Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Col. Frederick A. Olds

Frederick Augustus Olds (1853-1935)  was a North Carolina historian, newspaper columnist, lecturer, and editor who was an early advocate of preserving and sharing the history of North Carolina and her people.

In a new book by Larry E. Tise, Circa 1903, North Carolina's Outer Banks at the Dawn of Flight, the author devotes Chapter 6 ("A Jaunt Around the Carolina Coast") to the 1908 recollections of Col. Frederick A. Olds.

According to Tise, Olds describes Ocracoke's "snowy white lighthouse," mentions the Doxsee Clam factory, and comments on the island's competing Northern and Southern Methodist churches. He is also fascinated by the "refreshing...broad dialect" of the locals.

Olds was one of the early writers to observe that the residents of Ocracoke and other Outer Banks villages were "the only North Carolinians who had the privilege 'of seeing the sun rise from and set in the water....'"

Look for Tise's book in your local library or independent book store. 


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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Mr. Stacy Howard's Cool House/Little Free Library

Ocracoke Island just acquired its first Little Free Library. The Library is installed in the front yard of Village Craftsmen on Howard Street.

This Little Free Library is a re-purposed cool house (sometimes called a milk house or a screen house) originally built by Ocracoke native, Mr. Stacy Howard (1885-1968), in 1925.

Cool houses were used to help preserve food (fish, salt pork, eggs, milk, fruits and vegetables) before the electrification of the island in 1938.

This Cool House was restored recently by Philip Howard, owner of Village Craftsmen. This is a public book exchange. When you are on the island please stop by to visit the library. You are welcome to take a book to read or leave one for someone else to find.

We like to think that Mr. Stacy, who was an avid reader, would be pleased to see his cool house used today to promote reading. 

Here are a few more photos (compliments of Tom Baxter) of us moving the cool house/library to its permanent site:


You can read more about the Cool House, and see more photos here:

Monday, May 13, 2019

Lighthouse Plan, 1892

I thought our readers would enjoy seeing this detailed 1892 plan of the Ocracoke Lighthouse.

Look carefully to see the design of the original spiral wooden stairs that were connected to the inner wall of the light tower. The current metal staircase replaced the wooden stairs in about 1950.

In 1853 the outdated illuminating apparatus was changed to an Incandescent Oil Vapor (I.O.V.) lamp, a fourth order Fresnel lens was installed, the revolving light was changed to a fixed light, and the original bird cage lantern room was replaced with the current prefabricated lantern room.

For a comprehensive history of the Ocracoke Lighthouse click here.


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Friday, May 03, 2019

Ocracoke, Early 20th Century

The following is an excerpt from a 1949 letter published in the North Carolina Historical Review:

"[Ocracoke] island is covered with heavy sand and only jeeps can navigate. Several natives have them and provide taxi service to visitors....

"Between Ocracoke village and Hatteras the terrain is bleak -- the sea on one side, the sound on the other, less than a mile separating them. All along the beach are remnants of wrecks -- one called the 'ghost ship' is still partially intact. Offshore one sees the masts of wreckage extending above the water level at low tide. The heat was terrific -- no trees -- just wild grass here and there. There was a flock of wild horses on a path of grass at the end of the island. We were told that they dig in the sand with their forepaws to expose surface water when they are thirsty. Each home had a rain barrel under the eaves -- their source of drinking water....

"The south point of Ocracoke near Ocracoke Inlet is less desert-like than the country between it and Hatteras Inlet, but there are a number of sand dunes."

Below is a detail from an 1883 Coast Chart of Pamlico Sound. The topography of Ocracoke did not change dramatically until the 1950s when NC12 was constructed and the continuous row of barrier dunes was built between the highway and the ocean. In the image below notice "The Plains," a large area of un-vegetated sand reaching nearly to the lighthouse.


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Friday, April 26, 2019

Chocolate Easter Egg

For many generations Ocracoke Island women made chocolate eggs at Easter, then gave them away to family and friends. Unfortunately the tradition is slowly dying. Only a few islanders still make the eggs. I was fortunate to receive one a few days ago!


 If you have a sweet tooth, and want to make your own Ocracoke chocolate egg, here is Ms. Wilma Williams' (1909-1990) recipe:

2 pkgs. powdered sugar
1/2 lb. butter
Sm. jar maraschino cherries, cut up, and their juice
1 sm. can coconut
About 1/2 c. chopped nuts
1/2 box raisins
1 8 oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate squares

Put sugar in a bowl. Work in softened butter; add nuts, raisins, coconut and cherries. Add cherry juice slowly until mixture can be molded into egg shapes. If it gets too soft, add more sugar. Set egg shapes on waxed paper. Chill. Melt chocolate in double boiler and spoon over cool eggs on waxed paper; chill. When chocolate is hard, eggs may be decorated with icing, small candied fruits or candy.


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Monday, April 22, 2019

Capt. Myron A. Garrish

We have published another Ocracoke Newsletter, the story of Ocracoke native, Capt. Myron A. Garrish.

Capt. Myron died in 1929, and is buried across the street from Village Craftsmen, along Howard Street.

Capt. Myron's house on Howard Street is now owned by Bob and Kathy Phillips, and has been rehabilitated as a rental cottage.


You can read the Newsletter here:


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Monday, April 15, 2019

Honor and Morals

I recenttly finished reading Brad Melzer and Josh Mensch's book, The First Conspiracy, The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington. I was reminded of some of the reason's Washington is so revered even today. Although our first president was at times embroiled in controversy (click here to read about the John Jay Treaty) he is almost universally regarded for his character and sense of honor. Melzer and Mensch comment on his "values of integrity, duty, and trust." For example, when Washington's name was proffered as a candidate for the command of the Continental army, he  simply disappeared. The book's authors report that he didn't "want it to look in any way as if he [was] hoping to win the position out of vanity or arrogance, or that he [was] somehow suggesting his own superiority over the others."

With that said, George Washington, can also be described as having feet of cay (see Daniel 2:31–33) since in his younger years "he seemed to have no problem profiting from [slavery], a practice we now regard as a moral atrocity." Nevertheless, "within a few years, [Washington] comes to believe that slavery is morally incompatible with the American ideals he and so many others fought for."

Reading these words reminded me of our 2011 Ocracoke Newsletter article about Slavery on Ocracoke. It explains the conflicted and complicated racial relationships on the antebellum Outer Banks, and illustrates changes in attitudes and behaviors over time.


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