Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Black Schooner/Gathering Place

The building at the Community Square where “The Black Schooner” nautical shop (formerly “The Gathering Place”) is located was once the home of William Ellis Williams (1878-1934). William Ellis was the son of Millard Filmore Williams, Sr. (1851-1924) whose house sat at the corner of the Back Road and Fig Tree Lane. William Ellis and his brother, Millard Filmore Williams, Jr. (1880-1936), built houses across the road from their parents. Both houses were built ca. 1900 or shortly thereafter. (For those familiar with Ocracoke families, the Millard Jr house is now owned by David and Anita Fletcher.)

The William Ellis Williams house, a traditional island “story and a jump” house that has cedar shake siding, two front dormers (probably a later addition), a hipped front porch, and a rear shed addition, was later moved to a lot where the Anchorage Inn is now located. In 1983 David and Sherrill Senseney acquired the house and moved it to its present site.

William Ellis Williams was married to Neva Mae O’Neal (1881-1908), my grandmother’s sister (see my blog posts for January 4 & February 11 of this year, about the lost grave marker). After Neva Mae died (she was only 27 years old) William Ellis married Julia Gaskins. They moved to Ocean City, Maryland and had two children.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a modern day ghost story, "Ode to Mrs. Godfrey," by guest columnist Tom McDonald. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news062111.htm.


  1. Anonymous7:23 AM

    Yep! That's the place! Good to know the history now about a favorite and iconic Ocracoke landmark. Thanks, as always!

  2. Anonymous8:14 AM

    Goood morning Philip! That's it-no question-just good morning. Signed-LowMaintenanceBlogger

  3. Anonymous9:00 AM

    There is lots of information on the internet, like this....

    The Black Schooner

    284 Irvin Garrish Highway
    (252) 928-SAIL

    This old island cottage houses a treasure trove of nautical gifts and décor right on the Silver Lake harbor in the heart of Ocracoke village at the Community Square. Treasure seekers can find artwork, ropework, scrimshaw, jewelry, reclaimed sail bags and handcrafted items from the nautical tradition that harkens back to the days of wooden ships and iron men. Here you can find great gifts for sailors, master mariners or anyone who hears the call of the sea.

    This shop is also the shore side location of the schooner Windfall II, where you can sign up for sailing trips, purchase Windfall II merchandise and learn about their new sailing school.

  4. Sundae Horn9:37 AM

    Hi Philip,

    I'll be your high maintenance blog-reader of the day.

    Any idea who lived in or owned the house between William Ellis leaving the island and David and Sherrill moving it to the Square?

    Was it originally where Stevie Wilson's house is?

    I had a customer come in and tell me his mother lived in the house when her father was in the Coast Guard. I had another customer tell me that she stayed in the house as a child when it was a summer rental.

    Thanks to anonymous for the info posted above.

  5. Anonymous9:53 AM

    Now is that house mortise and tenon joinery construction? For houses to weather the seasons of a century plus one can only think the houses built today with air guns for a quick turnaround would be lucky to last as long. Where was the timber harvested from ---was the island deforested of old growth trees to build houses???

  6. Anonymous10:37 AM

    Dorothy Byrum Bedwell, author of Portsmouth: Island with a Soul, told me that was her family's home. Her parents were Mamie Stelle and Augustus Holly Byrum. Don't have any ideas about the dates. DeAnna

  7. I was looking at the house, to live in. I could not belive that it does not have any water or bath in it. I would still love to have that house. It is so nice and I look forward to seeing the house each time I come to the island.

  8. Anonymous8:38 PM

    When one thinks about it, all of Ocracoke Island is a "gathering place".... just a pleasant thought. :)

  9. Many of the island's older houses were built from shipwreck lumber -- either parts of the ships or their cargo. My house (built ca. 1865) is put together with mortise & tenon joints and wooden pegs, as well as iron nails. At least some of the timbers were clearly parts of a ship.

  10. Anonymous6:35 PM

    That's the reason it has stood the true test of time through hurricanes and n'easters all of these years, Philip.

    You have a good, solidly built home on a picturesque "street".