Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Another Question

A recent post elicited yet another comment/question: "You mention the almost-impossible-to-imagine broad tidal flat that extended from the Variety Store to the NPS campground. What caused that geographic feature to disappear from the island?"

First, a photo from 1957. This picture was actually taken at the north end of the island...but it will give you a good idea of what Ocracoke looked like on the Plains, the area between the NPS campground and the Variety Store.

A little history is in order. No one is certain what Ocracoke looked like two hundred years ago, although the area where the village is was different from the "sandy banks." The village, with its live oaks, cedars, and other trees, was probably built on what was at one time a separate "inside island." Whatever vegetation grew on the sandy banks was eventually eliminated by livestock (horses, cows, goats, & sheep) that grazed on the island.

When the Park Service acquired Ocracoke they began construction of man-made dunes on the ocean side. This protected the new paved road from tidal overwash. Today lush vegetation, including myrtles, yaupons, and cedars, covers the Plains, what was at one time a wide tidal flat.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a list of traditional island remedies. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous12:38 PM

    Interesting tidbits, Philip. Oh, remind me again....when was Ocracoke first "settled"?

  2. Well, there were Native Americans on Ocracoke, probably a thousand years ago, but we don't know if they had permanent settlements on Ocracoke or just came here seasonally. The NC General Assembly attempted to settle pilots here in 1715, but that probably didn't happen until about 1730. When William Howard bought Ocracoke in 1759 there were likely a few pilots and their families living in the Springer's Point area.

  3. Anonymous12:19 PM

    What do you know about the 1st Philip Howard?

  4. I know almost nothing about "the 1st Philip Howard." In fact, there may not have been an early Philip Howard associated with Ocracoke. Earl O'Neal writes, a Philip Howard (b. in the 1600s, d. 1764) "inherited land in Hyde County...[and was] most probably the father of ... William Howard, Sr. [of Ocracoke], however we do not have proof...."

  5. Anonymous4:30 PM