Friday, December 19, 2014

Happy Holidays!

We wish you and yours a Very Merry Christmas
(December 25 - January 5) 

a Happy Hanukkah
(December 16 - December 24)

a Radiant Winter Solstice
(5:03 pm, December 21)

and a New Year filled with all Good Things!


As has been our custom for several years, we will be taking a hiatus during the holiday season to spend quality time with our family and friends. This is our last post for 2014. We will return January 5, 2015, with more stories, news, photos, and glimpses of Ocracoke Island life.

Be sure to join us in the New Year.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Old Christmas

The  "Julian Calendar" was introduced in 46 BC by Julius Caesar. The year was reckoned to be 365.25 days long (so a leap day was added every four years). However, the tropical, or solar year, is a few minutes shorter than the Julian year. As a result, the calendar year gained approximately three days every four centuries. By the 16th century the calendar was out of sync with the tropical year by ten days.

To correct the discrepancy, in 1582 Pope Gregory decreed that Catholic lands should adopt the "Gregorian Calendar." The new calendar dropped ten days. Thursday, October 4, 1582, was followed by Friday, October 15, 1582. According to Wikipedia, "The Gregorian calendar improves the approximation made by the Julian calendar by skipping three Julian leap days in every 400 years, giving an average year of 365.2425 mean solar days long."

A number of Protestant countries were reluctant to make the change, seeing the change as an attempt by the Pope to control them. However, by 1752 England and its colonies adopted the more accurate Gregorian calendar. By then the discrepancy amounted to 11 days. Christmas Day (December 25 in the "old style" calendar) then fell on January 5 (in the "new style" calendar).

Many residents of the Outer Banks resisted the change. One Ocracoke Island family refused to conform for many years, and continued to celebrate Old Christmas (January 5) into the twentieth century.

The small village of Rodanthe on Hatteras Island is one of a very few US communities that continue to celebrate Old Christmas, even today.

In 2015 the difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendars is 13 days. Thus, Old Christmas will technically fall on Jan 7, 2015. However, the residents of Rodanthe continue to celebrate Old Christmas on January 5, or the Saturday closest. In 2015 that would be January 3, although I have not seen any news about a 2015 event.
The Rodanthe Old Christmas celebration is traditionally a time for family and friends to gather for an oyster roast, live music, dancing, the arrival of "Old Buck," and occasionally a drunken brawl. It is not a tourist attraction. Yes, at least in the 1970s, a Rodanthe Old Christmas sometimes escalated to fist fights. I believe the celebration has been tamed in recent decades.  

For more information, do an Internet search for "Rodanthe Old Christmas." Or click here to view some vintage photos of the event:

You can read several pages about Old Christmas in Rodanthe in Jan DeBlieu's excellent book, Hatteras Journal,...or better yet, buy her book and read the entire chapter there!

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it here:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Importance of Art

As some our readers may know, recent cutbacks in state funding for public education led to the elimination of the arts education program at Ocracoke School.

In an effort to continue arts programming for Ocracoke School students, Ocracoke Alive has made a commitment to work with the Ocraocke school to provide weekly classes, beginning in January of 2015 for grades pre-K through 8th.

There are several ways for Ocracoke residents and off-island friends to help make this program a success.

If you are an artist interested in applying to teach in the Arts Partnership Program, or if you just want more information, click here:

To make a financial contribution, click here:

Art is an important part of a fulfilled life. Ocracoke students deserve an art education.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it here:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Early 1700s to 1845

In November, the Ocracoke Preservation Society gave islander Earl O'Neal the Society's first annual Cultural Heritage Award. Earl was honored for his numerous books, articles and collections that preserve and share the history of this island that Earl loves so much.

Below is just one short paragraph from one of Earl's articles, "Ocracoke Island History":

"The Island was first annexed to a county precinct government in 1770; it having been observed by a member of the Colonial Assembly that "those lawless bankers on Occacock Island are not paying taxes anywhere." At that time it was annexed to Carteret Precinct which had been formed in 1722 from Craven. Carteret also included Core Banks. Occacock Island prior to 1770 had belonged neither to Currituck, Craven or Carteret; it was an isolated, independent island until all the area south of Old Hatteras Inlet was put into Carteret. It was not until 1845 that Ocracoke Island, that portion of the Outer Banks below Old Hatteras Inlet down as far as Ocracoke Inlet, between it and Core Banks, was moved from Carteret County into Hyde County, and it has been in Hyde geographically and politically since that time."

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the murder of Willis Williams. You can read it here:

Monday, December 15, 2014

Paws and Tales

Island resident, Pat Garber, has just published her latest book, Paws and Tales.

From the back cover:

"Set on Ocracoke Island, Paws and Tales is an endearing story told in the words of Kali, a sailboat cat, and Harvey, an island dog. When Kali sails into the Ocracoke harbor with her person Sam, she senses that something unusual is about to happen.

"When a goofy but loveable Doberman pinscher called Harvey chases her off the edge of a dock, she finds herself adrift in an underworld of homeless cats, while Harvey and his person Emily ruefully regret the whole incident. What follows changes the lives of them all."

This book is not yet in our catalog, but you can order it from Village Craftsmen by calling 252-928-5541, Tuesday - Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm. 122 pages, $14.95 + $3.50 shipping (shipping fee offer valid through Dec. 31, 2014).

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it here:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Chocolate Cake

Monday, December 8, was cousin Blanche's 95th birthday! I was off the island (driving home from my visit with Lou Ann, and had to detour to Swan Quarter because of overwash on NC12), so I didn't get to celebrate with her.

Blanche & Amy, several years ago

But I did stop by to say hello and wish her a Happy Birthday as soon as possible. Blanche is in good spirits, quite independent, still living at home, and taking good care of herself. She has frequent visitors, is always gracious, and loves to chat with family, friends, and visitors.

She told me her nephew's wife, Laurie, baked her a chocolate cake...and she saved a piece for me.

Now, if you are not from Ocracoke you might object that this is yellow cake with chocolate icing. But if you are from the island you know this is definitely a chocolate cake! That's the way it's always been here, and that's the way native islanders insist it shall remain. This is chocolate cake!

And, I might add, it was "good some." Thank you, Blanche...and thank you, Laurie.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it here:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

'Tis the Season

Island Holiday Events are already well underway.

Earlier this month local businesses and organizations hosted open houses, a gumbo & rice fundraiser, a women's Christmas potluck dinner, book signings, a cookie swap, OPS Wassail party and tree lighting, storytime for children, and other events.

Ocracoke Preservation Society organized another Holiday Historic Homes Tour (this year on Lighthouse Road & Creek Road) that was an unqualified success.  

And...there is more, of course. If you live on the island or are visiting be sure to take in the following events:

  • Dec 11th: Santa at the Variety Store. 3 – 5pm. No donation or money needed. Come get your picture taken with Santa! Also Dec 11th is the Scholastic Book Fair Family Night at the Library at 6:30pm. The Scholastic Book Fair continues from Dec 11th – 16th, and is open weekdays 8am – 7pm and Saturday 9am – 1pm. 
  • Dec 12-13th: Holiday Basketball Tournament at Ocracoke School. 
  • Dec 13th: Community Christmas Concert, 7pm at Community Center. Performers of all ages! Let Sundae (921-0283) know if you'd like to be in the show. Free, though we are asking for donations of non-perishable food items for the food pantry. And Ocracoke School's 2nd grade will be having a bake sale. Sponsored by Ocracoke Civic & Business Association. 
  • Dec 14th: Breakfast with Santa to benefit Ocracoke Child Care. 8 – 10am at Topless Oyster Restaurant. Also Dec. 14th is the Christmas program at Ocracoke Assembly of God Church, 7pm. Free. All are welcome. 
  • Dec 17th: Christmas Caroling, meet at Methodist Church at 5pm. They are hosting the chili supper after the caroling. 
  • Dec 18th: Ocracoke School Christmas program, 7pm in the gym. 
  • Dec 19th: Choral Concert with the Joyful Band of Singers. 7:30 at the Methodist Church. Free. Donations to church accepted. Sponsored by Ocracoke Alive. 
  • Dec 20th: Live Nativity at the Methodist Church, 6 – 7pm. Also Dec 20th is the Community Potluck and Dance with the Ocracoke Rockers at Topless Oyster Restaurant. 
  • Dec 21st: Live Nativity at the Methodist Church, 5:30-6:30pm
  • Dec 24th: Christmas Eve service at the Methodist Church, with the children's Christmas pageant. 7pm. 
This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it here:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dr. Morgan

In the past I have written about Dr. Morgan.

