Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Trouble Follows Road

The following is from Miscellaneous Newspaper Articles for Hyde Co., NC (The Coastland Times - Friday, January 2, 1953; pg. 1)


Ocracoke Island was shocked to the roots of its so called Elizabethan foundation when the first trial in approximately 30 years was heard before Justice of the Peace Harvey Wahab. The news of the scheduled hearing swept over this sandy soil like a prairie fire and the natives from all over the island flocked to the courthouse building to hear the testimony, Mackley [Maltby] Bragg was charged with assault on the person of Stanley Wahab. He was found guilty of the charge and received a 30 day road sentence suspended upon the payment of $10 and cost and on the good behavior of the defendant for a period of six months.

The trial and the events leading up to it has been called the "news of the year." For a period of 30 years Ocracoke has been known as the one place in North Carolina without any form of law. It received much publicity due to the fact that it did not have a jail, any law enforcement officers, and there are no license plates on the cars and no licenses for driving. The fact that the problems of civilization were slowly encroaching this island of legend became evident in 1950 following the construction of Scott's Highway. The citizens were faced with the problems of speeders along the narrow highway which had been called the road which "started from nowhere and ended at the same place."

In order to check the speeders and the Saturday night celebrators, Ausley [Ansley] O'Neal was appointed Deputy Sheriff. Additional problems appeared when it was discovered that following an arrest the defendant and all witnesses were forced to travel through four counties to get to Swan Quarter, the county seat of Hyde County. This trip, due to the boat and bus schedule, requires a period of four days. As the result, the deputy sheriff didn't have too much business. In order to offer a solution to the problem, Harvey Wahab, a retired Coast Guardsman, was appointed Justice of the Peace. He received his appointment in the spring and today was his first trial.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Cremation Jewelry

Recent after-dinner conversation at my house turned to burial practices and cremation. I was reminded of a customer at the Village Craftsmen a number of years ago.

A congenial elderly couple came into our gallery. While I was chatting with the woman I nodded toward the gentleman with her, and referred to him as her husband. "Oh, he is not my husband," she countered. "My first husband is here," she said, pointing to the locket-type earring dangling from her right ear. "And my second husband is here," she added, touching her left earring.

Noticing a matching locket on a chain around her neck, and nodding to the gentleman with her and pointing to the necklace, I remarked, "So, I suppose he will go there."

"Oh no," she quickly informed me, "that's my dog."

You meet the most interesting people at Ocracoke!

(I just did an internet search for "cremation jewelry" and came up with more than one million links!)

Friday, January 12, 2018

White-Cowper Airport

Access to Ocracoke is by state-operated ferries, private boat, or airplane. In the '30s and '40s pilots landed on the beach. After NC12 was completed in 1957 pilots often used the new highway as a runway.

OPS Photo, Cochran Collection

Sam Jones (1893-1977) liked to fly to Ocracoke from Norfolk, Virginia. He was a colorful entrepreneur, originally from Swan Quarter, NC, who married Ocracoke native Mary Ruth Kelly. Among other things, Sam was an early promoter of a paved airstrip on Ocracoke Island. With the help of Albert W. Cowper, Resident Superior Court Judge of Lenoir County, and an avid sailor who frequently visited Ocracoke, Sam made contact with Kinston attorney, Thomas J. White, chairman of the NC Advisory Budget Commission and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. White, incidentally, was an avid fisherman and hunter who loved Ocracoke Island and the Outer Banks.

As the result of considerable lobbying by Judge Cowper, Mr. Jones, and others, appropriation for the 3000 foot paved airstrip was approved, and it was built in the early 1960s. In 1964, Sam Jones, newly enthusiastic about easier air travel to the island, commissioned a sign to be placed at the airport. It read, "White-Cowper Airport." Sam is reported to have remarked, "I named the Ocracoke airstrip 'White-Cowper Airport' because Senator Tom White got the money appropriated, and I named it for Judge Albert Cowper for getting Tom White to do it."

It has been many a year since any sign advertising the White-Cowper Airport has been displayed on Ocracoke Island. Few people even remember the sign, and I have been unable to locate a photo of it. I wonder by what authority (if any) Sam named the Ocracoke Airport, and if the airport has an official name in any state documents. It would be interesting to find out. 

This article in the Ocracoke Observer describes a 2016 visit to the island by Conor & Sam Dancy in their rented Skylane airplane: https://ocracokeobserver.com/2017/02/26/outbound-to-ocracoke/.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Junius Harris Fulcher

Junius Harris Fulcher was born in the small village of Frisco on Hatteras Island in 1876. He was the son of George Leffers Fulcher and Cynthia Stowe. George Fulcher (born 1839) had worked as an inlet pilot, fisherman, teacher, and Methodist minister.

Like so many young men from the Outer Banks, Junius entered the US Lighthouse Service. In July, 1918, when he was 42 years old and married with an eight-month-old daughter, Junius was called into service with the Naval Reserve.

