Sunday, May 29, 2011


Some months ago Penny Akahloun contacted me because of the following information she discovered on the Village Craftsmen web site:

"One memorable wreck on Portsmouth Island in 1903, the Vera Cruz, carried 22 crew members and 399 passengers. In this case, although a fresh northeaster and a strong ebb tide had forced the Vera Cruz into the breakers, the life saving crew was able to use their open surfboat. It took them 41 trips to bring everyone on shore. The people of Portsmouth village used four and a half barrels of flour to bake bread for the survivors, most of whom were smuggled Portuguese immigrants who spoke no English."

Penny's grandfather was one of the Portugese passengers from the Cape Verde Islands, bound for New Bedford, Massachusettes. Penny was so impressed with the hospitality of the Portsmouth Islanders (who fed and sheltered the survivors) that she made the trip to Ocracoke for the spring meeting of Friends of Portsmouth Island, where she spoke about her research and emotional connection with Portsmouth. She wanted to visit the village whose people, in 1903, went out of their way to care for her grandfather and other shipwreck victims from a foreign country.

Penny & Philip on the path into the village:

(Click on photo, by Jim Fineman, to view a larger image.)

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the autobiography of Frank Treat Fulcher. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous10:15 AM

    Smuggled immigrants how quaint is that. What is the rest of the story? Where did the "smuggled immigrants" do next? Board the free ferry to the mainland? Is there a customs station at the disembarking point today? How easy is it for folks to gain access to the OI then slip into the country undetected? But please, apply for public assistance once on terra firma to help you get on your feet.

  2. Anonymous2:11 PM

    Philip, do you recall the amusing story related by one of the surfmen risking his life to rescue two members of the Vera Cruz who were fighting? I just can't remember where I read it-could it have been your blog?

  3. I can't remember details of the story about the fight aboard the Vera Cruz, although I do remember that there was a fight. If I come across details I'll post them.

    Most of the Cape Verde islanders eventually made it to New Bedford. I understand that there is a sizeable Portugese community there to this day.

  4. Anonymous10:15 AM

    I found the term smuggled immigrants touching. In todays language we would turn another phrase. So I looked up immigration law of 1903 and wow-- that year the president signed into law an act to regulate illegal immigration. due to anarchist rumblings and such, there were controls put in place to provide those entering the country with official papers. I grew up in a seaport town, though I never really thought of it as a seaport even though my dad worked for Customs. Miami, Florida!!! you want to live by the water and have have your hand on the pulse of humanity move to Miami