After yesterday's post I decided to do a little more research. This is what Roger Payne writes in his book "Place Names of the Outer Banks":
"There are a number of legends concerning the origin of the name [Kill Devil Hills]. It is said that sailors stated that this portion of the sound was enough 'to kill the devil to navigate.' William Byrd of Virginia in 1728 reportedly referred to the rum in the area as being so bad that it would kill the devil.
"Also, a ship carrying a cargo of this 'kill devil rum' wrecked on a nearby beach. While guarding the cargo of the wrecked ship, the guards reported that portions of the cargo would mysteriously disappear at night. A local resident named 'devil Ike' stated that he would guard the cargo, and while standing guard he discovered that another local person was tying a rope around the cargo and pulling it away by using a horse. Ike succeeded in frightening away the would-be culprit and not wanting to implicate a neighbor Ike stated that the devil was stealing the cargo and that he (Ike) had killed the devil.
"Another legend states that a local resident made a pact with the devil -- the man's soul for a bag of gold - and the exchange was to be made on top of what is now Kill Devil Hill. The day before the exchange was to take place, the local resident dug a hole from the top of the sand dune to the bottom of the sand dune. When the 'banker' and the devil met for the exchange, the devil was coaxed into the hole and was quickly covered with sand.
"The term 'kill' is a Dutch generic term meaning stream or channel and the term 'devil' is used to refer to a sand spout or whirling dervish. While the combination of these two terms in this area utilizing their meanings is plausible it is not likely because there was no Dutch influence in the area.
"A more acceptable explanation of the name origin is that the area was once the home of many Killdee or Killdeer, a common shore bird, and the name evolved from Killdeer Hill to Kill Devil Hill."
I still think the name comes from "kill-devil rum!"
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Molly Lovejoy's 2012 Ocracoke School Valedictory Address. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news062112.htm.