|Ballast Stone Wall @ Magic Bean Coffee Shop|
According to A Naval Encyclopædia: Comprising a Dictionary of Nautical Words and Phrases; Biographical Notices, and Records of Naval Officers; Special Articles of Naval Art and Science,
ballast is "a heavy substance employed to give a ship sufficient hold on the water to give her stability."
During the Colonial Era sailing ships left North Carolina loaded with lumber, shingles, tobacco, and other goods, but, because there was only a limited market for manufactured goods in coastal North Carolina, incoming ships carried ballast, usually rocks or stones. Of course, the ballast needed to be thrown overboard before loading outbound cargo.
According to William S. Powell in, NCPedia, "[j]ettisoned stones began to clog the harbors so badly that in 1769 North Carolina political leader Richard Caswell presented a bill in the colonial Assembly to appoint a ballast master who would regulate this activity in the vicinity of Ocracoke Inlet. The problem persisted, however, and in 1784 the General Assembly passed an act that prohibited ballast stones from being thrown into the channel of the Cape Fear River. Thereafter, before docking, ships were required to dispose of their ballast prior to reaching the low watermark."
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the Ocracoke Lighthouse, with information (and an artist's sketch) about the earliest lantern room. You can read the Newsletter here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/ocracoke-lighthouse/.