Friday, November 24, 2017

Royalty

Starfish are not rare; but nor are they common on our beaches. This Royal Starfish (Astropecten articulatus), probably named for its bright purple color, washed up on the beach this past summer.


















The royal starfish, like all starfish, has no brain. They also have no blood. Instead they have a water vascular system. The starfish's primitive eyes are at the tip of its arms.

Starfish can reproduce by physical birth or by giving up an arm to morph into another starfish.

The Royal Starfish feeds by wrapping its arms around mollusks and swallowing them whole. 

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is my analysis of a sentence penned by surveyor Jonathan Price in 1795. The sentence reads, "Occacock was heretofore, and still retains the name of, an island. It is now a peninsula; a heap of sand having gradually filled up the space which divided it from the bank."  You can read my analysis here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/description-occacock-1795/

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

The entire staff at Village Craftsmen wish our readers a very Happy Thanksgiving.

From Amy, Philip, Finley, Desiree, David, Sally, and Vera!!



  

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Quern Stones

On October 11, 2017 I posted a story about Big Ike O'Neal (1865-1954). Reminiscing about island wind mills, he commented, "We had two wind mills on the island that ground corn. When there was no wind the mills didn't turn. I remember we once had a calm for twenty one days. But most families had their hand stones to fall back on at such times. It took a half hour to grind enough corn for breakfast with those old hand stones."

I had never seen any island hand grinding stones, nor had I ever heard anyone mention them. I wondered what they looked like and how they were used. No islanders I talked with remembered hand stones. An internet search yielded mostly information about neolithic and Native American grinding stones. Finally I discovered the term quern stones.

A quern is defined as a simple hand mill for grinding grain. It typically consists of two circular stones, the upper of which is rotated or rubbed to and fro on the lower one. Quern-stones were often made of igneous rocks such as basalt.

According to Wikipedia, varieties of hand grinding stones consisted of saddle, rotary, beehive, and disc querns. The Wikipedia article includes this quotation from T. Gannet describing his 1800 tour of Scotland:

"The quern consists of two circular pieces of stone, generally grit or granite, about twenty inches in diameter. In the lower stone is a wooden peg, rounded at the top; on this the upper stone is nicely balanced, so as just to touch the lower one, by means of a piece of wood fixed in a large hole in this upper piece, but which does not fill the hole, room for feeding the mill being left on each side: it is so nicely balanced, that though there is some friction from the contact of the two stones, yet a very small momentum will make it revolve several times, when it has no corn in it. The corn being dried, two women sit down on the ground, having the quern between them; the one feeds it, while the other turns it round, relieving each other occasionally, and singing some Celtic songs all the time."

Woodcut from Thomas Pennant's 1772 book A Tour in Scotland.













I am guessing Ocracoke islanders used disc querns similar to the ones described by Gannet, above. Perhaps I will discover one on the island some day. If I do, I will be sure to take a photo to share with our readers. 

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is my analysis of a sentence penned by surveyor Jonathan Price in 1795. The sentence reads, "Occacock was heretofore, and still retains the name of, an island. It is now a peninsula; a heap of sand having gradually filled up the space which divided it from the bank."  You can read my analysis here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/description-occacock-1795/

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

November Newsletter

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is an analysis of a short paragraph penned by surveyor Jonathan Price in 1795. Price made this observation: ”Occacock was heretofore, and still retains the name of, an island. It is now a peninsula; a heap of sand having gradually filled up the space which divided it from the bank."

I was puzzled when I first read that sentence. In what sense, I wondered, was Ocracoke at one time an island, but had now become a peninsula?

The newsletter presents my analysis. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/description-occacock-1795/.

If you have an opinion, or another idea, please leave a comment. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Providence Methodist Church

The Providence Methodist Church, a little frame church (now attached to a newer brick edifice) in our county seat, Swan Quarter, is often called "the church moved by the hand of God."  Below is a somewhat fanciful account (from an unnamed and undated newspaper) of the 1876 hurricane that contributed to this remarkable story.
















"'TWAS THE HAND OF PROVIDENCE [There is] a singular incident which occurred here several years ago. It was in the year 1876. The Methodist folk were about to build a house of worship. There was division in the membership on the question of locating the edifice. The ladies were a unit in favor of locating it on Pamlico Avenue, while the male members were united in their determination to have it on a site about 400 yards from the one desired by the ladies. The men won out and the building was in course of erection when the memorable storm of '76 swept this vicinity. The singular feature of the story is that the unfinished church structure was floated and carried by the storm to a point within twenty feet of where the ladies had desired that it be erected. The men believed this to be the work of a divine hand and it is needless to say that this house of worship remained where the storm had driven it. And to this day the men of this community let the women have their way in church matters as well as in many other respects."

For a more complete, and probably more accurate, account of this event, click here: http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~jmack/photos/providen.htm.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.    

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Stevensons

Robert Louis Stevenson is best known as the author of Treasure Island. Fewer people know that he was the grandson of Robert Stevenson (1772-1850), a Scottish civil engineer who was instrumental in designing the Bell Rock Lighthouse, a beacon constructed on a barely exposed reef off the coast of Angus, Scotland, and sometimes described as one of the Seven Wonders of the Industrial World.

Robert Stevenson is credited with designing a total of fifteen lighthouses. His sons Alan, Thomas (Robert Louis Stevenson's father), and David designed forty-one lighthouses; and his grandsons, David Alan and Charles Alexander, twenty-six lighthouses.

Lighthouse construction in the United States was strongly influenced by the design and engineering skills of the three generations of the Stevenson family.

Ocracoke Lighthouse
photo by Eakin Howard




















Robert Louis, however, was more interested in writing. Interestingly, one of the main characters in Treasure Island is Israel Hands. In real life Israel Hands was put in command of Blackbeard's sloop, Adventure, although, having been shot in the knee by Teach, he was not on board during the fateful battle at Ocracoke in November, 1718.

According to Captain Charles Johnson, author of A General History of the Pyrates, Israel Hands spent his final days begging in the streets of London.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.   

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Toilet Paper

Today islanders rely on the internet to purchase many items. In the past Ocracokers ordered from Montgomery Ward or Sears & Roebuck catalogs. It was always a happy day when the packages arrived on the daily mailboat.

The story is told that many years ago an Ocracoker decided to order some of that newfangled toilet paper, a novelty on the island. He asked his daughter to draft a letter to Sears requesting several rolls of toilet paper.

Days later he received a reply form Sears. Sears only sold toilet paper in specific quantities, he was told. "Please consult page 126 in our catalog," the letter explained, "and place your order referencing the catalog number."

The islander's reply was classic: "Dear Sears," his daughter wrote for him, "if I had one of your catalogs I wouldn't need any of your damned toilet paper!"

If you want another laugh, check out this brief French commercial for toilet paper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZH_YInXvpoU.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.