In 2009 I wrote about the 1837 murder of Willis Williams:
On March 1, 1837, "[Ocracoke Island] Justice of the Peace, Jacob Gaskill
and his cousin & local tavern owner, Willis Williams, were involved
in an altercation on a foot bridge that spanned the 'Ditch,' the narrow
channel that connects Cockle Creek (Silver Lake Harbor) with Pamlico Sound. When it was over Williams lay mortally wounded from a musket ball to his neck. Gaskill
was tried on the mainland and convicted of 'felonious slaying.' His
punishment was the letter 'M' branded in the palm of his hand.
of the details of this event are lost to history, but one can't help
but wonder what the dispute was about, why it escalated as it did, and
what the jury learned that kept Jacob Gaskill
from the gallows, convinced them to return a verdict of less than
murder, and led them to impose a relatively light (light, considering
the alternatives...but admittedly barbaric) punishment. We will probably never know."
In 1993 Ellen Fulcher Cloud discovered a map of Ocracoke in the John Herritage Bryan (a New Bern lawyer) Collection in the NC State Archives. The map appears to be related to the trial of Jacob Gaskill.
(Click image to see a larger view.)
The map is interesting because it shows several stores (T. S. Blackwell, J. Pike, and W. Williams), as well as the bridge across the Ditch.
For more information about the murder of Willis Williams, see http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112114.htm.
Our latest Ocracoke Newletter is the story of Augustus Cabarrus, early
inlet pilot, and the present day d'Oelsnitz family. Click here to read
the Newsletter: Ocracoke...The French Connection.