Friday, June 15, 2018

Yaupon Tea

I have written about yaupon tea in the past, but I just recently discovered two informative articles about this island drink: "The Yaupon Holly Tradition," by Jared Lloyd in the Coastal Review Online (https://www.coastalreview.org/2014/11/yaupon-holly-tradition/), and "The Forgotten Drink That Caffeinated North America for Centuries" by Ben Richmond (https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/what-is-yaupon-tea-cassina).

Lloyd explains that Native Americans in the Carolinas used the leaves of the yaupon holly, a shrub that grows wild on Ocracoke Island, to brew a tea rich in caffeine.The leaves were harvested and roasted in the early summer when caffeine content was at its peak. Yaupon was traded with other tribes as far west as Illinois. Early colonists learned to drink yaupon tea when royal taxes and import duties made other teas too expensive.

Richmond points out that "William Aiton, an eminent British botanist and horticulturist, director of Kew Gardens, and “Gardener to His Majesty,” is credited with giving cassina [yaupon tea] the scientific name it bears to this day: Ilex vomitoria. Ilex is the genus commonly known as holly. Vomitoria roughly translates to 'makes you vomit.'” Richmond goes on to write that "Cassina does not make you vomit. Both modern scientific analysis and centuries of regular use by Southerners confirms this. But several early European accounts of cassina mention vomiting. Cassina seems to have been used in elaborate purification rituals where men sat in a circle, sung or chanted, and took turns chugging and then throwing up hot cassina. Yet other detailed, first-hand accounts of indigenous people drinking cassina don’t mention vomiting at all. Anthropologist Charles M. Hudson and others have suggested that a plant with emetic properties may have been added to the cassina brew (unbeknownst to European observers) or that the black drink ceremony may not have involved cassina at all."

There is no question that yaupon tea rivals any of the commercial teas available for sale today. Lloyd reports that "the Outer Banks is thought to have been the last holdout [for drinking yaupon tea]. The tea was sold in restaurants along the Banks into the 1970s; Ocracoke Island is the last known location to have served yaupon tea."

You may not be able to order yaupon tea in any restaurant today, but you can purchase a bag of locally harvested yaupon tea leaves ($8.00) in Village Craftsmen...and brew your own!  Call (252-928-5541) or email us (info@villagecraftsmen.com) to place an order. Or stop by the Village Craftsmen on Howard Street to purchase yaupon tea in our gallery.


















The label on the back of the bag reads: "Yaupon trees grow naturally along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Their berries are an important source of food for birds, & their leaves have been used in making tea for thousands of years. Croatan Indians on Ocracoke & Hatteras Islands used the tea, which they called the Black Drink, for medicinal & ceremonial purposes & traded it to their neighbors to the west. Later residents enjoyed yaupon tea as a replacement for Asian tea & coffee, especially during the Revolutionary & Civil Wars when these were hard to obtain Many Ocracoke old-timers remember their parents & grandparents drinking it.

"Yaupon is rich in antioxidants, and it is the only native North American plant containing caffeine. It is claimed to be a tonic, an aphrodisiac, & a cure for hangovers.

"To prepare, crumble a spoonful of leaves in a teaball & steep in very hot water. To make 4 cups, add a half cup of leaves to 5 cups water & boil. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon or a sprig of mint. Serve plain, with milk, or with honey & lemon."



















Jared Lloyd's article ends on this note: "Today, modern science has begun to focus on yaupon holly as another possible weapon in the fight against cancer. Thus far, yaupon holly has proven itself to be packed full of antioxidants, beneficial polyphenols and anti-inflammatory properties that show promising results against colon cancer."

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/.  

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Soft Shell Crabs

Soft shell crabs are a delicacy enjoyed by many folks along the North Carolina coast, although they may seem unappetizing to those not familiar with this culinary delight.













Soft-shell crabs have recently molted, leaving their old exoskeleton behind. Crabs must be removed from the water as soon as they molt or a new hard shell will develop within hours. When crabs are soft, almost the entire animal, less the mouth parts, gills and abdomen, can be eaten. Cooks usually deep fry or sauté soft shell crabs.

Nowadays, commercial fishermen typically catch blue crabs, then hold them in saltwater tanks if they want soft shells. As soon as the crabs molt, they are removed from the water, which stops a new hard shell from forming.

Ellen Marie Cloud, in her book, Portsmouth the Way it Was, recounts a 1963 interview with Miss Mattie Gilgo (1885-1976) by her grandson, Julian Gilgo. While discussing the several salt water ditches in Portsmouth village, Julian remarks, "There's been a many a soft crab caught in them ditches, ain't they? On high tide they come up them ditches. I caught a many one with a rake, myself."

If you've never tasted soft shell crab, be sure to order some the next time you see them on a menu!

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/

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Megalops cyprinoides

Megalops cyprinoides is a medium-sized tarpon, also known as the Indo-Pacific tarpon or simply herring.  Although widely distributed, as expected, their range is generally in the Indo-Pacific Oceans, including the waters of Australia, Japan, and North Africa.

However, Henry Fowler's 1945 book about fish found in waters from Maryland to Texas, Study of the Fishes of the Southern Piedmont and Coastal Plain, documents four of these fish found by Ocracoke resident Wallace Springer "in beach pool formed by storm September 15-16, 1933."

Indo Pacific Tarpon (United States public domain tag)











The fish were small, between 52 and 87 mm ( 2" - 3.5") long. Even accounting for the hurricane, I wonder how these fish ended up in the North Atlantic Ocean. You never know what might turn up on our beaches!

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/.   


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Lighthouse Details, 1927

 In case you might be interested in a detailed description of the Ocracoke Lighthouse from almost a century ago, the US Lighthouse Service prepared a report dated November 3, 1927. Here are a few selected facts:
  • The deed for the property was dated  12/07/1822
  • Access to the light was by wooden steps; then an iron ladder to the lantern room.
  • The illuminating apparatus is "4th Order"
  • The glass in the lantern is 1/4" thick 
  • The light is produced by a vapor oil lamp with one 35mm wick
  • A 1200 gal. oil storage tank is located outside of the concrete oil house.
  • The keeper's house has 6 rooms, and is heated by an L.Coles Wood heater, #618
  • The keeper and his wife cooked on a #7 Grand Susquehanna range
  • Drinking water was procured from rain water collected in a 2000 gal. cistern 
  • Access to the lighthouse was via a private wharf 1/4 mile distant
Ocracoke's 4th Order Fresnel Lens



















You can read the entire report here: http://uslhs.org/inventory/light_station_report.php?id=874.
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/.  

Monday, June 11, 2018

Enemy in Eastern NC

I recently came across this screed from the Charlotte Democrat - Jan. 20, 1863:

"The Enemy in Eastern N.C. – We learn from northern papers that the yankees in and about Newbern in this State, held an election on the 1st inst. for a member of the Lincoln Congress. There were two candidates, a man named Piggot, and Foster, a Maine yankee who was driven off from Murfreesboro at the commencement of the war. It is reported that Piggot was elected. The election was held under the direction of the traitor Stanly, and of course was conducted by thieving yankees and a few mean, low-life, unworthy natives. No respectable native North Carolinian participated in the bogus election.

"The Wilmington Journal has information from Hyde county, showing that the people of that county are being oppressed and plundered by Stanly and his minions in a terrible manner. A mean hireling of Stanley’s, named Bannister Midyett, has a company of low characters under his command, and the people are forced to take an oath of allegiance to Lincoln or have their property destroyed. Those who refuse to obey Stanley’s orders are sent to Newbern and imprisoned. Edward Stanly is a meaner man than beast Butler [Benjamin F. Butler]."

Such harsh words call for more research! However, I have already written about Union sympathizers on Hatteras Island. As I wrote in 2014, Foster (Charles Henry Foster) was even repudiated by members of President Lincoln's inner circle, being labeled an "unprincipled scamp and cheat."

 (You can read more about Charles Henry Foster here: http://chab-belgium.com/pdf/english/Charles%20Foster.pdf.)

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/.  

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Zina Williams

Zina (Zini to family and friends) Williams was born on Ocracoke Island in 1890. He died in 1970.

Zina is one of a number of unusual Ocracoke names. I wondered where it came from, and guessed the Bible. Sure enough, the name Zina occurs in the Bible, but only once, in an obscure passage in 1st Chronicles, chapter 23, verse 10:

"And the sons of Shimei: Jahath, Zina, and Jeush, and Beriah. These four were the sons of Shimei."

Abarim Publications has this to say about this unusual name:

"[W]e are told that Shimei the Gershonite had four sons, among whom Zina (זינא). But in the next verse, this man is called Zizah (זיזה). And to make the confusion complete: in the verse prior, we learn that Shimei had not four but three sons, and their names are nowhere near similar to the four listed in the next verse. There are basically two ways to explain all these discrepancies: (1) either the Chronicler had no idea what he was doing, but somehow managed to write a world hit, or (2) we moderns have no idea what the Chronicler is up to, but the ancients did, and that's why this Book wasn't discarded for junk but rather venerated like the Word of God."

A third possibility is that Chronicles is a compilation of several authors' work...different traditions cobbled together.  We will probably never know.

But why did William Warren and Julia Nancy Williams give their son the highly unusual name Zina (their other three children were named Jordan, David, and Annie)? That too we will probably never know.

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/.  

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Hyde County

Not too surprisingly, Ocracokers are wont to refer to Swan Quarter and the surrounding mainland as "the county." Of course, Ocracoke Island is also part of Hyde County. It's just that the mainland and the Outer Banks are very different in many ways.

What we today refer to as Hyde County was formed December 3, 1705, as Wickham Precinct, one of three precincts within Bath County. In 1712 it was renamed Hyde Precinct in honor of Edward Hyde (1667 – September 8, 1712), the first Governor of North Carolina. Although he served only four months (May 9, 1712 until his death from yellow fever), he governed during Cary's Rebellion and the Tuscarora War.

Governor Edward Hyde


















Hyde Precinct became Hyde County in 1739 when Bath County was abolished. A number of other changes in the geography of Hyde County were made in subsequent years. In 1845 Ocracoke Island was transferred from Carteret County to Hyde County. The boundaries of Hyde County have changed more than those of any other county in North Carolina.

Many islanders travel to Hyde mainland by the Swan Quarter ferry only to continue to Washington or Greenville to visit doctors and/or dentists, or on their way to points west. Every now and then Ocracoke residents are called for jury duty. That means catching the 7 a.m. ferry to Swan Quarter (the judge always waits to begin proceedings until Ocracokers arrive at the court house, at about 9:30.) Most judges are considerate of islander's travel issues, and dismiss court early enough to catch the 4:30 ferry back home. When that doesn't happen, islanders "drive around" through Manteo and Hatteras Island, catching a late ferry across Hatteras Inlet.

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/.  

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Pony Pasture

According to a 2006 article in the NC State Economist, "North Carolina law requires keepers of livestock to enclose their livestock, poultry and horses with an adequate fence. Livestock is broadly defined as bovine or equine animals, swine, sheep or goats. Horses are included in this definition, regardless of whether they are kept for business or for pleasure. As a fencing-in state, North Carolina is distinguished from states located primarily, but not entirely, in the western U.S. where cattle grazing predominates, and landowners who want to keep livestock off of their property are forced to fence them out. North Carolina was also a fencing-out state in the 1800s, but the law changed around the turn of the twentieth century due to population growth and the expansion and increased importance of crop production."

During the 18th and 19th centuries Ocracoke ponies ranged freely on the island with little need for fences since the sound, ocean, and inlets served as natural obstructions. It was only in the village that fences became necessary. Islanders typically installed two fences, an inner fence to enclose their garden, and an outer fence to keep wild horses out. At that time North Carolina was a fencing-out state.

In 1917/1918 all of North Carolina except the Outer Banks became a fencing-in state. The current livestock law was not adopted for Ocracoke until 1958. Even then the statute applied to all livestock except the wild Banker ponies. With the establishment of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the construction of a hard-surfaced road the length of Ocracoke Island, free ranging ponies became a hazard for automobiles, and automobiles threatened the lives of the ponies. As a result, a large fenced-in pasture was established in the middle of the island.

NPS Photo













 There are currently just under 20 ponies (although small and powerful, Banker "ponies" are full-grown horses) in the Ocracoke herd. You can read more about them here: https://www.nps.gov/caha/learn/historyculture/ocracokeponies.htm.

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/.  

Monday, June 04, 2018

Vendues & Auctions

In the past I have written about vendues on Ocracoke Island (https://villagecraftsmen.blogspot.com/search?q=vendue). The word vendue derives from the French, and was used on the Outer Banks to describe a public sale of shipwrecked cargo. Today we might use the word auction.

In recent years the Ocracoke Fire Department has held a fund-raising auction every Memorial Day weekend, and Ocracoke Alive sometimes sponsors an art auction during the June Ocrafolk Festival.

The first public auction in recent years that I know of was conducted in the school yard as a PTA fund-raiser. This photo was taken October 26, 1973. 


















Can any of our readers identify the auctioneer?

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/

Friday, June 01, 2018

Rev. Wyche

Five years ago Daniel Couch wrote an article for Village Realty titled, Shipwreck Salvaging is a Time-honored Tradition on Hatteras and Ocracoke.

Couch included this story about Ocracoke Methodist preacher, Rev. Lawrence Olin Wyche:

"Many years ago, David Stick underscored the intensity of wreck busting in an interview he conducted with an insurance agent at Ocracoke for his book, 'Graveyard of the Atlantic.'

"'The Ocracokers,' the man said, 'would drop a body while carrying it to the grave, and leave it on the road, or leave Sunday services, if someone yelled, 'Ship ashore!''

"Actually, there appears to be some basis for that assessment. Brother L. O. Wyche, beloved preacher at Ocracoke, was conducting a revival at the Methodist Church in the mid-1890s when word spread through the congregation that a lumber-laden vessel had struck near The Swash.

"Preaching came to a halt as the men executed an orderly dash out the doors. The next night, one of the ladies of the church scolded Brother Wyche, saying the episode was unchristian-like, and our Lord could not possibly condone such intoxicating behavior.

"The eloquent Wyche, hat in hand, politely responded, 'Don't dwell on it, good sister. He'd have done the same thing for us….'"

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/