Sometime around the turn of the twentieth century a Dr. Morgan came to Ocracoke and stayed for some time at the old Pamlico Inn.

Dr. Morgan was clearly well educated and quite refined, but he seems to have been suffering from alcoholism. He came to the island to recover, not to set up a practice, but naturally, when islanders discovered his profession, they sought him out during times of illness.

Dr. Morgan's best remembered treatment was curing young Billy Scarborough of lockjaw. Folks around these parts considered it a miracle. It was the first known cure for lockjaw that anyone here had ever heard of.

Islanders could not help but notice Dr. Morgan's preference for gourmet foods (he enjoyed terrapin stewed in wine) and impeccable dress.  Scuttlebutt on the island suggested that he was part of the wealthy and respected J.P. Morgan clan, and had been "exiled" to Ocracoke as a black sheep of the family. He died only a few years after moving to Ocracoke, and is buried in an unmarked grave on Live Oak Road. Only one member of his birth family attended the funeral. Reports indicate that this relative created quite a stir because of his fine suit and expensive shoes.

I have done a little Internet research on the J.P. Morgan family. Many sites say that J.P. (1837-1913) was the only son of Junius Spencer Morgan (1813-1890). It turns out there was one other son, Junius Spencer Morgan. Jr. who was born in 1846, but he died when he was just four years old.

JPM had only one son, "Jack" (1867-1943) who was a well known banker and philanthropist.

JPM, Jr. had two sons, one of whom died in 1960, and the other in 1972. Of course, these two Morgans are not candidates for Dr. Morgan of Ocracoke. They died too late. Neither one is buried on the island.

I still am intrigued by our local oral history. It seems clear that Dr. Morgan was not a member of J. P. Morgan's immediate family. But we still might discover that he was part of the extended Morgan clan. I will post again if more information becomes available.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it here:

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Capt. David Williams

Ocracoke Island native, Captain David Williams (1858-1938), served in the United States Life Saving Service, and continued his service after the USLSS joined with the US Revenue Cutter Service to become the United States Coast Guard.

Capt. David Williams

Captain Williams was chief of the 1903 station that was built in Ocracoke Village. Capt. Williams, his wife Alice Wahab Williams, and their children lived in the house that is now the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum.

OPS Museum

Captain Williams is buried in his family cemetery adjacent to the British Cemetery.

Andrew Stern Attacking Vines in the Williams Cemetery

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the murder of Willis Williams. You can read it here:

Monday, December 08, 2014

Leonard Meeker

On November 29 island resident, Leonard Meeker (1916-2014) died peacefully in his home on the shore of Silver Lake Harbor. Leonard, who was 98 years old, led a distinguished life of public service, most notably as legal adviser to the US State Department. In that role he played a crucial role in defusing the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Leonard Meeker, 2005 by Oliver White

In recent months, Leonard, with his wife Beverly, continued to entertain family, friends, and other visitors at his bedside on Ocracoke. It was always a delight to chat with him, discuss current events, and listen to his stories as legal counsel with the State Department, and as ambassador to Romania.

Leonard Meeker was a statesman, a gentleman, an active member of our community, and a delightful friend.

We will miss him.

You can read a more comprehensive article about Leonard, and listen to a recording of his first-hand account of  the Cuban Missile Crisis ("one of the most important meetings in American history"),  here:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams. You can read it here:

Friday, December 05, 2014


A reader's comment on our post for November 19 about the difference between resin and rosin reminded me of an old Ocracoke Island prank.

Rosin is the solid, amber-colored substance formed from the gummy resin of pine trees. Although rosin has a variety of uses, including one ingredient in inks, soaps, chewing gum, soldering flux and some medicines, most people recognize it as the small, hard block used to rub along the bow hairs of fiddles and other stringed instruments. It is applied to help the bow grip the strings.
Island children of several generations ago used rosin to play a trick on their neighbors. This is how it is done:

Obtain a long thread. A sturdy sewing thread (perhaps one for repairing sails) works well. Tie a wooden matchstick to one end. After dark, sneak up to a neighbor's house (in the 21st century this is best done in a neighborhood not known for suspicious activities, Peeping Toms, or easily spooked or armed homeowners!). Quietly and carefully wedge the matchstick as high as practical between a window sash and its frame.

