Saturday, May 11, 2013

Sam Tolson

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:


  1. Vickie Pavlik7:43 AM

    What type of shoe was considered a dancing slipper?

  2. Anonymous8:09 AM

    V.P. what an interesting question. I did a goooogle search and added vintage to the dancing slipper query. Perhaps you may too and be charmed by the results. If this gentleman indeed carried them in his pocket -- well how big were pockets back then ? what would a man typically carry with him ??and well, perhaps each pocket carried a slipper of supple leather???

  3. Anonymous8:21 AM

    ps for data mining purposes I miss spell certain copyrighted words or names I also ask survey callers / takers will you pay me for the valuable information you seek if they say no I terminate the conversation. Wake up we need to stop giving away valuable marketing information without compensation.. oh does a chance to win a gift card a chance to win after filling out an online survey hmmm not so much am I right??

  4. Debbie Leonard7:04 PM

    Anonymous, maybe you should take up a hobby. You sound a little stressed out. :)

  5. Anonymous10:31 AM

    Anon here DL thank you for your concern. I am merely a canary in a coal mine, an albatross around the neck, knee high to a grasshopper, sharp as a tack , two shakes of a lambs tale, the wind beneath your wings oh DL what is your hobby that makes you so thoughtful?