A Little History of Knotts Island

Table of Contents

Preface and Introduction

Chapter 1
Discovery, Exploration, and Settlement

Chapter 2
The Source of a Name

Chapter 3
The Great Dispute

Chapter 4
The History of Currituck Inlet

Chapter 5
Knotts Island Today


by Hal James Bonney, Jr.
University of Richmond, Virginia, 1951



Other than the natives, few readers will find even the slightest interest in this historical narrative of a tiny region bearing the possessive appellation Knotts Island. To the author and the inhabitants the very name is a spontaneous process that warms certain cells of the heart fondly, very rarely sorrowfully.

While the majority of Knotts Island lies in the Tar Heal state, one can not justly type this North Carolina history, but rather Virginia - Carolina as will be seen with the unfolding of the account. The world abounds with similar small localities each with a history unique in its own manner both recorded and of folklore.

The purpose of this paper is to piece together the unrelated history into a smooth narrative capable of affording those interested a picture of Knotts Island's events in her early years. The people of a locality should harbor with pride the facts surrounding its discovery, settlement, and contributions to history. This history is compiled to meet this need and in so doing set off a chain reaction of thoughts almost covered with the dust of time. The author trusts it will recall memories and create doubts among the strains of folklore that permeate so much of our local American history. The reader may be assured that this history is definitive with all existing records carefully collected and criticized. The facts concerning Knotts Island were then pieced into the generalizations that afford a complete history of this Island and the surrounding "enclosed sea" from 1585 to 1728.

Hal James Bonney, Jr.
University of Richmond May 1951



Five years ago in the days when the author possessed that most unusual phenomenon, leisure time, he began collecting small bits of historical facts directly or indirectly affecting Knotts Island, The facts proved to be sparse and very far between even with this recent all out effort, but this "broken" history is here offered with the regret that more data is not available.

This region was of little note and consequently does not appear often in the records and when it does, it is through external circumstances instead of internal occasion. With no local government Knotts Island can not speak for itself; we can learn of its past only as major events in history focus briefly upon the region and shortly pass on. In existing historical records mention of the Island may occur at a certain date in connection with an event and then will not appear again for several decades. Thus is this a broken history pieced into a smooth narrative, but all available facts have been examined and carefully weighted; nothing herein is hearsay.

As a contribution to the field of historical writing, this book is nil. The author could well have chosen to compile the history of a church or of an institution the writing of which would be complete and not as the History of Knotts Island, as broken as the unknown history of the early world. The author regrets this, but offers no apology since his interest is genuine.

It affords a great challenge to seek the scattered facts of an unknown community that contributed little to the mixture of history. The accredited historian may suffer from an overdose of deductions in this paper, however, they are necessary to view Knott s Island' s part in the events.

This writing seeks first to determine the date and manner of discovery and exploration as well as the early events of the Island and its surrounding area. The first expedition of Sir Walter Raleigh described the waters between the coastal sand banks and the mainland as an "Enclosed Sea. " It is this sea that contains Knotts Island.

The naming of a community holds many controversies and mysteries with the search to determine the source quite involved. This paper strives to reach a conclusion.

Her real claim in history occurred in 1728 as the Virginia-North Carolina boundary dispute reached its height. By the mechanics of nature the line crossed over Knotts Island and from this account the secrets of the Island were laid open.

The entire contents of this history are derived from primary sources alone, except when noted in the body of the text. Nothing is left to hearsay, but all is engraved on the page of history as truth.

Again the author wishes to emphasize that this is Virginia - North Carolina history, for the majority of records are from Virginia sources. What claim would such an insignificant spot hold in history and if any, where would it be found.

The reader must remember this is local history that the author has compiled from broader events that dealt in some manner with Knotts Island. This narrative plans to expose these bits into the early history of the island and preserve the history of that location.