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/