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. 

New 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 years.

          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 Ridge.”

          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.