Julian: About how many people were living there (on Portsmouth Island) when you were young?
Mattie: O-o-o-h dear Lord, there was hundreds. Portsmouth has been a place in this world. I've seen myself ---and I'm only 83 years old, and I've stood on the porch and seen 30 to 40 vessels on their way in. Just between Ocracoke and Portsmouth, down there what they call Teach's hole.
Sometimes we have to be reminded of how important Ocracoke Inlet was for commerce along the eastern seaboard. At the turn of the twentieth century, as Mattie Gilgo relates, dozens of sailing vessels could often be seen anchored in Pamlico Sound. They were carrying lumber, cotton, turpentine, rum, and various other cargoes to and from ports as far away as New England and the West Indies, or even more distant places. Ocracoke wasn't always as isolated as it is often portrayed.
This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Ocracoke Orgy. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news032115.htm.
(Post revised at 11:27 am, 3/30/15.)