Thursday, December 18, 2014

Old Christmas

The  "Julian Calendar" was introduced in 46 BC by Julius Caesar. The year was reckoned to be 365.25 days long (so a leap day was added every four years). However, the tropical, or solar year, is a few minutes shorter than the Julian year. As a result, the calendar year gained approximately three days every four centuries. By the 16th century the calendar was out of sync with the tropical year by ten days.

To correct the discrepancy, in 1582 Pope Gregory decreed that Catholic lands should adopt the "Gregorian Calendar." The new calendar dropped ten days. Thursday, October 4, 1582, was followed by Friday, October 15, 1582. According to Wikipedia, "The Gregorian calendar improves the approximation made by the Julian calendar by skipping three Julian leap days in every 400 years, giving an average year of 365.2425 mean solar days long."

A number of Protestant countries were reluctant to make the change, seeing the change as an attempt by the Pope to control them. However, by 1752 England and its colonies adopted the more accurate Gregorian calendar. By then the discrepancy amounted to 11 days. Christmas Day (December 25 in the "old style" calendar) then fell on January 5 (in the "new style" calendar).

Many residents of the Outer Banks resisted the change. One Ocracoke Island family refused to conform for many years, and continued to celebrate Old Christmas (January 5) into the twentieth century.

The small village of Rodanthe on Hatteras Island is one of a very few US communities that continue to celebrate Old Christmas, even today.

In 2015 the difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendars is 13 days. Thus, Old Christmas will technically fall on Jan 7, 2015. However, the residents of Rodanthe continue to celebrate Old Christmas on January 5, or the Saturday closest. In 2015 that would be January 3, although I have not seen any news about a 2015 event.
The Rodanthe Old Christmas celebration is traditionally a time for family and friends to gather for an oyster roast, live music, dancing, the arrival of "Old Buck," and occasionally a drunken brawl. It is not a tourist attraction. Yes, at least in the 1970s, a Rodanthe Old Christmas sometimes escalated to fist fights. I believe the celebration has been tamed in recent decades.  

For more information, do an Internet search for "Rodanthe Old Christmas." Or click here to view some vintage photos of the event:

You can read several pages about Old Christmas in Rodanthe in Jan DeBlieu's excellent book, Hatteras Journal,...or better yet, buy her book and read the entire chapter there!

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it here:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Importance of Art

As some our readers may know, recent cutbacks in state funding for public education led to the elimination of the arts education program at Ocracoke School.

In an effort to continue arts programming for Ocracoke School students, Ocracoke Alive has made a commitment to work with the Ocraocke school to provide weekly classes, beginning in January of 2015 for grades pre-K through 8th.

There are several ways for Ocracoke residents and off-island friends to help make this program a success.

If you are an artist interested in applying to teach in the Arts Partnership Program, or if you just want more information, click here:

To make a financial contribution, click here:

Art is an important part of a fulfilled life. Ocracoke students deserve an art education.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it here:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Early 1700s to 1845

In November, the Ocracoke Preservation Society gave islander Earl O'Neal the Society's first annual Cultural Heritage Award. Earl was honored for his numerous books, articles and collections that preserve and share the history of this island that Earl loves so much.

Below is just one short paragraph from one of Earl's articles, "Ocracoke Island History":

"The Island was first annexed to a county precinct government in 1770; it having been observed by a member of the Colonial Assembly that "those lawless bankers on Occacock Island are not paying taxes anywhere." At that time it was annexed to Carteret Precinct which had been formed in 1722 from Craven. Carteret also included Core Banks. Occacock Island prior to 1770 had belonged neither to Currituck, Craven or Carteret; it was an isolated, independent island until all the area south of Old Hatteras Inlet was put into Carteret. It was not until 1845 that Ocracoke Island, that portion of the Outer Banks below Old Hatteras Inlet down as far as Ocracoke Inlet, between it and Core Banks, was moved from Carteret County into Hyde County, and it has been in Hyde geographically and politically since that time."

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the murder of Willis Williams. You can read it here:

Monday, December 15, 2014

Paws and Tales

Island resident, Pat Garber, has just published her latest book, Paws and Tales.

From the back cover:

"Set on Ocracoke Island, Paws and Tales is an endearing story told in the words of Kali, a sailboat cat, and Harvey, an island dog. When Kali sails into the Ocracoke harbor with her person Sam, she senses that something unusual is about to happen.

"When a goofy but loveable Doberman pinscher called Harvey chases her off the edge of a dock, she finds herself adrift in an underworld of homeless cats, while Harvey and his person Emily ruefully regret the whole incident. What follows changes the lives of them all."

This book is not yet in our catalog, but you can order it from Village Craftsmen by calling 252-928-5541, Tuesday - Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm. 122 pages, $14.95 + $3.50 shipping (shipping fee offer valid through Dec. 31, 2014).

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it here:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Chocolate Cake

Monday, December 8, was cousin Blanche's 95th birthday! I was off the island (driving home from my visit with Lou Ann, and had to detour to Swan Quarter because of overwash on NC12), so I didn't get to celebrate with her.

