The property along Sterling Road, including the stretch of I-64 that runs parallel to Sterling Road was, for just a few years (1924-1928), home to Robert and Laura Perdue. Robert's "day" job was with the Pennsylvania Railroad, as Senior Purser aboard several ships that made the ferry run from Cape Charles to Norfolk. Robert wanted to try his hand at farming, so he moved to Princess Anne County from the eastern shore of Maryland and purchased the 34 acre Walker Farm.
Through Ancestry.com (and the phone book) I was able to track down Robert and Laura's son, Robert Perdue Jr., who was actually born on the farm in 1924. I received an e-mail response from Robert's wife, Georgia Perdue, informing me of Robert's sudden passing in 2011. Since that time I've had the honor of learning a bit about the farm boy turned reluctant warrior turned scientist through the memoirs that he gathered together just a few years before he died. The life story of Robert E. Perdue, Jr. is wholly deserving of a separate post, which I hope to write at another time. Until then, you can check out some links that I've included at the end of this post.
Although he never knew me, Dr. Perdue did me a great service. A researcher by training and by nature, he retraced his childhood journey that started here in Woodstock, then continued on to Norfolk, and then Maryland, and then Holland (where he earned a Purple Heart), then Germany (where he earned another Purple Heart and a Bronze Star), then Harvard (where he earned a Ph.D. in Botany), Texas, Africa, and back to Maryland. He gathered and documented photographs from his childhood which Georgia has graciously passed on to me.
A 1928 map of Princess Anne County indicates the location of the Perdue farm. Note the triangle toward the bottom-left formed by Providence Road, Indian River Road, and not Reon Dr., but rather Centerville Turnpike, at its terminus prior to I-64.
Laura, Robert Sr. and Robert Jr. on the farm, ca. 1926
The Perdue farm house ca. 1926, located in what is now the front yard of 501 Sterling Road. The house faces west, with the river just beyond.
The Roberts Perdue, ca. 1926. The house in the background belonged to the Williams family, who were relatives of the Perdues. It was located at the north end of what is now Sterling Rd. According to John Williams, who was born there in 1924 and still lives in Virginia Beach, the house was visible from I-64 until the mid-1970's when development began along Sterling Rd.
Looking west down the Elizabeth River, ca. 1926. I'm guessing that illuminated structure in the distance is probably Sunnyside, home of the Herbert family for nearly 150 years. Directly north, across the river, is the Bachus farm. Robert's memoirs indicate that since they did not own a telephone, calls for the Perdues would be made to the Bachus home. Mrs. Bachus would shout across the river, "Laura!" and Laura would pack Robert Jr. into a rowboat and cross the river to take the call.
The staff of the PRR Pennsylvania, one of several ferry boats that made the Cape Charles to Norfolk run for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Robert Perdue Sr., the ships Purser, is 5th from the left.
An exterior view of the Pennsylvania
The PRR Virginia Lee, another ferry boat traversing the Chesapeake Bay from Cape Charles to Norfolk. Because Robert Sr. was the ship's Purser, little Robert Jr. had run of the entire vessel and was treated like royalty -- including free ham sandwiches in the dining room.
The Virginia Lee, docked at Riverview Avenue, Norfolk
For additional reading on the life of Dr. Robert E. Perdue, Jr., check out these links: