Friday, June 22, 2018

1953 Map

Below is a detail from the official 1953 North Carolina Highway Map. It shows a dotted line for the "Toll Fy" (Frazier Peele's wooden, 4-car ferry across Hatteras Inlet), double-dotted lines on Ocracoke (the Unimproved [sand] Road the length of the island), and a dotted line for "Toll Ferry-No Cars" (the mailboat route from Atlantic to Portsmouth to Ocracoke.

In 1953 Ocracoke was just on the verge of being discovered by more than hunters, fishermen and a few adventurous souls.

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:

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Dr. Warren Silverman

In the summer of 1981 Warren Silverman, M.D. moved to Ocracoke. It had been four decades since Ocracoke had a resident doctor. Dr. Silverman's wife, Jean, a nurse, accompanied him. They practiced from their home until the island's new Health Center was completed the following year. Dr. Silverman also made house calls. In 2017 Dr. Silverman visited the island, and stopped by to say hello. He regaled us with stories of his time at Ocracoke.

At my request, Dr. Silverman sent me a delightful story he wrote about his very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). We have published Dr. Silverman's story as this month's Ocracoke Newsletter. You can read it here:

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Tale of Blackbeard

Julie Howard's musical, A Tale of Blackbeard, has entertained islanders and visitors on and off since 1974. This year marks the production's 11th season during the last 44 years. Not coincidentally, 2018 is the 300th anniversary of the death of Blackbeard during a naval battle at Ocracoke in November, 1718.

Blackbeard (Peyton Piquard) &
Sailor (Zoe Howard)

Produced by Ocracoake Alive [a 501(c) 3 non-profit with a mission “to enrich the Ocracoke Island community by encouraging and sponsoring cultural, artistic, educational, and environmental activities including the production of plays, musicals, musical events, exhibits, schools, workshops, and festivals.”], A Tale of Blackbeard highlights the creative talents of a host of island residents.

In 2018, regular shows will be held at the Ocracoke Community Center on Mondays (June 11-25), and at the Ocracoke School Gym Auditorium, Monday, July 2 - Monday, August 13. Summer shows start at 8 PM with the door opening at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $15 Adults/$7 Kids. Performances at the Ocracoke School Gym have plenty of room for walk-ups, while the Ocracoke Community Center has limited seating.

Click here for more information:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the Ocracoke Lighthouse, with information (and an artist's sketch) about the earliest lantern room. You can read the Newsletter here:   

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


Here is a quiz for our long-time readers. The following photo was taken sometime in the late 1990s on Ocracoke Island.

  • Where was the picture taken?
  • What is the name of the business?
  • Who are the two people in the photo?
If you know the answers to any of the above questions please leave a comment.  Also, if you have any stories about anyone or anything in the photo please share them.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the Ocracoke Lighthouse, with information (and an artist's sketch) about the earliest lantern room. You can read the Newsletter here:   

Monday, June 18, 2018

Raleigh Bay

I wonder how many of our readers are familiar with Raleigh Bay. Roger Payne, in his book Place Names of the Outer Banks, describes it as a 75 mile long bight along the coast of Carteret County, Hyde County (Ocracoke Township), and Dare County.

The coordinates of Raleigh Bay are 35°14'40"N 75°31'38"W (northeast end), 34°34'57N 76°32'01"W (southwest end), and 35°00'00"N 76°00'00"W (center). 

A bight is a large open bay created by a bend or curve in the coastline. Wikipedia explains that "explorers defined a bight as a bay that could be  sailed out of on a single tack in a square-rigged sailing vessel, regardless of the direction of the wind (typically meaning the apex of the bight is less than 25 degrees from the edges).

Click here to see an aerial view of Raleigh Bay:

Of course, Raleigh Bay was named for Sir Walter Raleigh, English organizer whose expeditions explored the Outer Banks in the 16th century.

Sir Walter Raleigh

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the Ocracoke Lighthouse, with information (and an artist's sketch) about the earliest lantern room. You can read the Newsletter here:

Friday, June 15, 2018

Yaupon Tea

I have written about yaupon tea in the past, but I just recently discovered two informative articles about this island drink: "The Yaupon Holly Tradition," by Jared Lloyd in the Coastal Review Online (, and "The Forgotten Drink That Caffeinated North America for Centuries" by Ben Richmond (

Lloyd explains that Native Americans in the Carolinas used the leaves of the yaupon holly, a shrub that grows wild on Ocracoke Island, to brew a tea rich in caffeine.The leaves were harvested and roasted in the early summer when caffeine content was at its peak. Yaupon was traded with other tribes as far west as Illinois. Early colonists learned to drink yaupon tea when royal taxes and import duties made other teas too expensive.

Richmond points out that "William Aiton, an eminent British botanist and horticulturist, director of Kew Gardens, and “Gardener to His Majesty,” is credited with giving cassina [yaupon tea] the scientific name it bears to this day: Ilex vomitoria. Ilex is the genus commonly known as holly. Vomitoria roughly translates to 'makes you vomit.'” Richmond goes on to write that "Cassina does not make you vomit. Both modern scientific analysis and centuries of regular use by Southerners confirms this. But several early European accounts of cassina mention vomiting. Cassina seems to have been used in elaborate purification rituals where men sat in a circle, sung or chanted, and took turns chugging and then throwing up hot cassina. Yet other detailed, first-hand accounts of indigenous people drinking cassina don’t mention vomiting at all. Anthropologist Charles M. Hudson and others have suggested that a plant with emetic properties may have been added to the cassina brew (unbeknownst to European observers) or that the black drink ceremony may not have involved cassina at all."

There is no question that yaupon tea rivals any of the commercial teas available for sale today. Lloyd reports that "the Outer Banks is thought to have been the last holdout [for drinking yaupon tea]. The tea was sold in restaurants along the Banks into the 1970s; Ocracoke Island is the last known location to have served yaupon tea."

You may not be able to order yaupon tea in any restaurant today, but you can purchase a bag of locally harvested yaupon tea leaves ($8.00) in Village Craftsmen...and brew your own!  Call (252-928-5541) or email us ( to place an order. Or stop by the Village Craftsmen on Howard Street to purchase yaupon tea in our gallery.

The label on the back of the bag reads: "Yaupon trees grow naturally along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Their berries are an important source of food for birds, & their leaves have been used in making tea for thousands of years. Croatan Indians on Ocracoke & Hatteras Islands used the tea, which they called the Black Drink, for medicinal & ceremonial purposes & traded it to their neighbors to the west. Later residents enjoyed yaupon tea as a replacement for Asian tea & coffee, especially during the Revolutionary & Civil Wars when these were hard to obtain Many Ocracoke old-timers remember their parents & grandparents drinking it.

"Yaupon is rich in antioxidants, and it is the only native North American plant containing caffeine. It is claimed to be a tonic, an aphrodisiac, & a cure for hangovers.

"To prepare, crumble a spoonful of leaves in a teaball & steep in very hot water. To make 4 cups, add a half cup of leaves to 5 cups water & boil. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon or a sprig of mint. Serve plain, with milk, or with honey & lemon."

Jared Lloyd's article ends on this note: "Today, modern science has begun to focus on yaupon holly as another possible weapon in the fight against cancer. Thus far, yaupon holly has proven itself to be packed full of antioxidants, beneficial polyphenols and anti-inflammatory properties that show promising results against colon cancer."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the Ocracoke Lighthouse, with information (and an artist's sketch) about the earliest lantern room. You can read the Newsletter here:  

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Soft Shell Crabs

Soft shell crabs are a delicacy enjoyed by many folks along the North Carolina coast, although they may seem unappetizing to those not familiar with this culinary delight.

Soft-shell crabs have recently molted, leaving their old exoskeleton behind. Crabs must be removed from the water as soon as they molt or a new hard shell will develop within hours. When crabs are soft, almost the entire animal, less the mouth parts, gills and abdomen, can be eaten. Cooks usually deep fry or sauté soft shell crabs.

Nowadays, commercial fishermen typically catch blue crabs, then hold them in saltwater tanks if they want soft shells. As soon as the crabs molt, they are removed from the water, which stops a new hard shell from forming.

Ellen Marie Cloud, in her book, Portsmouth the Way it Was, recounts a 1963 interview with Miss Mattie Gilgo (1885-1976) by her grandson, Julian Gilgo. While discussing the several salt water ditches in Portsmouth village, Julian remarks, "There's been a many a soft crab caught in them ditches, ain't they? On high tide they come up them ditches. I caught a many one with a rake, myself."

If you've never tasted soft shell crab, be sure to order some the next time you see them on a menu!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the Ocracoke Lighthouse, with information (and an artist's sketch) about the earliest lantern room. You can read the Newsletter here: