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

"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:   


  1. Anonymous7:29 AM

    And then there was the photo of Ocracoke that was printed on an AMTRAK brochure several years ago!

  2. Anonymous5:11 PM

    I guess the days of the 'well-heeled'
    visitors are long gone. I haven't seen many of those in years! Most people dress like slobs in eateries and on planes! how many dirty feet have you seen this year? everyone wants to be #1 but they express no pride in their appearance or attitude.

  3. Anonymous7:59 AM

    In reply to Anon 5:11 PM ---I suppose well heeled was possible when there was a cobbler in your town. And a shoe shine service. Those trades have been put our of business with cheap non leather footwear from overseas. I have a pear of leather "cowboy" boots that I wear when it is cold. And I wear a heavy work boot that is rather scuffed both cost more than $70 a pair and I purchased them many years ago for Function not fashion. I'm sorry you find the appearance of visitors to OI poorly attired. Be the Change you want to see in the World.