Tuesday, November 21, 2017

November Newsletter

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is an analysis of a short paragraph penned by surveyor Jonathan Price in 1795. Price made this observation: ”Occacock was heretofore, and still retains the name of, an island. It is now a peninsula; a heap of sand having gradually filled up the space which divided it from the bank."

I was puzzled when I first read that sentence. In what sense, I wondered, was Ocracoke at one time an island, but had now become a peninsula?

The newsletter presents my analysis. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/description-occacock-1795/.

If you have an opinion, or another idea, please leave a comment. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Providence Methodist Church

The Providence Methodist Church, a little frame church (now attached to a newer brick edifice) in our county seat, Swan Quarter, is often called "the church moved by the hand of God."  Below is a somewhat fanciful account (from an unnamed and undated newspaper) of the 1876 hurricane that contributed to this remarkable story.
















"'TWAS THE HAND OF PROVIDENCE [There is] a singular incident which occurred here several years ago. It was in the year 1876. The Methodist folk were about to build a house of worship. There was division in the membership on the question of locating the edifice. The ladies were a unit in favor of locating it on Pamlico Avenue, while the male members were united in their determination to have it on a site about 400 yards from the one desired by the ladies. The men won out and the building was in course of erection when the memorable storm of '76 swept this vicinity. The singular feature of the story is that the unfinished church structure was floated and carried by the storm to a point within twenty feet of where the ladies had desired that it be erected. The men believed this to be the work of a divine hand and it is needless to say that this house of worship remained where the storm had driven it. And to this day the men of this community let the women have their way in church matters as well as in many other respects."

For a more complete, and probably more accurate, account of this event, click here: http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~jmack/photos/providen.htm.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.    

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Stevensons

Robert Louis Stevenson is best known as the author of Treasure Island. Fewer people know that he was the grandson of Robert Stevenson (1772-1850), a Scottish civil engineer who was instrumental in designing the Bell Rock Lighthouse, a beacon constructed on a barely exposed reef off the coast of Angus, Scotland, and sometimes described as one of the Seven Wonders of the Industrial World.

Robert Stevenson is credited with designing a total of fifteen lighthouses. His sons Alan, Thomas (Robert Louis Stevenson's father), and David designed forty-one lighthouses; and his grandsons, David Alan and Charles Alexander, twenty-six lighthouses.

Lighthouse construction in the United States was strongly influenced by the design and engineering skills of the three generations of the Stevenson family.

Ocracoke Lighthouse
photo by Eakin Howard




















Robert Louis, however, was more interested in writing. Interestingly, one of the main characters in Treasure Island is Israel Hands. In real life Israel Hands was put in command of Blackbeard's sloop, Adventure, although, having been shot in the knee by Teach, he was not on board during the fateful battle at Ocracoke in November, 1718.

According to Captain Charles Johnson, author of A General History of the Pyrates, Israel Hands spent his final days begging in the streets of London.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.   

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Toilet Paper

Today islanders rely on the internet to purchase many items. In the past Ocracokers ordered from Montgomery Ward or Sears & Roebuck catalogs. It was always a happy day when the packages arrived on the daily mailboat.

The story is told that many years ago an Ocracoker decided to order some of that newfangled toilet paper, a novelty on the island. He asked his daughter to draft a letter to Sears requesting several rolls of toilet paper.

Days later he received a reply form Sears. Sears only sold toilet paper in specific quantities, he was told. "Please consult page 126 in our catalog," the letter explained, "and place your order referencing the catalog number."

The islander's reply was classic: "Dear Sears," his daughter wrote for him, "if I had one of your catalogs I wouldn't need any of your damned toilet paper!"

If you want another laugh, check out this brief French commercial for toilet paper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZH_YInXvpoU.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.   


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Controversy in 1894

The following editorial was published July 12, 1894, in the King's Weekly, a Greenville, NC, newspaper (photo added):

"Just think of it! You can go to Ocracoke. And it is so convenient, too. Buy your ticket, get on the boat here, and some time not in the distant future, you are at Ocracoke, historical Ocracoke.

Steamer at Ocracoke, 1899













 
"Let's see how easily it is done:

"You buy your ticket. Two dollars, please ! Then you go aboard the steamer, Mevers. Off you go for Washington. At that delightful town yon spend considerable time and perhaps cash. At 10 p. m . you leave for Ocracoke, and of course get there o. k. When ready, you return by the same route and nearly the same convenience. Now, let's see again.

"You pay $2 for a round trip ticket. You get to Washington and stay there or on the boat, long enough for two meals, costing doubtless another $1. You are only twenty-five miles from home, and though it is yet eighty miles to Ocracoke the round trip fare from there is just $1. For a round trip of 210 miles you pay $2. The people of Washington for a round trip pay $l for 160 miles. Greenville pays one cent a mile, Washington pays [.6 cents a mile] . And the business of Greenville is about what keeps up the O. D. S. S. [Old Dominion Steam Ship] line on Tar river. Did you ever hear of such discrimination and do you wonder that the railroad drove the two lines into consolidation?

