Return to Currituck Co.
Currituck County Tales and Legends
Life on Monkey Island
Written by Pearl Robbins
Transcribed by Vanessa Purschwitz
August 22, 2003
The following is a story given to me by Pearl L. (Melson) Robbins. About twenty years ago Pearl recorded her memories of living on Monkey Island as a child. After visiting with her recently, she loaned me the original which I have transcribed. She is the daughter of Joseph S. & Nancy (O'Neal) Melson.
When Mama & Daddy were married, they lived on Currituck Beach. My sister Eva Lucille, was born on Currituck Beach, Dec. 31, 1904. She says they moved to Monkey Island, when she was 1 month & 13 days old. I, Pearl, was born on Monkey Island. We were the only family living on the Island. During gunning season, we had people from the New England States to come down. These people were owners of the Club House and the Island. They brought their friends with them too. Daddy was Superintendent of the Monkey Island Gun Club.
Riley Beasley, Sollie Beasley, Jim Buck Beasley, Sethy Beasley, Bill Bowden & Milton Melson were guides for the sportsmen. During gunning season they stayed on the Island also. They went home for the weekend.
We were the only family living on the Island so when we were old enough for school Daddy had to hire a school teacher. My first grade teacher was Miss Mattie Swoope from Blacksburg Va.
One might think it would be a lonely place to live, but there was a lot of boat traffic in those days and many stopped at the Island.
The winter of 1917-1918 was the winter of the Big Freeze. Currituck Sound froze over and Nolan Curles and Charlie Powers walked from Waterlily to Monkey Island on the frozen Sound. They brought us some food. It took about a month for the sound to thaw. When the ice began to break up it tore the boat house up. The Club House and Island was sold and Daddy and Mama decided to move to Waterlily.
Daddy farmed for 1 year. We moved to Norfolk, Va May 1919 to 1304 Brambleton Ave.
Monkey Island, a 7-acre island located east of Church's Island in Currituck Sound, was once the home of the Algonkian Indians; it's name comes from the Pamunkey Indian tribe. At the turn of the 20th century it was owned by the Penn family who built a hunting lodge and caretaker's house. The Monkey Island Club was a favorite of duck hunters for many years but has not been used actively since 1976. The island has been owned by the Nature Conservancy who then sold it to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Commission. It was then traded to Currituck County in 1988. School children and civic groups have also used the island as recently as the mid-1990's as an outdoor classroom. It is home to a variety of flora and fauna, wildlife, and marine life. See photos of Monkey Island Club here and another newspaper article on the history of Monkey Island here.
© 2005 Marty Holland