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

Chapter 5


Knotts Island, North Carolina is located in Fruitville Township of famous Currituck County and is accessible, except by water, only through Virginia by highways 165 and 615 out of Norfolk and is about forty-two miles to the southeast of that city. The Island is bounded on the south by beautiful Currituck Sound, the west by the Great Marsh, the north by Back Bay, and the east by Knotts Island Bay.

A most excellent paved causeway connects it with Princess Anne County and the Island itself has a new tar and gravel road on its main artery. The physical aspects of Knotts Island are unusual since two of its seven miles of length lies in Virginia; the width varies from half a mile to a mile and a half generally. Besides the ten square miles of mainland, there are fifteen square miles of marsh to the west called the Great Marsh which provides a most natural habitat for stock and various types of wildlife. Across Knotts Island Bay to the east about a mile or more is found North Carolina's outer banks and the 160,000 candlepower Currituck Beach lighthouse erected in 1875.

The main occupation is truck farming with the crops raised finding a ready market as among the best grown on the Atlantic coast. The chief crops consist of Irish potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, and soy beans. In recent years soy beans have become the main crop ranking Currituck County as the area raising more than any other region east of the Mississippi River, but the fad is fast running its course and the farmers are now returning to corn and sweet potatoes. After 300 years of constant cultivation it is amazing that the land is yet so very fertile.

Of the 186,880 acres in the county, 131,000 acres, or 70% are covered in forest and on the Island the local lumberman has obtained yellow pine from its woods for thirty years.

Second in rank of income is gunning and proof that the winter gunning season is high on the list of state receipts and local occupations is discovered when one considers that this is one or the country's foremost bird retreats and a paradise for a large number of wealthy gentlemen who own hunting lodges and summer homes on Knotts Island.
The leading home is that of the late Joseph Palmer Knapp, New York publisher, lithographer, and one time owner of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, which covers an adjacent island to itself and is known as Mackey's Island. It contains a huge swamp perfect for stock raising, rich farm lands, a fresh water swimming pool, and a golf link. The Knapps, Margaret and Joseph, have contributed more to the people and the community through not only their hiring or caretakers, but through the gift to Knotts Island of a beautiful, modern elementary school. Had it not been for this donation, more than likely the children of the community would still be attending the wooden structure. There is not a person living on the Island or one that has ever visited there that has not benefited directly or indirectly from the extreme kindness of two people who chose to lighten the burden of others. While the people do not appreciate this stroke of fortune that has come their way, the Knapp Foundation has continued to pour thousands of dollars into the community that must receive its benefits in such ways, since fellow Carolinians have forsaken the Island, except for votes and taxes.

Other sportsmen include a group of Boston millionaires who own Swan Island, the heirs of Ogden Reid of the New York Herald Tribune, W. L. Cory of the steel family, Judge Floyd Kellam, the Hills of New Jersey, and wealthy from Richmond, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and the north.

The celery, sage grass, and pond weed entice the wild waterfowl of canvasbacks, redheads, blackheads, rudy ducks, Canada geese, teal, etc. to stop on famous Currituck Sound as they go south, and it is then that sportsmen enjoy the great sport. Bass, rock, mullet, perch, and many other varieties of fish inhabit the "enclosed sea" surrounding Knotts Island providing additional sport and commercial revenue. If it were not for these gifts of nature, many gunning and fishing guides would find it necessary to seek other employment.

Knotts Island is serviced daily by Norfolk Southern Bus corporation buses and mail service through a direct star route; Norfolk Southern also furnishes freight service with the various businesses of Norfolk and Virginia Beach providing deliveries of their products. The Virginia Electric and Power Company recently completed city electric lines and Pyrofax furnishes country gas service, while water systems are rapidly being installed.

The Knotts Island Methodist Church, established in 1811, is a beautiful white steepled building erected in 1911 that has in its interior some of the most lovely ceiling in the country. In 1950 a large educational building was added ending 139 years of eight Sunday School classes meeting in one room. The Baptist Church is also of long standing, 1876, and it, too, is planning an expansion program.

      There is no formal government on Knotts Island except for Fruitville Township's County Commissioner and a member of the board of education. Knotts Island is a progressive farming district endowed by Nature with many blessings, where simple life is losing the struggle for survival and from which comes so much uncalculatable pleasure to those who seek happiness in the country.

Back to the top.