Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Williams Homeplace

Last week a reader asked about the Caswell and Zilphia Williams house that was moved sometime around the turn of the 20th century. I included Caswell and Zilphia's granddaughter's account of the move in our January 9 post. Della Gaskill wrote the account in her book, A Blessed Life, Growing Up on Ocracoke Island.

The reader wanted to know if the house is still standing, and if there were any photos of the house. I visited Della a few days ago. She assured me she has photos of the house, but was unable to locate them. However, she reminded me that the cover photo for her book is a picture of her standing in the front yard, with the house in the background.



















The two story house is still standing, and retains it's original interior charm, although it has been raised and several rooms have been added. Caswell and Zilphia's great-grandson lives in the house today.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Capt. Rob Temple's poem, "A Pirate's Christmas." You can read it hear: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news122116.htm.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ocracoke Post Offices

Last week a reader asked about the Ocracoke post office. In April, 2013, I published a Newsletter about Ocracoke Island post offices. Below is a summary of that article, with photos:

On August 21, 1840 the first post office on the Outer Banks of North Carolina was established on Ocracoke Island. For the next sixty years the post office was located in successive postmasters’ homes or in one of the village’s general stores. This is a photo of Abner Bennett Howard's general store and post office. It was located where Captain's Landing Motel is today.















On October 21, 1902 postmaster Thomas Wallace (“Mr. Tommy”) Howard  built the first of Ocracoke’s four dedicated post office buildings. It was situated across the road from Abner Bennett's store, between the entrance to Howard Street and the Silver Lake Motel.












When Mr. Tommy retired in 1941 his future daughter-in-law, Elizabeth O’Neal, was appointed Ocracoke’s postmaster. Elizabeth moved her operation across the sandy footpath from Mr. Tommy’s small post office building to the old store which her father had purchased. The original post office boxes had never been removed.

In 1952, after the old store and post office had been severely damaged in the 1944 hurricane, postmaster Elizabeth O’Neal Howard (Mr. Tommy's daughter-in-law), and her husband Wahab Howard, had a new, 18’ X 24’, 432 square foot post office built on their property near the old store. The new post office had 150 lock boxes. The building has since been moved. Down Point Decoys is located on that property today, just a few feet south of where the post office stood.















In 1964 a new brick post office with 1000 square feet of interior space and 464 lock boxes was constructed. Today it houses Captain's Cargo gift shop.















Ocracoke's current post office was relocated to NC Hwy 12 in 2000. Today, the 3,000 square foot Ocracoke post office building, with 1256 lock boxes, serves nearly 1000 year around residents and businesses as well as numerous summer visitors.














You can view more photos, and read more about Ocracoke's post office at https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news042113.htm or https://www.ocracokenavigator.com/old-post-office/.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Capt. Rob Temple's poem, "A Pirate's Christmas." You can read it hear: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news122116.htm

Friday, January 13, 2017

Island Businesses

Recently I was looking over a 1990 issue of the Ocracoke Island News when I noticed a number of advertisements for businesses that are no longer operating on the island. Here is what I discovered.
  • 28 Businesses advertising in 1990 that are not operating today (how many of these do you remember?):
    • Maria's Restaurant
    • Whittler's Bench
    • Craig Garrish Construction
    • The Pelican Restaurant
    • The Lightkeeper's Inn
    • The Berkley Center
    • Sharon Miller Realty
    • The East Carolina Bank
    • The Boyette House
    • Island Hair Studio
    • The Doll & Gift Shop
    • Cafe Atlantic
    • The Island Inn and Dining Room
    • Home Port Realty
    • Merchant Mariner
    • Beach House
    • The Hole in the Wall
    • Sally Newell Interiors
    • South Point Seafood
    • Black Anchor Antiques & Collectables
    • Trolley Stop Restaurant & Deli
    • 3/4 Time
    • O'Neal's Dockside
    • Captain Ben's Restaurant
    • Emma's Beauty Shop
    • Ship's Timbers Windsurfing
    • The Old Post Office Shop
    • BW's Surf Shop
  • 21 Businesses advertising in 1990 and still in operation today:
    • Beachcomber Campground
    • Pony Island Restaurant
    • The Anchorage Inn
    • Ocracoke Waterfowl Hunting
    • Beach Outfitters
    • Bluff Shoal Motel
    • Howard's Pub
    • Crews Inn
    • The Island Ragpicker
    • Ocracoke Variety Store
    • Gaskill's Hauling
    • The Silver Lake Motel
    • Oscar's House B&B
    • Ocracoke Island Realty
    • The Pony Island Motel
    • Ann Ehringhaus Photographer
    • Village Craftsmen
    • Edward's Motel
    • Back Porch Restaurant
    • The Harborside
    • Ocracoke Child Care
Some of the businesses in the first category have simply closed. Most of those business owners no longer live on the island, but some have retired, and still live here. Other businesses have been sold, closed for a time, and then reopened under new management and new names.

We are happy to say that Village Craftsmen, established in 1970 by Philip Howard, continues in operation, now under the capable management of Philip's daughter, Amy.













Although Village Craftsmen is closed in January & February, be sure to stop by in the spring, or on your next visit to the island. We are regularly adding additional fine quality American handcrafts to complement our exciting assortment of pottery, glass, wooden items, jewelry, and much more.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Capt. Rob Temple's poem, "A Pirate's Christmas." You can read it hear: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news122116.htm.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Wreck Master

In the nineteenth century and early twentieth century the federal government appointed wreck masters in coastal communities. These individuals were empowered to take charge of cargo and other goods thrown on shore after a shipwreck.

Carol Cronk Cole Collection, Outer Banks History Center












Of course Ocracokers and other Outer Bankers often snatched up whatever they could manage to salvage before the official wreck master could gather the items together and protect them from looters. Once collected, the wreck master contacted the shipping agent who arranged for a vendue, or auction. The vendue (an old French word) was the occasion for much excitement in coastal areas. Residents and visitors would gather around for the entertainment as much as for the opportunity to purchase items at bargain prices.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Capt. Rob Temple's poem, "A Pirate's Christmas." You can read it hear: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news122116.htm

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

General Braxton Bragg and Ocracoke

Late last year a reader asked if there was any connection between Confederate General Braxton Bragg and the Braggs of Ocracoke.


General Braxton Bragg


















After several hours of research I learned that General Bragg (1817-1876) was the great-great-great-great-great-great grandson of Thomas Bragg (who was born in England in 1579 and immigrated to Virginia) and Mary (Molly) Newport. I also learned that General Braxton Bragg was the grandson of John Bragg (1741-1799) and Hannah Tolson Bragg of Ocracoke and Portsmouth Islands. His father was Thomas Bragg, Sr. (1778-1851).

General Braxton Bragg came from a distinguished family. His brother John (1806-1876) was an editor, lawyer, judge, and a member of Congress. Brother William (1819-1863) was a captain in the Confederate service, and was killed at Chattanooga. Thomas (1810-1872) became the 34th Governor of North Carolina, and served as the Confederate Attorney General.

For some time I have known that the forefather of all the Ocracoke Braggs was Jesse Bragg (b. ca. 1765/1770).* Oral history identifies Jesse’s father as John Bragg who married Hannah Tolson.

There is a legend on Ocracoke about "Old Quawk" (see http://villagecraftsmen.blogspot.com/2015/03/old-quawks-day.html). Oral history has it that Old Quawk offered a bag of gold to any man who would marry his daughter. Older islanders remembered people referring to Jesse Bragg's wife as "Sally Quawk."

Jesse and Sally Bragg had a number of children. One of their sons, Thomas Bragg (1797-1863), is buried on Howard Street.



















In Memory of Thomas Bragg
Died Dec. 31, 1863
Aged 66 years & 11 months
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints

Although I have not been able to find any reference to Jesse Bragg in various on-line genealogical web sites, the connection with John and Hannah Tolson Bragg seems secure. Thus, Thomas Bragg, Sr. (1778-1851), General Braxton Bragg’s father, would be Jesse's brother, making Thomas Bragg (1797-1863) of Ocracoke and General Bragg 1st cousins. 

*Jesse Bragg is listed in the 1790 Federal Census of Ocracoke as Head of Household. In 1800 he is listed as being between 16 and 45 years old. In 1810 he is 45 or more years old. Thus, a good guess is that he was born ca. 1765-1770.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Capt. Rob Temple's poem, "A Pirate's Christmas." You can read it hear: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news122116.htm.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Blackberry Dumplings & Island Cooking

Ocracoke islanders have long savored wild blackberries. The most traditional island recipe for blackberries calls for baking them in balls of pie crust dough, then smothering them in egg sauce. Here is Mable Gaskins' egg sauce recipe from the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department's cookbook, Hoi Toiders:

3 eggs at room temperature
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of lemon extract (or sometimes 1 tablespoon of vanilla, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and a little nutmeg)

Separate eggs. Beat the whites until stiff. Add sugar, a little at a time and beat well. Add egg yolks and lemon extract. Pour sauce over dumplings. Ready to eat! Yum, yum, delicious!

To read more about traditional Ocracoke Island cooking (including blackberry dumplings and much more) see David Cecelski's interview with island native, Maude Ballance (born 1932), "Listening to History," in NCPedia.org.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Capt. Rob Temple's poem, "A Pirate's Christmas." You can read it hear: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news122116.htm

Monday, January 09, 2017

House Moving

Many a building on Ocracoke has been moved -- the Island Inn, Sorella's Pizza & Pasta (formerly the Ocracoke Pizza Co.), the old Assembly of God Church, Coyote Music Den, the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum, the Ocracoke Oyster Company, Down Point Decoys, other businesses, and numerous private homes.

In her book, A Blessed Life, Della Gaskill (b. 1937) describes moving an island home many years ago:

"When my grandmama and my grandfather, Papa Cas [Richard Caswell Williams (1884-1959)] and Zilphia [Zilphia Gray Styron (1886-1966)], were going to get married, my grandfather built a house around the other side of the Island by what we call the Creek (Silver Lake Harbor.) The house was built around where Chris and Mabel Gaskill lived [near British Cemetery Road]. After my Papa built the house they were getting ready to get married and my grandmama told him that she weren't going around the Creek to live, so my grandfather had a boat, and he had to take that house down piece by piece and bring it around the shore side in back of my mama's house and bring it piece by piece down where the old home place stands now... I guess there probably were men that helped him take it down and move it by boat until they got it all down there where they built it on the land where it sits today, the old home place [near the Assembly of God church]."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Capt. Rob Temple's poem, "A Pirate's Christmas." You can read it hear: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news122116.htm