Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Captain William & Eliza Thomas House

William Charles Thomas was born March 23, 1857 in Elizabeth City. He was a sea captain, and married Ocracoke native Eliza Gaskill. Sometime in the late nineteenth century Capt. Thomas was in the harbor at St. Kitts in the Caribbean. There he noticed a stately two story home with a prominent center cross gable, saw-tooth trim boards, sturdy wooden shutters, and a full length two story front porch.

Captain Thomas made a sketch of the house and brought it to his brother-in-law, Mr. Charlie Scarborough, one of Ocracoke's most respected carpenters. Mr. Charlie had all of the lumber brought to the island from the mainland, and built this replica for Capt. Thomas and Miss Eliza for $50.00.

Just a few months earlier the "Old August Storm of 1899" had flooded many island homes, including Mr. Charlie Scarborough's. Determined to minimize the damage from future hurricanes, Mr. Charlie cut a trap door in the living room floor to allow flood waters inside to prevent the house from being washed off its foundations. During the hurricane of 1944 the two-story front porch was blown away.

Capt. Thomas died in 1930. Eliza Thomas died in 1946. They are buried nearby.

Today the house is owned by Ms. Susan Barksdale, long time lover of Ocracoke.

The older bird carver who some years ago sat outside near the Capt. Thomas home was Clinton Gaskill. He died in 1999 at the age of 93. Clinton was Miss Eliza's nephew. Clinton's grandmother (Eliza's mother) was Sarah Owens, one of Ocracoke's early school teachers. Sarah Owens was a cousin of Susan Dimmock (1847-1875), the first female surgeon in North Carolina. You can read more about the Thomas home and Susan Dimmock in my book, Digging up Uncle Evans.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a tribute to independent spirit and island character Don Wood. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous5:40 PM

    I use to rent from ms Barksdale soma years ago but I hear that she died a while back. Is she still alive? I would really like to know but all contact with her has been lost. Thank you.

  2. As far as I know Susan Barksdale is alive, though quite advanced in age. She has not been to Ocracoke in some time.

  3. Anonymous8:46 AM

    How did Ms. Barksdale get the house and when was the last time someone lived in it?

  4. Philip, thank you for interesting account of the Capt. Thomas house. I do remember that when we rented Bebe's cottage for the first time (next door to the Thomas house) in the summer of 2006, there were some people over there working on it with a small child (maybe her grandchild?). I'd like to know if you know, what are the plans for the house? And what state is Ms. Barksdale living? Maybe that's too personal...just curious. These old Ocracoke homes have so much history and are very interesting to hear about...that's all.

  5. Susan Barksdale has owned this house for a long time. I think she bought it from the family after Eliza died. I'm guessing she's owned the house for more than half a century. As far as I know she has always used it as a summer house. I have no idea what (if anything) she plans to do with the house. I believe her nephews and families stay there now and then.