August 25, 2011. DUCKS UNLIMITED
August 27, 2011. CURTIS LEE FENTRESS AND JULIA ETTA ROWLAND
CLARENCE FENTRESS remembers his father, CURTIS, and MR. KNAPP.
ANNE BRIGHT remembers her mother, Julia Etta Rowland.
Julia Etta Rowland was born in Newport News, Va on February 28, 1901 ,to Laura and George Jefferson Rowland. She was the youngest of three, having a brother Samuel Jefferson, who was eight years older than she, and a sister Rebecca Pauline, who was four years older. Their lives were shattered when Etta, as the family called her, was six years old and her mother died. In keeping with the times, each child was sent to live with one of their mother's siblings, and they never lived with their father again. Sam went to live with his uncle, Rebecca to one aunt and Etta to another. The children rarely saw each other and depended solely on correspondence to keep their familial relationship alive.
Etta was sent to live with Zettie and Benjamin Zills, who were childless at her arrival. They lived in the Sussex County area, east of Waverly, VA, where Daddy Ben, as I called him, was a caretaker for an absentee landowner. When Etta was ten years old, the Zills had a daughter of their own, Bess, and the two girls were raised as sisters. When my mother reached college age, Daddy Ben sent her to East Carolina Teachers College in Greenville, NC, where she received the two years of training required to teach in public schools of that time. Her first teaching experiences were in the area of Rich Square, NC, but in 1925, after a disappointing romantic breakup, my mother came to Knotts Island to teach. I'd like to say that my father, Curtis Fentress, met the train at Munden Point to pick her up, but I don't know that to be a fact because like most kids, when they talked about such, I didn't want to listen. At any rate, she taught in the old school and watched the building of the new Knotts Island Elementary due to the generosity of Joseph P. Knapp. Most of the teachers in those days were single females so the teacherage offered a dwelling place as well as a gathering place for the young men of the community. Teaching with my mother was a young lady named Jane Dozier, so the two of them quickly became Do and Rowe, a nickname for my mother which stuck as long as she lived. Most on the Island who remember her will call her "Miss Rowe."
Among the young men who frequented the Teacherage was none other than Curtis Lee Fentress. From all I've been told over the years, Daddy had been mighty smitten with Nina White but that relationship was not to be, so soon a romance developed between Curtis and Rowe. They were married on April 23, 1926, at the Knotts Island Methodist Church by Preacher Henry Harrell. Special permission was granted for my mother to finish out the school year as a married woman! In May of 1928, my oldest brother, Robert Rowland Fentress, was born and on Christmas Eve 1929, another son, Clarence Ward Fentress was added to the family. My mother did not teach while my brothers were young, so she settled into the role of wife and mother and was pleased to have a new home on property which my father bought from Mr. Knapp in March 1933.
When World War II broke out, the supply of young male teachers dwindled because all were at war, so my mother was approached about coming back to teach again. After a relatively short time, someone asked her how it was to be back in the classroom and her reply was, "I'd rather have a baby than teach school!" My father promptly complied and in September 1943, I was a very unexpected addition to the family! Even the doctor thought that my mother probably had some sort of tumor and was about to perform surgery when a nurse rushed in and said, "Don't cut! The tumor moves!" Thank heavens, medical science has improved since then!
Most of my memories of my mother are sad ones because her health was never very good after my birth and she was not able to be very active. However, she did teach me things such as how to tell time and how to print and to add simple numbers before I started to school because these were quiet things with which she could entertain me. Little did she realize how much I loved that and never wanted to play anything but School when my friends came over to play. Probably the bane of her existence and mine when I was quite small was my long hair. I can remember shrieking like a banshee when she tried to brush it! Finally when I was about seven, "Miss Pauline" Munden cut my long locks and I was better able to take care of it myself.
My mother experienced a series of surgeries during my childhood that now we would know to be caused by Crohn's disease. She died at age 60 in August of 1961 from complications of her chronic ailment.
J.P. Knapp purchased this property from John and Jane Barnes on February 14, 1923. The property was deeded to Curtis on March 10, 1933.