Friday, July 27, 2012

Ocracoke Railroad Agent??

When I was looking through the 1900 census the other day I noticed this entry: George P. Hassell, 39 years old, Agt. N&S RR. Right away I recognized the reference to the Norfolk and Southern Railroad.  Why, I wondered, was a railroad agent living on Ocracoke in 1900? Of course, I decided to ask Blanche.

It seems that George Hassell married island native Ida Ballance. In the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century a steamship made regular trips across Pamlico Sound and stopped at Ocracoke dropping passengers off at the old Ponzer Hotel (1885-1900) and the Pamlico Inn (early twentieth century). Blanche thought the steamship line was owned by the railroad...and that would explain why George Hassell was living on the island.

A little time on an Internet search revealed the following information:

"In 1882, less than a year after the railroad's completion, the railroad company signed a five-year contract with the Old Dominion Steamship Company to make connections with the railroad in Elizabeth City and to provide passenger and freight service between Elizabeth City and New Bern and Washington, North Carolina. This arrangement ended in 1887, with the Norfolk and Southern Railroad operating its own line of steamers and the Old Dominion Steamship Company continuing its Norfolk to New Bern-Washington route through the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal. This route change meant the loss to Elizabeth City of much of the trade of the Pamlico Sound region. During the summer, however, most vacationers going to the prospering resort at Nags Head [and Ocracoke!] were still dependent on taking a steamship from Elizabeth City." (

Sometimes folks are surprised to learn that Ocracoke had several large hotels/inns and connections to the mainland long before ferries and paved roads made their debut on the island in the middle of the twentieth century. 

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Hurricane House and the Hurricane Boards. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous5:34 PM

    Have you ever stumped Blanche?

  2. Have I ever stumped Blanche?? Well, it's not as if I have stumped her...but every now and then a question will stump her. Sometimes she says things like, "I wish I'd asked Ma Sade about that shipwreck. She had such a good memory, but I was so young and I never asked."

  3. Anonymous10:36 PM

    Something I ask myself more and more frequently...why didn't I ask more questions? But now, there's no one left to ask.

  4. Anonymous12:27 PM

    I have had thoughts about trains and Ocracoke. It's like one of the few things that you don't have out there. I live in a rural area and children here grow up quite smitten with planes and trains. The nearest airports are small ones and 1-2 hours away from us-tho we do have a small one for private planes here in Macomb. We do have train tracks through our town and are very lucky to be an Amtrak city with not one but two arrivals/departures between Quincy IL and Chicago. So, you can hop on in the morning, catch a Cubs game and be back before 10! Four times a day you can tell the time by hearing that lonesome whistle blow. Are children on Ocracoke fascinated by trains? SueM

  5. I don't think island children think much about trains, at least mine never did.