Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Elisha Ballance

Blanche Howard Jolliff (1919-2018) told me the following story on August 15, 2005:

In August of 1899 Blanche’s uncle, Elisha Ballance (1880-1977), along with George M. Gaskins (1887-1967), Zora Babel Gaskins (1855-1918), and several other men, were net fishing in Pamlico Sound, about eight miles northeast of Ocracoke village. It was the custom in those days to pitch a primitive camp “down below” (the area on Ocracoke Island northeast of the village) for a week or more while fishing in the sound. 

On August 16 one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever strike Ocracoke hit with a vengeance. Winds exceeded 100 miles per hour, and tide water from Pamlico Sound poured across the sand flats. The fishermen’s fragile sail skiffs were battered and sunk. The hapless fishermen, at the mercy of the storm, dug a hole in a sand dune, and covered it with their sails in an attempt to keep dry. For three days the storm raged, terrifying the fishermen who could do nothing but wait for an end to the fury.
When the hurricane finally abated, Elisha, George, and Zora Babel decided to walk back to the village. The tidal creeks were still swollen, and waist-high water, muddy bottoms, and saturated marsh made for an exhausting trek.

Back in the village after many hours, nineteen-year-old Elisha returned home, weary and hungry, to discover his family home empty. Unbeknownst to Elisha, his parents and sisters had fled the house when the storm commenced. They had taken refuge with a neighbor whose house stood on higher ground. The storm tide had flooded Elisha’s family house. Doors had been blown open, furniture was upended, and the floors were covered in a thick layer of mud. On entering the kitchen, and surveying the scene, Elisha fainted and fell onto the muddy floor. 

Elisha recovered, eventually married, and raised his family on Ocracoke. Many of his descendants live on the island to this day.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a delightful story written by Dr. Warren Silverman, who in 1981 became the island's resident physician after forty years without a doctor. The story is about Dr. Silverman's very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You can read the story here:   

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