South Suffolk community is rich in history

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 13, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

When he dropped by the Whaleyville Corp. last month, Dean Russell was only intending to pay his water bill.

But the self-proclaimed history buff left the water company – housed in the original Bank of Whaleyville, circa 1906, on Whaleyville Boulevard – with a vision for a museum focusing on the historic logging town’s rich history.

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Russell’s vision is becoming a reality tomorrow, largely because of a cache of historic town and bank documents discovered by water company owners Carolyn and Charles Brothers in the former bank vault.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is being held at the new museum, located in one room of the Whaleyville Community Center, from 12:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The Whaleyville Corp. will be closing in December, as city begins providing water service to the area. The Brothers were cleaning out the vault in preparation for the closing.

&uot;It’s amazing at what was found in that vault,&uot; said Sherry Simkus, a newcomer to southwestern Suffolk village and organizer of Whaleyville Historical Day.

Residents and visitors will have a never-before-seen-look at the town’s history prior to the 1974 merger with Suffolk and Nansemond County, Russell said.

Municipal items stored in the vault included minutes to decades of Whaleyville Town Meetings, the town seal and the wooden ballot box once used in town elections, said Russell. The vault also included a school census report with names and addresses of every families’ school-aged children.

The bank, which moved to a new building on Whaleyville Boulevard in the early 1960s, left its own share of historic memorabilia, Simkus said. On display are two adding machines that were used in the bank and several handwritten ledgers where employees had tracked daily deposits and withdrawals from the bank since the early 1900s.

The information is amazing and educational, said Russell.

&uot;I always thought my family was nothing but poor dirt farmers,&uot; said Russell. &uot;I learned that in 1907, one relative had $1,400 in the bank and another had $2,400 in the bank. I was pretty impressed.&uot;

Russell, Simkus and Felton Mann, an employee with the Department of Parks and Recreation, have coordinated the museum and would like to see it become a permanent fixture in the community.

Citizens with photographs, memories and historic documents are being asked to share their information this weekend, Simkus said. The group is setting up copiers and scanners to duplicate historic documents and places where

longtime residents can record special recollections.

The city, along with the Whaleyville Volunteer Fire Department and the Whaleyville Ruritan Club, are sponsoring the Sunday’s event.

For information, call Simkus at 986-2345.