Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Elisha Ballance


Blanche Howard Jolliff (1919-2018) told me the following story on August 15, 2005:

In August of 1899 Blanche’s uncle, Elisha Ballance (1880-1977), along with George M. Gaskins (1887-1967), Zora Babel Gaskins (1855-1918), and several other men, were net fishing in Pamlico Sound, about eight miles northeast of Ocracoke village. It was the custom in those days to pitch a primitive camp “down below” (the area on Ocracoke Island northeast of the village) for a week or more while fishing in the sound. 

On August 16 one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever strike Ocracoke hit with a vengeance. Winds exceeded 100 miles per hour, and tide water from Pamlico Sound poured across the sand flats. The fishermen’s fragile sail skiffs were battered and sunk. The hapless fishermen, at the mercy of the storm, dug a hole in a sand dune, and covered it with their sails in an attempt to keep dry. For three days the storm raged, terrifying the fishermen who could do nothing but wait for an end to the fury.
When the hurricane finally abated, Elisha, George, and Zora Babel decided to walk back to the village. The tidal creeks were still swollen, and waist-high water, muddy bottoms, and saturated marsh made for an exhausting trek.

Back in the village after many hours, nineteen-year-old Elisha returned home, weary and hungry, to discover his family home empty. Unbeknownst to Elisha, his parents and sisters had fled the house when the storm commenced. They had taken refuge with a neighbor whose house stood on higher ground. The storm tide had flooded Elisha’s family house. Doors had been blown open, furniture was upended, and the floors were covered in a thick layer of mud. On entering the kitchen, and surveying the scene, Elisha fainted and fell onto the muddy floor. 

Elisha recovered, eventually married, and raised his family on Ocracoke. Many of his descendants live on the island to this day.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a delightful story written by Dr. Warren Silverman, who in 1981 became the island's resident physician after forty years without a doctor. The story is about Dr. Silverman's very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You can read the story here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/my-first-island-patient-by-dr-warren-silverman/.   

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Sense of Humor

O'cockers are known for their sense of humor. Every island family has their share of stories of a relative's or neighbor's humorous, pithy comments. Oscar Burrus (1901-1971) was the origin of several.

Rev. W.R. Hale was assigned to the Ocracoke United Methodist Church in the mid-1950s. Preacher Hale loved to fish. Nearly every day when the weather suited Rev. Hale could be seen standing in the water along the sound, with his fishing pole in his hand.

In those days island men often sat on the benches at the Community Store or Willis' store (where the Working Watermen's Exhibit is today), trading stories. Talk turned to Preacher Hale. "Boys," remarked Oscar, "we're going to have to paint that preacher's feet with copper paint or the ship worms are going to bore into his feet."

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a delightful story written by Dr. Warren Silverman, who in 1981 became the island's resident physician after forty years without a doctor. The story is about Dr. Silverman's very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You can read the story here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/my-first-island-patient-by-dr-warren-silverman/.   


Monday, July 16, 2018

Casket Table

Prior to 1957/58, when NC Highway 12 was paved from the edge of Ocracoke village to Hatteras Inlet, everything having to do with death and dying on the island was handled by family, friends, and neighbors, without professional assistance. All of that changed when the paved highway, and state-operated ferries, made it possible to bring a hearse to the island.

Changes had already begun in about 1948 when Mr. Mace Fulcher started selling commercially made caskets at the Community Store. Before that time all island caskets were built by local carpenters. Typically, islanders kept pre-cut casket boards stored under their houses or in out buildings. At the time of death family members contacted the carpenter who retrieved the boards and nailed the casket together.

I have been told that when Alice Wahab Williams died (she was the wife of Capt. David Williams; their house is now the Ocracoke Preservation Society museum) in 1953 she was buried in a casket purchased at the Community Store. Some years later her daughter, Nina, located the unused casket boards in their shed, and decided to use them as a table top. To the best of my knowledge, that table now rests upstairs in the research library at the OPS museum.

Few people are aware that the original plan was that the wood for the table would be used as a casket.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a delightful story written by Dr. Warren Silverman, who in 1981 became the island's resident physician after forty years without a doctor. The story is about Dr. Silverman's very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You can read the story here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/my-first-island-patient-by-dr-warren-silverman/.  

Friday, July 13, 2018

Grape Vines

Sometimes it's difficult to comprehend the changes that have occurred on Ocracoke Island over the 250 years since the earliest inlet pilots settled here.

Cousin Blanche (1919-2018) told me her grandmother remembered when grapevines "hung over the sea." Blanche also recalled that her Uncle Ike O'Neal (1865-1954) said when he was a boy briars and grape vines created a mat so thick in the trees that he was able to climb the oak tree (on the corner of Howard Street and present-day School Road) and then scramble across the mat of vines "all the way to the sea."

Other accounts mention "the time of the blowing sand" in the late 1800s, after livestock had eaten most of the vegetation near the village. Could the de-nuding of the beach have happened within a quarter of a century (from the time Ike O'Neal was a boy until the turn of the 20th century)? Or could Blanche's informants have remembered climbing to Nigh Inlet, a former channel of water on the northeast edge of the village (what they may have called the "sea"), and not to the Atlantic Ocean?

We may never know for sure exactly what changes have transpired on this sandy barrier island. What I do know is that grapevines were thick along Howard Street as late as the 1970s.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a delightful story written by Dr. Warren Silverman, who in 1981 became the island's resident physician after forty years without a doctor. The story is about Dr. Silverman's very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You can read the story here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/my-first-island-patient-by-dr-warren-silverman/.  

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Home Remedies

Charlotte O'Neal (1851-1947) assumed the duties of island midwife sometime after 1888 when her last child, a fraternal twin, died. Known to islanders as “Aunt Lot,” she delivered more than 100 island babies (one account lists 523 babies!). According to her daughter, Miss Sara Ellen Gaskill, her mother “never lost a case.”

In addition to her duties as midwife, Aunt Lot also tended to the sick and injured with various folk remedies. Below is one account:

"Charlotte O’Neal’s grandson remembered her as 'a little short woman all drawed up.' He described her method of removing carbuncles. First, she would apply thin slices of salt pork to, say, the back of the neck where the infection was. A rag was tied to secure the pork, and the patient left it there for several hours. 'The salt pork draws it to a head, pulls it up,' he explained. Then she settled on the porch with the patient and her tin of snuff, preparing for the procedure. While dipping snuff, she’d remove a thread from the inner seam of her skirt, and make a lasso for the carbuncle. The puss was raised little by little by the tightening string, coming out 'like toothpaste.'"*

A carbuncle (a cluster of boils) is caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Modern health care professionals warn against squeezing or irritating carbuncles since they are contagious. Hand-washing and good sanitation are important to keep from spreading the disease.  

*https://www.nps.gov/ethnography/research/docs/caha_ethno_v2.pdf, p. 374-375

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a delightful story written by Dr. Warren Silverman, who in 1981 became the island's resident physician after forty years without a doctor. The story is about Dr. Silverman's very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You can read the story here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/my-first-island-patient-by-dr-warren-silverman/.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Telephone Connection

The first telephones were installed in Ocracoke homes in 1956. A representative for the phone company visited islanders to sign them up for service. One older resident wasn't too keen on having one of those new-fangled devices. She couldn't see any point to it. The rep told her it would be good to have a telephone so she could call neighbors if she fell or had another emergency.

The elderly woman thought for a moment, then called out several of her neighbors' names. The nearest one was "getting old," she said. The next one was "failing," and another was "up in years." Finally she averred that she "would take one" if the salesman could guarantee that it would "connect her to glory!"

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a delightful story written by Dr. Warren Silverman, who in 1981 became the island's resident physician after forty years without a doctor. The story is about Dr. Silverman's very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You can read the story here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/my-first-island-patient-by-dr-warren-silverman/.  



Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Blackbeard's Toilet


Many of our readers know that Blackbeard was killed at Ocracoke Inlet in 1718. In his final battle, against Lt. Robert Maynard of the British Royal Navy, Blackbeard's head was cut off and tied to the bowsprit of Maynard's sloop. It was carried to Edenton, NC, then to Williamsburg, VA, and finally impaled at the mouth of the Hampton River as a message to any would-be pirates.

A recent article from the Queen Anne's Revenge Project is titled "A Look Inside Blackbeard’s Head."The article is not about dissecting Blackbeard's noggin, nor is it about "Blackbeard’s thought process or piratical tactics," as the first paragraph of the article explains. It is about the pirate captain's on-board toilet (in nautical parlance, the "head").

As the article explains, by the 16th century sailors relieved themselves at the bow (that's the "pointy end" of the ship), or head. To this day, sailors refer to the bathroom aboard a ship as the "head."

Captain Teach and his crew, of course, did not have the convenience of a modern marine toilet. To learn what they did have, click on this link: https://www.qaronline.org/blog/2018-03-01/artifact-month-seat-of-ease.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a delightful story written by Dr. Warren Silverman, who in 1981 became the island's resident physician after forty years without a doctor. The story is about Dr. Silverman's very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You can read the story here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/my-first-island-patient-by-dr-warren-silverman/