Book makes drive in Currituck a history lesson
By Cindy Beamon
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
I have only started to read "The Goodliest & Most Pleasing Territory," and already I am finding a new appreciation for my home county of 30-plus years.
I have driven by many of the sites listed in the survey of historic buildings for Currituck County without knowing their significance. Now I have a chance to become acquainted with them on a deeper level.
The newly released book was the culmination of work over 10 years by local and state historians and supporters who wanted to preserve Currituck's history before it is too late.
The work actually began before then. Sixty five years ago, The Currituck Historical Society photographed buildings that were 100 years old and older as a way of keeping record of the Currituck County's long history.
Today, only about a third of those 130 buildings still stand. Many burned down, some were victims of decay, still others were torn down to make way for new construction. Since the 1970s, local and state historians have taken steps to have some of those buildings placed in the National Register of Historic Places.
"The Goodliest & Most Pleasing Territory" is another step in preserving the past. Copies arrived this month after "every inch of the county was visited and every road traveled" and an architectural historian filed an inventory of historic buildings with the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office.
When local historian Barbara Snowden delivered the book, I could not resist flipping to the middle to see what places were familiar -- or unfamiliar. Whalehead, the historic Currituck County Courthouse and the Currituck Beach Lighthouse were instantly recognizable icons. The Twin Houses in Shawboro, the Walker-Snowden Store in Currituck, Knotts Island United Methodist Church, and J.W. Poyner House in Moyock were also familiar to me from travels through the county.
Here's some excerpts from the book that I found intriguing:
from the Introduction
"The interplay between water and land in Currituck is key to understanding the history and evolution of the county. Although one of the oldest counties in the state of North Carolina, the county has also been one of the most overlooked. Piecing together the history of the county is difficult; many of the records pertaining to the early history of Currituck have been lost or destroyed. As a consequence, much of the county's past survives as oral history, written accounts tend to be either personal reminiscences or a recounting of events that have been passed orally through the different generations of a family.”
Description of North Carolina in 1712:
Of all the thirteen counties, North Carolina was the least commercial, the most provincial, the fartherest removed from European influences, and its wild forest life the most unrestrained.
How familiar places got their names:
"During the first two decades of the eighteenth century a number of settlers took up residence in the county in areas that now bear their family name."
"Benjamin Tull, the descendant of French Huguenots, served as a vestryman for "Carahtuck" parish." Tulls Creek, along the eastern edge of the county bordering Currituck sound, was named for Tulls family.
William Bell, whose family settled on Bell's Island, was a prosperous merchant who became treasurer of Currituck in 1712.
History of Currituck Sound
"Currituck Sound spans 20 miles from north to south and extends three to eight miles wide."
"In its beginnings, Currituck Sound was a saltwater body; a series of inlets connected the sound to the ocean. But since the early settlement of the county, six inlets have opened and closed on Currituck Sound. "
Caffey's Inlet, opened between 1790 and 1798 near the Currituck-Dare County line and closed during the early 19th century. "Caffey's Inlet is especially significant for two reasons: with it's closing, Currituck became landlocked, and the sound's waters freshened, turning from salt to brackish."
“The Goodliest & Most Pleasing Territory,” an architectural survey that includes pictures and a history of the county, is now available at Currituck Library in Moyock, and Barco, the Chamber of Commerce in Moyock, at W.H. Snowden Store, Cost is $60. Call 619 6991 to get a copy from a member of the Currituck Historical Society.
Cindy Beamon is editor of the Albemarle Life section of The Daily Advance.