The Ballance Family on Churches Island
by Ernestine Ballance Liverman
Early maps of the colony of Carolina show an island in the Currituck Sound as Emperors Island, later White Island and finally Churches Island. The Island was once a peninsula jutting out into Currituck Sound, but was transferred into a true island by a-man-made canal cut many years ago to permit the construction of a road.
John Ballance, who was born on Churches Island in 1834, lived on the Island. The earlier Ballances had settled around Moyock near the Virginia-North Carolina State line and in the early 1700 's some of them migrated to Churches Island, which was not far from the Moyock area.
When the Ballance families lived on Churches Island it was surrounded by marsh land and canals and transportation was strictly by water until about 1900. The men on the Island made their livelihoods mostly by duck hunting, fishing and crabbing, although each family had a farm, which furnished some products to be sold by boat to other places. In the early half of the 1800's Willoughby White Ballance, father of John Ballance, owned a boat named "The Alligator", on which he took products from the Albemarle area and sold them in other places bringing back products that were needed by the people at home. Once "The Alligator' was in New York and it was held up for a time while needed repairs were made. Some of the men on the Island were boat builders or decoy makers, and they were noted for their work and always kept busy.
Business on Churches Island was highlighted by the opening of a general merchandise store and market by William Henry Hampton in 1898. He also applied for a post office, which was opened about 1900. It was named Waterlily but it's still Churches Island to many people, especially to those who live away from the Island. This became the center of business as it expanded to sell food, dry goods and hardware. It also became a market for selling and shipping fish, ducks, crabs and farm products. This was possible because of the connection with the outside markets provided by the larger boats going to and from Norfolk. Other businesses of great importance were the hunting lodges with people coming from New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, as well as Virginia and North Carolina.
Today Churches Island is accessible by motor and it is only a short distance off a main highway. It is a favorite summer resort with its steady stream of campers and trailers heading to and from the Hampton Lodge Family Campground which occupies the entire end of the Island. Many people now are spending their retirement years there.
In winter there are lodges for hunters and fishermen and guides to take them out. It seems almost impossible that the old Churches Island could have become such an important resort and accessible by motor.