Wash Woods, Virginia

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Coordinates: 36°34′47″N 75°52′23″W / 36.57972°N 75.87306°W / 36.57972; -75.87306

Wash Woods was an unincorporated town on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in Princess Anne County in the southeastern corner of Virginia. Abandoned for over 50 years[citation needed], the site of the former town is located within False Cape State Park in the Virginia Beach area.

Wash Woods cemetery in False Cape State Park

According to legend, the community was developed by survivors of a shipwreck in the 16th or early 17th century.[1] The village’s church and other structures were built using cypress wood that washed ashore from a shipwreck.[2] Around the turn of the 20th century, the area was still inhabited. Wash Woods was home to a United States Coast Guard lifesaving station, a grocery store, two churches, and a school. Three hundred people once lived there, working as fishermen, farmers, hunting guides and manning lifeboats.[3]

Located along the section of ocean known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, the town of Wash Woods was subject to the severe weather conditions which had brought the lumber to shore to build it. By the 1920s the sea had inundated the narrow sliver of sand so often that townspeople began to leave by the 1930s. Subsequently the site became the location of several hunt clubs. Today, the area is a Virginia state park, adjoining the federally managed Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

There is still a small cemetery adjacent to the ruins of the Wash Woods church. Vandals demolished the steeple circa 1980. False Cape State Park's Wash Woods Environmental Education Center is a converted hunt club house.[4]

Wash Woods Methodist Church steeple in False Cape State Park

In the mid-1950s, Wash Woods remained a voting precinct consisting of 13 registered voters. On most election days, all of the 13 voters would meet just after midnight and vote. Under Virginia law at that time, when all the voters of any given precinct had voted in person, the precinct could close and report the results of the voting. Since the state at that time was basically a Democratic state under the guidance of U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Jr., all of the registered voters of the precinct always voted for the Democratic ticket. The results of the voting at the Wash Woods precinct was reported soon after midnight as a psychological device to promote the Democratic party, whether in local elections or in national elections. In the mid-1960s, during a local election, a group of local Democrats who opposed the local branch of the Byrd organization arranged for two voters to register to vote at the Wash Woods precinct. Those two voters then submitted their votes by mail. Under Virginia law, persons who had voted by mail had a right to report to their precinct on election day, pick up their previously-mailed ballots, and then vote in person. Because these two voters had submitted their ballots by mail, the precinct could not close immediately after midnight on that election day and the psychological advantage previously offered by the precinct was lost. Immediately after that election, elected local officials representing the local branch of the Byrd organization dissolved the Wash Woods precinct and transferred the registered voters of that precinct to a larger adjoining precinct. [5]

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