It is often said that Ocracoke is a traditional fishing village. Although fishing has long been part of our heritage, seafaring was more prominent in the nineteenth century. In his book, Howards, Garrishes, Jacksons & Stowes of Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, Their Ancestors and Descendants, Earl O'Neal includes a newspaper article about Thomas Wallace (Mr. Tommie) Howard (1878-1972), by Helen Jolly. She writes, "In the years of his childhood, the Ocracoke Harbor was a busy one, with ships constantly plying between northern cities and New Bern....He learned much listening to the boat-hands tell their stories at the piers."
Sailing ships that passed through Ocracoke Inlet in those days actually traveled from as far away as the Caribbean and Nova Scotia. Many of the owners, crew members, and captains were Ocracoke natives. Some of the schooners were even built on the island.
Earl rightly points out that "where [the article] talks about all the ships coming and going through Ocracoke harbor, it does not mean in the present day Silver Lake. The larger freight boats, schooners and steam boats stayed out in the Pamlico Sound [at] Teach's Channel or Teach's Hole. Silver Lake in those years was called Cockle Creek, and [was] only four feet deep in the center until the 1930s."
In our latest Ocracoke Newsletter I share information about our many local cemeteries, with examples of some of our more interesting epitaphs. 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.