Thursday, April 05, 2018

Mary Varney

On this date in 1856 the bark* Mary Varney wrecked and broke apart off shore of Hatteras Island. Although one sailor lost his life in the disaster, legend has it that another crew member made it to shore in an unusual fashion, and never left.

According to one version of the story, the people of Hatteras Island had been suffering that winter from a prolonged period of bitter cold and lack of supplies from the mainland. Shipwrecks, as tragic as they were, often brought much needed supplies (lumber, food, and more) to the bleak shores of the Outer Banks. In April, 1856, one local preacher even prayed, were a shipwreck to happen (and God forbid it would) that a barrel of pork would wash up on the beach to help feed his hungry flock.

As it happened, when the Mary Varney broke apart the people on shore saw a large pork barrel washing in from the stricken vessel, tossed about by the heavy seas. It looked like the preacher's prayer had been answered! A crowd gathered around as the barrel rolled in on a breaker, and crashed against the sandy beach. Almost immediately the top popped off.

To their amazement, Herbert Oden, one of the sailors on board the Mary Varney, climbed out of the barrel. As the ship began to break apart, Oden had emptied the barrel, and climbed in, using it as a makeshift lifeboat. Some claim Herbert Oden was the first of his family to arrive on the Outer Banks. He never left, and the Oden clan continues to call Hatteras Island home!

* A bark is a sailing ship of three or more masts with the aftmost mast fore-and-aft rigged and the others square-rigged.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of Village Craftsmen (1970 - the Present). You can read the Newsletter here:


  1. Please check the 1850 Hatteras Census. There are Odens.

  2. Anonymous8:51 AM

    Dear Unknown 706,
    Why is it that you can’t enjoy an old innocent “tale” without having to disect and correct it immediately? Does it fulfill some disire to feel knowledgeable and important? If you have kids I hope they could believe there’s a Santa and Easter Bunny at least for a few years...
    I’m all for absolute truth and correctness in important things, but come on, our world is already stiff and dry, we need some old tales to make us smile and keep our imagination going.
    If you don’t like this concept read a military manual or the tax code instead.
    Philip, thanks for another great story.

    1. Anonymous10:28 PM

      ok if I understand correctly, anon 851 thinks it is preposterous for a person to pop out of a pork barrel but and this is a big pork butt get over it it is just a s t o r y . Oh my gosh this is hysterical especial the part about santa and the easter Bunny. P R I C E L E S S. Thanks for the LOL

  3. Anonymous7:58 AM

    THANK YOU! This same anonymous poster has to make some sort of odd or derogatory comment on seemingly EVERY post. What a sad existence some people have.

    Philip, we LOVE the blog. It is a joy to read everyday.

  4. Anonymous8:17 AM

    I am confused. which anon poster are we getting mad at. I


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