Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Old Island Graveyards

If you spend more than a few days on Ocracoke you will soon discover there are more than 80 cemeteries on the island, most of them individual family plots. This number does not count the graves of Indians, pirates, shipwrecked sailors...and others buried in the dunes, in unmarked graves scattered around the village, and on shoreside land that has washed away over the years.

Cemetery on Howard Street

 It is not unusual for visitors to inquire about the many small children who died in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. The photo above shows the graves of two thirds of my great-grandparents' children. Although there are only four headstones, closer examination of the cemetery reveals that there is a different inscription on each side of the markers. Eight children are buried here. Notice the two footstones for each headstone.

These eight of my great-grandparents' twelve children died between 1865 and 1884. The youngest was one month old; the oldest was six years old. How tragic it must have been to loose so many children!

I am researching and preparing an Ocracoke Newsletter article about Ocracoke mortality for publication sometime later this year. As grim a subject as this is, it is part of the history of this tiny isolated community where residents sometimes endured unspeakable hardship and tragedy...and yet managed to endure and prevail.

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


  1. Julie S.12:43 PM

    Phillip - I know from visits that there is a Health Center on the island staffed with a doctor, I believe?, but where do islanders go when they are in need of a hospital? What kind of care has the island had in the past? Has there always been a doctor? Perhaps answers will be found in your newsletter and I must just wait! Thanks and as always - love the journal.

    1. Julie, you are correct. We have a small Health Center (on the Back Road), with a doctor and a physician's assistant (they take turns staffing the clinic) and nurses. The closest hospital is in Nags Head. For many years there was no doctor on the island, although doctors occasionally moved here (often to retire) in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. But they were strictly private practices, and often short-lived, so there was no guarantee of having a doctor on the island. Warren Silverman came to Ocracoke as the first doctor to serve our present Health Center in the early 1980s (??), I believe it was.