Why do we call it Fentress?

Fentress was originally called Centerville, from which Centerville Baptist Church and Centerville Turnpike obtained their names..When the railroad came through in the 1880′s, the U.S. Post Office was established at the railway station. However, there already existed a Centerville Post Office (of some mild Civil War fame) in northern Virginia, so the new post office had to be given another name.

Joshua Fentress, a leading local citizen, lived in the house still standing back the long lane across from Centerville Baptist Church. The Post Office took the name Fentress from Joshua Fentress.

With the train station and post office came a store, a hotel and several other buildings and Fentress Station became a thriving little town. At the turn of the century, Fentress was a larger metropolis than Great Bridge.

There was only one mail route, Rural Route 1, served by the Fentress Post Office, but it covered an area from Princess Anne Road halfway to Hickory and north to Great Bridge. Over the years, the entire area became known as Fentress.

After the railroad station closed, the Post Office moved to the corner of Centerville Turnpike and Mt. Pleasant Rd, about where the Bank of Hampton Roads now sits.

When Norfolk County became the City of Chesapeake and street names replaced “Rt 1, Box Whatever, Fentress” the identification of the name with the geography began to wane. A new post office in Great Bridge superseded many of the services provided by the Fentress Post Office, and the station was degraded to a Contract Rural Station and moved next door to a corner of Ralph Kiff’s store where it provided a convenient place to buy stamps and drop off letters, until it moved a couple hundred yards up Centerville Turnpike to Lloyd Midgettes’ Hardware Store.

Ironically, the growing population and increasing business of the little Fentress Post Office was responsible for its recent demise. There was just too much time taken for stamps and envelopes from the business of hardware to allow Lloyd to keep it going, and on February 28, 1995 the Fentress Rural Contract Station ceased to exist. So where is Fentress? Old timers will tell you it’s somewhere around the junction of Centerville Turnpike and Fentress Road, but it’s really in our memories for the only named legacy is Fentress Road.

Fentress Road was formerly “Shell Road”, (and if you remember that, you’re older than you think) so called because it was paved with oyster shells in its long transition from dirt path to macadam. The name was changed from “Shell” to “Fentress” during the street naming binge following the founding of the City of Chesapeake, because there was another Shell Road already listed in Deep Creek.

It’s been a long and chancy struggle for Old Joshua Fentress to establish his name. He had no offspring to carry it on but got a temporary second chance when the Post Office came along and a third by the lucky happenstance of two Shell Roads.

Comments

  1. Angela Barrett-Schnock says:

    That was very interesting. I have lived in the area most of my life, but I had never heard this piece of history. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Minnie Charles says:

    I guess that is where the bike shop stands now. I remember there used to be abig concrete pad out by the tracks. Wonder if it is still there? Anyway, neat story.

  3. Marsha says:

    Very good! Bravo!

  4. Leonard Ashley says:

    Very interesting.

  5. Temperence says:

    I really enjoyed that.

  6. Oshen Riddick says:

    Fentress goes way back.

  7. Marci J says:

    Very interesting post.

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