Ocracoke Island is a dynamic, ever-changing island. To illustrate, consider First Grass, an area on the northwest side of South Point Road, about one and three quarters of a mile from NC Highway 12. As Roger Payne comments in Place Names of the Outer Banks "the sparse vegetation on Ocracoke Island is evident in this descriptive name. It was an early method of determining areas of grass or 'scrag' trees. In this case the feature is the first grass area encountered after leaving the village of Ocracoke...."
Modern day visitors to Ocracoke (and many residents) would scratch their heads trying to make sense of this description. Today vegetation extends along Highway 12 from the village all the way to Hatteras Inlet, with hardly a bare sand dune or tidal flat to be seen. Traveling on unpaved South Point Road, tall grass and other vegetation covers both sides, from Highway 12 practically to the very end, where the road meets NPS ramp 72 that takes you to the beach.
Fifty to seventy-five years ago Ocracoke village ended near where the Variety Store is located today. From the village to the NPS campground was a tree-less tidal flat...three miles of bare sand, seashells, and seaweed, interrupted only rarely by small dunes crowned with sea oats. The landscape was similar from the village to South Point. Today you would be hard pressed to identify the once distinctive area called First Grass.
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of slavery on Ocracoke. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092111.htm.