Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rossie Gaskins

Today Portsmouth village is a ghost town. Many residents who had relied on commercial ship traffic through Ocracoke Inlet (islanders had been pilots and lighterers, those who transferred cargo from larger ships to lighter, shallow draft vessels) moved north when Hatteras Inlet opened in 1846.

When federal troops invaded the Outer Banks in 1861 most remaining Portsmouth Island residents left, many never to return.

For 150 years Portsmouth islanders and Ocracokers have told the story of Miss Rossie Gaskins. Here it is in the words of Dorothy Byrum Bedwell, from her book Portsmouth, Island with a Soul:

"...Miss Rossie Gaskins...had to remain on the island when others fled to escape the Yankees. She had grown so fat that in the panic of vacating her home, she wedged herself in the front door and could not get out. It is said that the soldiers found her there, helped to free her and allowed her to re-enter the house by the back door which was wider. When her friends returned, she reported that she had been treated well by the Federals."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of the Soundfront Inn, one of the oldest structures on the island. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102113.htm.


  1. Anonymous9:42 AM

    Was she a good cook?maybe she cooked really good meals for the Federals. Is there any documentation that the Federal soldiers actually found a woman wedged in her front doorway?. Did this woman not know she could not fit through the front doorway?. Was there no neighbor escaping thinking of their friend of girth?DD

    1. I think you just had to be there!

  2. Anonymous5:09 PM

    How awful for the poor woman. The soldiers must have felt empathy for her embarrassment. I know when my sister had a similar incident, she was so mortified she never left the house for about 15 years (till the day she died.)

  3. debbie s.6:24 AM

    Poor thing!