Monday, August 19, 2013


Cattle, sheep, goats, and horses grazed on Ocracoke Island in the late 1800s. Their constant foraging led to "the time of the blowing sand." Not only were houses and outbuildings threatened by the blowing sand (sand would sometimes pile up around windows and doors, making it impossible to open them), but a number of graves were uncovered at the edge of the village.

I have heard stories of boys looking for coins (large pennies) in the vicinity of old cemeteries. The coins had been placed over the eyes of corpses. After the wooden casket deteriorated, and the sand blew away from the graves, the coins were sometimes left exposed.

Almost all of the island's livestock was removed to the mainland in the 1950s, leaving only a remnant herd of Outer Banks ponies. Vegetation has reclaimed most of the denuded areas of the island. The dead can once again rest in peace...and old coins are left buried with them.

Our current Ocracoke Newsletter is an account of Infant & Childhood Mortality on Ocracoke. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous7:54 AM

    Vegetation has reclaimed...-- vegetation native to North Carolina in a coastal environment? With all the advances with farming best practices produced by our tax dollars funding university based research. The "new" farmer these days transplanted from a different country with different soil weather comditions etc knows not of these best practices and little by little due to ignorance the Dust Bowl scenario or Providence Canyon Georgia is around the corner. Perhaps, they read this blog and will learn a mind is a terrible thing to lay fallow.DD

  2. Anonymous9:08 PM

    Philip--Curious whether you've ever heard of a publication by Kenneth E. Burke Jr., "The History of Portsmouth North Carolina, From Its Founding in 1753 to Its Evacuation in The Face of Federal Forces in 1861." Just came across it at our rental property on the island this week. It's noted as a 1958 thesis written in partial fulfillment for a bachelor of arts degree. Revised in 1976. Have just read bit. Will explore further. Seems an interesting read. And I took your advice and enjoyed shrimp and scallops this evening from Mr. Barrie. Thanks--as always.

    1. I know the author, Kenneth Burke, but not well. He has been coming to Ocracoke for many years, and I see him at Portsmouth Island Homecoming every other year. However, I did not know of his publication. I will look for a copy. Thanks for the heads up.