Visitors to the island are often surprised to discover a long-time connection between Ocracoke and northern cities, especially Philadelphia. Beginning at the turn of the twentieth century, many island men, realizing that the coastal schooner trade (where they worked as sailors, captains, and owners) was soon coming to an end, found work on dredges and tugboats on the Delaware River. For fifty years there was a steady stream of young men moving to Philadelphia to work.
In an interview in 1989, Elizabeth O'Neal Howard, who traced her ancestry to many of Ocracoke's founding families, commented that "I don't have a first cousin on this island. I had 33 when I was born, but now I've got more cousins in New Jersey and Pennsylvania than I have here."*
The exodus to Philadelphia stopped in the mid-twentieth century after the road was paved to Hatteras Inlet, and the state began regular ferry service across the inlet.
*Ocracoke, Its History and People, by David Shears, 1989.
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Hurricane House and the Hurricane Boards. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news072112.htm.