Thursday, August 31, 2017

Charlie Ahman

Carl Fridolf Ahman was born in Goran, Scotland, in 1887. He later moved to Glasgow. About 1900 he changed his name to Charles Freemont Ahman, and immigrated to the United States soon thereafter.  In 1912 he married Esther Thompson, a native of Belfast, Ireland.

Charlie Ahman worked as a carpenter and seaman, but quit his life at sea sometime in the mid-20th century. He spent time in Saugus, MA, New York City and Norfolk, Virginia, and eventually found his way to Ocracoke Island.

Photo by John Wall
Courtesy Ocracoke Preservation Society

Local legend has it that Charlie purchased a house in Norfolk and had it delivered to Ocracoke on a barge. It was unloaded in Silver Lake Harbor, then rolled on logs to its home site. Charlie bought an adult tricycle and was happy visiting neighbors and pursuing his interest in painting. When artists' canvas boards were unavailable Charlie painted on anything he could get his hands on...wooden shingles, Formica, even paper plates.

Charlie Ahmen with some of his Paintings

Charlie was gregarious, and enjoyed being a member of the Ocracoke Methodist Church, and participated actively in the Ocracoke Civic Club. Charlie died suddenly in 1975 while in Manteo, North Carolina. Esther had died in 1966. They are both buried in the Community Cemetery on Ocracoke Island.

Below are photos of a few of Charlie's paintings. You can view more of his artwork at the Ocracoke Preservation Society's Charlie Ahman Online Exhibit.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of Howard's Pub. You can read it here:  

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Door Lock

Many older homes on the island still include antique hardware. This solid brass door handle and lock is the original equipment on a 150 year old Ocracoke Island house that was built from salvaged materials.

Sections of this house were constructed with lumber from a shipwrecked schooner. Presumably the door lock also came from that ship. Not too remarkably (considering the quality of workmanship in the mid 19th century), the lock still works.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of Howard's Pub. You can read it here:

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


The following article about two prominent islanders appeared in 1955 in The Coastland Times, a popular Outer Banks newspaper that is still in circulation.


"Capt. Ike O'Neal and Capt. Walter O'Neal, twin brothers, celebrated their 70th birthday recently and were delightfully entertained by a dinner party at the home of Mrs. Maude Fulcher. Fourteen friends enjoyed the occasion with the honorees. Two tables were attractively decorated, the family sitting at one and the friends at the other. A chicken and ham dinner was served. Guests included their sisters: Mrs. Tressie Howard and Mrs. Elnora Ballance, and a brother, John O'Neal, who came here recently from Philadelphia; Mrs. Walter O'Neal, Mrs. Marvin Howard, Mr. & Mrs. Murry Tolson, Mr. & Mrs. Kelly O'NwL, Mrs. Etta Scarborough, Miss Marie Hodges, and Charles Agmon.

Capt. Walter O'Neal (standing, in white hat)

"Capt. Ike operated the freight boat between Ocracoke and Washington, N.C., skipper of the "Relief", the "Russell L." and the "Dryden". He was also in the grocery store business for many years and continues as a partner in Garrish and O'Neal's Community Store, which has recently moved into a fine new building. In addition to this he has done considerable commercial fishing.

"Capt. Walter O'Neal is a well-known sports fishing and hunting guide. He has worked with sportsmen from new England, new York, all the way down the Eastern Seaboard and even as far away as Texas. At one time he operated a small store on the island. He is now half-owner of the freight boat "Bessie Virginia" with his son, Capt. Van Henry O'Neal who operates between Ocracoke and Washington. Capt. Walter is not only a guide but an ardent fisherman. Both are members of the Ocracoke Methodist Church and active in church and community affairs."


This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of Howard's Pub. You can read it here:  

Monday, August 28, 2017

Stormy Gale

In a 2016 article, "Aycock Brown Sang the Praises of the North Carolina Coast" (, Teresa Leonard quotes a 1949 article by writer Jack Riley, who introduced readers to Aycock Brown and credited him with putting the North Carolina coast on the map.

Although Brown was born in Happy Valley, NC, as a young man he fell in love with the Outer Banks and with Ocracoke native Esther Styron. Aycock and Esther married and had two children, William and Esther Gale. 

Aycock renamed his daughter Stormy Gale when she was less than two years old. This is how Jack Riley related the story:

Read more here:
"Biggest by-line of his career came to Aycock for a Saturday Evening Post story on Ocracoke which was titled “Cape Stormy.” The story appeared in August of 1940, and in elation, Aycock named his 20-months-old daughter “Stormy Gale.” She had borne the name Esther Gale and is probably the only child the magazine has had a hand in renaming."

You can read the entire atricle here.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of Howard's Pub. You can read it here:  

Friday, August 25, 2017

Of the Inlets and Havens of this Country

Ocracoke Inlet is the only North Carolina Inlet that has been continuously open since Europeans first began keeping records.

This is what John Lawson wrote in his 1709 account, A New Voyage to Carolina; Containing the Exact Description and Natural History of That Country: Together with the Present State Thereof. And a Journal of a Thousand Miles, Travel'd Thro' Several Nations of Indians. Giving a Particular Account of Their Customs, Manners, &c. (London, 1709):

"Ocacock is the best Inlet and Harbour yet in this Country; and has 13 Foot at Low-water upon the Bar. There are two Channels; one is but narrow, and lies close aboard the South Cape; the other in the Middle, viz. between the Middle Ground, and the South Shoar, and is above half a Mile wide. The Bar itself is but half a Cables Length over, and then you are in 7 or 8 Fathom Water; a good Harbour. The Course into the Sound is N. N. W. At High-water, and Neap-tides, here is 18 Foot Water. It lies S. W. from Hatteras Inlet. Lat. 35° 8″."

