Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Portsmouth Island, Again

A reader just commented, "In thinking about life on Ocracoke I've also wondered about Portsmouth Island; I imagine it must be (or once have been) an irresistible destination for adventuresome kids growing up there. Aside from the standard tales of the island's history, can you shed any light on the island from an insider's perspective."

Interestingly, there was little interaction between communities across inlets. Of course, members of the Life Saving Service (later the US Coast Guard) would sometimes be assigned to other Outer Banks stations, and now and then they would marry young ladies from another island. But the distribution of traditional island names attests to the relative isolation of Outer Banks communities. It is rare to find Midgettes or Hoopers or Burruses south of Hatteras. Salter and Dixon and Babb are Portsmouth Island names. The Howard and Garrish and Wahab surnames are typically from Ocracoke.

A few names are more widely distributed -- O'Neal, Scarborough, and Ballance come to mind, but these are more exceptions than the rule.

Portsmouth, of course, was not easy to get to from Ocracoke. Although you can see it's silhouette on the horizon, there have never been ferries across Ocracoke Inlet. Aside from an occasional jaunt to Portsmouth for a day's recreation (and many O'cockers never made that journey their entire lives), the only talk I ever heard of much interaction was old-time mutual church services and dinners. These were day trips organized by the preachers maybe once a year.

You can read our latest newsletter here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news041506.htm. It's the story of Old Kade.

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