Monday, February 17, 2014


Our August, 2011 Ocracoke Newsletter, a 1991 article by Dr. Martin Rozear, recounts the history of the mid-19th century marine hospital on Portsmouth Island:

Front View of Hospital

Although the hospital did not open until 1847, the government signed a contract in 1828 with Dr. John W. Potts to establish the hospital.

Potts rented a small house on Portsmouth which Joseph B. Hurtow described in a letter to the Collector of Customs, Ocracoke District, February 24, 1831. The Cape Lookout National Seashore, which manages Portsmouth village, has published on its website the account below of Dr. Potts' first "hospital."

The National Park Service states  that "Hurtow likely exaggerated the conditions at this first hospital, as he proposed to personally take over the hospital contract and move the location ho his home in Ocracoke village. Collector Joshua Taylor wrote to the Secretary of the treasury on March 14, 1831, saying that the hospital was well situated and consisted of three rooms upstairs and two rooms downstairs" 

Nevertheless, careful reading of this brief passage provides a rare peek into life on Portsmouth Island almost 200 years ago.

"A small house has been rented and occupied for the purpose at $30 to $40 per year. The house stands about two feet above the level of the ocean and not too far from its margin, upon the Portsmouth Banks and on the naked sands, without the benefit of shade. The house itself is 16 to 18 feet by 20 or 22 feet in size, without plastering or as I believe glass windows. About six cots, a pine table or two and a few benches or chairs, and the furniture of the hospital has been described. There being no cistern to contain fresh water, the water used is gotten out of a hole about a foot depth in the sand..."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an account of the 2013 Portsmouth Island Christmas Bird Count. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous8:07 AM

    Error in 2011 link.

    1. Sorry about that. I just fixed the link.

  2. Anonymous10:57 AM

    It won't be the last time we read of someone trying to hornswoggle the government.

  3. Anonymous8:57 AM

    No need to be sorry.Thanks for an interesting read...Anon.8:07