Thursday, August 17, 2017

Fig Festival

Tomorrow, August 18, is the first day of this year's Annual Fig Festival. The Fig Festival celebrates Ocracoke's sweetest tradition: fig preserves and fig cakes!

This year's event begins on Friday afternoon/evening on the grounds at the Ocracoke Preservations Society Museum. Learn about Ocracoke fig trees and fig recipes, and vote for your favorite in the Fig Preserves contest. Join in a Traditional Ocracoke Square Dance to the tunes of Molasses Creek! 

Photo by Trudy Austin

On Saturday, the Fig Festival moves to the historic Community Square. Local vendors provide fresh figs, fig preserves, local cookbooks, fig-smoked BBQ, and other fig-tastic items. Bring the kids for crafts and games, and enjoy live music throughout the day until the main event -- the Fig Cake Bake-Off with free samples for everyone.

The fun continues with a dance party in Community Square. We hope to see you there!

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:  

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

MTS Trail

On Saturday September 9, 2017 people all across the state of North Carolina will be hiking and paddling different segments of the North Carolina  Mountain To Sea Trail.

The Outer Banks Region of the trail covers 81 miles, has 20 different segments, starts/ends at Jockeys Ridge State Park and Silver Lake Ferry Dock in Ocracoke. The MST in a Day event commemorates a speech on September 9, 1977 by Howard Lee, then the NC Secretary of Natural Resources and Community Development. He told a National Trails Symposium in Waynesville that North Carolina should create a “state trail from the mountains to the coast, leading through communities as well as natural areas.”

Catherine Peele, Segment Leader for the Mountain To Sea Trail In A Day event for the Outer Banks Region, remarked that "We are pushing to get the entire trail covered in one single day which is the 40th Anniversary of the trail!"

Photo by Paul Travis

There are a total of 1,175 miles of the trail divided into various short legs. Legs average 3-5 miles, which means that just about anybody, of any age, can hike, & can find a suitable leg (dirt trail, road, greenway, beach, flat or steep.)

If you will be on the island Saturday, September 9, please consider hiking one of the three legs of the trail on Ocracoke Island (one is 4.5 miles long; one 3.2; and one 6.6).  Of course, many other segments of the trail are available to hike. To register to hike, and for more information, please visit the MTS web site.

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:  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

One of Ocracoke's Iron Men

John T. Parris, Jr. penned the following obituary at the death of Ocracoke islander, Capt. Tom Gaskins, in 1947:

"Ocracoke Sees the Passing of One of its Iron Men as Capt. Tom Gaskins Departs.

"Captain Tom Gaskins sailed today [July 5, 1947] for the Islands of the Blessed and tonight the ghost skippers of the Seven Seas gathered to welcome him into their celestial harbor.

"The long shore-leave that his age has imposed on him came to an end at noon when his heart stopped beating and he crumpled to the ground of the oak-shaded yard of his home where he had lived alone for a dozen years or more.

"Only an hour before, the 93-year-old one-time skipper of schooners and clipper ships had been sitting down on the quay spinning yarns of a bygone era when sailing vessels with two and three raking masts, their topgallant and royal sails furled, stood in the roadstead off Ocracoke....

"Born on Ocracoke island, Dec. 19, 1854, Captain Tom took to the sea when he had barely reached his 'teens.

"For almost 40 years he sailed up and down the Atlantic Coast.... The two ships of his life were the Annie Wahab and the Paragon, both two-masted schooners....

"So perhaps he has found the Annie Wahab up there in the Island of the Blessed and is sitting around signing on a crew to take her out of that stormless sea where he can let her canvass billow full and white."

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:

Monday, August 14, 2017

Hyde County Medicine, 1889

The following article comes from The Washington Gazette (Washington, Beaufort Co. N.C.) - Thursday, August 14, 1889; pg. 3; column 2. It was republished in Miscellaneous Newspaper Articles for Hyde Co., NC (1796 - 1940).


SWAN QUARTER, Hyde Co. N.C. - Miss Jennie WHITLEY one of the principals of the Misses WHITLEY and BROWN High School, at Washington, now teaching a public school at Otales Chapel, in Hyde county, had one of her pupils bitten by a ground rattlesnake. There being no physician near by and the little boy two or three miles from home, Miss WHITLEY sent to a near neighbor’s house, procured a pint or more of Holland gin and gave her little patient a sufficient quantity, as in her good judgment would have the desired effect, first having bandaged the boy’s leg above the wound remembering the old adage that “the hair of the hound would cure the wound.” But seeking no further friendship for the snakeship [sic], took a toad frog, cut it open and bound the bleeding side to the wound; she then sent her little patient to his home. Dr. William O. WHITFIELD was called at once, but upon examination of the case found that Miss WHITLEY had so treated in the outset that the patient need not fear for the safety of the child. The little boy is well and out again declaring his intentions to bruise the serpent’s head. [Kindly submitted by Robert Henderson]

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:

Friday, August 11, 2017

Ocracoke Surf Film Festival, 2008

According to, "In 2007, the Global Surf Network was born to bring the surf film and the independent surf filmmakers to venues where movie experiences can be amplified. Also, the organization founded by Rob [Beedie] believes there's a social side in surf films for stoking young and oldies.

"The Global Surf Network is putting up several surf film festivals that promote the sport and boost new filmmaking careers."

According to The Molasses Creek Journal, "In August [August 15, 2008], [Deepwater] theater was the venue for the 1st Annual Ocracoke Island Surf Film Festival, which raised over $2400 for OYC [Ocracoke Youth Center].

"Sponsored by the Global Surf Network, the film fest included several different documentaries and short films, and one feature movie (shown on the sort-of-big screen inside), interspersed with live musical performances (on the theater’s front porch.)"

To my knowledge that was Ocracoke's first and last Surf Film Festival. 

For surfing enthusiasts: check out these surf film festivals from around the world; and here is a list of the best surfing movies. Enjoy!

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:

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Richard S. Spofford

The three-masted schooner, Richard S. Spofford, wrecked at Ocracoke at 3:30 a.m., December 22, 1894. The Ocracoke US Life-Saving crew and their keeper, James Howard, were stationed 14 miles away, at Hatteras Inlet, and unaware of the wreck until much later in the day. Keeper Terrell from the Portsmouth Island station responded when he was informed of the wreck at daybreak but, lacking proper equipment and a trained crew, was unable to rescue the sailors.

Five of the ship's crew launched the ship's yawl in an attempt to reach shore, but were thrown into the raging breakers when it swamped and capsized. To everyone's surprise, they all managed to reach the beach where they were pulled ashore by onlookers.

Keeper Howard and his crew arrived at the wreck at 8 pm. The remaining three crew members were clinging disparately to the bowsprit as the schooner rolled dangerously each time the surf broke over the ship. Because of the cold, darkness, and raging storm it was not until daybreak that a line was successfully fired to the vessel. The captain and one crew member were safely brought to shore in the breeches buoy. The steward, Sylvester Chase, had fallen from the quarterdeck the day before and had died lashed to the capstan.

Breeches Buoy Rescue

The official government report addressed the death of Chase: "The diligence and devotion of both the keepers and the men under their command throughout the entire occurrence are well attested. It was the first instance of a wreck in the vicinity since the appointment of Keeper Terrell, and his promptness and fertility of resources go far to prove the fitness of his selection. Keeper Howard has rendered long and satisfactory service, which is not sullied by his record at this disaster."

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:

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Fig Tales

It is fig season again, and many islanders' kitchens are filled with figs boiling on their stoves to make preserves.

Fred Mallison, in his book To Ocracoke! relates a tall tale he overheard from Captain Ike O'Neal. Mallison was a young boy visiting the island in the 1930s, and he and friends enjoyed hanging around the docks listening to the old sailors. One day he heard Cap'n Ike tell "about the time he was becalmed at sea for a week. Their food gave out, he said, and he and his crew lived on two pound figs and a case of condensed milk. That was why he did not eat figs any more. I began to fit out a sea story from Cap'n Ike's tale. I imagined Captain Ike confronting a half mutinous crew, as he carved equal slices from a pound fig as big as a watermelon. And with a cutlass. Captain Bligh could not have done it better."

A pound fig is so called because of its large size (sometimes as big as an orange, but not a watermelon!). It has a purplish color, and smells of cinnamon. It is one of at least nine cultivars grown on Ocraocke Island.

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:  

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Young Republicans, 1941

Beginning on Friday, August 8, 1941, the North Carolina Young Republicans (the oldest political youth organization in the United States) hosted their annual meeting on Ocracoke Island. This, of course, was before the establishment of ferry service to the island. Two boats were chartered to depart from Belhaven, NC, at noon, and were scheduled to arrive on the island about 5 pm. Rooms were reserved at the Wahab Village Hotel and the Pamlico Inn.

