Monday, August 24, 2009

Wahab

Visitors to Ocracoke occasionally remark on the surname Wahab, an early island family name. James Wahab appears to be the first of this family to live in coastal North Carolina. He received two land grants on Hatteras Banks in 1755. In 1825 Eliza Bradley Howard (1808- 1870) married Job Wahab (1802-1860). Together they had fifteen children. Many of them and their descendants are buried in the large George Howard cemetery (sometimes referred to as the Howard-Wahab cemetery) on British Cemetery Road.

Back in the mid 1970s I met Jim Zogby who was visiting the island with his family. Jim, the son of Lebanese immigrants, founded the Arab American Institute in 1985, and was fascinated by stories that the first Wahab on the Outer Banks was a shipwrecked Arab sailor. He made it a point to visit Myra Wahab (widow of prominent islander Stanley Wahab, and herself a seventh generation Ocracoker with Wahab ancestors).

During the conversation Myra mentioned that several academics (from Duke University, I believe) had visited her and tried to explain that Wahab is actually a Scotch-Irish name (sometimes spelled Wauchope, Wauchop, or Waughop). Myra, Jim says, would have none of this, and saw the professors to the door. She explained to Jim that the Ocracoke Wahabs were "Ay-rab and proud of it." Jim laughs as he tells me this was the first and only time he's ever heard the pronunciation "Ay-rab" and the phrase "proud of it" in the same sentence.

Sadly, although a number of islanders are direct descendants of the Wahabs, the name is dying out on Ocracoke. Not a single Wahab is listed in our local telephone directory.

You can read more about the Ocracoke Wahabs by following these two links:

The Wahab family Bible: http://www.ncgenweb.us/hyde/bible/wahabjob.htm

An interview with Myra Wahab: http://circanceast.beaufortccc.edu/BCCC/articles/Spring%201984/PDF/Story3.pdf

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story about volunteering for turtle patrol with the National Park Service. You can read her story and see her pictures here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news072809.htm.

5 comments:

  1. Anonymous6:18 PM

    Most interesting article/interview with Myra Wahab.

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  2. Anonymous6:50 PM

    The surname Wahab is, indeed, a Scotch-Irish name. The same surname occurs in the Waxhaws area of North Carolina, though it has been altered to "Walkup". This is simply a case of trying to capture the spelling of a certain pronunciation. It shows up as Wahob, Wahop, Whahoop, Waughup, all variations of the Scottish surname Wauchope.

    A bit of a shame that this family cares little for their true heritage...

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    1. My name is Adam Wahab, son of Jack Wahab, who's father was Harvey Wahab, etc. Our last name isn't of Celtic origin, but Arab! Shame you assume to know more about our heritage than we do.

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  3. Carolyn Hooper Hoberman8:04 PM

    My mother used to tell me the Howards had "Ay-rabs" in the family in her deep North Carolina accent. It warmed my heart and made me feel connected to my Mother, who passed away in the 80's, to hear Myra Wahab say it the same way.

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    1. Carolyn, are you a descendant of Blanche Spencer and Fredrick Hooper?

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