Thursday, April 26, 2018

Island Cemeteries

Ocracoke Village comprises little more than 600 acres of buildable land, and about 950 residents. In spite of the small and circumscribed land mass and the tiny population, Ocracoke is home to more than eighty cemeteries. With only a few exceptions, the cemeteries are small and mostly serve individual families. Scattered throughout the village, most are located near historic home sites, and are generally enclosed by simple wooden fences. Many are clearly visible from village roads. One of the largest, the George Howard cemetery, contains about four dozen marked graves.

The George Howard cemetery is not far from the British Cemetery, the final resting place of four sailors whose armed trawler was torpedoed offshore during World War II. The oldest grave in the Howard cemetery is that of George Howard, son of William Howard, Sr., the island’s last colonial owner. George Howard died in 1806, and virtually everyone buried there is a descendant of his. More recent graves date into the twenty-first century.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. You can read the Newsletter here:

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Frank Treat Fulcher, Seafarer & Preacher

According to the unpublished autobiography of native Ocracoke islander, Frank Treat Fulcher (1878-1971), he was “born January 25, 1878, on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina.” His father was in the Life-Saving Service; his maternal grandfather was a merchant sea captain. He writes, “At ten years of age my mother let me sail with a friend of hers, a Mrs. Rose, who was captain and cook, her husband was mate, of the schooner Emiline and I was seaman third class.” Frank Treat “sailed to the various ports of Eastern Carolina” and quickly rose to the rank of seaman first class. He recounts rescuing the first mate, who seems to have had a habit of falling overboard, more than once. From the Emiline he moved on to the schooner Bessie where he learned both to cook and to “cuss a blue streak.” He was not yet eleven years old.

By the time Frank Treat turned thirteen-years-old he had sailed aboard the schooner Robert F. Bratton which almost sank in the Atlantic Ocean on a trip from Charleston, South Carolina, to New Bern, North Carolina. In his own words, “Frank Treat is now twelve years old and is a salty old seaman.” He met a Captain John Day and sailed on the Carrie Farson, and then Captain John Beverage who enticed him on board the “Unity R. Dyer, a two topmaster.” Frank Treat reported, “We were in several storms. Once we were blown off the coast in a hurricane. It took us fourteen days to sail back. We lost our deck load and we came near sinking from open seams in the deck. That was really the worst time I had ever seen.” In October of 1893 Frank Treat’s ship, the Davidson, “went ashore about three miles south of Cape Henry and was a total loss….I was pulled ashore through the breakers on a line,” he recounts.

Frank Treat Fulcher
After chronicling several more shipwrecks Frank Treat tells of his time aboard the Barkentine Henry Norwell, “the hardest ship of all. The Captain was the toughest and the most ungodly man I had ever seen.” Frank “fared much better than the rest of the crew,” he reports, because he “was a better wheel man and…could steer the ship better, by the wind.” He continues, “we could not endure this hardship any longer, so we all jumped ship [in Brunswick, Georgia].”

After this adventure, Frank Treat signed up as mate on the Russian ship Pauline bound for Hamburg, Germany. He was seventeen years old, “in the possession of two good fists” and “could take care of myself.” As he relates the story, “I helped shanghai the crew and when they discovered where they were, there was trouble in the air, but by this time I had become quite a man, so I talked them out of mutiny. Fifty-seven days crossing the Atlantic.” Others would recall that he ruled his crew with “fist, marlin spike, and boot toes.”

From Hamburg, Frank Treat made a voyage on the “full-rigged ship Achilles” to Sydney, Australia. It took them 120 days via the Cape of Good Hope, and 143 days to return, by way of Cape Horn, to Rotterdam, Holland. Off the coast of New Zealand “a storm....carried us sixty-nine degrees south of the Equator, down in the Antarctic ice drifts. Man Alive! It was below zero.”

In 1896, when Frank was eighteen years old, he was quartermaster on the steamer, Neptune, which left Rotterdam for Baltimore, Maryland. He later became a Methodist preacher.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. You can read the Newsletter here:

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Ocracoke The Place To Train Parachutists

 Below is an interesting proposal, as printed in The Beaufort News, August 21, 1941:

"Perhaps we are the first to ever give the idea a thought and probably what helped was the announcement that a few more millions would be spent in creating certain facilities down in Onslow County for the training of 'parachute troops.' Our idea is this and we pass it on to Representative Herbert Bonner of the First District, who in turn, we hope, will lay the plan before the authorities that have to do with providing facilities for training modern day parachute troops. Our opinion is – that of all the places in America, there is no better place to train fledgling parachute jumpers than on the mile wide, five-mile long open stretch of beach land adjacent to Ocracoke village. The first and last parachutist we have ever seen in action was bailing out of a plane flying over that beach. His name was 'Tommy,' ...[and he] told the editor that it was easier and more comfortable to bail out of a plane over Ocracoke Beach than any other place he had ever tried. The landing, so he told the editor, was just like landing on a feather bed. That is because the beach, while solid enough to land any type of plane, has a two or three inch crust of soft sand on top. Unless there was a gale blowing, a rank amateur could bail out over Ocracoke Beach and make a perfect landing with a parachute. We wonder if the Government would not investigate this idea, with the thought in view that they have, if they want it, a first rate training center for fledgling parachutists on Ocracoke --- already developed."

US Air Force Image

Although we don't see many parachutists at Ocracoke nowadays, we do see Ospreys now and then.

Photo by FOX 52

These amazing vehicles, tiltrotor military aircraft with both vertical takeoff and landing, and short takeoff and landing capabilities, sometimes practice at the Ocracoke airstrip.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. You can read the Newsletter here:

Monday, April 23, 2018

Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, I.O.O.F.

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.

Ocracoke Odd Fellows Lodge No. 194

You can read the Newsletter here:

Friday, April 20, 2018

Ocracoke Harbor

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."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of Village Craftsmen (1970 - the Present). You can read the Newsletter here:

Thursday, April 19, 2018


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."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of Village Craftsmen (1970 - the Present). You can read the Newsletter here:

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Rev. Urmstone

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 of the 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 Hatteras 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.'"

So much for the "propagation of the gospel!"

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of Village Craftsmen (1970 - the Present). You can read the Newsletter here: