Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Shells on the Pavement

I don't travel off the island often, but on Sunday I carried Lou Ann to Newport News, VA to catch the train to Indiana. On the way to the Hatteras ferry (and, of course, on the way back) I was reminded of the cleverness of our seagulls.

Highway 12, in places, is littered with broken shells, mostly clam shells and a few scallop shells. The sections of road most littered are close to the sound. The gulls pluck the tasty bivalves from the shallow soundside waters, carry them high above the road, and drop them. They break easily.

The gulls then fly down to the highway and enjoy their meals. Traffic is light in the winter, so this strategy works well.

Before the highway was built, the gulls dropped their clams and scallops on the hard-packed ocean beach, but they soon learned to use the road. Be wary! If you are driving NC 12 and see broken shells, avoid them if you can. Many a local tire has been cut that way.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the "Joe Bell" flower. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news012112.htm.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Shadows on the Beach

I carried Lou Ann to the train yesterday. We have had such a wonderful time this winter. We spent holidays together, traveled some, visited family & friends, and spent a relaxing month on the island. We had friends over, cooked together, read books in front of the fire, gazed at the stars, sailed in Pamlico Sound, and walked miles on the beach.


















The good news is that Lou Ann will be back.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the "Joe Bell" flower. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news012112.htm.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Buoys

Not long ago Lou Ann and I were taking a late afternoon bike ride around the village, and noticed several sea buoys. I'm not sure why the buoys were lying on the grass near the NPS docks (across the street from the Visitors Center). I am guessing the Coast Guard put them there for routine maintenance. There was one green can buoy, and two red buoys, including the Number 4 Nun buoy I am standing beside.



Some nautical advice my father taught me: "Red to the Right when Returning!" Also, port wine is red...and "port" has four letters, just like "left." Ships have red running lights on the port side, and green lights on the starboard side.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the "Joe Bell" flower. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news012112.htm.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Josephus Daniels

Photograph by Harris & Ewing, c1920
Josephus Daniels (1862-1948) served as Secretary of the Navy under President Woodrow Wilson during World War I. Daniels was born in Washington, NC during the Civil War. When he was two years old his family moved to Ocracoke to escape the skirmishes that periodically erupted as Confederate and Union troops battled for Washington, eventually resulting in a massive fire that destroyed many downtown businesses and homes.

Daniels lived in a modest wood frame house (now gone) across the street from where the Community Store parking lot is located today. His father, a Union sympathizer, was shot and killed by a Confederate sniper on a voyage across Pamlico Sound. After the war his mother moved her family to Wilson, N.C.

When Franklin Roosevelt was elected President, he appointed Daniels Ambassador to Mexico. At the end of his term of service Daniels returned to North Carolina where he resumed his primary career as owner and editor of the Raleigh News and Observer.

Look for a more complete biography of Josephus Daniels in an upcoming Ocracoke Newsletter.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Joe Bell flowers. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news012112.htm.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pam

My father was a multi-talented man. When my brother and I were youngsters he cut our hair, re-soled our shoes, built an addition on our house, repaired the plumbing and electric wiring when needed, installed new brake shoes on the car...whatever needed to be done. When he had something heavy to sew (a canvas hammock, ripped blue jeans, a duffel bag) he would get out his "pam."

Only later in life did I realize that this leather device had probably belonged to his father; maybe had even been passed down from his grandfather. It was a popular tool among sailors and sail makers. This "sewing palm" as it is usually called, is made of leather, and designed to be strapped around the hand. A metal "thimble" is embedded in the section that covers the base of the thumb. With the aid of the "pam" you can push a heavy needle through several layers of heavy canvas.



My father's pam is old, and the leather is brittle, but it is a small reminder of Ocracoke's days of sailing vessels and seafaring traditions.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Joe Bell flowers. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news012112.htm.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Beach Driving

Many of our readers will have already heard that, beginning February 15 of this year, the National Park Service will be requiring a special permit to drive on the beach in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, including on Ocracoke Island. The regulation is described as an attempt to balance environmental concerns with recreational access to the beaches. Some details have yet to be worked out, but the latest information is available here (click on "The Final Rule").

If you plan on driving on the beach please become familiar with the regulation and the details in order to avoid problems.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Joe Bell flowers. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news012112.htm.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

House Raising

In the last few years two historic homes on Howard Street have changed hands. The good news is that they are both being restored.

A few days ago I had an opportunity to look inside the Irving & Elsie Garrish house which is now owned by Bob & Kathy Phillips. Tom Pahl and his crew have done a wonderful job repairing, repainting, and restoring the interior, rebuilding the front porch, and returning the exterior to its original clapboard siding.

The other old house I call "Uncle Stanley's." In the 1950s my grandmother's brother, Stanley O'Neal, lived there. (In the book, "Ocracoke Walking Tour," you can see a photo of me sitting between Uncle Stanley and my Uncle Marvin on the front porch.) John and Elizabeth Rinaldi, the new owners, are committed to maintaing this historic home, which was built ca. 1883. Last weekend they were on the island to watch as a crew from Washington, NC raised the house to help protect it from storm tides.

Below are a few photos Lou Ann took during the house raising.




Historic Marker on the Porch






Cribbing under the Addition

Orphaned Steps


Preparing to Raise the Main House


Chimney Foundation with Oyster Shells Imbedded in Mortar

Almost There




The New Look


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Neighbors

Last week Blanche joined Monroe Gaskill, his mother Della, Lou Ann, and me for dinner. Lou Ann fixed chicken and dumplings, corn pudding, and a large salad. She also baked an apple pie. Della brought one of her famous fig cakes.

We sat around the kitchen table eating, chatting, laughing, and telling stories for five hours! No one even got up from the table until after 11 o'clock! It was a wonderful visit.

On their way to leave Blanche & Della stopped for Lou Ann to snap a photo.














Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Joe Bell flowers. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news012112.htm.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Basketball

As many of our readers know, Ocracoke youth have been passionate about basketball for many years. About 40-50 years ago a small concrete court was laid down behind the school. In the mid-1970s a somewhat larger concrete court replaced the earlier one that was cracked and broken. I can't remember exactly when the indoor gymnasium was added to the schoolhouse, but even then the ball court was smaller than regulation size.

This past fall a brand new gym with a regulation-size ball court was dedicated.

I know this is slightly dated information, especially for those of you who keep up with Ocracoke Island events on Facebook and Twitter, but I want to share some exciting island news.

On Friday both the girls' basketball team and the boy's team scored unprecedented wins over their arch-rival, Hatteras. Because Ocracoke School is so small (presently about 150 students in grades K-12) games are seldom fair competition, especially against much larger schools. It has been many years since the Ocracoke "Dolphins" have prevailed against the Hatteras "Hurricanes." The double win on Friday, in fact, was the very first time both teams have ever defeated Hatteras.

The girls maintained a commanding lead throughout the game, winning 56-32. The boys' game was much closer from beginning to end. The Dolphins were ahead, 23-22 at halftime. By the 4th period, with only 4 and a half minutes remaining, the score was tied at 34 points. From then on the Dolphins pulled ahead steadily, securing a 49-37 win.

Congratulations to all of the players, coaches, and fans for an exciting and historic Ocracoke Island basketball game!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the "Joe Bell" flower. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news012112.htm.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Photos

Several days ago Lou Ann took a few photos at or near sunset. Below are three -- one taken at the beach, looking toward "South Point," the second one taken from "Jack's Dock" where the Ocracoke Working Watermen's Exhibit is located, and the last one taken from the NPS docks, shortly before the lighthouse light came on.

















In the winter, when the sun sets farther south, the western side of the village becomes a starkly silhouetted scene dominated by the lighthouse. It is quite impressive.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the "Joe Bell" flower. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news012112.htm.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Iron Decoy

Every now and then a visitor to Ocracoke will notice a cast iron decoy in an islander's outbuilding, yard, or porch. Most people think that is a curiosity. Why would anyone want an iron decoy? they might ask. After all, an iron decoy won't float. Decoys should be made of wood (the old fashioned kind), canvas over a wire frame (another traditional decoy design), or hollow plastic (like more recent decoys).
Here is a photo of a traditional Ocracoke Island cast iron decoy. These were not decorative items. They were actually used for hunting waterfowl. Scroll down to read how these decoys were used.













Cast iron decoys were employed on sinkboxes (weighted, partially submerged, floating hunting blinds). Sinkboxes were camouflaged with reeds and branches. Floating decoys were arranged in the vicinity of the sinkbox. When the hunter entered the sinkbox, and placed his cast iron decoys on the deck of the blind, the box would sink until it floated almost level with the water, affording the hunter with a relatively dry enclosure that kept him hidden from ducks and geese.

Use of sinkboxes was banned in the United States with the passage of the Migratory Bird Act of 1918. Some Ocracoke hunting guides use a legal modification of the floating sinkbox -- a stationary "curtain blind" whose sides can be raised and lowered according to the ebb and flow of the tide in order to keep the hunter dry, but well concealed just at the water level. Cast iron decoys are not used on curtain blinds.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Joe Bell Flowers. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news012112.htm.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Shell Pile

John Williams purchased one half of Ocracoke Island in September of 1759. As late as the twentieth century it was said that you could still see John Williams' shell pile near where the Thurston House Bed & Breakfast is today.

Nearly everyone on Ocracoke has a shell pile, mostly of clam shells. Sometimes the shells are placed around the base of fig trees and other vegetation. The shells might also be used to harden a sandy lane, or line a drain field for a septic system. But mostly they are just tossed into a pile in the yard.

This is a photo of one of my shell piles:














Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Joe Bell flowers. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news012112.htm.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Joe Bell


















It's that time again. We have just published our latest Ocracoke Newsletter, the story of Joe Bell and the beautiful red and yellow flowers that bear his name on the Outer Banks. You can read the story here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news012112.htm.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bibles

Family Bibles often contain valuable genealogical and historical information. Unfortunately, many Ocracoke Island documents, including Bibles, were destroyed when hurricane flood waters inundated homes. Blanche remembers neighbors, including my grandparents, digging holes in their yards after the 1944 storm and burying water soaked papers and books.

Some important documents have survived, however. Below is an image from the Bible of Ocracoke's Job & Eliza Bradley Howard Wahab family. Job and Eliza, as well as several of their 15 children, are buried in the George Howard cemetery on British Cemetery Road.


















Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112111.htm.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Seventy Lessons in Spelling"

That is the title of a small book published in 1885. I am not exactly sure how my copy came into my possession, but it was clearly a school textbook used by my Uncle Evans (1905-1923), for his name is written several times on both the front and back pages.

In addition to his name, several poems are inscribed on blank pages. Inside the front cover is this verse: "Remember me in friendship, remember me in love, remember it was your dear little sweetheart who wrote this in your book."

Clearly, the poem in the book is a personalized version of the popular "Friendship Album" poem which I discovered on the Internet: "Remember me in Friendship, Remember me in Love, Remember me, Dear [          ], When we both meet up above."

There is another hand-written poem in the book: "Think of me in the morning, think of me in the night, think of me dear darling and don't forget to write."

Uncle Evans left Ocracoke in 1922, when he was only 17 years old. He died of pneumonia just a few months later, in Philadelphia. We will never know what might have come of his teenage romance.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112111.htm.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Secluded Islands of the Atlantic Coast...

...that's the title of a book by David Yeadon, published in 1984, but now out of print. Chapter 15 is titled "Ocracoke Island, The Goodliest Land." I thought our readers would enjoy this paragraph from p. 138:

"This is a mellow little place (I've always wanted to use the word 'mellifluous' in some context, and it's just about right here). White cottages slumber under the generous shade of live oaks, loblollies, and cedars; sandy paths meander through the 'old village'; cozy hotels and inns promise simple comforts through the summer days and evenings; small restaurants are redolent with the aromas of she-crab soup, oyster stew, Ocracoke clam chowder, broiled fish from the charter boats, crabcakes, and big pink shrimp full of sea tang and that special sweetness only found in fresh seafood."

To be sure, Ocracoke has changed some in more than a quarter of a century, but Yeadon's assessment of Ocracoke is basically as true today as it was in 1984. It is good to be reminded of that.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112111.htm.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Oysters

I know I've written about oysters in past posts, but Ocracoke shellfish are such delicacies that I can't resist mentioning them once again.

A few days ago (as we do several times each winter) a group of friends gathered around a kitchen table covered with newspapers. Steamed oysters were piled onto the papers. The only other items on the table were a small bowl of cocktail sauce, a small bowl of melted butter, saltines, a few oyster knives, and cans of beer.

For a couple of hours we just sat at the table, opened oysters, dipped them in butter or cocktail sauce, plopped them in our mouths (with or without crackers), and washed them down with cold beer. Oh, we also laughed a lot, and told jokes, and stories of nautical mishaps.

It would be difficult to imagine a simpler, more delicious, or more satisfying evening meal!

Here are a couple of photos:




Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112111.htm.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Longfellow, Shakespeare...and Blanche

A couple of days ago Blanche was outside feeding her cat when I stopped by to visit. After she was finished we repaired to her living room. We chatted about current events (around the world, and on the island). In the course of the conversation I mentioned the hymn that I quoted on this blog Tuesday ("Time like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away; They fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day").

That line reminded Blanche of poems she had committed to memory as a youth. With only a bit of encouragement she recited several selections from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Shakespeare: The Builders, A Psalm of Life, and All the World's a Stage.

In case you are not familiar with these poems, here is The Builders:

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, - act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Blanche is such a remarkable woman! She didn't simply repeat the words of the poems. She delivered them with feeling. I am truly blessed to have Blanche as my neighbor.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112111.htm.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Kiteboarder

It rained most of the day Wednesday, but Thursday arrived bright and clear. We decided it was a perfect day for a walk along the beach. In the village, trees bent over and danced in the wind, but we weren't quite prepared for how strong the wind was once we crossed the dunes. It must have been blowing 20-25 mph from the southwest. A steady stream of sand pelted our legs as we turned toward the South Point, facing directly into the wind. With hooded sweatshirts pulled tight around our heads we trudged forward, hardly talking.

We loosened our hoods and began chatting when we turned around and headed back. The seas were churned up by the wind, and  sea foam waves crashed on the shore. No dolphins were to be seen.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spied a large, fast moving object just offshore. It was a purple bow kite...and kiteboarder, of course...flying north, skimming over the tops of waves, surfing on the breakers, and soaring yards above the whitecaps! It was quite a sight. How thrilling it must be to hold on tight as the wind carries you along and over the wild water. We were happy to see that a friend in an SUV was following the kiteboarder down the beach.

There is always a little excitement on Ocracoke, even in the winter.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112111.htm.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pinta Williams

Pinta Williams (1905-1954) was the son of Captain David Williams (keeper of the first US Life Saving Station in Ocracoke village) and Alice Wahab. He was married to Wilma Austin ("Miss Wilma" was the daughter of Leon Austin, one of Ocracoke's lighthouse keepers). Pinta and Miss Wilma had one daughter, Alice Bell.

Pinta was a duck hunter, and he carved many a wooden decoy. Pictured below is one of his brant decoys. Note the original paint and lead anchor weight which was attached to the decoy by a long cord.

We are now in the middle of duck hunting season. Brant and various other ducks may be hunted in North Carolina coastal waters until January 28. However, most modern day hunters use lighter plastic decoys. Unfortunately, many Ocracoke islanders destroyed their handmade wooden decoys once plastic ones became available. I remember Wallace Spencer telling me he chopped his up with a hatchet to burn in his wood stove. Only later did he realize what a mistake that was!

If any of our readers have Ocracoke waterfowl hunting stories, please leave a comment. We'd love to hear from you.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112111.htm.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lighthouse Keepers

Ocracoke Lighthouse was put into service in 1823. It is the oldest operating lighthouse in North Carolina. A dozen men have served as Keepers of the Ocracoke Light.

The keeper was responsible for lighting the lamp at sunset, ensuring that it remained lit throughout the night, and extinguishing it at sunrise. The lamp needed to be filled with fuel daily, and the wick trimmed regularly. The Fresnel lens and lantern room windows had to be cleaned and polished every morning. Keepers were required to shine and polish all of the brass, sweep the floors and stairs, and clean tower windows and sills as needed. They also cleaned, painted, and repaired all of the buildings, including the keeper's dwelling, chimneys, privies, outbuildings, and the tower itself. In addition, keepers were required to maintain all mechanical equipment, weed walkways, paint and maintain the fence, and see that the grounds were presentable. They kept a log book, recorded weather readings, and kept an inventory of all equipment. Keepers were forbidden to leave the light station without permission, and were considered to be on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They even provided visitors with tours of the lighthouse as needed.

Lighthouse Keeper was a formidable job. Below are the Keepers of the Ocracoke Light, all highly skilled and dedicated public servants:
  • Joshua Taylor (or Tayloe), 1823-1829 (his title was Collector [of Customs] & Superintendent of Lighthouse)
  • Anson Harker, 1829-1846 (first person of record listed as Keeper; Joshua Taylor is listed as Superintendent)
  • John Harker, 1847-1853 (probably Anson Harker's son)
  • Thomas Styron, 1853-1860
  • William J. Gaskill, 1860-1862
  • Enoch Ellis Howard 1862-1897 (the longest serving Keeper; he died in office)
  • J. Wilson Gillikin 1897-1898
  • Tillman F. Smith 1898-1910
  • A.B. Hooper 1910-1912
  • Leon Wesley Austin 1912-1929
  • Joseph Merritt Burrus 1929-1946 (the beacon was electrified in 1929)
  • Clyde Farrow 1946-1954 (the last Keeper of the Ocracoke light; the beacon was fully automated in 1954)
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112111.htm.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Time

A few days ago Lou Ann and I were invited to join friends for dinner and the viewing of some photos taken in the 1970s. The beach, dunes, Howard Street and the lighthouse looked much the same as they do today, of course. But we were reminded of changes over the last 40 years. In the '70s numerous wooden skiffs were tied to stakes in Silver Lake harbor and Northern Pond. Today, almost all of the island's small boats are fiberglass...and they are tied up at docks.

Several picturesque old net houses have been gone for decades. The same is true of the She-Don-Di, the Miss Miriam, the MoJohn, and numerous other shrimp trawlers that were frequently rafted up at the base docks and the fish house docks, especially in rough weather.

We were also reminded of native islanders, colorful, creative people, who have died in the last half century.












Yesterday morning I was sitting in front of my gas log stove and I noticed once again my grandparents' antique mantle clock. It was purchased new in the 1930s, and continues to mark the passage of time as it tick-tocks steadily onward. I was reminded of a line from that beautiful old hymn, O God Our Help in Ages Past: "Time like an ever-rolling stream, Bears all its sons away; They fly, forgotten, as a dream Dies at the opening day."

Maybe some of our readers will remember a few of Ocracoke's memorable old-timers who are no longer with us. Please leave a comment if you'd like...so they won't be forgotten.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112111.htm.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Twelfth Night

Technically, Twelfth Night was Thursday, January 5. But last night, from 4pm to 6pm, Leonard and Beverly Meeker hosted their annual Twelfth Night party. Their house on Pamlico Sound was packed with friends and neighbors, some in elaborate costumes ready to act out the old Norse story of Balder, Frigga, Loki, & Mistletoe (and a few other characters whose names I can't remember, but whose costumes and acting were stellar). The presentation began with the singing of the traditional Twelfth Night carol, Deck the Halls, accompanied by the actors holding aloft freshly cut yaupon branches and marching around the dining room table (which was piled with smoked salmon, roast beef, cheeses, crackers, and veggies). Our Jeopardy celebrity, Charles Temple, had the role of narrator. Early in the narration we bystanders were instructed to assault Balder with ping pong balls and paper airplanes (I think you had to be there!). It was quite the raucous affair.

Following the presentation everyone hoisted their wine glasses to toast our performers and our hosts. A pot of eggnog was brought out as guests turned to conversation, laughter, and camaraderie. I scanned the room and realized  that I knew everyone present. What a wonderful winter's night get together.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112111.htm.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

The Winter Beach

Walking along the beach in winter can be an exhilarating experience. Even when the temperature is mild (and it has been mild these last few days), the air can be brisk when the wind blows from offshore. Salt spray trails off the tops of breakers, sea oat stalks lean far over, and grains of sand race across the flats and pile up along the dunes. 

The hardy souls who venture out to the beach when the temperature drops near freezing bundle up in warm winter coats, knit caps, and gloves. Their reward might be a pod of dolphins cavorting just beyond the breakers, or maybe a hot cup of coffee, tea, or chocolate back home in front of the fire. 

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112111.htm.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Paragon

On January 3 I mentioned the story of Ocracoke schooner captain Horatio Williams who sank his vessel, the Paragon, in 1861 to prevent her use by Confederate forces or capture by Union forces. A reader questioned the veracity of the story and doubted if any technology was available to allow Captain Williams to refloat his schooner after the end of the war, as I reported.

Captain James Horatio Williams, at the helm of a different schooner, in 1887 (60 years old):


















On February 13, 1949 a lengthy newspaper interview with Captain Horatio's son was published in The News and Observer, Raleigh, N.C. After recounting in detail his father's ordeal in Charleston harbor when Confederate soldiers fired on Fort Sumter, his father's escape under cover of darkness, and the intentional sinking of the Paragon, the interview continues:

“’No, sir,’ he [Horatio Williams' son] said, ‘that’s not the end of the story. The Paragon sailed again. That she did. And my father sailed her. She was some ship right up to the time she went down off Frying Pan Shoals in ’85….

“’Well, now, after my father sank the Paragon up the Roanoke River, he came back here to Ocracoke. He reckoned he would take a rest until the war was over. He didn’t have no grudge against anybody and he wasn’t going to do any fighting. He didn’t either. He fished a bit, had a little boat of his own. He always managed to be away from home when the officers came over to get fellows for the army.’

“Horatio the second leaned back in his chair. He seemed to be thinking. Except for his white hair he didn’t look a man of 75.

“’When the war was over,’ he continued, ‘my father didn’t make no move right away to go get the Paragon. Meanwhile, Jobie [builder and half-owner of the Paragon] had died [in 1860] and Henry, that was Jobie’s son, was over on the mainland running a cotton gin and sawmill, at Germantown. Finally, my father went to see him and they talked about raising the Paragon. It was 18 months after the war was over that they raised her.

“’It was quite a job, too. They had to pontoon her with barrels until her decks were above water. They pumped the water out of her with hand pumps. She wasn’t damaged in the least. She had been in fresh water. You know, in the old days when they built ships they docked them before they was finished, that is, they let them lie in fresh water for a while. So the Paragon, wasn’t hurt none. And the heart of red cedar, of which she was built, won’t rot. So she was just about as good as ever. And that canvas my father buried was still in good condition, too.

“’They sailed the Paragon right down the Roanoke to Ocracoke and put her in the trade again.

“’When I was a boy, I sailed with my father several times on the Paragon. I used to go with him to Swan Quarter to load grain.

“’I remember that then the Paragon had a crew of six…three sailors, a mate, cook and captain. She could carry 85 ton in her hold and she drew eight feet of water.'"

I hope that settles the issue. The sinking and raising of the Paragon is a story that Ocracokers have passed from one generation to the next for a century and a half.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112111.htm.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Firsts

As I mentioned on Tuesday, Lou Ann and I did a little traveling over the holidays. Ocracoke, of course, is a wonderful place to call home, but it is always fun to visit other areas and to have a few adventures. During this latest trip I had three new experiences:
  • On the way home we stopped in Wilmington, NC. As close as the city is, I had never visited there before. We enjoyed dinner in the historic downtown with a view of the Cape Fear river. The highlight was touring the WWII battleship North Carolina. Volunteers advised us to allot an hour and a half to explore the 728' long vessel. We spent nearly four hours! It was fascinating. You might want to consider a stop in Wilmington on your next trip to Ocracoke. Click here for more information about the battleship North Carolina: http://www.battleshipnc.com/.
  • Also in Wilmington I had my first cup of coffee! There is no real explanation. I simply had never had any desire to drink coffee...then, without warning, I decided to try it. I couldn't bring myself to order any of those "yuppie" drinks. I just had a real cup of java, but with cream and sugar. It was OK.
  • I had given Lou Ann a GPS for Christmas (we called "her" Gloria because the Christmas carol Gloria in Excelsis Deo was playing on the radio when Lou Ann opened her gift). We decided to let Gloria lead us on our trip. I never thought I would want a GPS, but Gloria sure came in handy in unfamiliar cities. The best time we had with it was on the way home. Even though I know my way in eastern North Carolina, I set Ocracoke as my destination. Gloria had never heard of Lawton Lane or Howard Street, but she did know of Fig Tree Lane (how could that be?). We laughed when she let us know that it would take about 30 minutes to go from Cedar Island to Ocracoke. Then we realized that she thought there was a road (a bridge??) across the sound. But it was stranger than that. Once on the ferry the monitor indicated that we were not on the "road." We decided to have a little fun with Gloria, and switched the GPS to "pedestrian" mode. Apparently she thought we were like the individual described in Mark 6:48. She never suggested that we don life jackets. 
We had a great time, but it's nice to be back home (where I don't need GPS to find my way around).

 Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112111.htm.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Frazier Peele

Every now and then I mention Hatteras native, Frazier Peele, who established the first ferry service across Hatteras Inlet (e.g. see my post for Saturday, March 26, 2011). Below is a vintage photo (taken in the mid-1950s) of Charlie MacWilliams driving his mail truck from the ferry to the Ocracoke beach).

The 1974 issue of Hatteras Island's "Sea Chest" magazine has this to say about Frazier Peele: "When he was running his own ferry with only a few passengers, he used to carry a gun in the cabin. During hunting season he would often shoot ducks and geese that would be in the range of the ferryboats, then maneuver the boat over to pick them up."

Getting to Ocracoke sixty years ago was quite the adventure!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112111.htm.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Travels

Hello to all. This is Philip again. Many thanks to Bill, Amy, & Jude for helping out with blog posts in November and December. I was off the island now and then, visiting family and taking a bit of a vacation. Lou Ann and I spent some time in Asheville, NC, as well as in Charleston, SC, St. Petersburg, FL, and Wilmington, NC.

In Charleston we had a chance to connect with some Ocracoke history. In 1718 Blackbeard blockaded the harbor there, and plundered at least nine ships. He held several prominent citizens hostage, and demanded a chest of medicine (presumably to treat venereal disease) from the colonial government. After a tense delay, the medicine was delivered, and Blackbeard released his hostages.

In April of 1861 Ocracoke schooner captain Horatio Williams was anchored in Charleston harbor when Confederates fired on Fort Sumter. Captain Williams was determined that his two-masted schooner, the Paragon, not be commandeered by the Confederates or captured by Federal forces. He sailed out of the harbor under cover of darkness. Back in North Carolina he intentionally sank his ship in the Roanoke River, and buried her sails in barrels. Williams waited until after the war's end to raise his ship and put her back in service.

We are happy to be back on the island (though it is a bit chillier than St. Petersburg). We are looking forward to enjoying the beach, trying some new recipes, spending time with friends, reading in front of the gas log stove, relaxing, and sharing more island history and stories with our Ocracoke Journal friends.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112111.htm.

Monday, January 02, 2012

The Hiatus is Over

Thanks to the many of you who took the time and initiative to send your greetings and tell us you missed us while the Blog was quiet over the Holidays. That felt very good.

This is Bill reporting that, after a couple of weeks in Denver with our family, Lida and I rolled onto the one o'clock ferry at Hatteras on New Year's Eve afternoon. The weather was sunny, balmy and incredibly beautiful.

Before we even went to our house, we stopped off by Books to Be Red where Leslie was hosting an end-of-the-season "No Football Zone" Open House. We bought some winter reading and toasted to how glad we are to have such a great bookstore on Ocracoke Island.

Then we joined Peter and his host of birders for supper and the final tally of the annual "Christmas Bird Count" here and on Portsmouth Island. The count this year was reported to be "mysteriously low", but the soup and chili and fellowship were wonderful.

How nice to be "home" in a place like this!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112111.htm.