2023-02-21 FAMILY HISTORY
The Cullipher Family has been farming in northeastern North Carolina and Tidewater for almost 200 years. The Culliphers and the Britts were from Bertie County, North Carolina while the Simpsons and Brumleys were from Knotts Island (Currituck County), NC. The Bertie County family consisted of peanut, cotton and tobacco farmers with some livestock. James B. Cullipher had three sons who farmed with him raising three cash crops and feed crops for the mules and horses. Like many farms of that era, they were almost self sufficient. Cattle, hogs, and poultry provided the meat and a mixed orchard and berries supplied the fruit. A lot of canning and preserving helped sustain them over the winter. One of those sons was Louis’ father James E. The arrangement was the senior kept all but half of the tobacco money which was divided between the sons as he owned ‘the’ tractor and mules. The first tractor he bought was a 1923 Farmall on the only thing rubber was the fanbelt. He said anything else they wanted to grow would be theirs to keep. That was the beginning of our truck farming. (Truck farming means that most of a farmer’s crop was sold from the back of a truck in town.) James’ first crops were sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
Our great, great grandfather George W. was taken by Union soldiers patrolling the Chowan River. After being questioned for a night aboard ship, he was allowed to return home. Even though tobacco is not a popular crop to grow now, it provided a good source of income for many small farms throughout the South. Louis’ mother often said that tobacco paid for many a child’s college tuition. Certainly times have changed and we understand now all the dangers associated with tobacco but it did support a lot of families.
Right after World War II ended, James and Belle Cullipher (Louis’ parents) moved back to her home on Knotts Island, NC. Away from the peanut and tobacco growing areas, James became a full time truck farmer. The produce was sold at the old Market in Norfolk. They would leave Knotts Island between midnight and one in the morning and sleep in the truck until the buyers came around 5:00 am. When they were done around 6:00 or 6:30am, they enjoyed a big breakfast downtown and then back to the farm.
The Simpsons/Brumleys were from Knotts Island and lived a different lifestyle. They grew vegetables for sustenance and for market during the spring and summer. The fall and winter was spent hunting and fishing. Early on, market hunting for waterfowl was a major source of income during the winter. After that type of hunting was banned, guiding sportsman helped fill that void. Louis often talked about how his grandfather (Burvell Simpson) would take him hunting but he never really enjoyed it because he still associated with work in those harsh conditions. Livestock was handled much different than they are today. The hogs and cattle were kept “on the beach”, what is now known as False Cape and Carova. Each fall, groups of men would round up the herd to gather theirs for market. Papa Simpson as we called him “marked” his with two notches in the left ear. They had no fences, just the marsh and water to keep them from roaming. Looking back, those men were ahead of their time by producing free range, grass fed meat. One of the stories that Papa’s (Louis’) mother loved to tell was about spending her summers on Cedar Island (Back Bay) with her aunt, uncle and cousins. It’s hard to imagine that island supported a family and small farm (Google Earth Cedar Island and imagine a house and farm). She said it was like a Garden of Eden because of the longer growing season. Times were not easy on Knotts Island, but they always ate well.
With these two backgrounds, we always thought we had the best of both worlds, plenty of fresh seafood, good Eastern Carolina barbeque, and an appreciation of both types of farming.
Our current farming is a true blend of our ancestors. Even though our equipment and growing practices have changed, we are still growing a lot of the same crops.