Monday, June 26, 2017

Farewell

Ocracoke residents have been taken aback by a number of recent deaths.

On Saturday islanders gathered at the Methodist Church to bid farewell to Earl W. O'Neal, Jr. (1929-2017). Earl was a prominent local historian who published several extensive genealogies of Ocracoke families, wrote detailed books recounting local history, and collected untold numbers of vintage photographs, wills, deeds, and other documents. Earl was incredibly generous, always willing to share his knowledge and collections with interested individuals, island businesses, and local organizations.


















Earl had been honored by being awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian honor. He also received Ocracoke Preservation Society's first annual Cultural Heritage Award for his many contributions in preserving the island's culture and heritage.

You can read a more complete obituary for Earl here: http://www.ocracokecurrent.com/149430.

Earlier in the week native islander, James Barrie Gaskill, died in Pamlico Sound while fishing his gill nets. James Barrie (1943-2017) was an iconic local fisherman and defender of Ocracoke's commercial fishing and traditional water-related occupations. He had a wonderful sense of humor, a sharp mind, and an unadulterated island brogue. Visitors and islanders will always remember him and his colorful business, Fat Boys Fish Company. 


















James Barrie will be missed by all. One small consolation is that he died out on the water doing what he loved.

You can read a tribute to James Barrie here: https://www.coastalreview.org/2017/06/james-barrie-gaskill-friend-of-our-coast/.

Last month local islander, Clyde Austin died at his home after a long illness. Clyde (1926-2017) was one of the four original crew members who started the Hatteras Inlet Ferry Service in the 1950’s. In 1986, he retired after 30 years of service with the NCDOT Ferry Division.

You can read Clyde's obituary here:  http://www.ocracokecurrent.com/149004.

Earlier this month former island resident, Russel Newell, died. Russel (1933-2017) was another colorful character. He was an early island developer who wrote and recited his own original poems and songs, and often entertained ferry passengers with his spontaneous trombone performances.

You can read Russel's obituary here: https://ocracokeobserver.com/2017/06/14/russell-newell-1933-2017-developer-and-poetsong-writer/

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Ocracoke Sock

There is an Ocracoke Street in Charlotte, NC, and a US Coast Guard Cutter named Ocracoke.

USCG Cutter Ocracoke












Now there is an Ocracoke sock!













The Ocracoke Sock, manufactured by Farm to Feet, makers of 100% American socks, is produced to honor and celebrate the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail. This is what they have to say about their sock: "Each morning first light hits the Mountains-to-Sea Trail on the popular vacation destination of Ocracoke Island in the Outer Banks. The sock’s design reflects the beautiful colors of the morning sunrise.

I wonder if our readers know of any more streets, vessels, products, etc. named for Ocracoke Island. If so, please leave a comment.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pamlico Tavern

In January I shared several photos from the 1980s. Recently my neighbor, Al, showed me this advertising poster for the Pamlico Inn and Pamlico Tavern. It was in a stack of Ocracoke clippings from the '80s.


















This establishment must have been short-lived (or Al and I are losing our memories; maybe both), but neither of us remembers this restaurant. Do any of our readers recollect this place. The poster indicates it was located on Highway 12...maybe where Gaffer's is today??

Please leave a comment if you can enlighten us.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rex O'Neal Falls Overboard

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter comes from the oral history project, Coastal Voices.

Barbara Garrity-Blake, Susan West, and Karen Amspacher, (North Carolina folklorists, researchers, historians, and collectors of stories) have been instrumental in creating Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina.

Photo courtesy Coastal Voices Collection, Core Sound Museum















In 2014 Coastal Voices published a short video of Ocracoke islander, Rex O'Neal, relating the story of the time he fell overboard in Pamlico Sound while gigging for flounders in the early morning hours. Rex provides a delightfully entertaining telling of this story, made all the more enjoyable by his infectious exuberance.

Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Alligators

About a year and a half ago I mentioned on this blog that alligators have been seen in eastern North Carolina, including Hyde County mainland.

A few days ago I was returning to the island via the Swan Quarter ferry. I noticed this sign near the docks:


















I understand the ferry personnel see alligators there fairly regularly. I wonder if any of our readers have seen alligators in eastern North Carolina. Please leave a comment if you have.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Monday, June 19, 2017

Ocracoke Railway

Several times Cousin Blanche mentioned to me that she had heard there was a railway on Ocracoke many years ago. According to her the railway proceeded from the old Ponder (sometimes called Ponzer) Hotel (1885-1900), followed what today is called Howard Street (it was the main thoroughfare in the 1800s), and terminated at the beach.

The Ponder Hotel
 










After questioning Blanche I discovered this was designed for a horse drawn wagon (she called it a tram) that took hotel guests to the beach. Since I could find no evidence (physical or historical) of a railway ever being on Howard Street, and an old definition of "tram" is "a low four-wheeled cart," I decided there must not have been a railway...just a wagon path...down Howard Street. 

Then, lo and behold, not long ago my neighbor Al Scarborough brought me a transcript of an 1890 advertisement for the Ponder Hotel. It includes this short paragraph: "The surf is only a short walk from the hotel, and this can be reached by a tram railway at any and all times, if the walk seems tiresome. In fact no wish of a guest will be denied to insure ease and comfort."

I should have known not to question Blanche! She is a treasure trove of island history. Even today when I visit her in the assisted living facility in Nags Head we chat about the Ocracoke she remembers and the Ocracoke she heard about from the old timers.

You can read more about the Hotel Ponder and steamship traffic to Ocracoke in our August, 2014, Ocracoke Newsletter: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news082114.htm.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Friday, June 16, 2017

Progueing

Cecil Bragg, in his book, Ocracoke Island: Pearl of the Outer Banks, writes about "Progueing for a living." He says, "It seems that word isn't used except on the Outer Banks. Fishing, clamming, crabbing, oystering and shrimping are called progueing... To catch clams [in years gone by] one used a farm rake with the teeth bent in a bow-shape so it would push easier in the seaweed growth and one could feel the rake hit a clam and they would dig [it] up and put it in a wooden water-tight box which we drug behind us with a rope tied around our waists."

Nowadays we progue for clams using rakes with tines fashioned from stainless steel table knives, and with metal or plastic baskets equipped with a flotation device. Other than that, the procedure is the same as it was done many years ago.














 



This is what I wrote about progueing several years ago: Old time O'cockers could often be found progueing for a living. They'd progue for fish, clams, oysters, crabs, even turtles. Sometimes they'd use a gig (for flounder), a rake (for clams), or tongs (for oysters). Turtle progues were also used on the island.

Progue is a variation of an obsolete term "prog" (going back at least to 16th century England & Scotland), meaning to search, prowl about, or forage for food or plunder. On Ocracoke it can be used to mean searching for seafood, or more generally for just poking about or jabbing at something (e.g. "Will you quick proguing around in that pile of trash!").

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Thursday, June 15, 2017

43 Years Ago

We are wondering how many of our readers can identify this small business. It was established in 1974 (it was where my son had his first paying job). The business is still in operation, on the same property, but in a much larger new building.



















If you think you know, please leave your answer in a comment below.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/ 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mayor of Ocracoke

In 2009 WRAl.com (WRAL is a television station broadcasting from Raleigh, NC) asked its readers this question: "Who is the mayor of Ocracoke?"

The web site pointed out that Ocracoke is unincorporated, and thus has no mayor. It then went on to interview Charles Meeker, long-time visitor to Ocracoke, who was at that time the mayor of Raleigh.

Charles' father, Leonard Meeker (1916-2014), former lawyer for the State Department and former Ambassador to Romania, was living on Ocracoke in 2009.

Leonard Meeker, 2005 by Oliver White



















In the  interview Charles talks about aspects of the island that continue to draw him here...the natural beauty, local stories, the quiet pace of life, and the community's commitment to the preservation of its history.

You can read the short conversation here: http://www.wral.com/lifestyles/travel/blogpost/6028795/.

 Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

To for At

A distinctive element of the Ocracoke Brogue is the use of "to" where you might expect "at." For example, it is common to hear native islanders say, "She is to the store," or "He's out to his duck blind this morning."

Walt Wolfram and Natalie Schilling-Estes, in their book, Hoi Toide on the Outer Banks, discuss an interview with Essie O'Neal (1915-1999). In the interview Essie says, " I was working as fast as I could to get them all and put them to the table."

Wolfram and Shilling-Estes write, "This dialect feature is found in only a few areas of the country, including Ocracoke and coastal areas to the north such as Tangier Island, Virginia; Smith Island, Maryland; and the Delmarva Peninsula."

Interestingly, this construction is common in the German language. "Er ist zu Hause" (literally, "He is to house") is translated as "He is at home." According Brian Powers, however, English is not a dialect of German. Powers explains that German and English "evolved separately from a common Germanic ancestor." I wonder if the use of "to" for "at" was common in the Germanic ancestor and/or in Old English. Maybe some of our readers know. If so, please leave a comment. 

Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

 


Monday, June 12, 2017

Cemeteries

New visitors to Ocracoke are often surprised and amazed to discover there are more than 80 cemeteries scattered about in the village. Most are small family cemeteries, although some hold dozens of graves, and there is one larger and newer community cemetery.

People sometimes ask if the older family cemeteries, which are often located near historic houses, are still being used. Yes, they are, however, many of them are quite small, and room for new graves is dwindling as the years roll on.

Of course, there are many older unmarked graves on Ocracoke Island, both in the village and in the dunes along the beach. These are the graves of Native Americans, pirates, victims of shipwrecks, residents whose wooden markers have washed away, and others. Ocracokers sometimes remark that there are more dead people here than living ones!

Ocracoke Cemeteries Map















Key to Cemeteries Map



















Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Friday, June 09, 2017

Tolson

In the past I have occasionally written about historic island families. Today we focus on the Tolsons of Ocracoke.

The first Tolson on the Outer Banks was John Tolson who purchased lot #1 on Portsmouth Island in 1756. However, it was not until  1830 that any Tolsons (William and Thomas) appeared in the federal census of Ocracoke.

William Tolson was born ca. 1770, and is listed as head of household, along with seven children aged 20 years or younger, and one woman (presumably his wife) 40 - 50 years old.William is the largest slave holder on the island, owning 21 of the 128 slaves.

Thomas Tolson (probably William's son) was 30 - 40 years old, with five children and one woman (presumably his wife) 30-40 years old. He owned four slaves.

Daniel Tolson (1816-1879), another of William's sons, was a prosperous antebellum Ocracoke merchant. In 1855 Daniel Tolson, just shy of 40 years old, was appointed postmaster. He served until 1866, at a weekly salary of $9.17. In 1857 he was half owner of the the five year old, 55' long schooner, Patron. Daniel Tolson purchased a relatively large tract of land on Ocracoke, including Springer's Point, where he is buried in a secluded spot.

Daniel Tolson's Grave















Most of Ocracoke's present day Tolsons are descended from William Tolson's son, William Sylvester Tolson (b. ca. 1827) who worked as a pilot guiding sailing vessels through Ocracoke Inlet.

Interestingly, William Sylvester's son, Daniel (1867-1944) married Sabra Howard (1870-1951), and she became Sabra Tolson. Some years later, Sabra Tolson (1894-1970) married Napoleon Howard (1888-1957) and became Sabra Howard! Just one reason tracing family lines on Ocracoke can be so challenging.

Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Island Churches

Today Ocracoke has two church buildings, the United Methodist Church and the Assembly of God (a Roman Catholic mass is also celebrated, on Fridays in the Methodist Rec. Hall). At one time, before the Assembly of God was established in the late 1930s, islanders also had their choice of two churches, but they were both Methodist!
 
Methodist Episcopal Church, South



















Methodist Episcopal Church














The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, traced its roots to 1828 when itinerant Methodist preachers proselytized here. When the national church split in 1845 over the issue of slavery, the Ocracoke congregation became part of this "Southern Church." In 1883 a branch of the Methodist Episcopal Church (the "Northern Church") was established on the island. According to island native, Fannie Pearl Fulcher, who heard the story from her grandmother, "a young singing master" came to the island who "wanted to teach the choir to sing by note." This led to a division, and eventually to the establishment of the two Methodist Churches.

A national syndicated 1923 newspaper story about Ocracoke tells the story slightly differently:

"The natives tell a simple story of the division in the church. The original church was the Southern Methodist. An elder wanted an organ and another said the idea was preposterous, insisting musical instruments had no place in houses of worship. When the progressives rolled the organ into the building he secured a missionary and established the Northern church. The congregation now are about equally divided and equally strange is the fact that although in the heart of the “Democratic south,” most of the men of the Northern church are Democrats and those of the Southern branch are Republicans."

In past Ocracoke Newsletters I have written histories of both the Methodist Church and the Assembly of God. There you will find much more information.  

Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The Art of Opening Clams

Opening clams is an art. To make the job easier some people will tell you to put the clams in the freezer for an hour or more to make the muscles relax. Others recommend slightly steaming the clams so they just begin to open.

Lachlan made the following short video where I demonstrate opening a fresh clam with a sturdy pocket knife.

It is easy for a novice to cut his or her hand trying to open a clam. As one web site says, it is best to be shown by someone who is good at it. Just below the video is a description of the procedure.

video

From http://www.shoemakerlittlenecks.com/opening.html:

Hold the knife in your dominant hand, and in your other hand position the clam with its lip facing out towards your fingers and the hinge facing in toward the base of your thumb. The clams fatter, rounder end should be down towards your pinky finger. Apply the knife edge carefully in the groove between the two lips, and use your bottom two fingers to apply steady pressure to the back of the knife. Do not try to use your knife hand; this increases the chance of slipping [emphasis added]. Simply squeeze the knife in and use it to cut the two muscles holding the clam closed. If you are careful you can run the knife along the roof of the clam and sever these muscles without cutting the meat. Next simply cut the other ends of these muscles. It takes some practice to open clams without mangling the meats.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Ocracoke in the Early 20th Century

From Chapter IX, "The Early 20th Century in Washington [NC]" in the 1976 book, Washington and the Pamlico, Ursula Fogleman Loy & Pauline Marion Worthy, editors:

"During the summer months the Old Dominion Steamers, Hatteras and Ocracoke, as well as several sailboats made regular trips to Ocracoke, usually leaving about seven o'clock Saturday nights and arriving at Ocracoke early Sunday morning. They were loaded with vacationers and passengers from Washington, Greenville, Rocky Mount, Williamston, Kinston and other places.

Photo Courtesy Ellen Cloud














"Ocracoke Island in those days was very much more interesting, exciting and pleasurable than today. It had three very good hotels and many boarding houses, which served excellent homecooked food, especially freshly caught seafood, including large bedded oysters, scallops, shrimp and all kinds of fish. Their oyster and clam fritters were simply out of this world, also their hushpuppies.

"People would inhale the fresh salt air and feel a sense of freedom soon after arrival. They would fish and swim in the daytime and square dance every night. To say they all, including children, enjoyed it, and —a big time was had by all— is putting it mildly.

"The island was crude and undeveloped, the natives were friendly and would go out of their way for everyone to have a good time. They had a brogue peculiar to the coast and the sea, which the visitors loved, but could rarely imitate or impersonate."

Actually, in many ways Ocracoke is not so different today!

For more information about steamships and Ocracoke, click here.

Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Monday, June 05, 2017

Foot Bridges

Last month a reader left this comment/question on one of my posts: "A while back a friend of mine sent me a picture of a pony standing on an arched foot bridge with railings on the side of it that spanned part of Silver Lake. I think the picture was taken in 1938. He had another picture of just the bridge but this time it didn't have any railings on it, again it was taken in the 30's. How wide were these bridges? Clearly wide enough for a horse. What about a wagon? The lighthouse was in one of these pictures. Why would Ocracoke even need a bridge like these? Anyway they were interesting."

Before WWII Silver Lake Harbor was a shallow tidal creek. Islanders still use the traditional name, Cockle Creek (or just "the Creek"), to refer to the harbor. Although it was shallow (only 3-4 feet deep) it was as wide as it is today. Then, as now, the harbor was connected with the sound at the "Ditch" (the narrow inlet adjacent to the old Coast Guard Station).

Two small tidal streams flowed from Silver Lake toward the "bald beach." These streams, or "guts" as they were known by islanders, divided the village into two major areas, Around Creek (including the Community Store, Howard Street, etc.) and Down Point (from the southern side of the Island Inn to the lighthouse and in that general vicinity).

Several primitive wooden bridges spanned the guts.

This detail from a 1939 US Army Corps of Engineers survey map shows Silver Lake (upper left), the Island Inn (the rectangle just above the top left corner of the map title and key), the two guts (on either side of the Island Inn), and four foot bridges (two spanning the guts near the Island Inn, one longer bridge at Silver Lake where it flows into the two guts, and another short bridge across a "finger" below and to the left of the longer bridge). Click on the map to view a larger image.












I discovered the photo below after my father died. It was probably taken in the 1930s. From left to right (back to front), to the best of my knowledge: Juliana Guth (my mother's mother), Kunigunde Guth Howard (my mother), Helena Guth Webster (my mother's sister), Lawton Howard (my father), and an unknown man.













Here are three more photos of some of the foot bridges:


























Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Friday, June 02, 2017

Literary Answer

Yesterday I published this paragraph, and asked if any of our readers could identify the source:

"After incredible labor we succeeded, at length, in getting the long-boat over the side without material accident, and into this we crowded the whole of the crew and most of the passengers. This party made off immediately, and, after undergoing much suffering, finally arrived, in safety, at Ocracoke Inlet, on the third day after the wreck."

It was written in 1844 by Edgar Allan Poe in his short story "The Oblong Box."

Edgar Allan Poe



















In 1844, it seems, Poe felt no need to identify Ocracoke Inlet. Numerous shipwrecks in the vicinity, notably the 1837 wreck of the steam packet Home, made Ocracoke well known.

"The Oblong Box" is only seven and a half pages long, and, as with all of Poe's works, worth reading.

Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Literary Reference

Several years ago I published this paragraph:

"After incredible labor we succeeded, at length, in getting the long-boat over the side without material accident, and into this we crowded the whole of the crew and most of the passengers. This party made off immediately, and, after undergoing much suffering, finally arrived, in safety, at Ocracoke Inlet, on the third day after the wreck."

I am wondering if any of our readers can identify the source of this passage (without simply copying the text, and doing an internet search!!).  Hint: it is fiction, and was written by a famous author in 1844.

I will publish the answer tomorrow.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/




Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ocrafolk Festival

The 2017 Ocrafolk Music & Storytelling Festival is this weekend, June 2-4.

Artwork by Karen Rhodes


















This celebration features musicians, storytellers, artisans, and characters of Ocracoke Island and beyond who come together for one incredible weekend of performances and fun! In addition to weekend performances, events include a Friday Night Fundraising Art Auction, a Saturday night traditional Ocracoke square dance, and a Sunday morning gospel sing.

Click here for more information:  http://www.ocracokealive.org/ocrafolk-festival.html.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Clamming

As the air and water warm up, islanders are getting their clam rakes and heading out into the Sound to rake for clams. I took this photo of island visitor, Archer, just after he jumped overboard.


















 In less than an hour Archer, Al and I had our limit of 200 clams, and we were heading back, anticipating a hearty meal of clam chowder or clams casino...or maybe just a feast of raw clams. Here is a photo of Archer proudly displaying his bounty.



















Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Monday, May 29, 2017

Tipi

Longtime residents and visitors to Ocracoke may remember this scene from the early 1970s.



















My son, Stefen Howard, creator of OcracokeNavigator.com, periodically publishes "History Hunt" vintage photos. This is photo #7. If you can identify the location of this photo you will be entered in a drawing to win a free t-shirt. Details are available at https://www.ocracokenavigator.com/history-hunt-7/.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Friday, May 26, 2017

Nets

Commercial fishing on Ocracoke blossomed after 1938 when the island got its first electric generator and an accompanying ice plant. Below is a 1960s postcard showing a fisherman's nets drying in the sun.













I took the following photo of island native Jesse Spencer just a few weeks ago as he was tending to his nets. Things haven't changed all that much in the last 50 years, although the wooden poles have been replaced by PVC pipe, and there wasn't a golf cart in the background of the 1960s photo!












Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Lighthouse Outbuildings

A visit to Ocracoke is not complete without a stop at the lighthouse. Our 75 foot tower built in 1823 is probably the most-photographed structure on the island.

The site plan below, taken from the National Park Service's 2016 Cultural Landscape Report on the Ocracoke Light Station, shows the location of the light tower (bottom, left) and the keeper's quarters (top, center) as well as various outbuildings.

Lighthouse Site Plan, NPS












I recently wrote about the privy. As you can see, there are other outbuildings on the property: an oil house, a generator house, a carpenter's shop, and a store house, as well as a vegetable garden and two water cisterns.

Lighthouse with oil house (left) and generator house (right)













Carpenter's shop, privy, and store house












Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Jellyfish

Not long ago I discovered this jellyfish washed up on the beach. I didn't know what species of jellyfish this was, but I thought it especially beautiful.


















According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, "Few marine creatures are as mysterious and intimidating as jellyfish. Though easily recognized, these animals are often misunderstood and feared by beach goers, even though most jellyfish in South Carolina [and North Carolina] waters are harmless." You can read more here

Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Navy Base

While spending time on Ocracoke you might hear someone mention the National Park Service docks on Silver Lake Harbor. However, if you are speaking with native islanders you will more likely hear the docks referred to as the Base Docks.

US Navy Base Docks
courtesy Ocracoke Preservation Society















A U.S. Navy Base on Ocracoke was commissioned on October 9, 1942. On January 16, 1944 it was converted to an Amphibious Training Base, and in 1945 it was converted to a Combat Information Center. At one time more than 500 Navy personnel were stationed at Ocracoke. The Base was closed in 1946.

In his book, "Ocracoke Island, It's People, the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy Base During World War II" Earl O'Neal includes several photos of the Base taken in 1947 by LCDR Henning A. Rountree, Jr. USNR RET. The pictures were sent to Ocracoke residents, Wahab & Elizabeth Howard. Their daughter, Elizabeth Howard Chamberlin, submitted the photos for publication on-line. You can view them here: http://www.ocracokeisland.com/navel_base_photos.htm.

Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Aleta, Ocracoke's mailboat from 1944-1952, compliments of the Core Sound Museum. Click on the following link for photos, text, and audio recordings about this iconic vessel: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mailboat Aleta

This month we share with our readers a wonderful web site with photos and stories about the mailboat Aleta. You can not only read a delightful description of this iconic vessel, but you can also listen to 7 short audio recordings of interviews with Ellen Marie Cloud, daughter of one of the Aleta's captains. She relates first-hand memories of coming to Ocracoke in the early 20th century.















Click on the following link to go directly to the page: http://www.coresound.com/saltwaterconnections/portlight/aleta/

Many thanks to the folks at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center for sharing this information on the Web!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Black-bellied Plover

The black-bellied plover, also known as the grey plover (Pluvialis squatarola) breeds in the Arctic regions, but winters in southern coastal areas. I spotted this black-bellied plover (from late April through August they have a black breast and belly; they molt to grey in fall and winter) a few days ago on the ocean beach.
 
This bird is the largest plover in North America, and its distinctive markings make for a striking sight on our beaches.

















You can read more about the black-bellied plover here

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042117.htm

Thursday, May 18, 2017

MST in a Day

Last week I wrote about the North Carolina Mountains to the Sea Trail (MST). This 1,175 mile trail extends from the mountains to the coast. Just over 14 miles of the trail are on Ocracoke Island.

Photo by Paul Travis











On Saturday, September 9, 2017, several hundred people will tackle the entire 1,175 miles of the trail by hiking various short legs. Legs average 3-5 miles, which means that just about anybody, of any age, can hike, & can find a suitable leg (dirt trail, road, greenway, beach, flat or steep.)