Sneak away some distance from the house, stretching the string as you retreat. In a well hidden place (in a thicket of shrubs, perhaps, or behind a fence) begin rubbing the rosin on the taut thread. A vibration will be transferred along the string, creating a haunting, moaning sound that reverberates throughout the house.

Some friends and I played this prank a number of years ago (we even dressed in black!). Through the window we could see our neighbor sitting in his living room watching television. When we started rubbing the rosin on the thread he turned off the TV, got up, and began looking around the room. We stopped immediately.

As soon as he sat back down and resumed watching TV we began again.

After several attempts to locate the source of the strange, on-again, off-again eerie sound, he stepped outside. We had fastened the string high enough so we could lift it above his head as he walked around the building.

Of course, we all had a good laugh when we revealed ourselves and explained our prank.

Oh, for the simpler times when children (and adults) entertained themselves playing harmless pranks on friends and neighbors! 

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams. You can read it here:

Dr. Morgan...Again

On Wednesday, December 10, 2014, I wrote about Dr. Morgan. Since then I've found two newspaper reports about him.

From the (Raleigh, NC) News and Observer, Fri., Oct. 16, 1903:

"Dr. Taylor is Safe -- After a Rough Passage He Reached Ocracoke All Right (Special to News and Observer)

Washington, N.C., Oct. 15 -- A message from Belhaven declares that Dr. Joshua Tayloe is safe. The schooner-yacht Grechtin [sic] on which he left here for Ocracoke reached her destination without serious mishap. Dr. Tayloe had been summoned to the bedside of Dr. A. T. Morgan, of New York, who was critically ill at Ocracoke. At the mouth of the Pungo river a storm was encountered, but the little vessel weathered it magnificently and Captain Toler, an experienced navigator, made good his word by landing Dr. Tayloe safe and sound on Ocracoke.

"Dr. Morgan, however, though the object of unremitting care, passed away, leaving among the people an enduring regret. He came to Ocracoke a year ago seeking health, and endeared himself to the community by giving freely of his professional services to rich and poor alike."

From the Washington (NC) Progress, Thu., Oct. 22, 1903:

"At a regular meeting of Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, I.O.O.F., held at their Hall on this the 12th day of October 1903, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted; to wit:

"Whereas, the sad intelligence has reached this Lodge of the death of Dr. A. T. Morgan, for sometime past a resident of Ocracoke, who by his numerous acts of kindness in ministering to our people in their hours of sickness, both day and night, giving freely of his professional services and counsel with a liberality born of a noble man with a kind and tender heart, therefore, be it resolved:

"That in the death of Dr. Morgan, Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, I.O.O.F. has lost a well wisher and the people of the entire island of Ocracoke a kind and sympathetic friend whose death has brought a pang of deepest sorrow to the hearts of all, and be it further resolved,

"That as a mark of our respect and esteem these resolutions be spread upon the minutes of our Lodge and a copy of the same transmitted to the father of our beloved friend and published in the Raleigh News and Observer and Washington Progress.

"G. P. Hassel, M. L. Piland, T. F. Smith, Com.

"Attest: W. E. Howard, Secretary"

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it here:

Thursday, December 04, 2014

International Space Station

One of the delights of spending time on Ocracoke, especially at the beach, is the opportunity to gaze into the night sky and marvel at the profusion of stars, star clusters, galaxies and planets.

Milky Way over Ocracoke Beach by Craig Roberts

Satellites and other man-made objects, including the International Space Station, are sometimes visible also.

In case you haven't heard, NASA is now providing live video from the International Space Station. 

According to their web site, the video "includes internal views when the crew is on-duty and Earth views at other times. The video is accompanied by audio of conversations between the crew and Mission Control. This video is only available when the space station is in contact with the ground. During "loss of signal" periods, viewers will see a blue screen. Since the station orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes, it experiences a sunrise or a sunset about every 45 minutes. When the station is in darkness, external camera video may appear black, but can sometimes provide spectacular views of lightning or city lights below."

You can watch the video here:

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it here:

Wednesday, December 03, 2014


As most of our readers know, numerous t-shirts & sweatshirts have been designed with Ocracoke logos and themes. In fact, I created several designs myself. This is a wrap-around image that we sell at Village Craftsmen.

But, I mention these designs, and include the image above, not to promote our original t-shirts (though we like that idea also), but because I failed to take a photo of an Ocracoke sweatshirt I saw recently in Indiana.

I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with Lou Ann and her family in northeastern Indiana. It was cold, with a little snow, but the house was filled with warm embraces, laughter and good cheer. All three of Lou Ann's children and their families were there for a feast of wild turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, corn casserole, deviled eggs (and much more!). Of course, there was also pumpkin pie and fresh apple cider.

In addition to copious amounts of delicious food, there were many other delights. Lou Ann had an hour-long performance at a turn-of-the-20th-century mansion in Fort Wayne, we played "archery tag," visited with friends, and rode a horse-drawn wagon into the fields to cut a beautiful Christmas tree.

One afternoon, while strolling in downtown Angola, Indiana, I passed a woman wearing an Ocracoke Island sweatshirt (it had warmed up to above freezing, but was still too cold for t-shirts!). I had to stop and chat. She and her family have been vacationing on Ocracoke for about a decade. It turns out the island is their favorite vacation destination. And Village Craftsmen, their favorite place to shop. She and her husband also make it a point to attend Molasses Creek performances whenever they are on the island.

It is fun to be reminded of my island home (even if I failed to get a photo), when I am nearly 1,000 miles away!

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it here:

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Rescue & Honor

This post is a bit late (the Thanksgiving holiday intervened), but I think it is worth sharing. In case you missed the news, on November 18, 2014, seven crew members of the North Carolina ferry, Cedar Island, were honored with the Governor's Award for Excellence in Safety and Heroism.

As it happened, on September 26, 2013, a pleasure sailboat capsized in the dark near Ocracoke in Big Foot Slough during rapidly deteriorating weather.

After departing Ocracoke at 8 pm, ferry Capt. Steven Goodwin spotted the unfortunate sailors, John and Renee Hoffman. Goodwin maneuvered his vessel close by, and his crew launched the ferry's 16-foot rescue boat. It was piloted by crew members Glenn Salter and Daniel Smith. According to reports, the wind was gusting to 30 knots, and seas were building at 4 to 5 feet. The Hoffmans were safely pulled from the water and brought to the Cedar Island where they were brought aboard by the other crew members.

In addition to Goodwin, Salter, and Smith, Gerry Gilliken, David Styron, Randy Willis and Paul Morris were presented with awards and honored for their bravery.

Our thanks and respect go out to the crew of the Motor Vessel Cedar Island.  We are so fortunate to have knowledgeable and dedicated captains and crew in the North Carolina Ferry Division.

You can read more of this story here:

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it here:

Monday, December 01, 2014


In late October I listed some of the books I had recently read. That post generated 15 comments. So I thought...maybe our readers like to discuss books, and share what books they are reading. Below is a list of books I've read since October 20. You might notice that I've been reading a little bit more fiction. This time I added one sentence describing each book.

Leave a comment and tell us what you've been reading and/or what you recommend.

Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell (A 1932 classic American novel about Georgia sharecroppers)

A Historian's Coast by David Cecelski (Delightful essays written by a coastal North Carolinian)

21 Stories by Graham Greene (Thought-provoking short stories by a celebrated writer described as "the ultimate chronicler of twentieth-century man's consciousness and anxiety.")

My Notorious Life by Kate Manning (An historical novel loosely based on the life of a Victorian-era midwife and abortionist described as the "wickedest woman in New York")

Pilgrim's Wilderness by Tom Kizzia (The story of a highly dysfunctional Christian family living in the Alaskan wilderness)

The Watery Part of the World by Michael Parker (A novel set on "Yaupon Island" [Portsmouth Island])

What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell (A somewhat controversial evangelical pastor shares his views about God)

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (A classic English-language novel written by a Polish author [1857-1924] with a brilliant command of his third language)

Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman (As the subtitle says, "The story of America's most Secretive Religion")

Ghosts Among Us by James Van Praagh (See for an exposé of this man)

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (A short novel; Sophia, a six year old girl, and her grandmother spend the summer on an island in the Gulf of Finland)

God Bless America by Karen Stollznow (Best described by its subtitle: "Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States")

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it here: