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:

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:  


  1. Anonymous7:58 AM

    Guess you can't believe every thing you read

  2. Marie from PA8:36 AM

    Wow! That is a lot of misinformation for one paragraph. I wonder where the scholarly review was on this one and how much more misinformation was in the rest of the article. It would be interesting to send this post to the author to get his comments. As always, thank you Philip for such an informative, interesting blog.

  3. I'm really glad you're on top of the history and ancestry of Ocracoke as some sources seem to be a little misleading. It is a conclusion based on some logic that Wahab was Arab, although, a deeper looke reveals the most likely Scots-Irish origin of the family; no doubt a DNA test (that's available these days) would set any confusing discussions of origin to rest...

    1. Nielson Wahab has written, "DNA testing of the Outer Banks Wahabs all indicate Scotch-Irish Origins." According to my research, Haplogroup R1b1a2a1a1b4 R-L21 (Y-DNA) is the dominant paternal lineage of Western Europe. Up to 50% of the entire male population of England, Ireland & Scotland carry this genetic sequence. According to a geneticist I spoke with, any individual with this genetic marker is not of Arabic descent.