Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Henry Pigott

Henry Pigott is a legend on Portsmouth Island. He was the last male resident of the island when he died in 1971. The US National Park Service has produced a brochure celebrating the life of Henry.

"One inhabitant," reads the brochure, "was Henry Pigott, born May 5, 1896. His ancestors first came to Portsmouth as slaves. However, after the Civil War when most people of color left Portsmouth, Henry’s ancestors stayed and made it their home. Henry’s grandmother, Rosa Abbot, was a jack of all trades. She was a midwife, doctor and nurse; she also worked in the gristmill, fished and oystered. Her daughter, Leah, had seven children: Ed, Ike, Henry, Mattie, Georgia, Rachel, and Elizabeth (Lizzie). Henry and his sister Lizzie remained on Portsmouth for most of their lives, while their other siblings, faced with the decreasing economy of Portsmouth, left to seek their fortunes elsewhere Lizzie served as the town’s unofficial barber. Many people recall going 'Down the Banks' to Lizzie’s for a haircut. While both Henry and Lizzie continued to fish and oyster for a living, Henry became the 'mailman.' Henry would pole out to the mail boat, retrieve mail and passengers, and give the Captain of the mail boat a list of items needed from Ocracoke. (By this point in history, the economy of Portsmouth no longer supported a general store.) The items needed would either be brought back to Portsmouth via the mail boat or delivered by a resident of Ocracoke who was coming over to the village."

Henry Pigott Meeting the Mailboat

The NPS brochure also relates the story of a reporter who thought Henry was crazy to live on nearly-abandoned Portsmouth Island with mosquitoes and no electricity or water. "Pigott thought for a moment," according to the brochure, "then replied that he had done some traveling. He had been to New York City. He had even seen all the modern innovations. Then he paused and added, 'And I’m not sure which one of us is crazy.'”

You can read the entire brochure here: https://www.nps.gov/calo/planyourvisit/upload/Henry2000.pdf.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a contemporary account of the December 24, 1899 wreck of the Steamship Ariosto. You can read the Newsletter here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news072117.htm


  1. Anonymous9:16 AM

    I love it when you post an entry about H.P. He was a self starter. A contributing member of society and a valuable cog in the wheel of mail delivery. If only the USPS knew of his existence and a Stamp, a Forever stamp could be designed and submitted to honor Mr. Piggots contributions to the Mass communications industry. He helped the masses communicate I dare say. Please send a first class letter to the dept of USPS stamp design/engraving requesting consideration of HP for a forever stamp. If PH would allow citing the entries to this blog as reference source material I feel right certain we will see a stamp of H.P. Let's crowd source/get the word out on this one!!DD

  2. Ditto on that, Anon. I would loved to have met Mr. Pigott. Every time I see that picture of him in the skiff, he almost comes to life.
    His quote on craziness also applies today.

  3. I'm with Henry when it comes to the "...which one is crazy." comment...


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.