LOCAL SUFFOLK HISTORY

WHAT'S IN A NAME? | CONSTANT'S WHARF IN SUFFOLK

By Sarah Hutchins, The Virginian Pilot © January 23, 2012

 

Stand on the banks of the Nansemond River near Constant's Wharf Park and Marina and - if the tide is right - pieces of the area's history will emerge.

On either side of the Main Street bridge, historian Sue Woodward said, passers-by can spot pilings from what's left of Suffolk's first and most important trading post - Constant's warehouse and wharf.

John Constant, rumored to be the area's first English settler, created the wharf sometime in the 1720s after he settled in the area with his family, Woodward said.

Little is known about Constant, Woodward said, but without him the city might have ceased to exist. Before Suffolk adopted its current moniker in 1742, the settlement was called Constant's Wharf or Constant's Warehouse, she said.

"The extensive commercial business brought to the area and to the Constant family logically led to the county's petition of the colonial legislature in Williamsburg to establish a town there," authors Kermit Hobbs and William Paquette wrote in their book "Suffolk: A Pictorial History."

Constant created his wharf at a time when southern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina were struggling to get to a reliable port, Woodward said.

The wharf became an important hub for trading products like tobacco, corn, gin, wine and lumber, according to Hobbs and Paquette's book. The water traffic even led to a modest shipbuilding industry, they wrote.

In the early 19th century, Suffolk was also the second most popular port for shipments of Philadelphia furniture, Woodward said.

Wooden shingles, transported from the Great Dismal Swamp to the wharf via the aptly named Shingle Creek, were another popular commodity to leave Suffolk, she said. In 1815, about 3,600 shingles were picked up from the docks.

Long after Constant's family left the area - probably to North Carolina, Woodward said - locals have sought ways to recognize his influence.

Today, Constant's Wharf Park and Marina is a popular site to spread out a blanket and take in a concert.

Unfortunately, Woodward said, another tribute went awry.

In the 1950s, officials tried to solve growing traffic problems by building a major artery through town, she said. The street would be named after Constant. Constance - not Constant's - Road was created. The typo was too troublesome and costly to fix, Woodward said, so the blunder became a permanent city fixture.

"It's misspelled for all of eternity now," she said.

 

Squadron History

Our Charter

The Nansemond River Power Squadron was chartered on September 13, 1964. It was an offshoot of the Elizabeth River Power Squadron. None of our charter members are currently members. We believe all charter members have crossed over the bar. The base of operations is in Suffolk, Virginia.

 

   

History of the

Nansemond River Lighthouse

(1878 - 1935)

Nansemond River Lighthouse

Photo Courtesty of the U. S. Coast Guard

      The Nansemond River Lighthouse was once located near Pig Point on the eastern side of the entrance to the Nansemond River in Suffolk, Virginia (at Tidewater Community College - Portsmouth Campus). It was located offshore halfway between the visible green marker #5 and the row of stakes that can be seen extending out into the harbor.

      The white hexagonal woodpile cottage-style lighthouse was built there in 1878. The cottage was assembled at the Lazaretto Depot in Maryland. Some parts of the lighthouse came from the former Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse in North Carolina. It featured a fixed white light and a fog bell. The lighthouse was 36 feet high and had a visible range of about 6 or 7 nautical miles. It was originally outfitted with the smallest sixth-order Fresnel (pronounced Fray-nell) lens, typical for a harbor. In 1899, the lighthouse was upgraded with a larger and brighter fifth-order Fresnel lens.

      The lighthouse was dismantled to the foundation and deactivated in 1935. It was replaced with an automated light on a steel skeleton tower erected on the original foundation. There are no remains of it today.

      One of the lighthouse keepers was Mrs. Ella Edwards. She served as the "Nansemond Light" keeper from 1903 to 1906. Lighthouse keeper positions were one of the first non-clerical U.S. government jobs that were open to women. Typically those appointed as keepers were actually the spouse of the assistant or head keeper. They assumed these professional duties to assist their spouse or took over when their husbands became ill or died. Nevertheless, many of these intrepid widows, and women appointed in their own right, served their country for many years with distinction in a time when employment for women was extremely limited. They were true trailblazers.

      In honor of all of the "Nansemond Light" keepers for the services they provided over the years that the lighthouse operated, we named our squadron newsletter "The Nansemond Light Newsletter".

About Our Burgee

      The NRPS burgee depicts a field of blue closely representing the winding Nansemond River and green representing land. The large portion of the blue field represents the mouth of the Nansemond River. In this portion of the pendant is a representation of the Nansemond Light as it was after 1935 with an automated light on a steel skeleton tower erected on the original Nansemond River Lighthouse foundation.  The Golden border represents 50 years of service. We added the saying "Safe Boating since 1964" on the river in honor of our 50th anniversary.

Squadron Members - Rest in Peace

Crossing The Bar

Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Joseph Raymond Bishop (charter)

JOSEPH RAYMOND BISHOP, 96, died 30 August 2011 in a local hospital. A native of Preston County, West Virginia, Joe was predeceased by his first wife Marie Clawges Bishop; three borthers, James richard Bishop, Bernard Bishop and Harold V. Bishop; a grandson, richard Scott Spivey; and his second wife, Audrey Morgan.

Joe retired after a long career at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. He was a devoted member of Ebenezer United Methodist church and was active in many organizations, including the Nansemond Masonic Lodge No. 77 (Chuchatuck No. 77, 50-year member), the Nansemond River Power Squadron, the chuckatuck Ruritan Club and the Gideons International.

Survivors include a son, richard Bishop; a daughter, Betty Jo Spivey; a grandson, J. Paul Spivey and wife Amber; two grandchildren, Rissa and Emma; a sister, Jean Cowell and husband todd; two brothers, Robert E. Bishop and wife Betty and Roger Bishop and wirfe Almuth; and three stepchildren, Jim Morgan and wife Debbie, Lin Legum and husband Stand and Pam Oast and husband Bill and their families.

The family thanks the fine staff at Magnolia Manor in Smithfield for their special care of Joe during his stay there. A memorial service will be help at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, at Ebenezer United Methodist Church, Crittenden.

Paul Kirk Brady, Sr (charter)

BRADY, Paul Kirk Sr., 96, passed away June 2, 2011. He was preceded in death by his wife, Elizabeth Griggs Brady; and his parents, Jack and Bessie Brady. Mr. Brady was a WW II Army veteran where he served throughout Europe, including in the Battle of the Bulge.

He was the owner of Radio Service Co. until he retired. He also built and owned Brady's Marina. In 1959, he was one of four Suffolk men who salvaged the African Queen. He is survived by his son, Paul Kirk Brady Jr. and wife, Patricia C., of Richmond; his daughter, Maribeth B. Zedd and husband, Larry, of Virginia Beach; and his grandchildren, Lauren Carroll, Kathryn Brady, Brady Zedd and Zachary Zedd. A graveside service, with military honors, will be conducted Wednesday, June 8, 2011, at 11 a.m., by the Rev. Les Ferguson at St. John's Episcopal Church Cemetery, 828 Kings Highway, Suffolk, Va. 23432. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to St. John's Episcopal Church, at the above address. R.W. Baker & Co. Funeral Home and Crematory is serving the family.

George A. Morrison

GEORGE ARTHUR MORRISON, 73, died February 1, 2009 at Sentara Obici Hospital. Born January 23, 1936, in Southern Pines, N.C., he was the son of the late Hazel Blanche O'Dell and Robert Charles Morrison. George was a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from the School of Pharmacy and lived in Tidewater for 46 years.

He was active in the Suffolk Presbyterian Church and the Isaac Walton League. He had a lifelong commitment to the Boy Scouts where he served on the board of Old Dominion Area Council. He was also Past Commander of Nansemond River Power Squadron, Past Commander of Great Bridge Cruise Club and Past Commander of Hampton Roads Yacht Club.

He is survived by his wife, Maxann Kerr Morrison; brother, James Robert and Marion C. Morrison of Raleigh, N.C.; daughters Teresa and Daniel Underwood of Gainesville, GA., and Lisa Kerr Morrison and fiancé William H. Drayton of Suffolk; sons, Charles Thomas Morrison of Suffolk, Randall Lee Morrison and Nancy Bird of Zuni and Charles Stephen Connolly and wife Mary of Greensboro, N.C.; grandchildren, who knew him a "Pepaw," Aimee Kerr Underwood, Daniel Heath and Jessica Underwood, Katelynn Lail Morrison, Kelley America Connelly, Charlotte Anne Hermann, Gwendolyn Alana Goforth, Jennifer Alaina Goforth, Richard Alan Goforth and five great-grandchildren. George cherished his family and the family outings, boating, nature, Carolina sports, reading and was proud of his Scottish heritage.

A memorial service service will be conducted Wednesday at 2 p.m. in the Suffolk Presbyterian Church, led by Rev. Rebecca Lesley.

Robert Reddick Allen, II (charter)

Robert R. Allen II, 84, of Manteo, NC, died Thursday, May 8, 2008 at home with his family. He was born in Suffolk, VA, is survived by Martha Edwards Allen, his wife of sixty years.  Mr. Allen graduated from Augusta Military Academy and attended the University of Virginia after being honorably discharged from the service.  He served in the 9th Armored Division of the 89th Mechanized Calvary Reconnaissance during WWII.  He was a charter member of the Nansemond River Power Squadron.  Mr. Allen was owner and operator of R.R. Allen & Son in Suffolk until he moved to the Outer Banks in 1972.

 

'

Fair Winds and Following Seas'