"Another thing. People here have to lose a day on that trip while the boats for Ocracoke leave Washington at 10 o'clock at night. Why shouldn't the boat wait here till six or seven p. m. for the benefit of our people, and then make close connections at Washington?"

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.   

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Getting Around

Barbara Garrity-Blake and Karen Willis Amspacher have compiled a wonderful "Heritage Guide to the Outer Banks Byway." Their 290 page book, Living at the Water's Edge, has this to say about "Getting Around" on Ocracoke Island in years past:

"Before roads and bridges, the easiest route for Ocracokers traveling to the mainland was a half-day mailboat ride to Atlantic, where they could catch a midday bus to Morehead City. Otherwise they could ride nine hours on a freight boat to Washington, North Carolina. Traveling north to Norfolk was more arduous, involving thirteen miles of sand tracks just to get to the north end of Ocracoke Island. A private ferry took people across the inlet to Hatteras. The Manteo-Hatteras Bus line, a bus suervice run by the three Midgett brothers from Rodanthe, would take travelers the length of Hatteras Island, across Oregon Inlet via ferry, and up to Manteo. 'It was like going on a safari across a desert to get to Manteo,' remarked Earl O'Neal.

"In 1938 an enterprising Ocracoke resident began a taxi service from the village to Hatteras Inlet, navigating sand paths in a station wagon. The ferry, run by Hatteras resident Frazier Peele, began in 1950 as a passenger ferry and expanded to a four-car operation by the time the state bought his business in 1957. 'The ferry consisted of taking a boat, putting a platform on it, taking boards for a ramp and running the car up on the boat,' an islander recalled. 'We just ran the car off in shallow water, and off we went; there were no docks or anything.'"

Frazier Peele on his early ferry across Hatteras Inlet











This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.  

Monday, November 13, 2017

Aurora

In June, 1837, the schooner Aurora wrecked on Ocracoke Bar. Unlike so many other shipwrecks, the Aurora struck the bar in fair weather. The captain and crew were able to make it to shore under their own efforts. In January, 1838, the true nature of the shipwreck emerged.

David Stick, in his book Graveyard of the Atlantic, quotes this article that the New York Courier ran about the Aurora:

“On Thursday last, Mr. Waddell, the United States Marshal, arrested Richard Sheridan, late master of the schooner Aurora of New York, John Crocker, mate, and James Norton, seaman, on the charge of the most serious nature, and which, if proved, will place the lives of the offenders in jeopardy. The prisoners are charged with willfully wrecking and losing on Ocracoke Bar, the schooner Aurora, bound from Havana to New York, in June last, and they are also charged with stealing from the vessel after she was wrecked $4000 in doubloons, which had been sent on board in Havana, consigned to Don Francis Stoughton, Spanish Consul in New York.”

Stick goes on to explain that, "The Marshal specifically charged that Captain Sheridan had enlisted the aid of the two crewmen, and together they had carefully planned the shipwreck and stolen the 264 doubloons, which had then been entrusted to the Captain by his henchmen for transfer to the north where they could be converted into American money. About the time this charge was made public it may have become obvious to Crocker and Norton that they joined forces with the wrong man, as on meeting him in New York they were told that he had been robbed of the doubloons and there was no loot to divide.

When the Captain was brought to trial in New York in February he was found guilty—the doubloons had been discovered in the hands of yet another accomplice—and he was ordered to pay costs and to repay the Spanish Consul, $4,919 in all. Captain Sheridan was kept in jail for an undetermined period as further punishment."

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.   

Friday, November 10, 2017

Portsmouth Coast Guard Station

For nearly two decades (in the 1920s and 1930s) Dorothy Byrum Bedwell spent her childhood summers on Portsmouth Island. She recounted those idyllic years in her book Portsmouth, Island with a Soul. This is what she remembers about the Coast Guard Station:

"A team of beautiful, large, white horses is in my earliest recollections of the Coast Guard. They were useful in many ways, one of which was shore patrol especially when the tide covered the beach. On patrol, the men punched keyposts which were standing at intervals along the beach (similar to the time-clock process). I remember too the wide ramp into the expansive room that housed the surf boats and surf boat drills which were held regularly. I thought of the kitchen house which was apart from the main building, and of the tantalizing aromas of supper cooking on late afternoons when we were trudging home hunglily from a walk on the beach and an ocean swim. I recall how, during hurricanes, the Captain of the Coast Guard would invite everyone to come to the station for safe housing. During the terrible hurricane of 1944, when my mother, brothers and sisters-in-law were on the island, the Coast Guardsmen came and escorted them to the station. The tide was rising so rapidly that before they reached the station, the water was up to my mother's armpits and she said that the Coast Guardsmen on each side of her literally lifted her through some of the deeper places."

Today, the Portsmouth Coast Guard Station has been restored and outfitted with reproduction surf boats and life saving equipment.
















This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.  

Thursday, November 09, 2017

George P. Hassell

The 1890 Federal Census of Ocracoke Island lists George P. Hassell, age 39, his wife Ida, age 24, and their two year old son John. George was not from Ocracoke, but he married island native Ida Ballance. George's occupation is recorded as "Agt. N&S RR."  This means Agent, Norfolk and Southern Railroad.

Readers might wonder why Ocracoke needed an agent for the railroad.

Photo by Petar Milošević













In 1885 the Spencer brothers from Washington, NC, established a large Victorian hotel (the Ponder, or Ponzer, hotel) on Ocracoke Island. This was in response to the expansion of railroads and steamships in eastern North Carolina, and the growing interest of well-heeled Tar Heel residents in vacation resorts on the Outer Banks.

As recorded in http://www.carolana.com/NC/Transportation/railroads/nc_rrs_elizabeth_city_norfolk.html:

"On January 20, 1870, the Elizabeth City & Norfolk Railroad was chartered to build a railroad line between Norfolk, VA, and Elizabeth City, NC. [The railroad was completed in 1881.]....

"In 1882, less than a year after the railroad's completion, the railroad company signed a five-year contract with the Old Dominion Steamship Company to make connections with the railroad in Elizabeth City and to provide passenger and freight service between Elizabeth City and New Bern and Washington, North Carolina. This arrangement ended in 1887, with the Norfolk and Southern Railroad operating its own line of steamers and the Old Dominion Steamship Company continuing its Norfolk to New Bern-Washington route through the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal. This route change meant the loss to Elizabeth City of much of the trade of the Pamlico Sound region. During the summer, however, most vacationers going to the prospering resort at Nags Head [and Ocracoke!] were still dependent on taking a steamship from Elizabeth City."

And thus the need for a "railroad" agent on Ocracoke Island!

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.   

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

1942 Praise for Ocracoke

The following paragraph is reprinted from The State magazine, April 11, 1942.  The State, with Carl Goerch, an eastern North Carolina newspaper journeyman, as publisher, printed its first issue in 1933. In 1996 the magazine's name was changed to Our State.

"[Ocracoke Island] has been a favorite summering place with large numbers of people, particularly those who lived in Washington, Greenville, New Bern, and other towns in the eastern part of the state. Hunters and fishermen have visited it from all parts of the country. It has no paved streets, no power, except that which is supplied by private plants, no sewerage or water systems, none of the many civic improvements that you will find elsewhere, but it's the grandest place in the world to visit and, if you listen to the natives, it's also the grandest place in the world to live. The houses are mostly two-story frame structures, each of them being immaculately clean and most of them well painted. Practically every house has its small garden and chickens. The entire population of the island--it's around 700--depends upon the sea for its livelihood. No, not quite all either because there are a number of men who are in Coast Guard or else have been retired with pensions. Wahab Village, originated by Stanley Wahab, local boy who made good in the big city of Baltimore, has a first-class hotel, cottages and other accommodations. It promises to be quite a development. Ocracoke lighthouse is one of the oldest on the coast."


















"The Coast Guard station is located on the sound side of the island. We didn't get to go there on this trip through Hyde County, but we have been there any number of times in the past. There are no people anywhere whose friendship we value more highly than we do that of those hardy, whole-souled folks at Ocracoke. If you've never been there you have missed one of the most interesting of all places within the boundaries of North Carolina...."

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.   

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Portsmouth Island Memory

In her 1984 book, Portsmouth, Island with a Soul, Dorothy Byrum Bedwell writes about the serenity of Portsmouth in the 1930s.

"The simplicity and tranquility of the island were evidenced by the sounds that were heard. The roar of the ocean swelled and diminished with the winds and tides, sometimes hardly audible, sometimes thundering. Always there were the shrill cries of seagulls in flight heard above the piping of smaller birds that flitted from bush to tree. The monotonous humming of insects rose and fell in regulated crescendo. Occasionally the lowing of cattle could be lheard in the distance. The only man-made sound was the motor boat's drone, intermittently drifting in with the breeze. Portsmouth had an 'at peace with the world' atmosphere, hushed and serene." (page 16)

Today Portsmouth is at least as quiet, probably more so since cattle no longer graze there, and no one lives in the once bustling village.

Click on the photo below for more information about Portsmouth Island.

http://friendsofportsmouthisland.org/fopi/















This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.  

