays everyone brought something to put in the Sunday Stew.  In the store, crops were planted and harvested, football and baseball games were bet on and discussed, jokes between this store and Gwaltney’s in Chuckatuck were played by the regulars, and something was going on all the time.  My dad kept a gun under the counter and never hesitated to pick up any troublemaker and throw them out of the store.  One time someone came in and tried to rob him, he picked up a cabbage and used his best baseball pitch to hit the would be robber in the head with a cabbage.  It was the closest thing around.

In time he was able to purchase all four corners.  Cherry Grove Road decided to square up their corner and went through the middle of the lot across route 10 from the store.  There was a house on that corner just about where the road is now that was torn down.  There was a building on the left corner of Oliver Drive that was torn down.  I used it for a barn and had 4 stables in it.  There was an old storehouse at the Nansemond County end of that lot.  It was used as a dwelling when my dad bought the store but was formally a store.  The story was that boys would stand in front of it and open the gate between the two counties since one had a fence law and the other didn’t.

Author’s Note: According to Mrs. Shirley Horne Wilson the store that Ray Gilliam ran before the depression was on the same corner as the store described above.  We now know that when the line was redrawn there was a gate between the two counties which is referenced by Ann Lovell in her notes.

Longview

Historical Notes on Isle of Wight County reports that there was a 2 room 2 teacher school located in Longview as early as 1908 and a 1 room 1 teacher school as early as 1900.

Longview is the area surrounding Longview Drive and Oliver Drive.  It was called by this name before 1887, when a post office was opened there.  John R. Brock built the large white house still standing at this intersection.  It is said that Mr. Brock expected a railroad to come through the area and his house would be a stop.  The post office was closed in 1909 and the mail for the residents of the neighborhood was handled in Smithfield. (4)  John R. Brock is listed as the first postmaster of the Longview Post Office from 1887-1909 (5).  I can remember going with my parents as a child to vote in the old building.  It was being used as a store at that time but you could still see evidence that it had been a post office.

  1. Historical Notes on Isle of Wight County by Helen Haverty King pg. 7
  2. Historical Notes on Isle of Wight County by Helen Haverty King pg. 464
  3. Historical Notes on Isle of Wight County by Helen Haverty pg. 316
  4. Historical Notes on Isle of Wight County by Helen Haverty pg. 448
  5. Historical Notes on Isle of Wight County by Helen Haverty pg. 335

 

We believe that the following information from Mrs. Shirley Wilson is a great overview of Longview and as a long time resident she is the expert.  We have taken most of her comments and reprinted them here with minor changes.

Mrs. Wilson was born on January 7, 1927  in the house where she now lives.  Her brother, J.W. Horne, Jr., was born February 7, 1920 on the Joel Whitley farm, later the Lowe farm on Longview Drive.  Her sister, Page, was born February 11, 1937 in the same home as Shirley.  Shirley attended Chuckatuck School through the fifth grade.  At the age of 8 or 9 she was given a Brownie camera for Christmas and took many pictures at school in Chuckatuck some of which the GCHF has on file.  She transferred to Smithfield when bus service was offered.  She would have had to pay $600 to remain in Nansemond County Schools.  Shirley bought her family’s home place on Longview Drive in approximately 1988 and returned there in the late 1900s when her husband Paul retired.

Her mother was Eva Doris Purdie, daughter of Thomas King Purdie and Mary (“Plummie”) James Shepherd.  The Shepherd farm where they lived was located on the northern end of Lankford Road at “Possum Neck”.  (Supposedly the river in that location looked like a possum head, thus the name.)  The Purdie family owned a large area of land between Smithfield and Carrollton.  Mary James Shepherd’s mother was a Green.

Mr. Charlie Lawrence and his wife “Miss Cherry” owned the farm at Longview that J. Waverly Horne bought in 1922 for $7,000.  Mr. Horne and his wife Doris moved there from her Grandmother Shepherd’s home place on “Possum Neck”. The Lawrence place had originally been part of the Brock property.  When Mr. Horne bought the property the former Brock house which was built about 1840 had a living room and bedroom on the first floor and two rooms upstairs.  A kitchen and dining room were separated from the bedrooms and living room by a colonnade and porch.  Mr. Horne remodeled the house in 1937.  After Mr. and Mrs. Horne purchased the property they operated a store which Mr. Lawrence ran in the corner of the house lot.  The building at the intersection of Oliver Drive and Longview Drive was once a post office.  When the Horne store closed in 1937 the remaining stock was moved into the old post office building and Oliver’s Store was opened.  When Mrs. Horne was running the store near their home she would sometimes ask Mr. Jeremiah Oliver, elderly at the time, to take Shirley to Chuckatuck in his car for May Day practices.  He would also take the children to get ice cream at Quincy Gilliam’s store near Benn’s Church.

