Fox Hill, Now a Part of Hampton
Dates Back to Colonial Days
By Mrs. Alonza W. Clark - 1956
Fox Hill is mentioned as early as 1625, an early spelling being “foxeshill”,
and there were settlers soon after. Harris
Creek is very old in the records, being called “Harris-his Creek” for some
time. Greenland Point is mentioned
very early, as well as Back River and Bells Island.
The area was well populated by the 1700’s, having a constable and a
viewer of the tobacco crops, and the authorities were very diligent in seeing
that the Fox Hill Road to White Pine Bride was kept in good repair.
Even so it is doubtful if there was a permanent settlement until a group
of watermen under the John Wesley influence, came here after the Revolutionary
War and the War of 1812. They
brought their religion, their schools, their boats and equipment and created an
independent fishing village whose devotion to family and the church of their
choice is still prevalent today.
The early land grants speak of an Indian Stone, in land boundaries, as
being the Fox Hill district. One
explanation of an Indian Stone is that of a primitive “Turkish bath” used by
the Indians to relieve aches and pains. The
land grants also speak of Indian Springs and Point Comfort Creek, the earliest
known name for Mill Creek as being “near unto Fox Hill.”
Several of the local boys saw service in the Virginia State Navy during
the American Revolution. The war of
1812 saw much excitement as there was a “look out point” near by, and the
local militia was encamped near Bells Island.
The community was well established by the early 1800’s. There were 30 or more growing families. Being watermen, many were pilots. This period was filled with much building, prosperous farming
and political activities. There was
a ship yard in Harris Creek doing a thriving business, and the Methodist Society
for the lower end of the County had acquired land.
Soon afterwards there was a Methodist Episcopal church and a Methodist
Protestant church in the community. In
1829 the Back River light house was erected at the beach, being built on high
land with a road in front and a farm house near by. In 1837 the Fox Hill Academy opened its doors, the previous
school having been “very flourishing” with 30 or 40 children attending.
By this time there were several taverns operating and soon a temperance
society was organized. This
temperance organization is believed to have been the earliest in the county.
No useful purpose can be served by reviving memories of the early
1860’s. Hostilities had already
begun and the Lower Peninsula was under Federal control before any one could
realize what was happening. The
able-bodied men were soon gone leaving the feeble
and aged with the constant dread of being cast into prison, while
attempting to do their bit for the “cause.”
It was the women and children who bore the brunt of the foraging parties
that were confiscating every thing in sight and burning buildings, including the
two churches, until one brave soul marched defiantly to Fortress Monroe and
companied to the authorities. Conditions
were improved somewhat after that
and a few supplies found their way into the community, donated by kind hearted
soldiers from the fort. The
conflict and the era following left its mark though, and Fox Hill became
withdrawn and remote in its efforts to survive.
By the 1880’s, the village was back on its feet.
The Fox Hill Gate had been moved to a position lower in the community.
This Gate originally built to fence cattle, and having served a very
useful purpose many years age, is still amusingly referred to.
roads were opened, fishing, crabbing and oystering were resumed, farming began
again, this time on a much smaller scale, and the population was around 300.
The voting precinct established the community much as it is today, and
Fox Hill was once again a typical rural development.
The past half century has seen a slow but steady change to an urban like
appearance in a Fox Hill that is no longer primarily a fishing village, having
contributed mush to the seafood industry of the Peninsula, over a long period of
time. With its neat lawns, its
serene churches, its peaceful cemetery, the pride of the local Women’s Clubs,
it is a quiet residential section of the city.
Family names, still represented, that extend far back into the past,
include Wallace, Copeland, Lewis, Clark, Guy, Weber, Watson, Drummond, Elliott,
Routten, Mason, Smith, Holston, Peek, Wyatt, Melson, Johnson, Gordon, Bloxom,
Dixon, Horton, Jester, Rowe, Topping, Messick and Roaten.
Many names that were associated with early Fox Hill are no longer
represented in the community of today.
One rather curious thing has come to light in the course of this
research. The name White Hall
Creek, a local tributary of Back River, goes way back into the 1700’s.
All of the references to land in that area use that name.
One wonders therefore how the name Grundland Creek ever got on a map to
begin with and what the purpose was in changing such a well-established
boundary. To Fox Hill people it was
always remain White Hall Creek, as will other old names in existence so many
The postal authorities established a post office in the early 1890’s.
For a period of about 15 years Fox Hill was known as Rip Raps, Virginia,
for mailing purposes, and the name was in existence long enough for a few land
recordings to be made using that reference.
Grand View came into being about the same time, there having been an
imposing hotel by that name. The
Hampton Athletics used the beach for their training ground as did the Fox Hill
Baseball team. Grand View is now a
“Summer Colony” of its own, though the recent storm “Flossie” tried its
best to incorporate it as part of Chesapeake Bay.
The name Fox Hill has been attributed to a great storm that forced the
inhabitants and the animals to seek shelter on a hill.
One is well aware of the difficulty in finding a hill today to seek
shelter on. But many references to
ridges, through the years, proves rather conclusively that it was possible,
there were elevations in the area some 350 years ago About the only thing that remains, is that of the memories of
there having been a section known as the “Big Ridge” and the Little
The community is better known today for the delicious fish fries, a
project of one of the churches and for its excellent soft ball team, a
state-wide as well as local contender. Still
maintaining an air of independence, Fox Hillians still judge a man by his
character, rather than his worldly goods and a well set table and a tidy house
are still a source of extreme pride to the ladies.