Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Whittler's Club

About 50 years ago Sam Jones built a "small" house (smaller than the "Castle" which sits across the street) on Silver Lake harbor. Like his other buildings on Ocracoke, the Whittler's Club, as it was called, was covered in cedar shakes. Sam's vision was that it would become the gathering place for island men, a place where they could sit on the porch, swap stories, and whittle birds to sell to island visitors.

Just recently I came across a "membership card" for the Whittler's Club. It was donated by James Barrie Gaskill to the Ocracoke Preservation Society. Sam, of course, had them printed, but I had never seen one. I was particularly amused by the "Rules and Restrictions" printed on the back of the red card. The four rules, in reverse order are:

4. The preachers of the Methodist Church and the Church of God will pass on all cases of misconduct. [I wonder if the preachers were aware of this.]

3. All true story instances are always invited.

2. The only way a member can lose his membership is by telling smutty jokes.

1. [my favorite!] No one allowed to get drunk except Harry O'Neal.

Look for the story of Sam Jones in an upcoming Ocracoke Newsletter (maybe in November or December).

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter, Looking for the Wahabs of Ocracoke, was written by Dr. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. You can read the article here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news082110.htm.


  1. Anonymous11:17 AM

    Thanks for the chuckle of the day. Are all the Ocracoke O'neals descendants of a common original ancestor? Disco

  2. According to legend and oral history all O'Neals on the Outer Banks are descendants of David O'Neal (the cook on board the ship "John Evangelist" which wrecked on Hatteras Island in 1586) and Morning Dew (a Native American woman living on the island). My grandmother was Aliph O'Neal, so I can claim that blood line also.

  3. I think it is great to find old items like that. Thanks for sharing with us. I love to hear stories about Ocracoke and the people. I love that place. I pray that one day it will be my home. Thanks again,

  4. Phillip,
    Any word about the Ocracoker being revived? I'm letting my subscription to the Washington Daily News lapse because they discontinued it. Perhaps it could be continued by the people on Ocracoke as an online venture.

    Bob MacKinnon

  5. Anonymous4:05 PM

    That's fascinating-thank you Philip. You really should write a book befor e all the older generation is gone. Signed- g.grandaughter of Alexander H & Epherena Fulcher Garrish.

  6. Bob, we are still getting the Ocracoker in our mail boxes, even though the Washington Daily News has discontinued it. Maybe you can get it mailed to you. I'd email the editor, Chrisi Gaskill, at gaskillce@gmail.com.

  7. For the great-granddaughter of Alexander and "Freener" Garrish:

    Do you know the Ocracoke Island expression, "You're too damn late, I've done promised Freener!"?

    Whether you have, or not, I'd be interested in exactly how you are kin to Alexander and Epherena. I remember their daughter, Myra, very well...as well as Old Jake, Little Jake, and Willie Hunnings.

    Oh yes, about a book -- I have written one book of Ocracoke stories, history, and ghost tales. It's called "Digging up Uncle Evans" and you can order it here: http://www.blacksquallbooks.com/

  8. Anonymous10:21 PM

    Philip, I agree with OBXdreaming and hope to make Ocracoke my home some day. A few years ago my husband suggested we purchase a little cottage for sale on the island. At the time I was looking for a vacation home in Italy and retiring on Ocracoke was the farthest thing from the vision I had of living in Italy. Now a few years wiser I see that what drew me to Italy is right in your backyard. Worlds apart yet your simple (in a good way) way of life on Ocracoke can rival what the grandest piazza in Italy can offer.

    Regarding Sam Jones...I met you in late August on the ghost tour the night Henry was there. I was asking you about the Berkley Manor. I am intrigued by Sam Jones and the footprint that he left on the island. I was able to see Berkley Manor and I find the building, its history and Sam Jones to be fascinating. I would love to hear any stories that you may have. Take Care. -Dvera

  9. Anonymous10:25 PM

    I got the book "Digging Up Uncle Evans" for Christmas the year it came out and I thoroughly enjoyed it. When my sister asked me what I wanted, I knew she wanted more than one idea, so I told her several things, but told her MANY times that what I really, really, REALLY wanted was the Uncle Evans book. My whining worked ... I got it!

  10. Dvera, I have written my article about Sam Jones. It is ten pages long. Right now I am gathering photos to accompany the article which I intend to publish as a monthly Ocracoke Newsletter sometime in the next couple of months. I believe it will be the most comprehensive biography of Sam published to date. Keep reading the Journal. I'll let our readers know when it goes on line.

  11. I read a children's book a few years ago, written by Theodore Taylor, called Teetoncey and Ben O'Neal and another one by the same author called "The Odyssey of Ben O'Neal" which took place in the Outer Banks.

  12. Anonymous8:31 PM

    Thanks Philip...I will watch for the article.

  13. Anonymous4:03 PM

    I subscribe to the "Ocracoke Observer" and absolutely love reading it from cover to cover. It's $27 a subscription, which covers nine well-written issues. You can send your check to Ocracoke Observer, P.O. Box #427, Ocracoke, NC 27960.

    Well worth every penny since I'm 6 hours by car/ferry from Ocracoke! I immediately stop whatever I'm doing when each issue arrives and sit down to read it. Philip has been known to write some interesting tales in it, too.

    If you are on the island, you can pick up free copies of this publication at many businesses, but when you are not there, it's the way to stay informed, along w/ Philip's timely blog.

  14. Just a clarification: The Ocracoker and the Ocracoke Observer are two different publications. The former is a small paper published weekly; the latter is larger and published once a month except in the dead of winter.