Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. After dissolution of the Lodge in 1924, the building (built in 1901) was converted to a private residence, then a coffee shop, and eventually became the center section of the Island Inn and Restaurant.
I was recently reading a short article from 1968 that refers to commerce in North Carolina in the nineteenth century. The author writes, "the Ocracoke Harbor was a busy one, with ships constantly plying between northern cities and New Bern."
Early records of sailing ships along the Outer Banks frequently mention putting in to "harbor" at Ocracoke. Modern day readers usually envision large sailing vessels lying at anchor in Silver Lake. This is a mistake, as the above mentioned author explains in a footnote: "Above, where it talks about all the ships coming and going through Ocraacoke harbor, it does not mean in the present day Silver Lake. The larger freight boats, schooners and steam boats stayed out in the Pamlico Sound, Teach's channel or Teach's hole. Silver Lake in those years was called Cockle Creek and only four feet deep in the center until the 1930s."
A yawl is a two-masted fore-and-aft-rigged sailboat with the mizzenmast stepped far aft so that the mizzen boom overhangs the stern. Here is a drawing of two 18th century yawl-rigged fishing vessels.
1700 Drawing by Sir Oswald Walter Brierly
In 1939 Isaac (Big Ike) O"Neal (1865-1954) had this to say about his childhood and growing up on Ocracoke Island and Pamlico Sound: "I declare, I don't know why a lot of us weren't
drowned in those days. About the only boats we had
were yawls, the small boats we picked up from ships
that were wrecked on the island. We'd beat around the
sounds in these little boats in all kinds of weather.
Nothing unusual to be away from home for a week or two
weeks at a time."
I published the following four paragraphs several years ago, and think they are worth sharing again!
I discovered the following
interesting account of colonial era Ocracoke & Hatteras islanders on
several Internet sites. I have not located any reference to a primary
source. However, Rev. John Urmstone's presence in Bath in 1710 is well
documented. So, I hope you enjoy this short assessment of the character of some of the first Europeans on the Outer Banks.
"In 1710, the Reverend John
Irmstone [John Urmstone, a missionary of the Society for the Propagation
Gospel in Foreign Parts, which was established in 1701 by the Church of
England] of Bath wrote in a letter to his superior about people from
and Ocracoke who came to get baptized.He gives no surnames, but says, 'these persons, half indian [sic] and half
English, are an offense to my own and I gravely doubt the Kingdom of Heaven was
designed to accomodate [sic] such. They stunk and their condition was not
improved by the amounts of sacramental wine they lapped up nor by sprinkling
with baptismal waters.'"
Some of our readers may remember the red gypsy wagon that was parked beside the Village Craftsmen for a number of years. I built it in the mid-1980s on the chassis of a Ford pickup truck. About five years ago it had deteriorated so much that I had it dismantled.
About twenty years ago three "hippy" college students (a young man and two young ladies) knocked on the front door of the Village Craftsmen, and shyly asked if they could pitch their tent in our yard for one night. I offered them the gypsy wagon. They were delighted with the accommodations, and invited me to share their dinner of local fish and fresh vegetables, so we spent an enjoyable evening together.
During the course of our conversation one of the young ladies shared this wisdom from her grandfather: "Remember to always live your life so you have stories to tell your grandchildren," she admonished. After a brief pause she added, "And always live your life so you live long enough to have grandchildren!"
I hope those three college kids who spent one night in a gypsy wagon on Ocracoke Island will share their stories with their grandchildren.
In The Story of Ocracoke Island, the authors write that "It is difficult today for those who know the peaceful somnolence of Ocracoke to picture the events of [the] Revolutionary days.... The part played by Occacock Inlet in the Revolutionary War was vital indeed to the armies of General Washington."
They go on to recount the events of April 14-17, 1776, when "the vessel Polly, which, when bound on a voyage from Edenton to Madiera, was captured...by one John Goodrich, commanding his Majesty's Ship Lilly...."
John Goodrich and his son, William, had earlier conspired to aid the Virginia Committee of Safety by procuring gunpowder from the West Indies for the patriots. After capture and "re-education" the Goodriches were convinced to affirm loyalty to the Crown. Captain Goodrich subsequently acquired command of the armed sloop Lilly and, on April 14 captured, and claimed as his prize, the patriots' merchant schooner Polly as it was sailing through Ocracoke Inlet. On the same day her Majesty's armed sloop, Fincastle, under command of the privateer, Lt. Wright, captured and plundered the Lilly.
Three days later, on April 17, five whaleboats full of armed Ocracoke Inlet pilots boarded the Lilly's tender. They captured the Lilly along with Capt. Goodrich and his crew. Goodrich was taken as prisoner to Charlottesville, Virginia, where he remained for at least eighteen months. The recaptured vessels were sent to New Bern and used by the revolutionaries as tenders for two North Carolina Navy brigantines.
In March, 2012, we published an Ocracoke Newsletter about the Rondthalers of Ocracoke Island.
Theodore and Alice Rondthaler were teachers at the Ocracoke School for fourteen years, beginning in the late 1940s. Theodore, (1899-1966) was the son of Rev. Howard Edward Rondthaler (1871-1956), a
distinguished Moravian pastor who later served as president of Salem
and still later was consecrated bishop of the Southern Moravian
Rondthaler was married to Katherine Boring, a Philadelphia Quaker.
In 2016 Molly Grogan Rawls wrote an article, "Four Generations of Rondthaler Men," for the Winston-Salem Time Traveler.
Rawls notes that Theodore was born in Forsyth County, and after considering several possible career choices, decided to become a teacher. In 1927 he married his father’s secretary, Alice Keeney. Before moving to Ocracoke, Theodore was a school principal in Forsyth County and Alice worked as a teacher. Theodore was also a musician and an outdoorsman.