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.
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.
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!