About 35 years ago I was walking through a family cemetery "Up Trent" (between Oyster Creek & Jackson Dunes) when I noticed my great-grandfather's wooden marker propped up against a tree. I was conflicted about what to do. I was hesitant to leave it there, but reluctant to remove it from the graveyard.
After contemplating the situation for several weeks I decided to retrieve the marker, keep it at my home for safe keeping, and replace it with another marker. When I returned to the cemetery it was gone. Someone had removed the marker. I resigned myself to never seeing it again.
To make a long story short, just before Thanksgiving I learned that the marker had been removed in order to safeguard it, but the gentleman who then held it died shortly thereafter. He had put it away in a storage shed, where it remained hidden for more than three decades. When his house was sold a couple of years ago his daughter and widow discovered the marker, and began their quest to return it to the family.
With the help of DeAnna Locke at the Ocracoke Preservation Museum the marker was recently returned to me. It is an interesting island grave marker because it is very primitive, hand carved, and unconventional in many ways. The inscription reads as follows:
JULY 1, 18
AGE 40 [YEARS]
Translation: In Memory of Tilmon W. O'Neal, Born July 1, 1845, Age 40 years, 2 months, 27 days.
Tilmon W. O'Neal was my grandmother's father.
You can click on the photo below to see better images of the marker.
Several cousins and I have ordered a new tombstone to mark the spot where Tilmon and his wife, Elizabeth, are buried. Now I must decide how to display this marvelous one hundred and twentyfive year old artifact of Ocracoke Island history. I'm thinking it might grace a wall in my living room.
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the early twentieth century Doxsee Clam Factory in Ocracoke village. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112110.htm