Wednesday, May 13, 2009


In the nineteenth century and early twentieth century the federal government appointed wreck masters in coastal communities. These individuals were empowered to take charge of cargo and other goods thrown on shore after a shipwreck. Of course Ocracokers and other Outer Bankers snatched up whatever they could manage to salvage before the official wreck master could gather the items together and protect them from looters. Once collected, the wreck master contacted the shipping agent who arranged for a vendue, or auction. The vendue (an old French word) was the occasion for much excitement in coastal areas. Residents and visitors would gather around for the entertainment as much as for the opportunity to purchase items at bargain prices.

We no longer have vendues (or major shipwrecks) on Ocracoke. But please keep the following dates in mind:
  • Saturday, May 23 -- Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department auction (click here for more information).
  • Friday, June 5 -- OcraFolk Festival auction (click here for more information -- if festival schedule, etc. are not posted today, check back soon. I'm told on good authority that updates are in the works).
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of paved roads on Ocracoke. It may not sound very exciting, but there have been dramatic changes on the island because of the construction of paved roads a half century ago. You can read the newsletter, and see some rare photos here.

To read about Philip's new book, Digging up Uncle Evans, History, Ghost Tales, & Stories from Ocracoke Island, please click here.


  1. Anonymous3:00 PM

    Sounds a lot like revenue agents chasing down Moonshiners. That's how stock car racing got its start in North Carolina you know. So how did Islanders beat the Feds to the punch ?

  2. Interesting trivia about stock car racing!

    When a ship broke apart in coastal NC the cargo was typically washed ashore for miles north and/or south of the wreck. It was not simple to gather it together with pony carts, so individuals often had easy pickings when the wreck master was miles away picking up goods. Beach combing, salvaging, "wrecking,"...there's not much difference among them...and for generations Outer Bankers had been accustomed to augmenting their meager possessions with "gifts" from the sea.