Monday, November 30, 2015

Spencer House

Below is a photo taken by National Park Service ranger, Henry Raup, sometime between 1974 and 1978. The house on the left, built ca. 1940, is still standing.

The house on the right, a traditional island "story and a jump," was built in the early 20th century by Andrew Spencer. The last resident was his cousin, Caswell Spencer (1886-1905). The house stood until 1989 when it was demolished. Descendants of the Spencers continue to live in the house on the left.

Can any of our readers identify where this picture was taken?

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Capt. Horatio Williams and his schooner, the Paragon. You can read the story here:

Friday, November 27, 2015

Henry Pigott

Henry Pigott (1896-1971) was one of seven children born on Portsmouth Island to descendants of slaves. His grandmother was a midwife who also fished and tonged for oysters. Henry's sister Lizzie became the village barber; Henry was the "mailman." Henry poled out into Pamlico Sound daily to meet the mailboat Aleta.

Henry Pigott meeting the Mailboat

Henry retrieved the mail for Portsmouth, then passed letters and packages to the captain. He also gave the captain a list of items Portsmouth islanders requested from the store on Ocracoke.

Henry was the last male resident of Portsmouth Island. When he died in 1971 Elma Dixon and Marion Babb, the remaining two residents, reluctantly left their island home. It was the end of an era.

You can read more about Henry Pigott here:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Capt. Horatio Williams and his schooner, the Paragon. You can read the story here:

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

All of us at Village Craftsmen wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Philip, Jude, Jean, & Mona

And we thought you might enjoy this old-time Ocracoke Island recipe for the main course at the Thanksgiving table:

Stewed Wild Goose.

  • 1/4 lb. salt pork
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 8 potatoes, halved
  • Corn dumplings or drop pastry dumplings
  • Cut-up goose
  • Salt & pepper
  • Pod of red pepper
In a large pot fry out salt pork until light brown; add flour slightly browned, and add cut-up fowl. Add salt, pepper, pod of red pepper, and enough water to cover. Cook until tender, them add potatoes and corn dumplings. Lay dumplings on top or add drop dumplings when nearly done.

-- Recipe by Mrs. Eva Williams (1892-1972)

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Capt. Horatio Williams and his schooner, the Paragon. You can read the story here:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Israel Hands

Earlier this month I posted a link to Capt. Rob Temple's original poem about Israel Hands, second in command to Blackbeard the pirate.

According to Captain Charles Johnson (A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, published in 1724):

"[Israel] Hands [the master of Blackbeard's sloop] happened not to be in the fight [with Lt. Robert Maynard in November, 1718, when Blackbeard was killed], but was taken afterwards ashore at Bath Town having been sometime before disabled by Blackbeard, in one of his savage humours, after the following manner. One night drinking in his cabin, with Hands, the pilot, and another man, Blackbeard without any provocation privately draws out a small pair of pistols and cocks them under the table, which, being perceived by the man, he withdrew and went on deck. leaving Hands, the pilot, and the captain together. When the pistols were ready, he blew out the candle, and crossing his hands, discharged them at his company; Hands, the master, was shot through the knee and lamed for life; the other pistol did no execution. Being asked the meaning of this, he only answered, by damning them, that if he did not now and then kill one of them, they would forget who he was."

Such was Blackbeard's management style. If yours is more benign, take heart. Blackbeard's career lasted only about 18 months.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Capt. Horatio Williams and his schooner, the Paragon. You can read the story here:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Oyster War

In January I published an Ocracoke Newsletter about the 1890 Ocracoke Oyster War. It seems the appearance of "oyster pirates" in Pamlico Sound, and the strife over oysters extended to the mainland as well. The following report was published in The Economist (Elizabeth City, NC), Tuesday, May 6, 1890:

"As peaceful as they look to be there is something about oysters that engender strife. A case, originating in oysters, occurred in New Bern on Wednesday in which an oyster patrolman named J.C. THOMAS whose headquarters were at Coinjock, Currituck County, was shot, but not mortally wounded, by Jones SPENCER of Hyde County who recently published an article in the Washington Gazette reflecting upon the character of THOMAS and charging that he was bribed while at his official business at Coinjock..., when SPENCER pulled out a pistol and told THOMAS he would shoot him if he came nearer. THOMAS continued to advance when SPENCER fired and a ball struck his abdomen and lodged in his hip. THOMAS was badly wounded and SPENCER was arrested, bought before Mayor WILLIAMS, waived examination and was placed under a bond of $400 .... THOMAS was a patrolman at the oyster grounds, SPENCER was also a patrolman appointed by Hyde County and was ordered to Coinjock. SPENCER published the results of his investigations and charged corruption upon THOMAS and bribery by non-resident oyster pirates. This led to the difficulty between the two."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Capt. Horatio Williams and his schooner Paragon. You can read the story here:

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Downfall of Piracy

On November 22, 1718, Oracoke's most notorious part-time resident was killed just off of Springer's Point.

On hearing the news, 12 year old Benjamin Franklin composed a "broadside ballad" commemorating the event. The title of his poem is "The Taking of Teach the Pirate" or "The Downfall of Piracy; being a full and true Account of a desperate and bloody Sea-fight between Lieutenant Maynard, and that noted Pirate Captain Teach, commonly call'd by the Name of Blackbeard; Maynard had fifty Men, thirty five of which were kill'd and wounded in the Action: Teach had twenty one, most of which were kill'd, and the rest carried to Virginia, in order to take their Tryal."

Following is Franklin's ballad, designed to be sung to the tune of "What is greater Joy and Pleasure."

Will you hear of a bloody Battle,
Lately fought upon the Seas,
It will make your Ears to rattle,
And your Admiration cease;
Have you heard of Teach the Rover,
And his Knavery on the Main;
How of Gold he was a Lover,
How he lov'd all ill got Gain.

When the Act of Grace appeared,
Captain Teach with all his Men,
Unto Carolina steered,
Where they kindly us'd him then;
There he marry'd to a Lady,
And gave her five hundred Pound,
But to her he prov'd unsteady,
For he soon march'd of[f] the Ground.

And returned, as I tell you,
To his Robbery as before,
Burning, sinking Ships of value,
Filling them with Purple Gore;
When he was at Carolina,
There the Governor did send,
To the Governor of Virginia,
That he might assistance lend.

Then the Man of War's Commander,
Two small Sloops he fitted out,
Fifty Men he put on board, Sir,
Who resolv'd to stand it out:
The Lieutenant he commanded
Both the Sloops, and you shall hear,
How before he landed,
He suppress'd them without Fear.

Valiant Maynard as he sailed,
Soon the Pirate did espy,
With his Trumpet he then hailed,
And to him they did reply:
Captain Teach is our Commander,
Maynard said, he is the Man,
Whom I am resolv'd to hang Sir,
Let him do the best he can.

Teach reply'd unto Maynard,
You no Quarters here shall see,
But be hang'd on the Main-yard,
You and all your Company;
Maynard said, I none desire,
Of such Knaves as thee and thine,
None I'll give, Teach then replyed,
My Boys, give me a Glass of Wine.

He took the Glass, and drank Damnation,
Unto Maynard and his Crew;
To himself and Generation,
Then the Glass away he threw;
Brave Maynard was resolv'd to have him,
Tho' he'd Cannons nine or ten:
Teach a broadside quickly gave him,
Killing sixteen valiant Men.

Maynard boarded him, and to it
They fell with Sword and Pistol too;
They had Courage, and did show it,
Killing the Pirate's Crew.
Teach and Maynard on the Quarter,
Fought it out most manfully,
Maynard's Sword did cut him shorter,
Losing his Head, he there did die.

Every Sailor fought while he Sir,
Power had to weild [sic] the Sword,
Not a Coward could you see Sir,
Fear was driven from aboard:
Wounded Men on both Sides fell Sir,
'Twas a doleful Sight to see,
Nothing could their Courage quell Sir,
O, they fought courageously.

When the bloody Fight was over,
We're inform'd by a Letter writ,
Teach's Head was made a Cover,
To the Jack Staff of the Ship:
Thus they sailed to Virginia,
And when they the Story told,
How they kill'd the Pirates many,
They'd Applause from young and old.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Capt. Horatio Williams and his schooner Paragon. You can read the story here:

Friday, November 20, 2015


Nearly every Wednesday evening throughout the summer Capt. Rob Temple entertains folks at the Ocracoke Opry with stories and original poems. Capt. Rob's poem about Israel Hands, second in command to Edward Teach (Blackbeard), is an historically accurate retelling of his story in verse. The poem has been acquired by National Geographic. Below are the first two verses.

A Pirate's Tale: The Story of Israel Hands

I was strolling the lane through Hyde Park in foggy London town
when the cries of a beggar distracted me and caused me to turn around.
Approaching me from out of the mist was a shabbily clad old soul
hobbling along on a wooden leg with the help of a wooden pole.
From his deeps set eyes and leathery skin
it was instantly clear to me
that the guy was a tar who had journeyed from a far
and spent most of his life on the sea.

You can listen to Capt. Rob recite the entire poem here: Click on "Launch Audio" below Capt. Rob's photo.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Capt. Horatio Williams and his schooner Paragon. You can read the story here:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

E.D. & Clara Springer

Many visitors to Ocracoke are familiar with Springer's Point, the last vestige of a maritime forest situated within Ocracoke village. This is where the earliest European settlers made their homes, and from the shore you can look out over Teach's Hole, where Blackbeard was killed in 1718. At one time several houses, a blacksmith shop, horse stables, docks, warehouses, and even a wind-powered grist mill, were situated on the Point.

But why is this area called Springer's Point? Read below for our latest explanation of one more Ocracoke landmark named after a prominent islander.

In the mid-1700s that area on the southwest edge of the village was called Williams' Point. John Williams had purchased it from William Howard in September, 1759. Later, it was sold back to members of the Howard family, and islanders began calling it Howard's Point. It later passed to Daniel Tolson, a prominent islander who is buried on the Point. 

Before her death in 1883, Daniel Tolson's widow, Sidney McWilliams, sold her land and buildings to E. D. and Clara Springer, from South Creek, North Carolina.

E. D. Springer

Although the Springers enjoyed spending time on Ocracoke they never made this their permanent home. In 1923 the elder Springers sold their property to their son, Wallace. He was the last person to live in the old house on the Point, but only for a short while. Wallace, who never married, continued to stay on Ocracoke for some years. Instead of remaining in the old house, he eventually moved in with Mr. Jamie Styron and other island friends. In 1941 Sam Jones purchased Springer’s Point. Wallace Springer died March 13, 1963.

 Sam Jones died in 1977, and is buried at Springer's Point, next to his horse, Ikey D. 

The Point to this day is still called Springer's Point. It is one of several areas on the island named for people who have been part of our history.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Capt. Horatio Williams and his schooner Paragon. You can read the story here:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Prominent Ocracoke Citizen

From The Tar Heel (Elizabeth City), Friday, March 26, 1909, pg. 3:

"Mr. J[ohn] W[ilson] McWILLIAMS of Ocracoke, was elected to serve Hyde County in the House in 1909 by a majority of 625. He was born in Hyde County on March 10, 1869 and was educated in the public schools of his native county. He is a member of the Methodist church. On May 20, 1889 he was married to Miss Elizabeth WILLIAMS. He is a leading merchant of Ocracoke* and a leading citizen of his district. He served two terms as commissioner of wrecks for Hyde County. Mr. McWILLIAMS was a members of the following committees: Fish & Fisheries, Oyster Interests, Game Laws and Insurance and Institution for the Blind. He was mostly interested in the legislation affecting drainage, game laws and the fish and oyster industries and was prominent in shaping this legislation. Hyde has just cause to be proud of its representative."

*" One of the largest general stores on Ocracoke was that established by John W. McWilliams in the late 1800s. Located down point, on the shore of Cockle Creek, with a view of the harbor from one side, and the lighthouse from the other, the "Department Store," as it came to be called, included several structures joined together. McWilliams traded in groceries, boating supplies, hardware, clothing, and other general merchandise. He even carried a line of furniture. A barber shop sat across the lane. The fierce storm of 1933 did considerable damage to the store, and sometime after John McWilliams’ death the store was abandoned." (from our September, 2006, "Ocracoke Newsletter,"

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Capt. Horatio Williams and his schooner Paragon. You can read the story here:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of colorful island sea captain, Horatio Williams, and his schooner, Paragon, which Capt. Williams sank at the outbreak of the Civil War to keep her out of the hands of the Yankees and the Confederates.

After the war Capt. Horatio raised her up and put her back in service. You can read the story here:

Monday, November 16, 2015

OPS Old House Award

Almost every year since 1989 the Ocracoke Preservation Society has recognized an individual, family, or business that owns a contributing structure in the Ocracoke Historic District, and who has maintained and preserved those architectural features that allowed the structure to be originally identified for placement in the Historic District.

This year, at the Society's fall membership meeting on November 10, the Old House Award was presented to Trudy and Wayne Clark for their recent historic rehabilitation of the Felix & Sue Fleig House on Live Oak Road.

Although this modest, hip-roofed house with a corner recessed porch was built in the 1950s, a century later than many other structures in the Historic District, it is representative of island homes built shortly before the significant changes following the era of modern tourism ushered in by the introduction of state-operated ferries in 1957 and the paving of NC Highway 12.

The restoration project was carried out by island resident, Tom Pahl, of Landmark Building & Design, according to North Carolina State Preservation Standards.

Congratulations to Trudy and Wayne Clark, and to Tom Pahl, for their commitment to historic preservation...and to a fine job of rehabilitation.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Wreck of the Banana Boat. You can read it here:   

Friday, November 13, 2015


Ospreys are magnificent birds of prey that nest on the Outer Banks. I recently came across this nest, high in the crotch of a dead tree between Island Creek and Old Hammock Creek. No ospreys were to be seen. I wondered why.

Then I came across the following explanation on the Internet.

According to "Wildlife in North Carolina," September/October, 2012, Volume 76, Number 1, published by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, North Carolina. Department of Conservation and Development, Division of Game and Inland Fisheries, "one of the most successful birds of prey on Earth, ... show [the] incredible behavior of returning to their natal homes. Upon migrating south in the fall, the ospreys that call the Outer Banks home will undertake their journey to Central America at break-neck speeds. Once arriving in places such as Venezuela, that year’s fledglings will then spend the next two years of their lives in the tropics where they mature."

I am learning something new all of the time!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Wreck of the Banana Boat. You can read it here:  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Colorful Island Expression

On Tuesday afternoon I saw Dale. Several months ago he accepted the job as postmaster in a small, remote indigenous village in Alaska, and he is back home for a few days. As usual, he was full of stories...stories of his present village, Unalakleet, and stories of Ocracoke.

Dale and Lisa (she works at the Ocracoke School) have been enjoying remembering and sharing island stories, including a unique island expression that they remember hearing as children: "This is the greatest [greatest just means noteworthy; not necessarily good] time since Puck Ballance was struck by lightning and swallered his tongue!"

Ocracokers certainly do employ colorful language. This expression will probably never make into the Oxford English Dictionary, but feel free to use it as the occasion warrants. Ulysses S. (Puck) Ballance was born January 15, 1882, and died March 17, 1946.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Wreck of the Banana Boat. You can read it here:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cultural Heritage Award

Yesterday evening, at the Ocracoke Preservation Society's fall membership meeting, the Society presented its second annual Cultural Heritage Award. Established last year (Earl O'Neal, Jr. was the first recipient), the award is designed to recognize islanders who have made significant contributions to the preservation of Ocracoke Island history, culture, and/or traditions.

Blanche Howard Jolliff & Amy Howard

This year's recipient of the Cultural Heritage Award is Blanche Howard Jolliff. Blanche lives in the house on Howard Street where she was born in December, 1919. For Blanche's entire life she has been interested in remembering and honoring her forebears and other islanders who have had a significant impact on this small, isolated community. 

Blanche has been blessed with a remarkable memory, and a graciousness that has endeared her to everyone who knows her. She is always ready to share history, stories, and memories with family, friends, and off-island visitors. Because of Blanche's treasure trove of memories much of Ocracoke's cultural life and history has been preserved for future generations.

Congratulations, Blanche! Your award is well deserved.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Wreck of the Banana Boat. You can read it here:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Only recently (in the last 12-15 years) have we had deer on Ocracoke. A doe and her fawn darted across Highway 12 one early morning about 10 years ago as I was driving to the Hatteras ferry. But I haven't seen deer since then. I often wonder if deer are still on the island. When I wander around "down below," especially near Parker's Creek, there is no doubt. I made this photo just two weeks ago:

A path with numerous clearly impressed deer tracks ran across the open sandy area between heavily wooded stands of cedars, yaupons, and myrtles. But the deer stayed well hidden. One day I might be lucky and stumble upon a daytime lair.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Wreck of the Banana Boat. You can read it here:

Monday, November 09, 2015

Ten Thousand Breakfasts

Many of our readers are familiar with Oscar's House Bed & Breakfast, located on NC Highway 12. Many folks also know the proprietor, Ann Ehringhaus. In 2013 Ann published her latest book, Ten Thousand Breakfasts, a 206-page memoir of thirty years operating her business, including photographs, recipes, humor, and  quotations from many of her guests.

If you are looking for holiday gifts or would like some insight into one islander's life journey, for a limited time you can order Ten Thousand Breakfasts directly from Ann Ehringhaus at a considerable discount. Ann has operated Oscar's House Bed and Breakfast on Ocracoke since 1984, and this book is quite a tale of how she changed in order to share her home with now over 14,000 people!  This is a story of spiritual change affecting business change, and offers a lot of humor, some great recipes, and thoughts about sharing space and life with others..  From now until the end of the year Ann is offering her books for $10.00 each (the normal price is $18.00). Shippping is $5.00 for 1-2 books.  Please call Ann at Oscar's at 252-928-1311 or email her at to place your order or to obtain more information.

You can read reviews of Ann's book at or at

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Wreck of the Banana Boat. You can read it here:

Friday, November 06, 2015

Thieving Yankees and Low-Life Unworthy Natives!!

In September of 2014 I wrote an Ocracoke Newsletter about "Hatteras, the Seat of NC Government During the Civil War."

I recently came across this interesting article about that time, from the  Charlotte Democrat, dated January 20, 1863 (click on the image for a larger, easier-to-read image):

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Wreck of the Banana Boat. You can read it here:

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Tragedy On This Date, 1927

In a comment on a recent post, a reader asked about Ocracokers who have lost their lives at sea. I have learned of more than 40 islanders who were victims of accidents on the water. Following is an article from The Gastonia Daily Gazette, Friday, Nov. 8, 1927, about three Ocracoke fishermen who drowned on November 5, 1927.

"ELIZABETH CITY, Nov. 8 - Trapped by heavy seas in a roaring gale off Ocracoke last Saturday [November 5, 1927], three fisherman lost their lives, and a fourth, able to withstand the buffeting waters, managed to swim ashore to safety. First definite details of the tragedy were received at the coast guard station here today from James H. GARRISH, keeper of the Ocracoke life guard station. The sinking of the craft, the motor boat 2021-T, was witnessed by M.P. GUTHRIE, member of the Ocracoke coast guard crew patrolling the beach Saturday morning. The lone survivor, Joseph GASKINS, was observed wading in the surf near the shore a short time later. He was taken to the coast guard station and the crew set out in a motor boat in an effort to save the others. The body of John P. SPENCER was found floating and by use of a seine, the bodies of William and Ivy O'NEIL [sic] were recovered."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Wreck of the Banana Boat. You can read it here:

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

More Halloween Photos

I just posted six more Halloween photos sent to me by Sally Beachy. You can see them here:

Another Critter

Last week I made an excursion "down below" (an island expression for the area north of the NPS campground) to hike with friends at "old hammock." One of the island's largest live oaks is growing on an overgrown path there, near the sound.

Old Hammock Oak

To read more about Ocracoke's majestic live oaks click here:

When we stepped out of the truck we were startled to see, just off the side of the highway, this black snake curled up, enjoying the sunshine.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Wreck of the Banana Boat. You can read it here:

Tuesday, November 03, 2015


On Thursday I published a post about alligators in Hyde County and on the Outer Banks. My friend Jim, from Manteo, sent me this recent photo:

And Marie sent me this a link to an article from August 12, about an alligator near the Neuse River in eastern North Carolina:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Wreck of the Banana Boat. You can read it here:

Monday, November 02, 2015

Pirate Jamboree

Tricorn hats, muskets, cutlasses, feathers, and tankards of grog were in evidence Friday afternoon when pirates invaded Ocracoke! The buccaneers set up a pirate encampment at the Wahab House and at Berkley Manor. Tavern games, piratical gear, and 18th century clothing and artifacts were on display.

The Brigand's Bazaar featured seafaring arts & crafts for sale, with vendors dressed in period costumes.

Roving minstrels strolled village streets, and The Motley Tones entertained residents and visitors with songs, ballads, pub songs and sea shanties from Blackbeard's day. Bawdy songs were reserved for after-hours when the young-uns were in their beds.

Military detachments stood at attention as commands were issued and cannons were fired.

Early afternoon on Saturday the Meka II and the Ada Mae engaged in a battle in Silver Lake Harbor.

Many a piratical tale was told, and historian Kevin Duffus presented a detailed portrait of Capt. Blackbeard's last days and his battle at Ocracoke Inlet with Lt. Robert Maynard of the British Royal Navy on November 22, 1718.

On Sunday morning the pirate and militia crews marched from Blackbeard's Lodge to Springer's Point to remember the final battle.

It was a fun weekend for the re-enactors, visitors, and island residents. If you missed it this year, mark your calendar for 2016. Every year gets better!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Wreck of the Banana Boat. You can read it here: