Saturday, February 16, 2013

Daniel Tolson

Daniel Tolson was a prosperous antebellum Ocracoke merchant. In 1855 Tolson, just shy of 40 years old, was appointed postmaster. He served until 1866, at a weekly salary of $9.17. In 1857 he was half owner of the the five year old, 55' long schooner, Patron. Daniel Tolson purchased a relatively large tract of land on Ocracoke, and at one time owned 22 slaves.

Daniel Tolson's grave is located in one of more than eighty small cemeteries on the island. His may be the most difficult to get to. I learned of his grave site many years ago, and decided to walk to it again several days ago.

I parked my car, and walked ten minutes through a small section of woodland. At the edge of a clearing I stepped into the underbrush. Pushing my way past a stand of live oaks, yaupons, and myrtles, I stood on the outer rim of a wet bog. I sloshed through and up a small incline to a ridge.

Brambles, briars, and low branches conspired with dead trees, downed branches, and thorns to obstruct my path. After five minutes of struggle and effort I spied the marble headstone.

A Glimpse of Daniel Tolson's Marker

 I stepped into the clearing. There it stood:

Sacred to the Memory of
Daniel Tolson
Born Dec. 23, 1816
Departed this Life
Apr. 21, 1879
I Know That My Redeemer Liveth

Daniel Tolson (1816 - 1879)

I snapped a few more photos before I turned back to walk home.

A View of the Surrounding Woods

The Nearby Wetlands
I've promised several people that I would not reveal the location of Daniel Tolson's grave site in order to protect the surrounding property and environment. So please don't ask. But I hope you can enjoy the photos and the mystery.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of windmills on Ocracoke. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous7:20 AM

    Philip, you are doing the right thing by not sharing the site location. NC Mainlander agrees with you. Best to let the site be left alone from tourists, including me!

  2. Anonymous8:12 AM

    If nothing else, a list of who is buried on the island should exist. When someone is in search of a historic name and story this list could be a referenced and a name could live on so to speak.

    1. There is more than a list. In 1973 Hyde History, Inc. published a book of all known cemeteries in the county. Janie Garrish keeps an updated list of all Ocracoke Island deaths since then.

      The 1973 book gives a general idea of the location of Daniel Tolson's grave, but it would still be quite difficult to find it if you didn't know exactly where to look.

  3. Anonymous8:17 AM

    Philip, I know that you offer ghost walk tours, but any insight into availability of guided nature walk tours on the island?

    I've explored the trails at Springer's Point on multiple occasions and also more than once made the long hike to the sound following the trail across the road from the Park Service campground. But a guided tour by someone with knowledge of the native flora/fauna--that would be a treat.

    And thanks, as always, for yet another glimpse into a seldom-seen part of Ocracoke.

    1. I don't know of anyone providing this kind of tour, although David Senseney has done this in the past for school groups and the OcraFolk School. David no longer lives on the island year-around.

    2. Librarian Peter Vankevich leads bird walks. Look him up at the library or call in to his WOVV radio show Monday evenings.

    3. Tom, thanks for the reminder. Yes, Peter is a wealth of information about island birds. I believe he leads bird walks on Friday mornings.

  4. Is William Sylvester Tolson (B 1828) the brother of Daniel Tolson? Do you know Daniel's father's name? Many thanks.

    Love your posts

    1. Yes, Bob, William S. Tolson is Daniel Tolson's brother. Their father was William Tolson. He was probably the first Tolson to make his home on Ocracoke. The family originally lived on Portsmouth. A John Tolson bought lot #1 on Portsmouth (I think in 1756).

      William Sylvester Tolson's son David S. Tolson married Sabra Howard (my grandfather's sister). Sabra was also the great granddaughter of William Tolson. Her grandmother (Love Tolson) was William Sylvester Tolson's sister. She married Solomon Howard, my great-great grandfather. Are you confused yet? I am! I need to make charts to even begin to keep these connections straight.

  5. Anonymous1:04 PM

    Even if you had charts-I doubt the connections would be straight! Thanks for taking the hike and taking us along! SueM

  6. Anonymous8:15 PM

    Did I read this correctly? There are 80 cemetaries on Ocracoke?! That seems awfully high..??

    1. There are 81 identified cemeteries on Ocracoke. Most of them are small family plots. There are several cemeteries on Howard Street directly across from the Village Craftsmen, though they may appear to the casual observer to be just one cemetery.

      Actually there are more than 81 cemeteries. In some cases the old wooden markers have rotted away, and there is no longer any evidence of graves. In years past a number of graves were never marked (e.g. victims of shipwrecks, slaves, pirates, etc.). Also, there is at least one marked cemetery that was never officially counted: Euphemia Curtis is buried in the back yard of the Village Craftsmen.