Monday, November 06, 2017

Village Craftsmen Logo

For more than four decades Village Craftsmen has used a windswept tree as our logo.


Recently a reader asked about the logo. Although there are a number of such island trees, sculpted by wind and salt spray, a particular tree was the inspiration for our logo. The tree is located just a short distance north of the National Park Service campground, on the sound side of NC12. In the 1950s and 1960s it stood in a small clearing a few feet from the new highway, and was often photographed. Some people called it the "dancing lady" because of its graceful curves.

This photo of the tree was taken in 1969:


















In 1986 I made this pen & ink/watercolor drawing of the tree:


















Unfortunately, the tree died a number of years ago, but it still stands, a ghost of its former beauty. Today it is surrounded by much other vegetation, and difficult to locate.

Village Craftsmen's logo is modeled on this tree and other similar trees. It is a symbol of Ocracoke Island and how it has been shaped by the forces of nature.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.  

Friday, November 03, 2017

Ocracoke Tidbits

The following comes from The Ocracoke Island Beacon - Wednesday, October 15, 1941:

"Victor Meekins of Manteo, who is secretary of Cape Hatteras Natl. Seashore Park Commission, has reported that he expects to have deeds to the 10,000 acres desired for the park by January. Deeds for 900 acres of land from the Phipps estate at Cape Hatteras are in the process of completion. Many acres have already been donated on Ocracoke Island."

and

"Ocracoke Island has a law protection at last. For years the commissioners liked to boast of the distinction of having "no law" and no jails. That was in the days before automobiles and such promiscuous drinking. Ocracoke still has no jail but it has a deputy sheriff, J.G. Riddick, formerly of Gates County and Suffolk, Va., who married the former Miss Beatrice Fulcher, and has lived here for the past 8 years, was recently appointed as deputy sheriff of Ocracoke Precinct in Hyde County."

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.   

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Arabs in Ocracoke

The following paragraph is reprinted from the web site Arabs in America, a project of the Asian Studies program at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and sponsored by the UNC Center for Global Initiatives [my comments in brackets]:

"Arab Immigration to America Before the 1880s: The history of Arab-speaking people in the United States can be dated as early as the mid-18th century. Much of the early history of Arab presence is still undocumented. We offer here only some key names: Wahab Family on Ocracoke Island, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina (mid-18th century): The first Wahab was an emissary of a “King of Arabia” who was sent to establish Islam in the New World . He was shipwrecked at the coast of Ocracoke with a load of Arabian horses. [This is the only source for this claim I have been able to locate. There is no credible evidence that the 'King of Arabia' sent an emissary to this continent to establish Islam, nor that any Arabs were shipwrecked on Ocracoke Island.] Even today, some wild horses run in various sections of the island [No one is certain how the first horses arrived on Ocracoke.]. James Wahab purchased land on colonial Ocracoke and established a Wahab village. [Although James Wahab was the first of his family to settle in coastal North Carolina, Stanley Wahab (1888-1967) established "Wahab Village," a small area of Ocracoke with a hotel (now called Blackbeard's Lodge) and several other buildings, in the late 1930s & 1940s.] Today, the Island Inn, the oldest hotel on the Island, stands at the site of the Wahab Village. [The Island Inn is on Lighthouse Road; not in "Wahab Village."] It has remained in the hands of the Wahab family ever since. [The Island Inn was built on the former land of James & Zilphia Howard in 1901 as the Ocracoke Odd Fellows Lodge (on the upper floor) and the Ocracoke School (on the first floor); Stanley Wahab purchased the building in the 1940s.] Larry William, whose mother was a Wahab, is the current owner of the Inn [Larry Williams owned the Island Inn in the 1980s.].

For more information on the Wahabs of Ocracoke Island, and their probable Scotch-Irish origins, see our Ocracoke Newsletter of February, 2015: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news022115.htm.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.  

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Village Craftsmen Web Site

Finally, after months of design work, picture taking, and critical decisions, Village Craftsmen's web site has a brand new look! You can see the new and improved site here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/.

https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/













Our site now has a crisp, clean look with many new hand-crafted products and an easy-to-use shopping cart system. In addition to dozens of items you have come to expect from Village Craftsmen, our site continues to include links to this Journal, our monthly Newsletter, general island information, and our Ghost & History Tours.

Please take a look at our upgraded web site, and bookmark it for future reference. As always, we maintain a sizeable inventory of  fine quality American handcrafts ready to be shipped for the holidays, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and other occasions.

We will be adding more craft items regularly. If you don't see an item you are interested in, please contact us. We will be happy to take photographs to send to you.

Click on the photo above, or here, to visit our new web site.

Our new design was created by Stefen Howard. For information about Stefen and his web and graphic design business (with contact information) click here.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.