Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Uncle" Samuel C. Tolson

Below is an interesting story from the 1972 book, Portsmouth Island, Short Stories and History, by Ben B. Salter. It is a story that was told often by the old folks of Portsmouth and Ocracoke.

"Mr. Sam Tolson was born on Portsmouth island, N.C. November 7th, 1840.... He traveled a little up and down the coast by boat. Once he was in Elizabeth City, N.C. in the year 1865 where he was arrested for [the] assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. He was so much like the description of Wilkes Booth, he wore the same size hat and shoes, same size in stature. It took folks on Portsmouth a long time to convince the officers that Uncle Sam was not Wilkes Booth."

Ben Salter ends his story the same way I've always heard it: "Uncle Sam, as the folks on Portsmouth always called him, never went to Elizabeth City again."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of slavery on Ocracoke Island. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous10:33 AM

    I don't know how you keep coming up with all this good stuff!

  2. debbie s.11:23 AM

    i wouldnt have gone back, either!!! lol poor uncle Sam!

    I am, however, hoping to come out for a weekend sometime this fall. Need to get away and get back to my heart. hope to see you soon, philip!

  3. Anonymous11:43 AM

    Chester told us that story one day several years ago when his shop was at the old location. Will be there the week of Thanksgiving. Maybe our paths will cross again at the Variety Store.
    David in Fay.

  4. Anonymous12:28 PM

    Great story!
    Are tourists coming back to Ocracoke? I just read this article about Hatteras and it sounds grim there. Have any Ocracokers gone over and seen the conditions on lower Hatteraas Island? Up north we had no idea the aftermath of the storm was that bad.

  5. Visitors to Ocracoke are few and far between. Hurricane Irene, with the devastation on Hatteras, particularly the damage to Hyw 12 and the new inlet at Pea Island, has cut us off from traffic from the north. Although we didn't have much physical or structural damage, the loss of potential business is significant.

  6. debbie s.1:32 PM

    we always come up through cedar island, so that wont affect us, other than we typically loop around and go home via hatteras/ kitty hawk to hit 64. no biggie though for us. just means i have 2 opportunities to shop in beaufort :P

  7. Anonymous1:41 PM

    Make sure you have those ferry reservations!

  8. Jean Finnegan8:00 PM

    Thanks Philip for the story - love your history lessons. be there October 6th - good lord willing & the creek don't rise!