The Stories of the Churches on Knotts Island

These interviews are from "The Islanders", a publication produced by the Knotts Island Junior Historians at the Elementary School under the guidance of Faye Freeman. The interviews are from Volume 1 of 1987:

Alyda Beasley

Bessie Cason

Ada Waterfield

Nina White

And these are personal accounts and recollections of church history by other islanders, collected by Gary Montalbine during the creation of the original KI Scrapbook:

Jane Brumley

Jimmy Waterfield

According to the Islanders

Alyda Beasley Interviewed by Faye Freeman. Story written by Jennifer Devlin. Mrs. Alyda Beasley, who died in 1984 at the age of 74, revealed in a 1983 interview what she remembered about the Children's Day and the circuit rider at Knotts Island Methodist Church.

"Lynn Smith and Minnie, you know Minnie White, they got up Children's Day. It took three weeks to get it out, but we had the prettiest programs. They played music, cause music came with that book. That book was only Children's Day. Every little girl got a new white dress for Children's Day. It was held once a year, sometimes in the spring because everybody turned up for Children's Day. Children's Day lasted from early in the morning till--I don't know how long. Each child had a speech to memorize and say. It had to do with religion. Children's Day was a horse and buggy day. There were times when Knotts Island had to share their circuit minister with churches in Virginia. He had to drive a horse and buggy across the marsh road and "that was bumpy as can be and it was crooked". On Sundays that the circuit preacher wasn't there, they just had Sunday School."

Bessie Cason Interviewed by Sherry Cason. Story written by Sherry Cason. Mrs. Bessie Cason, 77, recalled what the churches used to be like on Knotts Island.

"I was just a small child when I started going to the Baptist Church. My parents carried me and then when I got up a little older my brother and all used to walk me to church. But I've been going all my life. It was a lot of people at the church that went there. Almost everybody on this Island went to church. It ain't like it is now; they got somewhere else to go. Half would go to the Methodist Church and half would go to the Baptist Church. At a time there, we went to both churches. We went to the Baptist Church in the morning and the Methodist in the evening."

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Ada Waterfield Interviewed by Brenda Emmons. Story written by Jodi Brown & Becky Sawyer. There are two churches on Knotts Island.

"The Knotts Island Methodist Church was built in 1811. The Knotts Island Baptist Church was built in 1878. Both of the churches remain active today, although there have been many changes. The most noticeable change is in the structures themselves. The original, simple A-frame building is gone. The Methodist Church, rebuilt in 1911 is a white wooden structure with stained-glass windows. The cinder-block educational building was added in the 1950's. The original Baptist Church had to be demolished in the 1980's. In its place a new modern brick church with stained-glass windows was built. Mrs. Ada Waterfield, 93, told the Junior Historians what she remembered about the Methodist Church. It was an old church, something like the Baptist Church, only it was wider. It had two doors in the front facing the road. The men went in one door, and women in the other door. They both didn't go in the same door. The evening services started at 2:00 p.m., and it ended about an hour and a half or two hours later. The Sunday School rooms were built in the l950's. Before that time the Sunday School classes met in the sanctuary. Mrs. Ada Waterfield told about her class. Each teacher had a, one seat ya might say, and if it was a large class; the one that I was in was in the back of the church and had those seats that are up there, but I didn't stay there long. They had preaching in the morning and Sunday School in the afternoon and there was a whole session of Sunday School singing, unlike today."

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Nina White  Interviewed by Faye Freeman. Story written by Jennifer Devlin, Miss Nina White, who died in 1984 at the age of 85, revealed in a 1983 interview what she remembered about Sunday School and church services at Knotts Island Methodist Church.

"Before the Educational Building was added to the church, all Sunday School classes met in the sanctuary. Sunday School you know, they'd (each class) have two or three seats. You'd sit here in the back. Them seats, the real long ones in the back, was Aunt Mandila's class, they always called it that, and it was in between the women and men (classes). We never had Sunday School in the morning until Hal Williams was superintendent. He said we were going to have preaching and Sunday School in the morning and the Baptists can go to their church or come to ours."

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Jane Brumley  Commenting on May 14, 2011 about the once third church and its role in forming the current churches.

"Well, I guess there was an "off shoot" of some Methodist who were not too happy. It is reported in Ansell's writings. What I find most interesting is the mention of a "Chapel" which I have determined was at the South End of KI. (Information gathered in Will of Currituck Co. pertaining to KI.). Izola Bonney who just had her 90th birthday said she always heard about a Church at the South End that was of a very early time. This is prior to the Revolutionary War. Since I have been researching early inhabitants of KI and lower PA county (early Lower Norfolk Co) I find this most interesting. I do remember my grandmother (Mary Pat Bowden Miller) talking about a "Church" that folks attended that they took their own chairs when they went to services. It was known as the Church of Christ. I think after the Revolutionary War and with the Methodist movement folks found the "freedom of worship" quite liberating. And then there was the Baptist influence. My great grandmother, Sally Ann Ansell Bowden, was a founding member of Knotts Island Baptist Church. This was established from Oak Grove Baptist Church which is one of the oldest in Princess Anne County.  Knotts Island Baptist Church was established in June 1875. I do remember my grandmother (Pat Bowden Miller) saying the "Reformed Church" was south of where we lived (near the current Methodist Church) and near the "Fentress Property". ? Did they later become Baptist? Not sure?? I do know that folks in North Carolina were advocates of religious freedom and that is why they were not so inclined to join the "Church of England". Of course, the Revolutionary War change all that with freedom of worship of one's choice."

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Jimmy Waterfield  Commenting on August 30, 2010 about lightning and the Baptist Church and on June 6, 2011 about the once third church on the island. 

"I am going to share a little story told to me by both of my grandmothers who happened to be present. Around 1900, the island experienced a serious drought. Gardens and fields were burning up. At this time, Sunday was a social occasion with maybe some worship. People attended the Methodist Church in the morning. At noon, they all ate a shared lunch,and gossiped, talked etc. At 2 (pm), They all walked to the Baptist Church to suffer through another sermon. To set the stage, it had not rained in several months. They were desperate. The sermon was given by a fire-eating visiting preacher from Gibbs Woods. The preacher was working the congregation into a frenzy at which point they engaged in a loud verbal prayer session. Suddenly, they hear faint thunder. It continued into a huge thunderstorm with violent lightening. All of a sudden, fire moved all over the church. Lightning had struck the church. My grandmothers claimed that people were jumping from windows in a driving rain. Pandemonium had taken over. Nobody was hurt but, 2 horses tied to a rail attached to the church were stone dead. My grandmother Annie Spratt(1876-1967) made the following statement about her fellow islanders. "that's one day I saw them move!"

"We are leaving out a third church. It was a Church of Christ which maintained the old cemetery by Arnold Cason near the old fire station. A group pulled out of the Methodist church in the 1860s and formed a church that took the bible literally. They were bible thumpers that rolled around in the aisles speaking in tongues. My great uncle Calvin Cone Waterfield said it was a 3 ring circus. He couldn't sit through a service without laughing. It posed a threat to the methodist church and got quite big with Samuel Devaney Waterfield as minister. Uncle Calvin said Devaney was his father's cousin. Devaney was also in charge of maintaining the roads with mandatory labor. The church's abandoned cemetery is still there. Dissension among the holy rollers and dissension in the methodist church led to the forming of the Baptist church in 1876. They were originally fire eating staunch Baptist. I was told about this church by both my grandmas and other great aunts and uncles."

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