Thursday, April 03, 2014

Pamlico Sound

Several days ago a reader asked this question: "Where did the name Pamlico come from?"

Of course, Pamlico Sound is the name of the lagoon or estuary that is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by the chain of barrier islands called the Outer Banks. It is approximately 80 miles long and 30 miles wide, making it the largest lagoon on the east coast of the United States.

NASA Photo of Pamlico Sound

The Pamlico River, formed by the confluence of the Tar River and Tranters Creek, is a tidal river in eastern North Carolina that flows into Pamlico Sound.

Following are the various spellings I located on a dozen early maps (mapmakers' names in parentheses):

Pamxlico River, 1657 (Comberford)
Pemptico [River], 1672 (Ogilby)
Pamticoe Sound, 1733 (Moseley)
Pamticoe River, 1770 (Collet)
Pamticoe Sound, 1775 (Mouzon)
Pamtico Sound, 1808 (Price-Strother)
Pamplico Sound, 1833 (Mac Rae-Brazier)
Pamplico Sound, 1861 (Colton)
Pamlico Sound, 1861 (Bachman)
Pamplico Sound, 1865 (US Coast Survey)
Pamlico Sound, 1882 (Kerr-Cain)
Pamlico Sound, 1896 (Post Route Map)

Roger L. Payne, in his book Place Names of the Outer Banks, lists one other spelling, Pamticough, and writes that "the lagoon is named for the Pamlico or Paquiac Indians who inhabited its shores...."

Payne adds, "Paquiac is the Algonquian word for shallow area and actually referred to Pamlico Sound but was misapplied by early mapmakers [to 'portions of Hatteras and Pea islands']."

Out latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a reprint of a 1948 article about the Mail Boat Aleta, "Boat Hauls Mail, More." You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous6:15 PM

    for all those readers who ask general questions here if you go to and type in your question or subject you will get a wealth of information. try it, it really works.

  2. Anonymous2:12 AM

    Anon 6:15 you are absolutely right. Why should a reader bother Philip with such matters. Why should P.H. bother to respond .

    If I ask a question

    If I ask a question will you answer me?
    to respond in kind
    this is your nature

    You have a mind to show you care, to take one's hand if it is offered,

    He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep wake him.
    He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool , shun him .
    He that knows not and knows that he knows not is a child teach him.
    He who knows and knows that he knows is wise, follow him.

    April is national poetry month.