Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More Graveyards

The other day, while wandering around old graveyards, Amy and I were reminded of several unusual old Ocracoke names: Bersheba, Napoleon, Sabra, Letha, & Lydie, e.g. We found Arcade Williams' grave. She is the old lady (born 1844) who told Walter Howard, when he was a young boy, the colorful stories of the wrecks of the Home (1837) and the Black Squall (1861).

And we found Rob Hanks' grave. In the 1950s he would "tell you the story of Ocracoke" for a dime. When I pointed the grave out to Amy, she said, "Why do you call him Rob Hanks? His marker says his name is Robert Dozier Tolson." Well, they called him Rob because his first name was Robert, and then they added Hanks because his father's name was Benjamin Henry (Hank) Tolson, I guess to distinguish him from any other Rob. I wondered if this was a common practice in other communities, or if it was peculiar to Ocracoke and the Outer Banks. If any of our readers know of this custom elsewhere please let us know.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter provides more information about the majestic live oaks on Ocracoke Island. You can read it here.

To read about Philip's new book, Digging up Uncle Evans, History, Ghost Tales, & Stories from Ocracoke Island, please click here.


  1. Anonymous8:52 PM


    I love all the graveyard wandering here also. The poems yesterday were lovely. You'll make me look closer at the stones. Found your journal while looking for a Fig Cake recipe a while back, and am now a daily reader. Nice snippets of life here - which is pretty sweet. Hi to Amy and Thanks.


  2. Anonymous1:38 PM

    After checking online real estate listings with Shore realty; $300,000 to 2 million dollars -- I am guessing a cemetery plot on Ocracoke would be all that I could afford. What are the going rates for a plot on the island, do you know Phillip?

    Was Fowler o'Neal buried on the island of Ocracoke?

    The Bonaventure cemetery in Savannah Georgia is one beautiful cemetery during the Spring time.

  3. I am not certain of the rules for being buried in the Community Cemetery, but I think you must be living on the island, or have a close relative already buried in the Community Cemetery in order to be allowed to be buried there. I have no idea what the cost of a plot is. Maybe some of our readers do. Many islanders are still buried in small plots on private land (as were my parents). The issue here is not money, but family connection. I understand that Fowler was cremated. That's all I know.

  4. Anonymous4:55 PM

    Because the Amish and Mennonite communities have few last names, and large families, they often use nicknames and mixtures of names to set one family apart from others. Locally, there is a family, all of whom are woodworkers, with nicknames in the legume family; Tater, Peanut, etc.

  5. Anonymous7:09 PM

    I met the Legume Family they are a wonderful pillar in the community. I understand the Amish have branched out to building fireplaces on wheels.

  6. Chris Copeland3:30 PM


    My grandmother left the island years ago and married Lynwood Copeland. Her name was Laura Tolson. My name is Chris Copeland and I grew up in Virginia, went to college at ECU and live in San Francisco area. I grew up surfing Hatteras and did not know my lineage until after I moved away. I wonder if there are many Tolsons (cousins) still living on the island?
    Chris Copeland