Wahab Village Hotel

Pamlico Inn

Lodging in private homes was also arranged if the number of attendees exceeded the space available at the inns. As many as 70 prominent Republicans from North Carolina and Washington, DC, were expected to attend for a weekend of square dancing, beach parties, fishing tournaments, and a few short speeches.

You can read more about this meeting in an article from The Beaufort News (Beaufort, N.C.), August 7, 1941:

N.C. Young Republicans Invade Ocracoke Friday
Nationally Known Republicans To Be Present

John Wilkinson, Jr., of Washington North Carolina called the Beaufort News early today and reported that unless the Draft extension legislation in Washington, D.C, was settled today that a few of several prominent Republican members of U. S. Congress would have to cancel their plans to attend as guests [at] the annual invitation meeting of the N. C. Young Republicans on Ocracoke Island this week-end. "However," said Mr. Wilkinson who is State president of the organization, "a number of outstanding Republican leaders have definitely stated they would be present. Among these is senator Brewster of Maine, one time governor of the Bay State.

Among the North Carolina notables who will be present is National Committeeman Jonas of Lincolton; former Republican candidate for N. C. Governor, Robert H. McNeill; officials of the National Republican federation from all parts of the United States and others. Wilkinson stated that at present he was expecting at least 70, and possibly more members in the party which will board two special boats at Belhaven on Friday at noon, arriving at Ocracoke Island about 5 o'clock.

The islanders will be down at the waterfront when the Republicans arrive for their two-day invasion which will feature fun, fishing and a small amount of business. After being greeted in an old fashioned manner by the islanders the parties will be assigned to quarters at the island hotels and inns or in private homes if the hotels and inns are overflowing. There will be island suppers and then in the open air at Wahab Village the first big event will take place, a square dance to a special orchestra brought to the island by Carl Jacobson in the Spanish Casino and its open air dance floor.

On Saturday morning there will be a bit of business to be attended to, perhaps a short speech or two, and then after lunch, with a variety of prizes offered, there will be a fishing rodeo. During the early evening a clam bake, oyster roast and fish fry is planned to be followed by beach parties and more square dances. After this, the remainder of the time the Republicans spend on the island will be devoted to ad libbing. They will leave Sunday morning.

Considerable interest is being shown in this meeting. Editor Brown left Thursday to cover the meeting for newspapers and magazines which have given him assignments. On Friday C. G. Gaskill, Leonard Safrit, Capt. Oscar Noe and others will leave for the island.


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:

Monday, August 07, 2017

National Lighthouse Day

On August 7, 1789, President George Washington signed into law a bill that transferred the management of all existing lighthouses and other navigation aids, including buoys, unlighted beacons, and public piers, to the federal government. It was only the ninth law passed by the US Congress, and America's first public works project.  The Treasury Department was assigned the task of overseeing the nation's lighthouses.

Ocracoke Lighthouse, built 1823

To commemorate the passage of the Lighthouse Act, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill designating August 7, 1989, as National Lighthouse Day. Although that bill only applied to 1989, the US Senate passed a resolution making August 7, 2013, National Lighthouse Day. Again, the legislation only applied to that one year.

Efforts are underway to designate August 7 as a permanent holiday. You can read more here.

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:

Friday, August 04, 2017

Latin Scholar

A couple of weeks ago I spent a delightful hour and a half enjoying breakfast with Bobbie Rondthaler Woodwell and her family. Towards the end of our time together Bobbie (she is the daughter of Theodore and Alice Rondthaler, mid-20th century Ocracoke school principal and teacher) showed me a letter her father wrote to her mother in 1959. Two paragraphs mention student James Barrie Gaskill, local commercial fisherman who died recently

1959 Letter

This is what Mr. Rondthaler wrote:

"I am teaching the Latin much better than I have for several years. The three girls and James Barrie are eating it up, and they are all fun. Doing much more impromptu blackboard work.

"That James Barrie types out eight to a dozen practice letters a day, and makes a pretty creditable job of most of them. Comes into the Latin room off and on to ask some surprising detail: 'Mr. Rondthaler, would you put Vice-President on the same line or drop it down? It's a long name.'"

Who knew James Barrie was a Latin scholar?

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:

Thursday, August 03, 2017


At 5:00 pm today, Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative announced that transmission power had been restored to all of Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. As a result, both Hyde and Dare counties will announce that Ocracoke and Hatteras islands will be open to visitors beginning Friday, August 4 at noon.