Junius Fulcher served as Lieutenant (junior grade) on board the USS Ticonderoga, a 5130 gross ton cargo ship under charter to the United States Navy. The Ticonderoga was built at Bremerhaven, Germany in 1914 as the German flag merchant steamer Kamilla Rickmers. The ship was seized by the U.S. Government in 1917, and renamed Ticonderoga later in that year.

The Ticonderoga

On September 22, 1918, the Ticonderoga left New York on her fourth voyage to France. Eight days later a German U-boat, U-152, surfaced in her path. Commanding officer, James J. Madison, attempted to ram the submarine, but missed by just a few feet. The U-boat attacked, critically disabling the Ticonderoga, and killing and injuring many of the crew, including the captain.

Seriously wounded and losing consciousness, Madison ordered his crew to abandon ship as it sank. His lieutenants, Frank L. Muller and Junius Fulcher, were placed in charge. Of the ship’s 237 crew members only 22 sailors and the two officers survived the battle. Lt. Junius Fulcher, badly wounded, and Executive Officer, Frank Muller, were picked up by the German submarine and taken aboard as prisoners of war. Junius Fulcher was treated by the U-boat’s doctor and recuperated well. After the November 11 Armistice, Fulcher and Muller were released in Harwich, England.

US Naval History & Heritage Command Photo
Muller, left foreground; Fulcher, right foreground

Fulcher returned to work with the US Lighthouse Service, where he served for 40 years. He and his wife Grace had one more child, a son. Junius Fulcher died in 1967 at the age of 91 in Norfolk, Va.

James Hardy Overton met and befriended Junius Fulcher around the turn of the 20th century, some years before Fulcher’s fateful encounter with U-152. Impressed with Fulcher’s character, Hardy Overton named his first son Junius Fulcher Overton. Years later, Junius Overton’s two daughters, Margaret and Kay, married Ocracoke men, Danny Garrish and Mike Riddick. A number of the family continue to live on Ocracoke Island to this day.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Post Office In Big Ike O’Neal’s Store

The following photo and caption was published in the August 21, 1941 edition of The Beaufort News:

Post Office At Ocracoke Today Is In Big Ike O’Neal’s Store

OCRACOKE ISLAND’S postoffice is located in Big Ike O’Neal’s store located on the shores of Silver Lake Harbor in the center of the community. Postmistress at the present time is Miss Elizabeth O’Neal, daughter of Big Ike.  She is shown in the above picture selling a money order to Walter O’Neal, island merchant. Ocracoke, according to its per capita, probably issues more money orders than any other community in the world. Tom Howard, retired postmaster there, once told the Beaufort News Editor that the annual sale of money orders amounted to $36,000 – (Photo by Aycock Brown).

The Post Office/Big Ike's Store was severely damaged in the 1944 hurricane. A new Post Office was then built nearby (where Down Point Decoys is today; that Post Office was moved, and is now a rental cottage behind Captain's Cargo gift shop). Captain's Landing Motel sits approximately where Big Ike's store was located. It is owned and operated by Betty Helen Chamberlin (Big Ike's granddaughter/Elizabeth O'Neal Howard's daughter) and her husband George. 

Elizabeth always insisted there was no such thing as a postmistress. She was the postmaster!

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Merle Davis

Many of our readers will remember Merle Smith Davis. Merle died Thursday, December 28, 2017, at her home on Ocracoke Island.

Merle was born in Durham, NC, and grew up in Chapel Hill. She graduated from Chapel Hill High School in 1962, and attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and received her education degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1966.

Merle moved to Ocracoke in the mid 1970s, and was an active member of the community. She added a creative touch to nearly every endeavor she pursued. A friend recounted being invited to her home for lunch after teaching a pottery class at the Methodist Church. "The plate was decorated with candied violets!" he remembered with glee. Her house on Howard Street, outside and inside, was as much a gallery of folk art and contemporary crafts as a home. First time visitors to Ocracoke, when strolling down Howard Street, would sometimes walk into her house, thinking it was the Village Craftsmen!

Merle even entered the local vernacular. When someone decorates or dresses in an especially colorful and creative way islanders are wont to exclaim, "That is right Merley, isn't it!"

Merle moved off the island for a time, then returned to teach in the local school. For the last 25 years she had been the Arts Administrator for her husband, Donald Davis, nationally known storyteller.

Merle and her enthusiasm for life will be greatly missed!

You can read Merle's obituary here: http://www.ocracokecurrent.com/153967.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Trap Door

Last year I was visiting a friend in her new (actually old) house. She had just purchased a 100-year-old island home. Although it now has a modern kitchen, two bathrooms, central heat & A/C, and up-to-date wiring, it still maintains its original character. The ceilings are low, interior walls are paneled with bead board, and the stairs are narrow.

The new owner made a special effort to show me the trap door in her small utility room.

I am wondering how many of our readers know why this trap door was cut in the floor of this old house. Leave a comment if you think you know.