Friday, July 15, 2005

Sam Jones

Sam Jones was a wealthy industrialist from Swan Quarter, NC who married Ocracoke native Ruth Kelly. Sam always had a warm spot in his heart for the island. He made major contributions to the island churches, to the fire & rescue squad, to help care for the Ocracoke ponies, and to various families and individuals in need.

Sam was eccentric however. The large homes he built (including what are now known as the Castle Bed & Breakfast and Berkeley Manor) were constructed with local labor and without formal blueprints. Sam often stood by and ordered changes as the carpenters worked. Today, the buildings have had some remodeling, but they still retain evidence of Sam's character. Dormer windows look directly into adjacent dormer windows, the roof line is oddly asymetrical, and the step risers are, for most people, uncomfortably short.

I was honored yesterday to be invited to an afternoon get-together at the Flying Melon Cafe hosted by Sam's son, Charlie (Charlie and I are 3rd cousins). Charlie commented that his father was such a colorful character that someone really should write his story. He was known to have his pilot fly him to the island in the middle of the night just for a haircut. He might unexpectedly pay a neighbor's grocery bill at the Community Store. One time he flew to the island with brand new dresses for all the women in the church choirs. He even chose time in jail rather than pay taxes he felt were unjust.

After our meal yesterday Roy Parsons entertained us with his music (Roy had worked for Sam for many years), and we shared stories of Sam and Ocracoke. Charlie remembered with a smile the time his daddy rode his palamino horse into their living room. (Charlie's mama was not always so pleased with Sam's antics.)

Many thanks to Charlie and his family for including us in a celebration of his family's connection with Ocracoke.

[Our current monthly Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Kunigunde Guth Howard, published June 30, 2005. You can read it here:]


  1. Anonymous12:19 PM

    I didn't know there were any Kellys on the island. I married into a Kelly family and they are the ones that introduced me to Ocracoke. I know they would be excited to know that a Kelly family lives or lived on "their" island.

    My little Kelly family was there last week. My friend and I came in your shop. You were not there but I told an absolutely wonderful gentleman working the counter (he said he generally works in the back) how I live vicariously through your posts about island life, especially in the winter here in the mountains. I also told he and a woman working there about our adventure camping on Portsmouth Island on the fourth (now that was an adventure!) and their response was "in July!!!!". I thank the Lord it was only for one night. I so enjoyed talking to them. Maybe we will meet you next year. I love O'cokers. Are the young transplants O'cokers or just the old born and breeds? From an O'coker-want-to-be.

  2. Cindy, Neva May Howard was the daughter of Captain George Gregory Howard (he built the large home on Howard Street with the red trim, and he was the great-great-great-grandson of William Howard who purchased the island in 1759).

    Neva May married William Kelly. I believe he was from Baltimore and I think he was a sea captain also. I know they had one son, Carlton, who never married, and a daughter, Ruth, who married Sam Jones.

    Descendants of William Kelly live on the island today, but none bears the Kelly name.

    On an historical note, two of the early spellings for Ocracoke were Ocok & Ocock, so residents of the island were called O'cockers.

    Today the term generally means someone who was born and raised on the island (and from an historic Ocracoke family).


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.