If you will be on the island Saturday, September 9, please consider hiking one of the three legs of the trail on Ocracoke Island (one is 4.5 miles long; one 3.2; and one 6.6).  Of course, many other segments of the trail are available to hike. To register to hike, and for more information, please visit the MTS web site.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042117.htm.  

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Story

The US Navy established a sizable base on the island in 1942.

Some years ago I heard the following story.

When WWII ended, the base was decommissioned. Although the government hired a watchman to protect their abandoned property, it soon became apparent that there wasn't any effort to keep the buildings from quickly deteriorating, which distressed a people accustomed to reusing material and making do with what was available.

A few islanders discovered that the watchman had a craving for spirits. When he was sufficiently "under the weather" and asleep, those "lawless Outer Bankers" went to work with crow bars and hammers. One islander recalled it as the "midnight requisitions."

One particularly resourceful islander decided to remove an entire building!  He had purchased an Army surplus Power Wagon, and went to the base and loaded the small building onto a boat trailer. As he was hauling the building down what is now British Cemetery Road, the Power Wagon stalled and quit. He was unable to restart the vehicle, so he unhooked the trailer, leaving it and the building in the sandy lane. He and friends pushed the truck to his yard.













Of course, the next morning the watchman noticed the building gone, and soon located it in the lane. When confronted, the perpetrator claimed innocence, noting with insouciance, "Why there's no way it could have been me; that old truck over there, it won't even start!"

I never did hear what happened to the building. It is probably in someone's yard today, being used as a storage shed.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042117.htm.   

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

CSI, NSF, & PEACH

Two exciting collaborative projects studying offshore currents and the Gulf Stream have been initiated by the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) and the National Science Foundation, along with other partners. The NSF's project is called "Observational and Modeling Study of the Physical Processes Driving Exchanges between the Shelf and the Deep Ocean at Cape Hatteras" (PEACH). 

The CSI project is looking into the possibility of using an autonomous underwater vehicle, or AUV, and water driven turbines to harness the energy of the Gulf Stream to generate power. According to the Coastal Studies Institute "the movement of water [in the Gulf Stream] is some 45 times greater than the flow of every river on earth...[and harnessing] just 0.1 percent of the available power would yield the equivalent of 150 nuclear power plants." For more information see Kipp Tabb's article in the Coastal Review

Gabriel Matthias of the University of Georgia
Skidaway Institute of Oceanography
poses on the beach at Hatteras Island,
next to one of the antennas used in the radar
part of the PEACH study. Photo: Catherine Kozak


















According to Catherine Kozak in a subsequent article in the Coastal Review, the complementary PEACH project "is meant to answer critical questions about the ocean’s response to climate change and the influence of marine ecosystem dynamics." Radar outposts have been set up at four locations on Hatteras and Ocracoke. Kozak explains that  "it’s the latest in an ambitious collaborative scientific project to decipher the dynamics of the water exchange between the continental shelf and the Gulf Stream, the ocean speedway that nearly brushes the crook of the Outer Banks.” For more information see Catherine Kozak's article in the Coastal Review

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042117.htm.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Curlews and Willets

Visitors to Cape Hatteras National Seashore are often fortunate to see various shorebirds and wading birds along the beach or in the marsh. Long-billed curlews can occasionally be seen, but they are not as common as Willets which frequent Ocracoke year around, and can be abundant on the beach.

Long-billed Curlew, photo by Frank Schulenburg













Willet, photo by Dick Daniels















Visitors to the Seashore might be surprised to learn that curlews and willets were hunted extensively in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The following promotion was included in an 1890 advertisement for the Ponder Hotel on Ocracoke Island: "Sportsmen find game in abundance. It is remarked that the curlew and willet shooting surpasses the quail shooting of California." I can remember hearing my father (he was born in 1911) saying that shorebirds were "good eating!"

Today, curlews, willets, and other shorebirds are protected species. Their numbers have increased in recent decades, although loss of habitat still threatens their long-term survival.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042117.htm.  

Friday, May 12, 2017

British Cemetery

Today at 11 am, a ceremony to remember the crew of the HMT Bedfordshire, an armed British trawler that was sunk by German U-boats, will be held on Ocracoke at the British Cemetery. Organized by the War Graves Committee on Hatteras, this ceremony honors sailors who lost their lives off the coast here May 11, 1942.













Following is an article about this tragedy that appeared in The Coastland Times, Friday, May 23, 1952:

BRITISH SEAMEN, VICTIMS OF WAR, SLEEP FAR FROM HOME ON OCRACOKE ISLAND

May is the month of Memorial Day and a time for decorating the resting places of revered and loved ones. Public ceremonies will be held at many of our National cemeteries where those who sacrificed their lives for their country are laid to rest. And although no such public ceremony will take place at the little British graveyard on Ocracoke Island, far away in England are those who will think lovingly of dear ones buried here and at other places along the Carolina Coast--victims of the intensive submarine attacks ten years ago in May 1942 when British and American ships were desperately patrolling off the Atlantic Coast.

There are several wartime graves upon the Carolina Reefs bearing this May 1942 date. Some are identified; some are marked "Unknown". A grave at Cape Hatteras bears the inscription "Michael CAIRNS, May 7, 1942". CAIRNS was identified as one of the crew of the British San Delfino sunk by a German submarine 20 miles north of Diamond Lightship Station buoy in late April 1942. The ship was carrying high test gasoline from a Texas port to Liverpool. CAIRNS was the fourth engineer aboard his ship. At the same time other bodies, one identified as that of Maldwyn JONES, gun crewman, came ashore on Core Banks and were buried in Morehead City

The little British graveyard on Ocracoke Island contains four graves, two of which are marked "Unknown". A third bears the name of Lt. Thomas CUNNINGHAM; the fourth that of Stanly R. CRAIG, AB. The words "Royal Navy" and "Body found May 14, 1942" are inscribed on all four of the bronze plaques on concrete crosses erected at the time of burial. All bodies were identified as members of the crew of HMS Bedfordshire which disappeared with all aboard enroute from Norfolk to Morehead City, it's temporary home port. A body found at Cape Hatteras at about the same time was also identified as off the Bedfordshire, though the name of the sailor is unknown. Another body was found on a shoal far up Pamlico Sound and was buried at Swan Quarter. Rites at Ocracoke were held by the late Amasa FULCHER, prominent layman of the local Methodist church. A year later at Mrs. CUNNINGHAM's request, a Catholic service was held by the Navy Chaplain, then stationed here.

Land for the British burials was given by Mrs. Alice WILLIAMS near the WILLIAMS family graveyard. Markers were made by the T.A. Loving Construction Co. then building the Navy Base nearby. One Ocracoker, by strange coincidence, had talked with Lt. CUNNINGHAM a night or two before the Bedfordshire left Norfolk. They had met at a crowded table in a restaurant where Wahab HOWARD had told them something of Ocracoke Island. He had noticed the watch and signet ring on the hand of one. It was this same watch and ring together with a bank book found in his pocket that identified CUNNINGHAM as one of the victims of the submarine disaster. The Bedfordshire was due at Morehead City one day later but never reached that destination and none of its officers and crew lived to tell the story of its disaster.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042117.htm.  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Mountains to Sea Trail

While walking the winter beach several months ago I spied a gentleman and two women coming towards me. We all stopped at the same place to watch a large pod of dolphins swimming back and forth just beyond the breakers. As we were ready to move on, the gentleman handed me his card. He was Jerry Barker, Board Member of the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in North Carolina.

Photo by David Pozo, courtesy Mountain to Sea Trail











I had heard of the Trail, but didn't know any details, so when I returned home I did some research. As their web site explains, the Trail, which is an official part of the state parks system, "stretches 1175 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks, stopping at many of our state’s most beautiful places along the way." Ocracoke is included in Segment 18, The Outer Banks, from the Cedar Island Ferry to Jockey's Ridge, which the web site describes as "rich with history, wildlife, and scenery."

Photo by Paul Travis, courtesy Mountain to Sea Trail











On further reading of their web site I discovered this paragraph: "What can the MST mean to you? It may mean a short walk with your family near your home. It may mean a weekend backpacking trip with friends. Or it may mean a challenging, inspiring trek of 1175 miles across North Carolina. However you experience the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the beauty of North Carolina will fill you with wonder and joy."

So, check out the Mountains to Sea Trail. Whether you decide to hike the entire 1175 miles, enjoy a shorter camping trip, or simply stroll along the beach at Ocracoke, think kindly of the folks who help preserve and maintain those special places in North Carolina for our enjoyment. 

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042117.htm.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Lighthouse Privy

According to a National Park Service Cultural Landscape Report on the Ocracoke Light Station, "One of the most essential support buildings included in the original 1823 specifications [for the construction of the Ocracoke Lighthouse] was a privy."

Lighthouse Privy, 2017


i
















The Report goes on to say, "[The privy] is recorded on the earliest site plan of 1890 and...[in] 1893.... It was frame with a wood foundation.... Plat maps show that the privy was always located along the east property line although, typical of privies, it was moved several times in the general area."

The privy was repaired or rebuilt several times, including in the early 1880s, 1913, and 1916. The privy was totally reconstructed, according to the original design, in 2004 and 2010.

Although most visitors to the Ocracoke Light Station focus their attention on the lighthouse, several other structures are located on the property. The privy can be seen to the left of the keeper's quarters as you walk up the boardwalk toward the lighthouse.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042117.htm

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Lithia Water

"Buffalo Lithia Waters, Nature's Materia Medica." So reads the embossing on this large bottle found on Ocracoke by Bradford Gaskins some years ago.


















Brad showed me the bottle, but didn't know any more about it other than that he found it on his family land. I promised to do some research. I soon learned that the bottle, produced by "Virginia Buffalo Lithia Springs," contained spring water sold as “Natures Great Specific for Dyspepsia and Gout”

According to a web site I discovered, "The first European-Americans to visit Buffalo Springs in Virginia and record their visit are believed to have been a survey group led by William Byrd II in 1728. In his diary, later to be published as 'The History of the Dividing Line: a Journey to Eden', Byrd poetically wrote that the waters of Buffalo Springs was 'what Adam drank in Paradise, by the help of which we perceived our appetites to mend, our slumbers to sweeten, the stream of life to run cool and peaceably in our veins, and if ever we dreamt of women, they were kind.' Byrd's survey party also sighted many signs of buffalo near the springs, hence the name Buffalo Springs."

For several decades after 1876 the water was bottled and sold in thousands of stores. Sales plummeted after the Pure Food and Drug Act determined that the water had no medicinal value.  

You can read more about Buffalo Lithia Waters here: https://www.antique-bottles.net/showthread.php?279284-buffalo-lithia-water-bottle.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042117.htm.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Diamond City

About 45 miles SW of Ocracoke (as the sea gull flies) lay the small settlement called Diamond City.  Several hundred people lived there, on the eastern end of Shackleford Banks.  Although people of European descent had acquired the spit of sand as early as 1723, it wasn't until about 1885 that the settlement acquired its name. Shore-based whaling had become the primary industry there, and by 1899 about 500 people called Diamond City home.

Cutting up a Dead Whale










It was in August of that year that the powerful San Ciriaco hurricane struck with a vengeance, causing widespread destruction. When the storm was over, most of the islanders began moving away. The last of the residents had left by 1902, most having relocated to Harkers Island, Salter Path and Morehead City.

The following report is extracted from The Beaufort [NC] News, September 29, 1938:

“Diamond City today is nothing but sand dunes. All of the houses are gone. Occasionally when the winds or tides sweep across the sands the bleached bones of many of our earlier citizens are exposed to view.

 “Those bones which are lifeless and the goats which are owned by Uncle Coochy Chadwick, which are everything but lifeless, plus the sea-gulls are all that one finds where…Diamond City the whaling town was once, before it was destroyed by a storm or just abandoned by people who preferred to move to Beaufort or Harkers Island.”

Click here for an excellent history of Diamond City.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042117.htm

Friday, May 05, 2017

Howard Street Lyrics

Yesterday I posted a short video of Fiddler Dave's performance of his original song "Howard Street." It received several lovely comments. One reader asked for the lyrics. I have posted them below. They are also available, along with much more, on the Molasses Creek web site.

"Howard Street" is from the album Best of Molasses Creek: 1993-2000 ~ 2001.









Howard Street
Fiddler Dave Tweedie
This was written for a special place (Ocracoke Island), and a special person in my life.
David Tweedie -lead vocal, fiddle, electric cello
Kitty Mitchell -bass
Gary Mitchell -guitar
Chris Frank -piano

Lyrics

Howard St.
By Fiddler Dave Tweedie

I jumped the fence on Howard Street
And ran to where I knew she would be waiting
Play the lover, questions why
Live oaks twisting towards the sky, now fading
And in a dream they came to me from countless years before
Simple men and women who have spilled across the door of this old house
And I am one

Her people are as old as time
But I am new and pay the fine with patience
My history seems to start today
And a child late from morning’s play must hasten
Old fishermen on Silver Lake walk barefoot through the sand
And only by remaining still will they notice that I stand
Among them now. I know the spring by turning leaves
The oaks they shed for joy and not for grieving
The paneled house will mold with dew
But underneath the beaded board looks new
Hurricanes and winds of change can sting with
mighty blow
Those who will escape their wrath
Like oceans they must flow and so must I

Graves they lie along this lane
Compass need not guide where we must go
A city hides their dead away
But here old friends surround us like the snow
The thunder of the ocean now consumes my every pore
I must in turn embrace it as I spill across the door
Of this small town

Frogs sing sweetly in the night
Stars breathe free far from city lights
Oyster shells upon the road
Like sunken cisterns memories still hold
Past and present they join hands around this magic place
As I return to doorstep
And the memory of her face before me now
And I am here
And she is here

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042117.htm.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Howard Street

Any trip to Ocracoke would be incomplete without a visit to Howard Street. No other island thoroughfare has the history and charm it boasts. This narrow sandy lane is lined with historic homes, several of the largest live oaks on the island, and numerous family cemeteries dating from the early 1800s.













Howard Street has even been memorialized in a beautiful song by Fiddler Dave Tweedie of the island's Molasses Creek Band.



Of course, Village Craftsmen, our gallery of fine American handcrafts is also located on Howard Street.

When visiting the island be sure to include a stroll down historic Howard Street.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042117.htm.