The above photo of Oregon Inlet [this photo was initially mislabeled Ocracoke Inlet; see comments below] was made by Garrett Fisher in 2014. Click here to see more stunning photos, and lean more about his book, Sea of Change: Flying the Outer Banks.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of Howard's Pub. You can read it here:  

Thursday, August 24, 2017


According to a 1947 newspaper article at least four schooners were built on Ocracoke. A traditional schooner is a sailing ship with two or more masts, typically with the foremast smaller than the mainmast, and having gaff-rigged lower masts (modern schooners may be Bermuda-rigged).

Schooner Windfall, Ocracoke

The 1947 newspaper article explains that the Annie Wahab and the Paragon were two of the schooners built on Ocracoke by Capt. Tillman Farrow. "At that time [the mid to late 1880s] there were plenty of big live oaks and red cedar on the island.... Old Captain Tillman Farrow...had his slaves to cut the oak and hew the timber. And when they were built, Captain Tom [Gaskins] took over as skipper of the Annie Wahab. Later he served on the Paragon.

"The Annie Wahab could carry about 2,300 bushels of grain or rice...."

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of Howard's Pub. You can read it here:  

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Blackbeard's Treasure

For 300 years various tales have been told of Blackbeard's treasure, supposedly buried on an eastern North Carolina farm, in a riverbed, or under a stately oak tree. Here is one from F. Roy Johnson's 1962 book, Legends and Myths of North Carolina's Roanoke-Chowan Area:

"D. R. McGlohon of Winton [NC] quotes an old colored man of Edenton as relating a representative Blackbeard treasure tale soon after 1900. His master, who operated a farm and fishery, told him one Saturday afternoon, 'Go hitch up the cart and take it to the creek.' Later the two men pulled a heavy iron box from a spot in the creek the master selected. 'This is Blackbeard's treasure,' he remarked enroute to his warehouse. The Negro never saw the chest again; but after that his master was a wealthy man."

Another popular tale about Blackbeard's treasure (he is reputed to have said that his treasure was hidden "where none but Satan and myself can find it") is that it is buried in the Oak Island (Nova Scotia) Money Pit.

Excavations at Oak Island, 1931

 I, for one, believe Blackbeard never buried any treasure (after all, most of his ill-gotten booty was sugar, cotton, or other trade goods...even slaves; not gold and silver). He and his crew were surely living in the moment. No doubt they sold their stolen goods quickly, then spent the money on rum, women, and other luxuries.  Only the lucky few (William Howard comes to mind!) were granted pardons, then went on to live long, and sometimes productive, lives.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a brief history of Howard's Pub. You can read it here:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Howard's Pub

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the interesting, though sometimes confusing, story of Howard's Pub.

Painting by Kitty Martin Mitchell

Click here to go directly to our story of the beginning and evolution of Howard's Pub:

Monday, August 21, 2017


According to, "Between 1776 and 1918, 16 total solar eclipses crossed over what was or would eventually become U.S. soil."

The web site goes on to explain that, "[t]he total eclipse of June 24, 1778, was the first of its kind for the newly independent, but still at war, United States of America.

The North-Carolina Weekly Gazette in New Bern published this report on June 26, 1778 (transcription follows):

"Newbern, June 26. On Wednesday last, the great eclipse of the sun, as calculated by astronomers in the almanacks, and said to happen in this latitude, and be visible here, was observed with great attention, and some surprise to the ignorant, the weather being tolerably clear, and the moon’s passage over the sun’s disk, being distinctly seen during the whole iimmersion. This was the greatest eclipse of the sun ever seen here by the oldest people now living among us, and exhibited a scene truly awful. The gradual obscurity of the sun, the decrease of her light, the fickly face of nature, and at last the total darkness which ensued, the stars appearing as at midnight, and the fouls seeking for their nightly shelter, caused a solemnity truly great, and, tho’ proceeding from a natural cause, the moon’s passing between the sun and our earth, which she must necessarily do in certain periods in different latitudes, was beheld with astonishment and gratitude to the supreme RULER of the universe, by whose almighty power the motions of such vast bodies are regular and uniform, and the delightful system of the world kept intire and complete."

According to, "The eclipse first entered the continent in Spanish-, French-, and British-controlled land and then slid out into the Atlantic Ocean through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. New Bern, North Carolina, was close to the southern edge of the eclipse path...."

To see photos of the 2017 eclipse on Ocracoke, take a look at our Facebook page later today.

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 18, 2017


Washington (Washie) Spencer (1901-1988) was a native Ocracoke fisherman who loved his island home. His grandson, Vince O'Neal, owner of the Pony Island Restaurant, carries on the family tradition by working the water to supply fresh fish for local restaurants.

Vince is also a strong supporter of the Ocracoke Working Watermen's Association, and often provides fish cakes for events using an old family recipe. If you are not on the island for one of these events, you can still enjoy Ocracoke fish cakes. Just stop by the Fish House on Hwy 12, and pick up the main ingredient. Then follow Washie's recipe.

Washie Spencer’s recipe for Fishcakes:
  • 12 fillets of fish (fresh catch of the day) 
  • 3 eggs 
  • ½ cup flour 
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 6 cubed potatoes 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Fill a large pot with enough water to cover fish and potatoes. Bring fish and potatoes to a boil and cook until potatoes are soft. Drain and let cool. Add remaining ingredients to fish and potatoes in a large bowl and mix well. Hand pat into cakes and grill or fry to a golden brown.

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 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: