Monday, March 30, 2015

A Glimpse into the Past

Below is a transcript of a portion of an interview with Martha (Mattie) Daly Gilgo (1885-1976, former resident of Portsmouth Island, NC) by her grandson, Julian Gilgo, June 17, 1969, transcribed by Ellen Fulcher Cloud, and included in her book, Portsmouth, The Way it Was.

Julian: About how many people were living there (on Portsmouth Island) when you were young?

Mattie: O-o-o-h dear Lord, there was hundreds. Portsmouth has been a place in this world. I've seen myself ---and I'm only 83 years old, and I've stood on the porch and seen 30 to 40 vessels on their way in. Just between Ocracoke and Portsmouth, down there what they call Teach's hole.


Sometimes we have to be reminded of how important Ocracoke Inlet was for commerce along the eastern seaboard. At the turn of the twentieth century, as Mattie Gilgo relates, dozens of sailing vessels could often be seen anchored in Pamlico Sound. They were carrying lumber, cotton, turpentine, rum, and various other cargoes to and from ports as far away as New England and the West Indies, or even more distant places. Ocracoke wasn't always as isolated as it is often portrayed. 

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Ocracoke Orgy. You can read it here:

(Post revised at 11:27 am, 3/30/15.)


  1. Anonymous9:14 AM is a very good place to learn more. The thought that lumber, cotton, and turpentine were not products manufactured in North Carolina seemed odd to me. I could understand these products being sent to other locations, it is my understanding England imported a great deal of cotton from the US before the Civil War. Now, Ms Gilgo grew up during the Reconstruction of North Carolina ,post Civil War, I am curious did she leave the island for any length of time in her early 20's? Is it not true that during her lifetime, the textile mills and furniture industry expanded in North Carolina. I have visited Coolemee, NC a former mill town and seen for myself the loss when a mill closes. We also must not forget the impact of the automobile during this time !.

    1. Your comment made me realize that I wasn't very clear. North Carolina did produce lumber, cotton, and turpentine. I meant to write "to and from ports as far away as New England and the West Indies." I have corrected today's post. Thank you.

      I do not know Mattie Gilgo's travel history.