Blanche & Amy, several years ago

But I did stop by to say hello and wish her a Happy Birthday as soon as possible. Blanche is in good spirits, quite independent, still living at home, and taking good care of herself. She has frequent visitors, is always gracious, and loves to chat with family, friends, and visitors.

She told me her nephew's wife, Laurie, baked her a chocolate cake...and she saved a piece for me.

Now, if you are not from Ocracoke you might object that this is yellow cake with chocolate icing. But if you are from the island you know this is definitely a chocolate cake! That's the way it's always been here, and that's the way native islanders insist it shall remain. This is chocolate cake!

And, I might add, it was "good some." Thank you, Blanche...and thank you, Laurie.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it here:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

'Tis the Season

Island Holiday Events are already well underway.

Earlier this month local businesses and organizations hosted open houses, a gumbo & rice fundraiser, a women's Christmas potluck dinner, book signings, a cookie swap, OPS Wassail party and tree lighting, storytime for children, and other events.

Ocracoke Preservation Society organized another Holiday Historic Homes Tour (this year on Lighthouse Road & Creek Road) that was an unqualified success.  

And...there is more, of course. If you live on the island or are visiting be sure to take in the following events:

  • Dec 11th: Santa at the Variety Store. 3 – 5pm. No donation or money needed. Come get your picture taken with Santa! Also Dec 11th is the Scholastic Book Fair Family Night at the Library at 6:30pm. The Scholastic Book Fair continues from Dec 11th – 16th, and is open weekdays 8am – 7pm and Saturday 9am – 1pm. 
  • Dec 12-13th: Holiday Basketball Tournament at Ocracoke School. 
  • Dec 13th: Community Christmas Concert, 7pm at Community Center. Performers of all ages! Let Sundae (921-0283) know if you'd like to be in the show. Free, though we are asking for donations of non-perishable food items for the food pantry. And Ocracoke School's 2nd grade will be having a bake sale. Sponsored by Ocracoke Civic & Business Association. 
  • Dec 14th: Breakfast with Santa to benefit Ocracoke Child Care. 8 – 10am at Topless Oyster Restaurant. Also Dec. 14th is the Christmas program at Ocracoke Assembly of God Church, 7pm. Free. All are welcome. 
  • Dec 17th: Christmas Caroling, meet at Methodist Church at 5pm. They are hosting the chili supper after the caroling. 
  • Dec 18th: Ocracoke School Christmas program, 7pm in the gym. 
  • Dec 19th: Choral Concert with the Joyful Band of Singers. 7:30 at the Methodist Church. Free. Donations to church accepted. Sponsored by Ocracoke Alive. 
  • Dec 20th: Live Nativity at the Methodist Church, 6 – 7pm. Also Dec 20th is the Community Potluck and Dance with the Ocracoke Rockers at Topless Oyster Restaurant. 
  • Dec 21st: Live Nativity at the Methodist Church, 5:30-6:30pm
  • Dec 24th: Christmas Eve service at the Methodist Church, with the children's Christmas pageant. 7pm. 
This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it here:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dr. Morgan

In the past I have written about Dr. Morgan.

Sometime around the turn of the twentieth century a Dr. Morgan came to Ocracoke and stayed for some time at the old Pamlico Inn.

Dr. Morgan was clearly well educated and quite refined, but he seems to have been suffering from alcoholism. He came to the island to recover, not to set up a practice, but naturally, when islanders discovered his profession, they sought him out during times of illness.

Dr. Morgan's best remembered treatment was curing young Billy Scarborough of lockjaw. Folks around these parts considered it a miracle. It was the first known cure for lockjaw that anyone here had ever heard of.

Islanders could not help but notice Dr. Morgan's preference for gourmet foods (he enjoyed terrapin stewed in wine) and impeccable dress.  Scuttlebutt on the island suggested that he was part of the wealthy and respected J.P. Morgan clan, and had been "exiled" to Ocracoke as a black sheep of the family. He died only a few years after moving to Ocracoke, and is buried in an unmarked grave on Live Oak Road. Only one member of his birth family attended the funeral. Reports indicate that this relative created quite a stir because of his fine suit and expensive shoes.

I have done a little Internet research on the J.P. Morgan family. Many sites say that J.P. (1837-1913) was the only son of Junius Spencer Morgan (1813-1890). It turns out there was one other son, Junius Spencer Morgan. Jr. who was born in 1846, but he died when he was just four years old.

JPM had only one son, "Jack" (1867-1943) who was a well known banker and philanthropist.

JPM, Jr. had two sons, one of whom died in 1960, and the other in 1972. Of course, these two Morgans are not candidates for Dr. Morgan of Ocracoke. They died too late. Neither one is buried on the island.

I still am intrigued by our local oral history. It seems clear that Dr. Morgan was not a member of J. P. Morgan's immediate family. But we still might discover that he was part of the extended Morgan clan. I will post again if more information becomes available.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it here: