Pains in the Neck

After you’ve been in Virginia Beach a while, you notice “necks” everywhere.  Dam Neck.  Great Neck.  West Neck.  What is a neck?  Why is it on every other street sign in the city?

“Neck” is an old expression for peninsula, or a narrow piece of land or sea.  It must have been a common English expression in the 17th century, because Neck appears all over the map of Virginia Beach, from street names to creeks to wide geographical regions.  With no trouble, I stuck a dozen pins in this map.

Most of the Necks are self-explanatory.  Gigantic peninsula in the northern half of the city?  Great Neck.  Slightly smaller peninsula nearby?  Little Neck.  Peninsula once full of birds?  Bird Neck.

The other Necks are more problematic.

Dam Neck

The Virginian-Pilot did a little digging a few years ago about Dam Neck, finding that

Deeds for the plantation of Thomas Brinson, an original Dam Neck inhabitant who lived there until 1675, said the property was “lying and being in dam nick,” and that it was bordered by beaver dams and a swamp.

So it’s “Dam Neck” because of some beavers.  Gotcha.

Or not.

Anne Henry of the Virginia Beach Historical Society goes by a different theory.

She believes that the area got its name from the windmills that stood in Dam Neck for more than a century and were used to grind up grain and wheat.

In some areas, the mills were powered not by wind but by water – more specifically, the ocean tides, captured by a dam, Henry said. Henry’s family had property near Great Neck and Mill Dam Roads, where just such a tidal mill existed.

Ok then.  Seems plausible.  What about the other Necks?

Charity Neck – I dunno man.  I’m still working on it.

Morris Neck – I dunno man.  I’m still working on it.

West Neck – I dunno man.  I’m still working on it.

Buzzard Neck – I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that birds were involved.

Did I miss a Neck?  Do you know about the other Necks?  Tell me!

Princess Anne, Part 1

Princess Anne Road in Virginia Beach, near Nimmo Church

Lots of landmarks and businesses in Virginia Beach are named for Princess Anne, so I thought it was fitting to include a brief bio of our patron Princess.1

Anne wasn’t born a princess.  She was never supposed to be Queen of England.  She liked drinking.  She liked music.  She was fat.  And she was the first Queen of a united Great Britain.

A Funny Looking Kid

Anne was born in 1665.  Her parents were James, the arrogant, irritating younger brother of King Charles II, and Anne Hyde, the daughter of an earl.

Anne was a fugly kid.  She was born with some kind of eye disorder that meant she always looked like she was crying.2  Her family sent her to see an eye doctor in France when she was 4, but nothing worked.  Her eyes continued to water for the rest of her life.  She had a bright red face that got redder when she was excited or embarrassed.  Her parents weren’t around much, consigning her and her sister to be raised by governesses.  When she was 6, her mother died.  When she was 12, she caught smallpox, and carried its scars for the rest of her days.

It wasn’t the best start in life.

Nonetheless, while Anne was still young, her uncle the King came to the realization that he wouldn’t have any legitimate children of his own.3  That meant the succession would fall to her father James, and possibly Anne herself.  Charles had sworn himself to the Anglican Church; James had very publicly converted to Catholicism with a wink and a pinky swear to not let his conversion affect his reign when he was King.

With her son in 1694.  There are dozens of images of Anne online at the UK National Portrait Gallery.

Hint: it did.

The English court in 1683 was a teeter-totter, swinging up and then swinging down in favor of Protestant this and Catholic that.  As palace intrigues swirled around her, Anne’s uncle arranged a Protestant marriage for her with a Danish Prince.  George was 12 years older and dull as paint.  But he was kind to Anne, notoriously easy-going, and supported her publicly in everything she did.  They were very happily married, except for one thing: children.

Poor Anne is famous among British queens for being pregnant 18 times.  Her gynecological history is heartbreaking:  out of 18 pregnancies, there were 8 miscarriages, 5 stillbirths, 2 dead within a week of birth, 2 dead of smallpox before age 2, and a single boy who died at age 11 in 1700.  Her son George’s death would have momentous consequences for the English crown.

Cut It Out, James

As Anne came of age and set up her own household with her new husband, the ever murky world of English politics was getting worse.  Most of this was because of her father James.

James was… special.  He was a loving but distant father.  He spent most of Anne’s early years wandering the Court of St James with his mistresses.  His favorite hobbies were whoring and annoying his brother with Catholic plots.

Have you ever been told not to do something?  After being forbidden, were you ever seized with the desire to do exactly the thing you were told not to?

A portrait of James from the Royal Collection. Am I the only one getting a “come hither” vibe?

Yeah.  James felt the same way.

Charles told James not to enact pro-Catholic policies in England.

Parliament told James not to enact pro-Catholic policies in England.

William of Orange told James not to enact pro-Catholic policies in England.

Anne told James not to enact pro-Catholic policies in England.

Charles kicked it in 1685.  James became King.  James enacted pro-Catholic policies in England.

Like a 17th century episode of Quantum Leap, James was determined to hop into the quantum accelerator and turn back the clock to 1530.  He was hell-bent on reversing the English Reformation.

After three years of this, Parliament had enough.  Parliament and James’ son-in-law William of Orange engineered a “Glorious Revolution” in 1688 to get rid of the English King.  James was kicked out, and his very Protestant daughter Mary and her Dutch husband were invited in.

I’ve put Glorious Revolution in quotes because a better description of 1688 is “carefully crafted invasion.”  Today, if I told you that the President of the United States was leaving and would soon be replaced by a Dutchman offshore firing Tomahawk missiles, you’d say a coup had taken place.Anyway…

Anne was now two heartbeats away from the throne.


1 Nerd Note: I was so excited to write about Princess Anne, that I created a JSTOR account. 😀

2 Emson, H. E. “For The Want Of An Heir: The Obstetrical History Of Queen Anne.” BMJ: British Medical Journal, vol. 304, no. 6838, 1992, pp. 1365–1366. JSTOR, JSTOR,

3 But he did have bastards.  So, so, so many bastards.

4 “The Glorious Revolution.”  British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley, series 1, episode 2, BBC Four, Jan 2017.  Youtube,



Why is it called Church Point?

Odd name for a neighborhood, don’t you think?

1879 survey of Lynnhaven Bay and Lynnhaven River
This 1879 map of the Lynnhaven River clearly shows two spots known as “Church Point.”

The area of the current Church Point neighborhood was known as “Church Point” long before houses were built there.

Church Point is so named because it was the original site of Old Donation Church.  Around 1639, Adam Thoroughgood donated approximately 200 acres for the church, and the land surrounding the church was deeded in perpetuity to its pastor so he could grow his own food.¹

At some point towards the end of the 17th century, the colonists tried to divert water from the Lynnhaven River.  In a very early audition for Kevin Costner’s Waterworld, the water got the best of them, and flooded their nice new church, which apparently stood in the middle of the water for a good long time before toppling over.  This 1930 road map says that the original church was still standing in the middle of the river until 1855.  The name “Church Point” survived the 17th century; the church did not.

The 200+ acres surrounding the church were eventually acquired by a Norfolk businessman named Charles F. Burroughs Sr in 1933.  He owned the Church Point land and neighboring Bayville Farm, which he turned into a dairy (to obtain his own milk and cheese, because he thought his children would catch tuberculosis from unsafe “city milk”).²


Milking time at the Bayville Dairy, 1940. Courtesy of the Norfolk Public Library.

During World War II, the Bayville Farms dairy at Church Point got a new kind of labor force.  The German POW kind.  Sent out from Camp Ashby in Thalia to the southeast, thousands of Nazi prisoners became free labor to the Hampton Roads war effort.  Some of them worked at the farms at Church Point.

After the war, Church Point stayed in family hands until 1992, when it was sold for residential development.  Nowadays, Church Point is home to 383 unique homes.  In homage to the memory of the original church and Adam Thoroughgood, “The streets were named from different parish churches in the Tidewater area and from crewmembers of the Adam Thoroughgood Grant.”

¹ I hope he liked fish.

² Considering the epidemic raging across America at the time, he may have had the right idea.

Beware the Sea Haggis

Deep in the bowels of the Library of Congress is a letter about the Sea Haggis and a voyage to the colony of Virginia in 1684.

It was written in 1688 to the members of the English Royal Society, who presumably had asked for a description of the writer’s travels in the New World.  Below, you will find the highlights of his trip.

John Clayton was a young man in 1684 when he made his way to Virginia.¹ He was a newly minted Anglican priest who liked to pickle birds.  During the long voyage to Virginia, he had his first encounter with jellyfish:

In the Sea I saw many little things which the Seamen call Carvels; they are like a Jelly, or Starch that is made with a cast of Blue in it; they Swim like a small Sheeps Bladder² above the Water, downwards there are long fibrous Strings, some whereof I have found near half a Yard long…

When we were one Day becalm’d, getting some to make Observations thereof, the sportful People rub’d it on one anothers Hands and Faces, and where it touch’d it would make it look very Red, and make it smart worse than a Nettle.³

Let’s rewind.  I’m imagining this scenario, which is more or less Sailor Boys Gone Wild, 1684 edition, wherein some mischievous sailor grabs a jellyfish and begins whipping the tentacles around like Indiana Jones’ whip. This explanation is frankly a lot more plausible than one man telling another “Hey, you know what would be fun?  Pressing this unknown monster’s appendages to our faces.  What could go wrong bro?”4

Clayton also describes a brush with disaster on the high seas, when, alone in the Atlantic, their ship the Judith began to take on water from an unknown leak.  After days of fruitless searching, the Captain turns to Clayton for help before the ship sinks.  Clayton’s solution is perfection: he fashions an ear trumpet, and together Clayton and Captain Trim wander the ship listening for clues, like a deaf, seafaring Holmes and Watson.  The leak is quickly found and patched, and the journey continues safely to Virginia.

Later, the sailors tell Clayton that they will smell the pine trees from Virginia long before they will see land.  Clayton is skeptical.  I don’t blame him.5

After arrival in Virginia, Clayton learns that the new colony is a deathtrap.  Everyone suffers from bloody diarrhea.  Poorly made chimneys explode.  They are terrorized by lightning, which is happening on a scale completely unknown to the English.  They are accustomed to lightning perhaps once a year in England.  In Virginia, it appears often, striking down colonists, animals, and homes.

Nonetheless, Clayton doesn’t seem too bothered by the high mortality – except when his neighbors confiscate and destroy his dead bird collection.  It seems his friends thought his own brush with illness would be fatal, and took the opportunity to clean out his house… which was full of smelly dead animal specimens.  He apologizes to the Royal Society profusely for not sending them better quality dead birds.

I Had indeed begun once whilst I was in that Country to have made a Collection of the Birds, but falling sick of the Griping of the Guts, some of them for want of care corrupted, which made them fling others away that I had thoroughly cured; for I was past taking care of them my self, there remaining but small hopes of my Life.6

Strangely, Clayton makes no mention of slavery, and only little mention of the natives.  He explains how they hunt deer (with elaborate crowns made of tree boughs), and describes an effective remedy for venomous snake bite (applying a tourniquet and cauterizing the bite), but his only discussion of friction with the colonists is an offhand comment about horses.  While discussing which animals are native or non-native to North America, he mentions that a few of the horses have wandered off and gone wild.  He worries that the Pamunkey have obtained some of these wild horses – weapons he perceives as more dangerous than guns.

The Indians have not yet learnt to ride, only the King of Pomonkie had got three or four Horses for his own Saddle and an Attendant, which I think should in no wise be indulged, for I look on the allowing them Horses much more dangerous than even Guns and Powder.

John Clayton returned home to England in 1686.  I presume with a very small bird collection.

Sources & Notes:

¹ Bond, Edward L. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. “John Clayton (1656 or 1657–1725).” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 20 Apr. 2016. Web. 18 Jan. 2018.

² Beware the sea haggis!!

³ A letter from Mr. John Clayton, rector of Crofton at Wakefield in Yorkshire, to the Royal Society, May 12, 1688. Giving an account of several observables in Virginia, and in his voyage thither, more particularly concerning the air.

4 Only this would be in 1686 English, which is probably more like “And thereupon, with Great Concentration, I did introduce the mighty carvel nettle to his face, and BOY DID THAT STING.”

5 If you saw a bunch of dummies whip each other with jellyfish stingers for the fun of it, you might be skeptical too.

6 I can see it now: “The preacher is sick.  This is our chance to get rid of all those seagull mummies.  DO IT NOW AGNES GO!”

Extra Note:  I know Clayton’s letters were about Jamestown and not Virginia Beach – however, the landscape and experience for the colonists in either place would have been substantially the same.  Besides, where else would I find a colonial story about floating sheep bladders and seagull mummies?