In the early 1930’s Mr. Horne ran a saw mill owned by T.D. Mathews when Mr. Mathews was no longer able to run it.  The saw mill was located on the Everets’ Bridge Road, now known as Longview Drive, near the path to M.D. Spivey’s home.  Mr. Horne bought the saw mill, moved it to Longview and set up his business there.  The mill was located on the opposite side and towards Route 10 from the Horne home.  There are three houses on the property now.  The mill burned in 1941.  Shirley remembered going with her father to collect some of the money that was “on the books” to have enough resources to rebuild.  Shirley managed the saw mill for a while when her dad suffered a heart attack.  Then her brother, J.W., was brought home from military service in the Pacific to run the mill.  The mill was in operation until _____.  A fire was discovered by soldiers who manned the outpost station across from the mill.  United States Army soldiers were there to identify planes that flew over.  The U S Army paid Doris Horne for feeding the soldiers, usually three or four, who were stationed there.  Jim Britt, from Dade City, Florida, was one of these soldiers.  Shirley remembers Jim and others working on the Allie Horne farm, further aiding the nation during the war.  Jim Britt later bought the Rob Hodsden place near Wills’ Corner.  He and his wife Charlotte lived there following the war.

Beyond the Horne saw mill towards Route 10 was land owned by Jim and Julia Channel Pitt.  Their daughter, Marie, married Paul Davis, and is remembered by many for when she assisted in the lunchroom at Chuckatuck School.  Ralph and Marilyn Oliver have renovated the old Pitt home and live there now.  The next farm was the Whitehead farm purchased by Jack and Elizabeth Whitehead from Joel Brock.  It was later purchased by the Hall family and is now owned by their descendants, the Duffs.

The Brock family owned much of the land from Route 10 along Oliver Drive and on Longview Drive to Christian Home Church.  The Brocks came from the Mill Swamp area.  The Jesse Oliver home at Longview was built by the Joel Brock family about 1900.  Mr. Joel Brock had at least three children: Alec, Clinton and Mamie. Alec was father of Lynette and Clyde, a half brother to Lynette, a teacher at Chuckatuck.  Alec was given the farm where Lynette later lived.  Alec’s second marriage was to a Griffin.  Mamie Brock received the area where Shirley Wilson now lives.  Clinton Brock was given what was later the Oliver farm at Longview which he owned during the early depression.  He became deeply in debt and lost the farm to the Royster Guano Company which rented the farm land to tenant farmers, the last of whom were the Jeremiah Oliver family. Mr. Clydefelter was the Royster Fertilizer representative.  Jesse, Junie, Johnnie, Thomas, Allie, Ralph, Rae Parker, Bennie, Frank, Emma Mae, Ethel, and Lottie were the twelve Oliver children.  When Mr. Oliver died Jesse, Ralph, Rae Parker and other children were still at home.  Jesse took Mr. Horne’s advice and the boys kept running the farm.  Jesse worked another job, but Mr. Horne encouraged him to buy the farm.  He bought the farm in approx. 1937.  Jesse married Ruby.  Rae Parker, Ralph and Jesse ran the farm and Bennie ran the store.  Junie and Johnnie worked at Mr. Horne’s saw mill.  He drove the lumber delivery truck.  One of the Oliver girls, Ethel, married Jasper Sizemore, a soldier at the outpost, and lives in North Carolina.

The first Baptist church in the area was the Bethesda Church.  It was once located at Vellines Store and moved to the Brock property on the Longview side of the Lowe family property.  Then the church moved to Route 10 in 1877 on property donated by Mr. Whitehead.  Mr. Whitehead had originally bought the property from the Brock family.  Church was very important to Shirley.  She especially remembered the Christmas pageants and “Sunbeam Sunday” when the children were called on to recite, perform or sing along.

Ash Grove was the name of the black church in Longview.  Christian Home Baptist Church was the other black church nearby.

Clyde and Stella Appenseler Brock inherited the Brock farm near Christian Home Church and sold it when they moved to Portsmouth to live with her mother.  Their son was Clyde who married Jimmie Cutchin and lived on Meadow Lot Lane in Chuckatuck.  Their daughter is Brenda Brock Flores.

The following comes from an interview with Floris Brown.  She is 90 years old, has lived in the area for some 58 years having grown up on a small farm in the Longview area.  Her father and mother had twelve children that all worked on the farm.  The farm is what sustained them during the depression. She remembers as a child going to the ice plant to get a block of ice from which her mother would chip off a bit each night for dinner.  Floris married Horace Brown and had four children.  Her husband worked for Lone Star for 33 years on the drag line. Floris worked for Dr. Thomas when he first came to Chuckatuck and she purchased clothes for her children at the Pitt store.  She has been a dedicated member of the Little Bethel Baptist Church since 1941 and enjoys encouraging young people with good advice.

Submit Updated Content