When I was looking through the 1900 census the other day I noticed this entry: George P. Hassell, 39 years old, Agt. N&S RR. Right away I recognized the reference to the Norfolk and Southern Railroad. Why, I wondered, was a railroad agent living on Ocracoke in 1900? Of course, I decided to ask Blanche.
It seems that George Hassell married island native Ida Ballance. In the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century a steamship made regular trips across Pamlico Sound and stopped at Ocracoke dropping passengers off at the old Ponzer Hotel (1885-1900) and the Pamlico Inn (early twentieth century). Blanche thought the steamship line was owned by the railroad...and that would explain why George Hassell was living on the island.
A little time on an Internet search revealed the following information:
"In 1882, less than a year after the railroad's completion,
the railroad company signed a five-year contract with the Old
Dominion Steamship Company to make connections with the railroad
in Elizabeth City and to provide passenger and freight service
between Elizabeth City and New Bern and Washington, North Carolina.
This arrangement ended in 1887, with the Norfolk and Southern
Railroad operating its own line of steamers and the Old Dominion
Steamship Company continuing its Norfolk to New Bern-Washington
route through the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal. This route
change meant the loss to Elizabeth City of much of the trade
of the Pamlico Sound region. During the summer, however, most
vacationers going to the prospering resort at Nags Head [and Ocracoke!] were
still dependent on taking a steamship from Elizabeth City." (http://www.carolana.com/NC/Transportation/railroads/nc_rrs_elizabeth_city_norfolk.html)
Sometimes folks are surprised to learn that Ocracoke had several large hotels/inns and connections to the mainland long before ferries and paved roads made their debut on the island in the middle of the twentieth century.
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Hurricane House and the Hurricane Boards. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news072112.htm.