Friday, October 20, 2017

Doxsee's Clams

In 2010 I wrote about the Doxsee Clam Factory on Ocracoke Island.

Doxsee Clam Factory, Ocracoke Island, ca. 1905













The Doxsee Clamming operation was originally established on Long Island's south shore, in the hamlet of Islip, New York, on the east side of Orowoc Creek off of Maple Avenue. A New York newspaper article published in 1901 notes that "Of late, owing to the inabi1ity to get clams, a much smaller force has been employed and while the removal of the plant [to Ocracoke Island] is greatly regretted, the loss is not so keenly felt as it would have been some years ago."

For more information about James Henry Doxsee and Islip New York click on this link to the Islip Historical Society: http://www.isliphamlethistory.org/historic_markers.html?select=%22doxsee_clams.html%22

On Ocracoke the Doxsees built their new clam processing plant close to Pamlico Sound, on the southern shore of the “ditch” (the entrance to Cockle Creek). It was, by island standards, a large operation. Local fishermen harvested clams, which they brought to the Doxsee’s dock. From there the clams were carried to a nearby building and steamed. The steamed clams were then taken to a long shed building and dumped onto wooden tables. Most of the island’s young, unmarried women, as well as several widows, worked at Doxsee’s picking clams. Empty shells were simply tossed out of the windows.

Click here for more information about the Doxsee Factory on Ocracoke:  http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news112110.htm.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Coast Survey, 1806

In 1806 US Representative Samuel W. Dana (Conn.), introduced a resolution instructing the House of Representatives’ Committee of Commerce and Manufactures to “inquire into the expediency of making provision for a survey of the coasts of the United States, designating the several islands, with the shoals and roads, or places of anchorage, within twenty leagues of any part of the shores of the United States.”

In the debate that ensued, Mr. Dana made this report:

"In 1802, an act was passed, authorizing a survey of Long Island Sound. In pursuance of that act, the Secretary of the Treasury caused a survey to be taken by two men, who appear to have been, what the act intended, intelligent and proper persons. And there has since been published a chart of the Sound, handsomely executed, on a large scale, which must, I presume, be regarded as convenient and valuable by those concerned in that branch of navigation.

"At the last session of Congress, an act was passed for another survey. It made provision for surveying the coast of North Carolina between Cape Hatteras and Cape Fear, with the shoals lying off or between those capes. I understand that measures have been taken for executing this act, but that the vessel employed in the service, and all the papers respecting the survey which had been made, had been lost near Ocracoke Inlet, in one of the desolating storms experienced on the coast in the course of the present year."

Dana must have been referring to the great storm of October, 1806. Among a number of vessels sunk, wrecked, or dismasted at Ocracoke was the Governor Williams. The following account was reported in The Wilmington Gazette, October 14, 1806:

"I have now to add, to the tale of destruction, the total loss of the immensely valuable, philosophical and mathematical instruments of Col Tatham, he yesterday put them on board the Governor Williams, for the purpose of having them conveyed to Newbern, and they are now buried with her in two fathom water...."

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ocracoke Topography, 1949

Yesterday I published an excerpt from "A LETTER CONCERNING A VISIT TO OCRACOKE" By C.A. Weslager. The letter was written July 31, 1949 from Wilmington, Delaware.

The following paragraph is how Weslager described the topography of Ocracoke Island:

"Between Ocracoke village and Hatteras, the terrain is bleak — the sea on one side, the sound on the other, less than a mile separating them. All along the beach are remnants of wrecks — one called the "ghost ship" is still partially intact. Offshore, one sees the masts of wreckage extending above the water level at low tide. The heat was terrific — no trees — just wild grass here and there. There was a flock of wild horses grazing on a patch of grass at the end of the island. We were told that they dig in the sand with their forepaws to expose surface water when they are thirsty. Each home on the island has a rain barrel under the eaves — their source of drinking water. The hotel had a large rain-water reservoir on the roof to supply drinking and sanitary facilities."

Wreck of the "Ghost Ship" (OPS Photo)














This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Ocracoke Village to Hatteras Inlet, 1949

In 2009 I published as one of our monthly newsletters "A LETTER CONCERNING A VISIT TO OCRACOKE" By C.A. Weslager. The letter was written July 31, 1949 from Wilmington, Delaware.

This is what Weslager wrote about his trip from Ocracoke village to Hatteras Inlet:

"The island is covered with heavy sand and only jeeps can navigate. Several natives have them and provide taxi service to visitors. We hired one driver to take us to Hatteras Inlet at the north point of the island. We went when the tide was right so that we could sweep up the beach as each wave washed in and out. The idea is to get the jeep wheels on the sand that the water has just laved — otherwise one either sinks, or slides, and the minute that happens a wave rolls over you and the jeep is carried away. It was a thrilling and dangerous ride. One must also travel fast in order to keep from sinking in the sand. There were four of us and the driver, and he was the only one who didn't seem frightened."













This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Salt Water Apples

Native Outer Bankers have an impish sense of humor. I heard this story recently about one of the deckhands on the Hatteras Inlet ferries.

Some years ago the US Coast Guard was slow to mark a shoal that threatened to ground the ferries and other vessels. Local watermen and/or ferry personnel decided to mark the channel themselves. They cut several saplings and positioned them on the edge of the shoal to warn mariners.

On one crossing a ferry passenger noticed the saplings, stopped the deckhand, and pointed to them.

“What kind of trees are those growing out in the water?” he inquired.

“Why those are apple trees,” the deckhand answered. “But they’re not the kind of apple trees you are familiar with. These are salt water apple trees. The apples taste great, but they are a little salty. We pick them in the late summer and early fall.”













The passenger seemed satisfied with this answer, and vowed to return in September to taste those delicious salt water apples.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Farewell

Any death in a small community affects many people. Recently two well-known and respected native islanders died.  

Last week Thomas Midgett, a Vietnam veteran who retired from the NC Ferry Division and later worked for the National Park Service, died at his home on Ocracoke. Thomas was friendly and well liked by native islanders, newcomers, and visitors alike. He was known as one of the island's foremost gardeners. Thomas was 67 years old. You can read his obituary here

On October 7 Jule Garrish, 94, died at his home in Beaufort, NC, where he lived with his wife Rosemary. Jule's first wife, Etta Mae Howard, died a number of years ago. Jule was a US Navy veteran and was retired from the US Coast Guard and the NC Department of Transportation. Many of our readers will remember Jule as a featured performer at the Ocracoke Opry in Deepwater Theater. His signature song was "Governor Edward Hyde," a tribute to the Swan Quarter ferry. Audiences loved it when Jule paused to speak into the soundhole of his guitar. "This is your captain speaking...."
You can read Jule's obituary here. Jule is buried in the Howard graveyard across the lane from Village Craftsmen.
 
This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

False Lights

Two years ago I wrote about the Outer Banks village of Nags Head. Legend has it that Nags Head obtained its name from the activity of "wreckers" (unscrupulous bankers who would lure sailing vessels close to shore by tying lanterns around horses' heads or necks, thus suggesting a safe anchorage; when the ship wrecked it would be plundered). (see https://villagecraftsmen.blogspot.com/2016/11/nags-head.html)

According to Wikipedia: "[John Viele, retired U. S. Navy officer] points out that mariners interpret a light as indicating land, and so avoid them if they cannot identify them. Moreover, oil lanterns cannot be seen very far over water at night, unless they are large, fitted with mirrors or lenses, and mounted at a great height (i.e., in a lighthouse). In hundreds of admiralty court cases heard in Key West, Florida, no captain of a wrecked ship ever charged that he had been led astray by a false light."
  
Nevertheless, in 1825 Congress approved an act stipulating that "if any person or persons shall hold out or show a false light or lights, or extinguish any true light, with intention to bring any ship or vessel, boat or raft, being or sailing upon the sea, into danger or distress, or shipwreck, every person so offending, his or her counsellors, aiders, and abettors, shall be deemed guilty of felony, and shall, on conviction thereof, be punished by fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, and imprisonment and confinement to hard labor not exceeding ten years, according to the aggravation of the offense."

Perhaps there is some truth to the legend!

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Big Ike

In 1939 W. O. Saunders from Elizabeth City, N. C., interviewed Ocracoke native Isaac (Big Ike) O"Neal (1865-1954). Big Ike was 74 years old at the time of the interview, which was conducted in his home on the island. Saunders describes Big Ike as "A mighty man he has been in his day, measuring six feet two in his stocking feet and tipping the scales at 240 pounds. At the age of 74 he is still a robust enough man, to all outward appearances, and his speech is punctuated with an infectious laugh and a flashing of good white teeth."

Big Ike begins his interview with these comments:

"Life was hard when I was a boy. There wasn't but one other family on this island that had a harder life than ours. My father fell through the hatch of a ship when I was a little boy and was crippled for life. He couldn't do any hard work after that.

"But we always had somethin' to eat; fish and clams and oysters and crabs. Never had much flour bread; if we had flour bread once a week we did mighty well. Corn bread was our bread.

"We had two wind mills on the island that ground corn. When there was no wind the mills didn't turn. I remember we once had a calm for twenty one days. But most families had their hand stones to fall back on at such times. It took a half hour to grind enough corn for breakfast with those old hand stones.

"No, we didn't grow corn on the island; we got our corn from the mainland; took salt fish, oysters and clams to the mainland and traded for corn and molasses.

"We didn't know what white sugar was; and never saw much of the brown sugar that was used in those days. Coffee? The only coffee we had was parched chestnuts which we boiled and made what we called coffee. Sweetened it with molasses. Most often we drank yaupon tea; just step out your back door and gather your tea leaves. Yaupon still grows wild on the island, but most folks now-a-days hold themselves above drinkin' tea made out of it."

Look for more excerpts from this interview in future posts.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Mary Ann's Pond

At one time there were three "ponds" in Ocracoke village. The largest, Silver Lake, is not a lake, and neither is it a pond, although some early maps list it simply as the "Pond." It is actually a wide, naturally shallow tidal creek. Old time islanders still call it by one of its early names, Cockle Creek.

1837 Map of Ocracoke Village



















Northern Pond is not a pond either. It is a cove located just north of the village. This Google image shows it clearly.











Finally, there is Mary Ann's Pond...or more accurately, there was Mary Ann's Pond. It was located just west of Northern Pond (and is still listed on the Google Map above), but Mary Ann's Pond is gone. It was filled in by the Navy during WWII. This "pond" was named after Mary Ann Styron (born ca. 1795) who lived on the shore of the pond with her husband Francis Williams.

You can read more about Mary Ann's Pond here: https://ocracokeobserver.com/2016/08/31/where-did-mary-anns-pond-go/.


This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Nautical Chart

Last week a reader commented on our post about the spuds visible near the Cedar Island/Swan Quarter ferry channel, and asked if the spuds could be located on the map I reproduced on our post about Ocracoke Inlet.














The map mentioned above is simply a boater's guide to North Carolina coastal waters, not a navigation chart, so the spuds are not referenced. However, you can view a NOAA navigation chart here: http://www.charts.noaa.gov/OnLineViewer/11548.shtml. To see where the spuds are located (at 35° 9" 25" N, 76° 0' 7"W) you might want to zoom in, and then look NNW of Ocracoke Village. You will see this symbol that marks the spot where the dredge Lehigh rests:





This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Spuds

Five years ago I published a post about these metal "piles" that the Swan Quarter and Cedar Island ferries pass as they enter Big Foot Slough Channel, just a few miles northwest of the village.











In case you missed that post, these piles are called spuds. They are part of a sunken dredge (the Lehigh) which sank in 1942. Spuds are used to pinion a dredge to the bottom while working. Native islander Benjamin Early Spencer was captain of the Lehigh, and a couple of other Ocracokers were working on the dredge along with about nine other men.

The Lehigh was approaching Ocracoke to dredge the harbor in preparation for bringing vessels to the docks at the WWII naval base. The Navy's mission was to thwart German U-boat activity off shore.

Strong winds produced huge waves that swamped the dredge, and she quickly sank. Navy personnel at the newly established base rescued the captain and crew.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Island Inn

The Island Inn, one of Ocracoke Island's iconic hotels, is for sale. Built in 1901 as a school house and Odd Fellows Lodge, it was later used as a residence, a WWII officers quarters, a coffee shop, and, most recently, a hotel.  The southwest wing was added immediately after the war; the northeast wing, in the 1950s. For many years the Inn included a popular restaurant.











Unfortunately, the building has not been well maintained, and is presently in a state of disrepair, and in need of renovation. A number of concerned island individuals and preservation organizations would like to see the Inn (or at least the historic central section) restored, but the money necessary is not available. The future of the Inn is unclear.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to listen to Chester Lynn share stories about the Island Inn. In the 1980s Chester was manager of the restaurant. He showed me this note left by one of his patrons. It is stained and yellowed, but Chester has kept it all these years.













The note reads,

ODE to AN Island Inn. 10/24/87, Sat night.

Tender was the fish
Dry was the wine
What a charming place to Dine
The waiter was warm
The beer was lite
and when we left
We felt just right.

Thank you!
Steve

And now its time
for us to leave
So we bid "Adieu" to our waiter Steve

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Jeep Seat

Here is a quintessential island story from Ann Ehringhaus' book Ten thousand Breakfasts, A Tale of Wonder, pp 121-122:

"One summer the passenger seat on my old jeep finally collapsed. It was rusted, broken, and had to be taken to the dump. People had been teasing me for awhile about taking folks for rides, saying they all needed a massage afterwards. Since I'm a bodyworker, among other professions, this sure looked like a sneaky way to get business! But this is a story about synchronicity and recycling.

"An old friend of mine, an engineer, was visiting the island and saw my jeep with no passenger seat at Oscar's House.

Ann on Beach with her Jeep













 "Later when he and his son were kayaking in Pamlico sound, my friend Phill spotted a floating Adirondack chair, at least part of one. To him it looked like just the part my jeep needed. His son was confused. He couldn't really see how the broken chair part would work, plus he thought the old jeep was already strange. He called me 'lady with the car with no doors.' At dad's insistence, they lashed the chair part to their kayak and paddled it to shore.

"I loved the wonder on the son's face when dad inserted the old chair part into the jeep's empty front seat. Wow! Perfect fit! He really couldn't believe my delight, but of course he hasn't lived for decades on a small barrier island with only a few stores. The salvaging of a working part, and that becoming the surprise solution to my jeep's seating, were cause for great celebration! With a wave and a bit of lingering confusion, the boy and his dad rode off on their bikes. An unusual job well done!"

Click here to read more about Ann's Bed and Breakfast, Oscar's House.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Ocracoke Inlet

A few days ago a reader left this comment and question on our blog: "[I]t seems pretty amazing that Ocracoke Inlet has been opened as far back as we can record... Inlets act more like what you describe for Hatteras inlet; moving, opening, closing, shifting. I wonder if there's a theory about why OI inlet has stayed open as far back as records are kept...?"

The following should help explain why Ocracoke Inlet is unique...from THE NORTH CAROLINA OUTER BANKS BARRIER ISLANDS: A FIELD TRIP GUIDE TO THE GEOLOGY, GEOMORPHOLOGY, AND PROCESSES  (http://core.ecu.edu/geology/mallinsond/IGCP_NC_Field_Trip_Guide_rev1.pdf).

"Oracoke Island is situated on an interstream divide between Pamlico Creek (the riverine system occurring beneath Pamlico Sound during the Last Glacial Maximum) and offshore paleo-watersheds. The Pamlico Creek valley extends beneath Ocracoke Inlet (Fig. 6b*), making this inlet the most stable and long-lived in the Outer Banks system. Ocracoke Inlet is the only inlet that has remained open throughout historic times (i.e., since 1590 – the first map of the Outer Banks)."

*The caption below figure 6b in the report reads, in part, "A map showing the topography of southern Pamlico Sound and the Ocracoke Inlet area as it appeared during the last glacial maximum approximately 20,000 years ago when this area was dry land (based upon seismic data; Mallinson et al., in review). Ancient river channels (blue) were mapped beneath the modern southern Pamlico Sound and the inner continental shelf. Note that Ocracoke Inlet occurs where Pamlico Creek passes beneath the modern barrier island trend, and Ocracoke Island occurs on an interstream divide." (Click on the link above to read the entire guide, and to view figure 6b.)

Today outflow from the mouth of the Pamlico River (not to be confused with Pamlico Creek, a paleo-creek referenced above) continues to help keep Ocracoke Inlet open.

Below is a detail from The 2011-2012 Coastal Boating Guide published by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. You can see the mouth of the  Pamlico River in the upper left corner of the map. About 25 miles to the southeast is Ocracoke Inlet.












This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Ocracock Bar

In March of 1801 Ocracock (Ocracoke) Inlet and Beacon Island (a small island between Ocracoke and Portsmouth Island) came to the attention of President Thomas Jefferson.

In a letter to the newly elected President,  Richard Dobbs Spaight (1758–1802) of New Bern (he was a member of the Continental Congress from 1783 to 1785, a delegate to the federal Constitutional Convention in 1787, governor of North Carolina from 1792 to 1795, and interim congressman until March 3, 1801), advocated for the completion of a fort on Beacon Island.

He informs the President that "there is no place on earth where smuggling can be carried on with more advantage, & with less probability of Detection" than through Ocracoke Inlet.

Spaight reminds Jefferson that "All the trade of No. Carolina except what is carried on at Wilmington, and a little at Beaufort & Swannsborough, passes over Ocracock bar: and the fort at Beacon Island command both Harbours, or, roads, where the shipping bound either in, or out come too in order to lighten, to enable them to pass the swash. It likewise commands both the passages that lead from the harbours or roads, up into the Country."

You can read the entire letter here

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.