Wednesday, June 27, 2012


In his book "The Big Oyster," a history of New York City told through the story of the oyster, Mark Kurlansky recalls New York's proliferation of taverns selling inexpensive rum during the colonial period. I read on page 86, "New York rum had to compete with New England rum called "Kill-devil" that was only twenty-five cents a gallon...."

Immediately I was reminded of our Outer Banks village, Kill Devil Hills. For some reason I had never thought much about the name or its origin. Since kill-devil was the name the English and the colonists used for all cheap booze I surmised that that must be the origin of the town's name. Sure enough, several sources suggest that colonial Outer Banks scavengers and salvagers hid kill-devil rum in the dunes after taking it from ships that wrecked on returning from the West Indies or New England. Thus the colorful name.

Maybe many of our readers already knew this tidbit of North Carolina coastal history. But I did not. As they say, you're never too old to learn something new.

Look for more legends about the origin of the name Kill Devil Hills in a future blog post.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Molly Lovejoy's 2012 Ocracoke School Valedictory Address. You can read it here: the colonial period


  1. Anonymous8:59 AM

    You are so right! Today I learned something new from your blog, and almost every day the same is true.
    Thank you.
    Hey... did I just admit I'm old ?

  2. Anonymous9:48 AM

    Wait does he explain the saying " the world is your oyster? The oyster was a food of the wealthy or at certain times it was associated with various levels of socio-economic status throughout recorded history right?

  3. At some times, and in some places, oysters were so plentiful that they were considered a poor man's meal.

  4. He was a brave man that first ate a raw oyster.

  5. Anonymous5:32 PM

    ...and who first drove the mail truck off the ferry.