Deep Creek History

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.

In 1650 a group of families including the Cherrys, Wallaces and Culpepers (the second ā€œpā€ was added later) settled in the area near the Dismal Swamp, where their presence lead to the creation of the village of Deep Creek. A decade or so later William Drummond discovered a secluded lake in the midst of the great swamp while hunting and named the peat-brown body of water after himself.

The original Creekers were runaway white and black indentured servants and slaves who inhabited the Swamp around 1619 after the Jamestown Settlement until the beginning of the 20th century. As many as several hundred people of American Indian (Algonquian Indians the Pasquotanks, Perquimans, and Yeopim tribes), African and European backgrounds took refuge there. Descendants of some of these populations settled in, and still live in, areas immediately adjoining the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia and North Carolina, including Deep Creek.

In recent times, there have been excavations that have revealed some minimal discoveries such as pieces of foundation and even pottery.

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.

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In 1845, Norfolk County constructed the first public school in Deep Creek. It was the second school to be constructed in Norfolk County from funds provided by the General Assembly for public education. The one-room school was located across from the present day Deep Creek Intermediate School. The school was closed and destroyed by federal troops during the Civil War. In 1870, a school was erected on Old Gilmerton Road. Several years later, a one-room school facing Galberry Road behind and adjacent to Flemming’s Store was constructed. In 1897, a wing was added to separately house the older students. In 1908, the legislature provided funds for the construction of a one-story brick school on the site of the previous intermediate school. Schools from the outlying areas were consolidated and students from St. Juliens Creek, Millsville, Grassfield, and Gilmerton were transported by horse-drawn school buses to Deep Creek School. In 1910, a two-story brick building was constructed on the site of the intermediate school. The first class of seniors was graduated from Deep Creek High School in 1911. Building additions were made in 1923, 1947, and 1952. In 1955, Deep Creek High School was separated from Deep Creek School by the construction of a million dollar secondary building to house grades 7-12 on Deal Drive.

In the 1940’s, with the assistance of the Rosenwald Fund, a four-room elementary school was built for black students in the Deep Creek borough. Black students from Deep Creek attended Providence High School in South Norfolk, which later became incorporated into Carver High School and Gilmerton High School. Both schools later became incorporated into Crestwood High School when it opened in 1954. The black elementary schools in Grassfield, Deep Creek, and Millsville were consolidated in the 1950’s and were housed in Central Elementary School on Shipyard Road.

In 1963, Deep Creek High School became part of the newly formed Chesapeake School System, which resulted from a merger of Norfolk County and the City of South Norfolk. In 1966, grades 7-8 were shifted from the high school to the junior high, which is today’s SECEP school. In 1979, due to large increases in enrollment at both the high school and junior high school, the high school building on Deal Drive was designated a junior high school and a seven million dollar high school located on Margaret Booker Drive was constructed to house grades 10-12.

The modern, efficient facility has been in use for more than twenty years. Academic classrooms, vocational training areas, and corridors, as well as the gymnasium, the media center, the computer laboratory and the commons area are well designed for the purposes they serve. The school was expanded in 1990 with the addition of the new wing serving the Math, Science and Foreign Language departments. The space was needed due to the addition of the ninth grade. In the summer of 1998, the school was expanded again to accommodate an enrollment of approximately 2,000 students. This expansion includes improvements to the library, gymnasium, and classrooms for Science, Special Education, Art and Vocational programs.

In 2011, the year marking Deep Creek High School’s 100th anniversary, the school received major building and technology upgrades, which included a new HVAC system and the addition of wall-mounted SmartBoards in every classroom. In Fall 2011, Deep Creek High was proud to welcome its first group of Freshmen to the new Science and Medicine Academy.

Deep Creek High School Principals

Mr. S. A. MacDonald 1917 – 1919
Mr. W. S. Brent 1919 – 1928
Mr. T. P. Chapman 1928 – 1930
Mr. L. D. Bell 1930 – 1937
Mr. W. L. Mason 1937 – 1941
Mr. J. J. Booker, Jr. 1941 – 1949
Mr. W. L. Jones 1949 – 1967
Mr. H. C. Laumann 1967 – 1972
Mr. Nathan T. Hardee 1972 – 2009
Ms. J. Page Bagley 2010 – Present

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