In the late 1700s John Wallace and John Gray Blount recognized the importance of Ocracoke Inlet as a strategic passageway for commercial vessels bound to and from mainland ports in colonial North Carolina. As a result they constructed a commercial enterprise on "Old Rock," a small oyster shell island between Ocracoke and Portsmouth. Renamed "Shell Castle," a tavern, store, wharves, warehouses, and even a lighthouse were built there. By 1837 1,400 vessels passed through Ocracoke Inlet annually.
As isolated as Ocracoke became after Hatteras Inlet opened up in 1846 (at which time commercial shipping moved there), this was not always so. I often try to imagine what life was like back then when a dozen or more large sailing vessels sometimes lay at anchor in the sound just offshore, and Ocracoke was at the very center of much maritime activity along America's eastern seaboard.
This month's Ocracoke Newsletter tells about island customs relating to death & dying. You can read the newsletter here.
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