Friday, July 22, 2016

Artis Comes Home

Immediately after the Civil War Hercules (Harkus) Blount (b. ca. 1820) and his wife, Winnie Bragg Blount (Aunt Winnie), former slaves, moved to Ocracoke. Their daughter, Jane, married Leonard Bryant who came to Ocracoke in the early years of the 20th century looking for work. Leonard and Jane had nine children, the only post Civil War black family to call Ocracoke home.

Aunt Winnie

In her book, From Whence We Came, Ellen Fulcher Cloud includes this interesting paragraph found on a typewritten page in an old scrap book:

"On the Island of Ocracoke there is only one Negro family, which has maintained at least one branch on its few acres of land since 1865. Artis Bryant, one of the sons of Leonard Bryant, present head of the family, went to sea 18 years ago and none of the family ever heard from him. In July, 1942, the SS Chilore, got involved with a mine, and Artis who was boatswain of an all-negro deck crew, rowed with six others onto a lonely beach. 'Where are we?' asked Artis of the first Coast Guardsman they met. 'Ocracoke," replied the guardsman. Artis has been castawayed within a few hundred yards of his home, and there was great rejoicing in the Bryant cabin that night."

I also found this article from the Beaufort News, July 23, 1942:

"Negro Ab Pays His Parents A Surprise Visit -- Artis Bryant, a Negro AB Seaman paid his folks on Ocracoke Island a surprise visit recently. It was the first time he had been home in over 20 years . He probably would not have made his recent visit, except that the ship on which he was a member was torpedoed somewhere off the east coast. Artis and several of his fellow crew members sailed off in a lifeboat looking for land. It so happened that the first landfall was Ocracoke Island. The survivors landed there and it was not very long until Leonard his father, Jane his mother, and several brothers and sisters whom he had not seen for many years were having a sort of family reunion. News of Artis' visit to the one and only negro family on Ocracoke was brought to the mainland by an employee on the Section Base project now underway on the island."

Our latest Ocracoke Newletter is the story of Augustus Cabarrus, early inlet pilot, and the present day d'Oelsnitz family. Click here to read the Newsletter: Ocracoke...The French Connection


  1. Philip,
    You never disappoint.
    I love when you dig up obscure little island tales.
    But what is an AB seaman (able bodied)?

    1. Thank you. Yes, AB stands for able bodied.

    2. Thanks for verifying my wild guess.
      My knowledge of the sea is strictly from movies about sailors.