Monday, October 19, 2015

Miss Sarah Ellen

In the fourth of our series on prominent islanders for whom streets and other landmarks are named, today we mention Sarah Ellen O'Neal Gaskill. Miss Sarah Ellen has two streets named for her: Sarah Ellen Drive in the "Trent" area (near Jackson Dunes), and Sarah Ellen Lane, on the southwest side of Silver Lake.

In November of 1980 Miss Sarah Ellen was chosen as "Person of the Month" by the staff of the Ocracoke Island News. This is what Stephanie O'Neal wrote:

"There is a person on the island who is very special to all. she has an enormous good nature and loving disposition. she is sturdy and has spread her good nature and love to all her friends and relatives on the island...

"Sarah Ellen Gaskill was born on Ocracoke Island on November 9, 1879,the daughter of Howard and Charlotte O'Neal. She has lived on the island all her life. Her father was a fisherman and she grew up to marry a fisherman, Benjamin Gaskill, with whom she shared 46 years of marriage and five sons....

"Miss Sarah Ellen is blessed with good health and is happy. She saw the first Christmas tree at the United Methodist Church on the island almost 101 years ago.

"This is a special month for Miss Sarah Ellen. She was 101 years old. Happy Birthday from the Ocracoke Island News staff."

As a young woman, Sarah Ellen worked shucking clams at the old Doxsee Clam Factory. Over the years she witnessed many changes to the island. Miss Sarah Ellen died September 22, 1984. She was 104 years old.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a reproduction of a 1960s booklet titled The Great Ocracoke Cat Hunt. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous9:05 AM

    Do people get lost on the OI because they confuse Sara Ellen Lane with Sara Ellen Drive?. How old was she before the streets were named for her? If my math is correct she had recently celebrated her 100th birthday before the newspaper named her person of the month... I can understand naming a street Sara Ellen Drive-- Indeed , raising five boys and living to be 104 that took drive alright. Did she live on Sara Ellen Lane??

    1. Not only visitors, but locals get confused because there is a Sara Ellen Lane and a Sara Ellen Drive. I have heard that Sara Ellen Drive (near Jackson Dunes) was "named" years ago by Susan Barksdale, who died recently, a long-time off-island property owner and friend of Miss Sara Ellen, whose house was near Miss Sara Ellen's, but who owned other property on the lane she dubbed Sara Ellen Drive. Years later, when the official committee had the task of naming our streets they decided to honor Miss Sara Ellen by naming the unpaved lane leading to her home as Sara Ellen Lane. The name, Sara Ellen Drive, for the other road was retained because it was the name everyone now knew it by. I hope this makes sense!

      Miss Sara Ellen died before Ocracoke got official street names.