Heartfelt thanks to all of the people who made this happen!!

These include Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative, Lee Electrical Construction , New River Electrical Corp., NC Dept. of Transportation, Governor Roy Cooper, Hyde County Emergency Management, the NC Ferry Division, Gregory Poole, Hyde County Government, Lumbee River EMC, Jones-Onslow EMC, Edgecombe-Martin EMC, Roanoke Electric Cooperative, Brunswick EMC, NC Electric Membership Corporation, and of course the Tideland EMC crews from both the island and the mainland.

And a special thank you to Heidi Smith, Manager of Tideland's Corporate Communications, who did a great job keeping us all regularly informed throughout this entire incident. 

Update and Story from 1990

Update: As of 8 pm yesterday, the timeframe for restoration of electric power to Ocracoke Island from this point forward was 2-3 days. This includes the time required for testing after all construction is complete and before transmission service can begin.

More information at:


Now for a look back into history for another Bonner bridge story, this one from 1990:

Early in the morning of October 26, 1990, 90 mph winds drove the hopper dredge, Northerly Isle, into the Herbert C. Bonner bridge, destroying 370' of the structure, and severing electric and telephone wires to Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands.

It soon dawned on residents and visitors on Hatteras that the only way to the mainland was now by way of two ferries, first across Hatteras Inlet, then from Ocracoke to either Cedar Island or Swan Quarter. Three days after the bridge collapsed there were 275 cars in line for the two ferries from Ocracoke to the mainland. The line stretched through the village, and down NC12 towards the NPS campground. Many people had to sleep in their cars overnight.

When the extent of the problem became obvious Ocracoke islanders began taking sandwiches, soft drinks, and other essentials to the stranded motorists. Families with babies and the elderly were offered free motel rooms.

Although power was restored four days later, it was months before the bridge was repaired. In the meanwhile the state of North Carolina made arrangements to run emergency ferries across Oregon Inlet.

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:

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Bridge Update & Late 1970s Outage

Here is the latest update on the power outage: Cape Hatteras Electric Corporation is estimating a "4-6 day timeframe [later this morning it was revised to 3-5 days....keep checking Tideland for the latest updates] from now for complete transmission restoration."

And here is our history post (another tale of power interruption):

In the fall or winter of the late 1970s (no one seems to remember exactly when) someone shot the transmission cable suspended from the underside of the Herbert C. Bonner bridge. Power was interrupted to Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands for days. I haven't been able to locate any news reports about that incident. Some people I spoke with think a hunter was the initial suspect, but authorities later decided it was an act of vandalism. I am wondering if any of our readers can shed more light. 


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:

Tuesday, August 01, 2017


Here is the latest update from Tideland EMC:

Bridge & Cable, 2017 & 1978

This is the latest message from Tideland EMC:

7:00 PM EST
JUL 31 2017
Island on Mobile Generator Power

Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative (CHEC) continues its execution of two simultaneous solutions to restore transmission service to Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands.

Significant progress has been made on the overhead solution and today crews have already set seven of the required 10 transmission poles. Construction work will continue this evening.

Excavation and dewatering continue at the site of the damaged underground transmission cables. Two of the three cables have been uncovered. The first was severed and has already been spliced back together. Tests on the second cable indicate that it is uncompromised. Crews are close to the third cable, but because of the complex dewatering process, conditions have been challenging. PCL Construction will continue to excavate the trench through the night.

You can read the full report, with photos, here:


As promised, here is news about the Bonner bridge from 1978:

The caption under the photo above (with a hand-written date of 4-11-1978) reads, "The bridge stopped sinking Sunday at 11 inches below horizontal."

I am not sure when the sinking first appeared but it had continued for several days. The Virginian-Pilot reported this information:

"When the Bonner Bridge was dedicated in 1964 water was only 2 feet deep under the southern end of the span. In the last 14 years, Oregon Inlet has moved south, and the water under the sagging section has deepened to 30 feet.

"Pilings that once were buried more than 20 feet in the sand now have as little as 7 inches of sand holding them in place."

The sagging span threatened to sever the electric cable carrying 34,000 volts, which the manager of Cape Hatteras Membership Electric Corp. said would cause "a hell of a mess." 

In 1978 48 new 100-foot-long pilings were driven 50 feet into the bottom of Oregon Inlet to prop up the sagging span.


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: