What’s in a Name? | Deep Creek in Chesapeake

Here's the easy answer to how the community of "Deep Creek" was named:

There was a creek.

And the creek was deep.

But that would give short shrift to the rich history behind this neighborhood of suburban new and colonial old in the western part of Chesapeake.

Historical accounts say the Deep Creek area takes its name from a tributary that empties into the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River.

The mouth of the waterway was discovered in the 1600s by scouts sent out from Jamestown. The creek was deep enough to accommodate large boats, and it also led to the Great Dismal Swamp, making it ideal for the lumbering trade.

Accounts by Major M. Hillard said it was also a midway point on a route between Jamestown and North Carolina, making it a popular stopping area. It's believed that four hotels and a tavern sprung up along its banks to serve travelers on their way back and forth.

The region has a colorful history, owing in large part to the bordering Dismal Swamp.

Col. William Byrd II surveyed the area in 1728 to establish the line between Virginia and North Carolina. He wasn't particularly taken with the swamp. He called it a frightful place that birds wouldn't even fly over, "for fear of the noisome exhalations that rise from this vast body of dirt and nastiness."

He suggested the idea of building a canal to join the waters of Virginia to the Pasquotank River and Albemarle Sound in North Carolina.

Founding Father George Washington also thought that was a good idea. He belonged to companies in the 1760s that did survey work in the area, which he described as a glorious paradise. His survey company built a 5-mile ditch from the western edge of the Swamp to Lake Drummond, which is known as Washington Ditch.

He lost interest in the endeavor, but Virginia and North Carolina legislators later approved acts to build the canal. The Dismal Swamp Canal was built from 1793 to 1805, according to "A History of Chesapeake," by Raymond Harper.

The hand-dug canal is the oldest operating artificial waterway in the country.

With the opening of the canal, the village of Deep Creek took firm root because of stops made by barges carrying lumber from the Dismal Swamp.

By 1850 it was a village of about 50 houses.

It has since grown into a sprawling mix of historical homes and newer housing developments, forests, farmland and businesses.

Deep Creek became part of the city of Chesapeake in 1963.

Elizabeth Simpson, 757-446-2635, elizabeth.simpson@pilotonline.com


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