Thursday, February 07, 2013


On Sunday, December 5, 1819 the sloop Henry wrecked on the south end of Ocracoke Island. Captain Hand was the only person of the seven on board who survived. We are fortunate that a letter he wrote from Ocracoke five days later was published on January 15, 1820 in the Norfolk Beacon and Portsmouth Advertiser.

Capt. Hand's six paragraph letter describes in detail the horrific storm, the demise of his vessel, and his near-miraculous survival. I will publish the entire letter in a future Newsletter, but today I just quote a few lines: gaining [strength], having received the kindest treatment, and every possible care from the inhabitants. My chest has been picked up, but it had been opened, and all my clothes of value taken out. I am here almost naked...."

This letter is a testimony to the empathy islanders had towards the victims of shipwreck (they provided "the kindest treatment, and every possible care"), but also the feeling of entitlement to any material goods that washed up on the beach.They were kind and generous, but also poor. 

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


  1. Anonymous8:55 AM

    I once read about a wealthy woman who was rescued from a sinking ship off Hatteras Island and then complained that her rescuers stole all her goods. I think she should have been grateful that her life had been saved.

  2. Anonymous9:11 AM

    Anon 855's note reminds of the old joke about the woman at the beach whose baby is swept out to sea by a rogue wave.

    Distraught, she falls to her knees, pleading to the heavens, wailing for the return of her child.

    In an instant, another monster wave rises up, slams into the shore, and there sits the infant, unharmed.

    Overcome, the woman scoops up the baby, showers it with kisses, then pauses, looks to the heavens and cries:

    "He was wearing a hat!"

  3. Anonymous10:20 AM

    Today if it happened, they would change their face book status to ship wrecked. and well no one would be the wiser only the "followers" though, wiser? haha and then move/follow on to reading the next vapid tweet. Give your letter carrier a hug -- send a letter to a friend- save the USPS.

  4. Anonymous10:25 AM

    Wait a minute a high school history community service project --- maintain hand written copies of the Ocracoke island journal in the local history museum as it is documenting 21st century life on the island. P.H. this is a potential reality show worth millions of dollars have you sold the rights to your story ??? there could be a bidding war er do I get a cut? any donate any portion of proceeds to habitat for humanity is you considered this idea as a result of this comment.

  5. Anonymous9:57 PM

    Isn't it ironic that one of the things we so often forget too quickly is our eternal gratitude.