Wednesday, July 11, 2012

John Wallace

In 1789 John Gray Blount and John Wallace obtained five islands between Ocracoke and Portsmouth. The most prominent island was dubbed Shell Castle Rock. Wallace and Blount established a piloting enterprise there that eventually included warehouses, a grist mill, a windmill, a store, a fishery, two residences, and a wooden lighthouse. Wallace was given the title "Governor of Shell Castle."

John Wallace's tombstone reads:

Here are Deposited
the Remains of
Captain John Wallace
Governor of Shell Castle
who departed this life
July 22, 1810
Age 52, 6 months.

Shell Castle mourn! your pride is in the dust
Your boast, your glory's in the dreary grave.

Your sun is set ne'er to illume again
The sweet asylum form th' Atlantic wave.

Yes, here beneath this monumental stone 
This awful gloom amid the silent dead

Thy founder lies whose sainted soul we laid
To heaven's high mansion has its journey sped.

Mourn charity, benevolence bewail
Kind hospitality his lot deplore

And own with one unanimous acclaim
 Misfortune's sons will view his like no more.

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


  1. Debbie Leonard8:23 AM

    How big is Shell Island now? Are there ruins and can/do people go there?

  2. Having so much technology and such resources as we do has clearly not made us a more literate people, nor more charitable, for that matter.

  3. Debbie, I haven't been to Shell Castle in quite a while, but I understand that it has mostly washed away. In recent years there has been some underwater archeological work done there. It is a fascinating piece of our local history puzzle.

  4. Hi Philip- Do you know how big (acres) Shell Castle was back then? It's very small these days and Hurricane Irene last year didn't help any!

    During the nesting season, March-September, the small islands are closed to visitors so that a variety of birds can raise their young. Shell Castle, Beacon and North Rock Islands (to name a few) are home to several species of birds (Ibis, a variety of herons, egrets, oystercatchers, pelicans, terns, gulls, etc). You can see some of the activity with binoculars when you are well off the islands (getting too close to the islands results in adults moving away from eggs and chicks therefore exposing them to the hot sun and predators).

  5. Maria, in 1789 Shell Castle was about 25 acres.