Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Ocracoke Schools

Last week I wrote this about Ocracoke village in 1877/1878: Although no Ocracoke schools were listed in that year's Business Directory, "[t]here were several small private schools on Ocracoke Island between the early 1800s and 1901, at which time a school was established in the building now known as the Island Inn."

A reader left this comment on that post: "NCpedia a resource for information cites 1839 as the year the common school law passed. Funding was to be state and local. The business directory lists many a taxable entity to generate funds for a public school in Ocracoke. What was the school age population back then I wonder...."

In answer to the reader's musings, I am reprinting a slightly edited blog post from 2015:

The first mention of a school on Ocracoke was in 1785 when school master Henry Garrish was hired to teach young Thomas Wahab. By the early 1800s a community schoolhouse was built in the vicinity of the Ocracoke Coffee Company. A new schoolhouse was built in the same area in 1825. Sometime before the Civil War there were two community schools on the island. In addition, Sarah Owens Gaskill operated a private school near the lighthouse.

In the late 1800s "Captain Wilson" taught school at the Life Saving Station at Cedar Hammock (near Hatteras Inlet), and a Mr. Manson gave private lessons in the village.

In 1901 the Independent Order of Odd Fellows built a new lodge (it is today the center section of the Island Inn). They met on the second floor, and a "consolidated" public school was held on the ground floor.

Photo: OPS, Earl O'Neal Collection

The 1880 Ocracoke census lists the number of school age children (6-14 years old; in those days the highest grade was grade 8) as about 59 (although some of those children may not have been enrolled). The photo above, taken about 1901 or 1902, shows approximately 40 pupils.  

In 1917 a new schoolhouse was built at the location of the present-day building. 

1917 Schoolhouse

The current school house was built in 1971. It is the smallest pre-K - 12 public school in North Carolina.The photo below shows school secretary Lisa O'Neal Caswell outside during lunch break. Ocracoke School has no cafeteria, so children and staff either bring bag lunches, or go home for lunch.

Ocracoke School, 1971-Present

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is my analysis of a sentence penned by surveyor Jonathan Price in 1795. The sentence reads, "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."  You can read my analysis here:


  1. Anonymous9:18 AM

    PH are you testing your readers as to our early morning reading comprehension? The 1917 school building was knocked down torn down moved to make way for the 1971 structure??. In all this preservation talk a 1917 school house ( of a most interesting vernacular) is gone? Only pictures remain? 1971 five years before the bicentennial celebration everyone was preparing for and a historical building is demolished??? Say it ain't so PH :)

    1. I am writing a reply about the 1917 & 1971 schoolhouses. Look for it sometime next week.

  2. Anonymous9:40 AM

    Hold the Phone. I have my answer, sniff sniff. But, PH you often direct our attention to the newsletters. This reader just discovered the Online exhibits of the OPS. I was shocked to see the wonderful archive; as to my estimation, it is rarely mentioned here, if ever, on the blog. Are you familiar with the editor responsible for the online exhibit??DD

    1. Yes, I am familiar with OPS and their online exhibits. We work together often.