Friday, January 20, 2017

January Newsletter

Ellen Marie Fulcher Cloud (March 14, 1940 ~ December 3, 2016), 76, died Saturday, December 3, 2016, at Carteret Health Care in Morehead City, NC. Ellen Marie was a native of Ocracoke, the daughter of Mary Lillian Jackson and Elmo Murray Fulcher (originally from Harkers Island, NC). Elmo, along with George F. O'Neal, ran the iconic mailboat Aleta between Ocracoke and Atlantic, NC, for many years.

Ellen Marie Fulcher
Courtesy Ocracoke Observer

Ellen Marie devoted many years of her life working to preserve the heritage and culture of Ocracoke Island and Portsmouth Village. She was the author of several books, including Ocracoke Lighthouse.

In Chapter 6 of her book, Ellen Marie recounts a personal lighthouse story, "The Great Window Heist." Several years before her death, she granted me permission to republish this story, hoping it would be an inspiration to others working in the area of historical preservation. As a tribute to Ellen Marie and her tireless work sharing Ocracoke culture and history with others, we have published the story as our current monthly Newsletter. You can read it here:

Thursday, January 19, 2017


A sailing ship's deadeye is a circular wooden block with a groove around the circumference to take a lanyard. They are used singly or in pairs to tighten a shroud (part of the ship's rigging that supports the mast).

The deadeyes in the photo below were once used on Capt. Rob Temple's schooner, Windfall.  Capt. Rob explained that modern sailboats often employ turnbuckles to take the place of deadeyes, but that some sailors still prefer deadeyes (traditionally made of  Lignum Vitae wood). 

Lignum Vitae trees are indigenous to the Caribbean and the northern coast of South America. The wood is used because of its extraordinary combination of strength, toughness, density, and naturally occurring oils. Consequently, deadeyes rarely need to be replaced.

It is believed that the name, deadeye, derives from the placement of the holes, which give the appearance of a skull (see photo above).

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Capt. Rob Temple's poem, "A Pirate's Christmas." You can read it hear:

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Not So Southern; Nor Northern

In their book, Hoi Toide on the Outer Banks, The Story of the Ocracoke Brogue, Walt Wolfram and Natalie Schilling-Estes comment that "mixed in with general southern vowels on Ocracoke are several that are clearly nonsouthern, even if they don't necessarily sound distinctly northern."

They go on to point out that "islanders fully recognize that the southern ah for i is a mainland pronunciation, not an island one." When eighth grade students heard a tape-recorded story told by a southerner who used the pronunciation raht tahm for "right time" they laughed and said, "That pronunciation sounds like Raleigh!"

Just goes to show you...Ocracoke is different from the North, and different from the South too.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Capt. Rob Temple's poem, "A Pirate's Christmas." You can read it hear:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Williams Homeplace

Last week a reader asked about the Caswell and Zilphia Williams house that was moved sometime around the turn of the 20th century. I included Caswell and Zilphia's granddaughter's account of the move in our January 9 post. Della Gaskill wrote the account in her book, A Blessed Life, Growing Up on Ocracoke Island.

The reader wanted to know if the house is still standing, and if there were any photos of the house. I visited Della a few days ago. She assured me she has photos of the house, but was unable to locate them. However, she reminded me that the cover photo for her book is a picture of her standing in the front yard, with the house in the background.

The two story house is still standing, and retains it's original interior charm, although it has been raised and several rooms have been added. Caswell and Zilphia's great-grandson lives in the house today.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Capt. Rob Temple's poem, "A Pirate's Christmas." You can read it hear:

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ocracoke Post Offices

Last week a reader asked about the Ocracoke post office. In April, 2013, I published a Newsletter about Ocracoke Island post offices. Below is a summary of that article, with photos:

On August 21, 1840 the first post office on the Outer Banks of North Carolina was established on Ocracoke Island. For the next sixty years the post office was located in successive postmasters’ homes or in one of the village’s general stores. This is a photo of Abner Bennett Howard's general store and post office. It was located where Captain's Landing Motel is today.

On October 21, 1902 postmaster Thomas Wallace (“Mr. Tommy”) Howard  built the first of Ocracoke’s four dedicated post office buildings. It was situated across the road from Abner Bennett's store, between the entrance to Howard Street and the Silver Lake Motel.

When Mr. Tommy retired in 1941 his future daughter-in-law, Elizabeth O’Neal, was appointed Ocracoke’s postmaster. Elizabeth moved her operation across the sandy footpath from Mr. Tommy’s small post office building to the old store which her father had purchased. The original post office boxes had never been removed.

In 1952, after the old store and post office had been severely damaged in the 1944 hurricane, postmaster Elizabeth O’Neal Howard (Mr. Tommy's daughter-in-law), and her husband Wahab Howard, had a new, 18’ X 24’, 432 square foot post office built on their property near the old store. The new post office had 150 lock boxes. The building has since been moved. Down Point Decoys is located on that property today, just a few feet south of where the post office stood.

In 1964 a new brick post office with 1000 square feet of interior space and 464 lock boxes was constructed. Today it houses Captain's Cargo gift shop.

Ocracoke's current post office was relocated to NC Hwy 12 in 2000. Today, the 3,000 square foot Ocracoke post office building, with 1256 lock boxes, serves nearly 1000 year around residents and businesses as well as numerous summer visitors.

You can view more photos, and read more about Ocracoke's post office at or

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Capt. Rob Temple's poem, "A Pirate's Christmas." You can read it hear:

Friday, January 13, 2017

Island Businesses

Recently I was looking over a 1990 issue of the Ocracoke Island News when I noticed a number of advertisements for businesses that are no longer operating on the island. Here is what I discovered.
  • 28 Businesses advertising in 1990 that are not operating today (how many of these do you remember?):
    • Maria's Restaurant
    • Whittler's Bench
    • Craig Garrish Construction
    • The Pelican Restaurant
    • The Lightkeeper's Inn
    • The Berkley Center
    • Sharon Miller Realty
    • The East Carolina Bank
    • The Boyette House
    • Island Hair Studio
    • The Doll & Gift Shop
    • Cafe Atlantic
    • The Island Inn and Dining Room
    • Home Port Realty
    • Merchant Mariner
    • Beach House
    • The Hole in the Wall
    • Sally Newell Interiors
    • South Point Seafood
    • Black Anchor Antiques & Collectables
    • Trolley Stop Restaurant & Deli
    • 3/4 Time
    • O'Neal's Dockside
    • Captain Ben's Restaurant
    • Emma's Beauty Shop
    • Ship's Timbers Windsurfing
    • The Old Post Office Shop
    • BW's Surf Shop
  • 21 Businesses advertising in 1990 and still in operation today:
    • Beachcomber Campground
    • Pony Island Restaurant
    • The Anchorage Inn
    • Ocracoke Waterfowl Hunting
    • Beach Outfitters
    • Bluff Shoal Motel
    • Howard's Pub
    • Crews Inn
    • The Island Ragpicker
    • Ocracoke Variety Store
    • Gaskill's Hauling
    • The Silver Lake Motel
    • Oscar's House B&B
    • Ocracoke Island Realty
    • The Pony Island Motel
    • Ann Ehringhaus Photographer
    • Village Craftsmen
    • Edward's Motel
    • Back Porch Restaurant
    • The Harborside
    • Ocracoke Child Care
Some of the businesses in the first category have simply closed. Most of those business owners no longer live on the island, but some have retired, and still live here. Other businesses have been sold, closed for a time, and then reopened under new management and new names.

We are happy to say that Village Craftsmen, established in 1970 by Philip Howard, continues in operation, now under the capable management of Philip's daughter, Amy.

Although Village Craftsmen is closed in January & February, be sure to stop by in the spring, or on your next visit to the island. We are regularly adding additional fine quality American handcrafts to complement our exciting assortment of pottery, glass, wooden items, jewelry, and much more.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Capt. Rob Temple's poem, "A Pirate's Christmas." You can read it hear:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Wreck Master

In the nineteenth century and early twentieth century the federal government appointed wreck masters in coastal communities. These individuals were empowered to take charge of cargo and other goods thrown on shore after a shipwreck.

Carol Cronk Cole Collection, Outer Banks History Center

Of course Ocracokers and other Outer Bankers often snatched up whatever they could manage to salvage before the official wreck master could gather the items together and protect them from looters. Once collected, the wreck master contacted the shipping agent who arranged for a vendue, or auction. The vendue (an old French word) was the occasion for much excitement in coastal areas. Residents and visitors would gather around for the entertainment as much as for the opportunity to purchase items at bargain prices.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Capt. Rob Temple's poem, "A Pirate's Christmas." You can read it hear: