Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sam Jones Story

Visitors to Ocracoke often notice two especially imposing buildings on the island, The Castle Bed & Breakfast, and Berkley Manor Event Venue.

The Castle Bed & Breakfast

Berkley Manor
Brian Carter Photo, Courtesy Ocracoke Observer

These large iconic structures with towers, dormers, and cedar shingles were built by Sam Jones in the 1950s. You can read more about him here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news012111.htm.

Below is a short personal story about Sam written by Julie Howard.

"Stories of Sam Jones have been part of Ocracoke's history for more than half a century.

"The self-made millionaire from Swan Quarter, who began as janitor for a Norfolk VA foundry and eventually owned the entire company, spent much time on the island, his first wife's birthplace.

"So when I moved to Ocracoke in 1972, I heard many stories about Sam Jones-- his foibles and eccentricities, his unpredictability, and his great generosity to the island and its residents, especially to the Methodist church and the local fire department. 

Sam Jones, Photo Courtesy Outer Banks History Center

"Everyone has a favorite, and sometimes personal, Sam Jones tale. Here is mine.

"During the 1970's I served as organist for the Ocracoke United Methodist church. Sam had donated our electronic organ, and he usually attended Sunday services when he was in town. I was accustomed to seeing him, his private pilot, and other guests in the front pews.

"One Thursday night, right in the middle of our weekly choir practice, the back doors of the sanctuary flew open, and in marched Sam and his pilot, each carrying a stack of large boxes. They proceeded down the aisle and handed out the boxes: first to the choir director, then to me, and finally one to each member of the choir. Not much was said, that I recall, but the message was clear:  Thanks for your service to this church.

"When we all recovered from this surprise appearance, we opened our boxes to discover beautiful dresses, apparently individually chosen for us by Sam.  Mine was lovely and silky, navy and white...and it fit perfectly. That amazed me, as I was a rather small person and often bought clothes in the teen department.

"One interesting detail of the gift was that the price tags had been left on the dresses. I don't remember knowing other prices, but my dress had originally been marked $120, then reduced by half for a sale price. Even at $60, the gift of ten dresses to our little church choir made a lasting impression on me. I believe Sam made an impression on everyone with whom he crossed paths."

Our current Ocracoke Newsletter is a 1938 article about Capt. Gary Bragg, waterfowl hunting, and wooden decoy carving. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112116.htm.


  1. Anonymous9:23 AM

    Do you still have the dress. Do you have a photo of you wearing the frock? Is there a group photo of everyone wearing the gifted outfits? Certainly there are photos Somewhere out there.... PS Did anyone write and send thank you notes -- a hand written thank you note posted in the US mail?????

    1. Unfortunately, no photos survive....at least none that we are aware of. I am sure thank you notes were sent, and since this occurred 40 years ago they would definitely have been posted in the US mail!

  2. Anonymous10:20 AM

    I have been waiting for Mr. Jones' Landlord's Invitation to be discussed and explained.

    1. Anon. 10:20 -- Your comment is a great prompt for another blog post! Look for it soon.

  3. Anonymous10:51 AM

    There is a tremendous mark up in a retail dress shop. The shop owner was still making money selling a dress for 60 bucks. If all those frocks were purchased at the same shop can you see the man asking for a wholesale discount and then telling the IRS otherwise when listing the items as a donation.......:)