Sometimes it's difficult to comprehend the changes that have occurred on Ocracoke Island over the 250 years since the earliest inlet pilots settled here.
Cousin Blanche (1919-2018) told me her grandmother remembered when grapevines "hung over the sea." Blanche also recalled that her Uncle Ike O'Neal (1865-1954) said when he was a boy briars and grape vines created a mat so thick in the trees that he was able to climb the oak tree (on the corner of Howard Street and present-day School Road) and then scramble across the mat of vines "all the way to the sea."
Other accounts mention "the time of the blowing sand" in the late 1800s, after livestock had eaten most of the vegetation near the village. Could the de-nuding of the beach have happened within a quarter of a century (from the time Ike O'Neal was a boy until the turn of the 20th century)? Or could Blanche's informants have remembered climbing to Nigh Inlet, a former channel of water on the northeast edge of the village (what they may have called the "sea"), and not to the Atlantic Ocean?
We may never know for sure exactly what changes have transpired on this sandy barrier island. What I do know is that grapevines were thick along Howard Street as late as the 1970s.
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
Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You
can read the story here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/my-first-island-patient-by-dr-warren-silverman/.