Sam ("Uncle Sam") Tolson was born on Portsmouth Island in 1840. When he was 24 years old he traveled to Elizabeth City with a few other islanders looking for work. It was mid-April, 1865, and Sam was immediately arrested by Union soldiers who mistook him for John Wilkes Booth. The resemblance to President Lincoln's assassin (wanted posters had been distributed widely) was so remarkable that Sam Tolson's mates were unable to convince the soldiers they had apprehended the wrong man.
After he was finally released (some say prominent islanders traveled to Elizabeth City to vouch for him; others claim he was released only after John Wilkes Booth was killed), Sam Tolson returned to Portsmouth and never went back to Elizabeth City.
On Portsmouth Uncle Sam Tolson was known as one of the best dancers on the island. He always carried dancing slippers in his pocket, and it was said that he was so light on his feet that he could dance with a glass of water on his head...and never spill a drop.
Sam Tolson died in 1929 at 89 years old.
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of our island Post Office. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042113.htm.