Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Spanish Invasion

The coast of North Carolina was periodically invaded by Spaniards beginning in April, 1741, when two privateers with about 100 sailors arrived at the Outer Banks. The Spaniards erected a tent camp on Ocracoke with the goal of controlling shipping through Ocracoke Inlet. In August North Carolina merchants and residents in two ships drove the Spaniards from Ocracoke. The Spaniards returned again in 1747, landing on Ocracoke and capturing the port of Beaufort before abandoning the town a few days later. The final invasion occurred in 1748 when the Spaniards attacked the town of Brunswick. A prisoner exchange ended the seven year cycle of Spanish invasions. 

However, the threat of  Spanish invasions returned 150 years later during the Spanish-American War (April, 1898-August, 1898). In July, 1898, the Daily Journal of New Bern, NC printed this brief article:

"An official of the Government, high in authority, whose business it is to organize the people of the coast into a battalion auxiliary to the navy for home protection, passed through this section [Dare County] last week on his way south. In a general conversation he informed the writer that the auxiliary gunboat "Kemp" is now being fitted out for coast patrol duty. She will be stationed at Teach's Hole, at Ocracoke, and will make frequent cruises between Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout. Commodore S. Barsey Casey, Retired, will be in command of the Kemp, and after enlisting a sufficient number of the patriotic young men of Ocracoke to man his ship he will organize and arm those who are left to patrol and guard the coast. It is now to be hoped that the good people of Ocracoke may 'Worship under their own vine and fig tree' where no Spaniard comes to molest or 'Don' makes them afraid...."

Spanish Vessel, Alfonso XIII















This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Lachlan Howard's essay about the Fresnel Lens and its use in theater, solar ovens, cameras, and industry, as well as lighthouse illumination. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/the-fresnel-lens/.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Rev. Fitts

Rev. Robert Nicholson Fitts (1881-1971) served as preacher at the Ocracoke Methodist Church, South, from 1929 to 1932.


















His granddaughter shared this story of Rev. Fitts' time on Ocracoke:

"It was on Ocracoke that my grandfather got his sailing lesson. He was on his way home, wearing his only suit, when Wahab Howard convinced him to go sailing. Robert was reluctant, but gave in. They were out in Silver Lake and over went the boat. The story changed, depending on who told it. Wahab swore he didn't tip it on purpose but knows the preacher tried to climb up the mast as they were going over. Robert, however, was positive Wahab had dumped them on purpose. At age 91, Mr. Tommy Howard (Wahab's father) would still split his side laughing as he described the preacher walking up the road dripping wet."

The Ladies Aid Society organized a fund-raiser. They showed a movie one night and collected enough money to buy Preacher Fitts a second suit!

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Lachlan Howard's essay about the Fresnel Lens and its use in theater, solar ovens, cameras, and industry, as well as lighthouse illumination. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/the-fresnel-lens/.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Herman & Flossie Spencer

Yesterday I shared this OPS picture of the Island Inn & JoKo Gallery. The photo was made about 1973 or 1974.














One of the OPS staff asked me about the white house in the left background, where Spencer's Market is today. That was the home of Herman and Flossie Spencer. Some of our long-time visitors will remember that Herman and Flossie were the parents of Gaynelle Tillett (d. 2018, https://ocracokeobserver.com/2018/05/06/gaynelle-spencer-tillett-an-ocracoke-brand/), and grandparents of Ricky Tillett. When the property was sold, the house was moved to make room for the present development. The house is now located just a short distance away. It is painted red, and has been converted to Sorella's Pizza & Pasta restaurant.

In the early 1970s Ocracoke had no municipal water system. Residents and businesses were collecting rain water from their roofs and storing it in cisterns next to their houses for drinking and cooking. We built our home/business (Village Craftsmen) on Howard Street at that time, knowing that "city water" would soon be coming to the village. So we did not build a cistern. We simply put a large galvanized tub on the back porch and periodically filled it with a garden hose from my parents' house.

We had just started filling the tub when our neighbor, Herman Spencer, stopped by to show us some small birds he had carved. He was in his late '60s at the time, and had been supplying us with a few of his carvings. We invited Herman into the store, and took a look at his birds. We couldn't afford to buy them all, so we sorted through them, asked how much he wanted for them, and chose several. He was in no hurry, so we chatted and shared a few stories. Finally we wrote him a check, put the rest of his birds back in his box, and walked him to the back door..

As he was getting ready to open the door he turned to us with that typical Ocracoke Island nonchalance and dry wit, and said, "I reckon that tub is about filled up by now."

Of course, the tub had been running over for quite some time! Herman just casually walked back home.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Lachlan Howard's essay about the Fresnel Lens and its use in theater, solar ovens, cameras, and industry, as well as lighthouse illumination. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/the-fresnel-lens/.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

The Island Inn

Recently the staff of the Ocracoke Preservation Museum discovered this undated photo on a thumb drive.














The building on the right is the Island Inn. The photo was taken about 1973 or 1974. Sometime around 1960 entrepreneur Doward Brugh had purchased the old Odd Fellows Lodge/Silver Lake Inn/Wahab Coffee Shop and re-named it the Island Inn. He owned the inn for only a few years. Pennsylvania natives, George and Emilie Wilkes were the next owners. They operated the inn from about 1965 to 1970, then sold the inn to Bill and Helen Styron.

JoKo, a popular artist who owned property on the island, decorated the dining room in a piratical-nautical theme. Walls were stained to look like the inside of a sailing ship, fishing nets and buoys were hung from the ceiling, and two large paintings (one of Blackbeard holding his severed head in his hands, and a beach scene) adorned the end walls. A small gallery selling JoKo's prints was established in the Inn.

I am wondering if any of our readers remember when Bill & Helen Styron owned the Island Inn.

Earlier this year I wrote a history of the Island Inn. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/island-inn-lodge-no-194-independent-order-odd-fellows/.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Lachlan Howard's essay about the Fresnel Lens and its use in theater, solar ovens, cameras, and industry, as well as lighthouse illumination. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/the-fresnel-lens/.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

John Pike

John Pike's name surfaces on Ocracoke in the early 19th century. The first mention of him is in the 1830 census. He is listed as Head of Household with two other males and two females living with him. He owned fifteen slaves. In 1840 one more female is listed in the household. the number of slaves is not given.

Not until the 1850 census are names and occupations listed. In that year John Pike (born in Connecticut), age 64, is listed with Emma W. Pike (50 years old, and presumably his wife), George W. Pike (28 years old, probably a son), and Hester K. Pike (21 years old, probably either John & Emma's daughter or George's wife). John is identified as a merchant; and George, a clerk. We know that John Pike owned and operated a general store that was located somewhere along the soundside shore in the vicinity of the present-day National Park Service Visitors Center and parking lot. Nearby was his home and garden.

Captain John Pike was also the owner and master of several schooners. Following is a list of his vessels:

SPARTON -- Schooner, built in Plymouth, Mass, in 1825. 1 deck, 2 masts, 62 ft. long, 19 f t, - wide, 6 f t deep. 508 tons. Owner: John Pike and William Howard. Master: John Pike.

MARY -- Schooner, built in New Bern, NC, 1837. l deck, 2 masts, 69 FT. long, 21 ft. wide, 7 ft. deep 96 tons. Owner & Master: John Pike.

MANUNECK -- Enrolled at Ocracoke, 1849. 49 ft,. long. Owner: John Pike. Master: Josephus Fulcher.

MANUMIT -- Schooner, Enrolled at Ocracoke, 1855/1856. 58 ft long. Owner: George Pike (3/4) and John Pike (1/4). Master: A. B. Howard.

THOMAS COX - Enrolled at Ocracoke, 1825. Master: John Pike 

MARY - 1840. Enrolled at Ocracoke. Owner & Master: John Pike

UNION - 1840. Enrolled at Ocracoke. Owner: John Pike

Two other vessels are connected with Ocracoke as well as with a Robert Pike. Robert Pike is not listed in any Ocracoke census.

COLLECTOR - Enrolled New Bern 24 Jan 1822, 74 ton, surrendered Plymouth 28 Oct.1823. Owner & Master: Robert Pike.

OLIVIA COX - 1827. 99 ton. Original Owner: Thomas Cox. Master: Robert Pike. 1828. New Owner & Master: Robert P.ike. 


In 1835 Ocracoke resident, Wilson Tilmon Farrow, Sr., wrote a lengthy letter to an attorney in Boston, requesting his help regarding a "rascality" on Ocracoke that had something to do with the "robbing" of a vessel. Islanders somehow involved in this affair included William Howard (grandson of Ocracoke's first William Howard), his son-in-law Captain Elijah Chase, Captain John Pike, and Jacob Gaskill (Ocracoke's Justice of the Peace). A transcript of a portion of Farrow's letter follows:

"Swanquarter
"March the 16, 1835

"Mr. W. D. Sohier

"Dear Sir, I received a commission from you some time ago but have not received any notes from the opposite party. I have some doubt they mean to keep it back as long as they can to prevent our procuring such evidence as we may need. I therefore wish you to proceed to get the evidence from New York as I before instructed you. The deposition of New York are strong against Howard, Pike & Gaskins. We must be sure to have them....

"Yours respectfully, — Tilmon Farrow"

In 1837 John Pike was the Notary at the Port of Ocracoke, Justice of the Peace and Wreck Master. In a dispute with William Howard over their respective actions during rescue and salvage operations after the wreck of the steamboat Home, William Howard accused John Pike, “through his influence and money” of rescuing “a murderer from the gallows merely for the sake of gain.” Presumably this refers to John Pike’s involvement in the murder trial of Jacob Gaskill (see https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/murder-on-ocracoke/).

There appear to have been other accusations against John Pike. Soon after the wreck of the Home, on November 2, 1837, he penned a letter to James Bergen, Esq., which was published in the New Y.ork Express:

"Dear Sir: -- Some of the New York papers have published a statement purporting to have been made by Mr. Hiram Force, as to the loss of the Home, and to the conduct of the inhabitants of Ocracoke, and myself particularly. On reading the annexed article you will perceive how utterly false the charges are, and learn, if you do not know it already, the baseness of the person from whom they emanated. From what I have seen and heard, I have reason to believe many of the charges made against other persons, are unfounded, and will prove so. A long personal acquaintance with you, induces me to avail himself of your aid in placing my statement before the pubblic [sic], and I am confident that the knowledge you have had of me in relation to wrecked property, and to Insurance business, will enable you to vouch for my character, and I hope many of your merchants can do the same."

John Pike and his wife are mentioned in a comment by Joseph Francis Daly in his 1917 book, The Life of Augustin Daly. He relates that in September, 1841, his father, Captain Denis Daly, set sail from Plymouth, NC, in the Union, a vessel loaded with lumber. Captain Daly succumbed to a fever, and died on Ocracoke. According to Joseph Daly, "Captain Pike and his wife showed [Daly's widow] every attention and gave her full particulars of all that had taken place.... [Capt. Daly] was interred in a plot set apart for burials in Captain Pike's garden. The ravages of wind and wave have devoured the shore line and buried the little cemetery beneath the waters of the Sound."

On December 31, 1846 John Pike was appointed Postmaster at Ocracoke. He served until August 16, 1848.

The last mention of John Pike in the Ocracoke census records is in 1850. In fact, no Pikes are listed in any local records after that date, and there is no record of any Pikes that are buried on Ocracoke Island. John Pike was a prominent citizen (Justice of the Peace, Notary, and Wreck Master), and of considerable means (He was a slave owner as well as owner and master of several schooners). In spite of several web sites with extensive information about the Pike family (in New England, North Carolina, and elsewhere) I have been unable to discover any further information about John Pike's birth family, why he settled on Ocracoke, or what happened to him or his family after 1850. He simply appeared here sometime before 1830, became a well-known member of the community, and disappeared after 1850. It is all very curious!

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Lachlan Howard's essay about the Fresnel Lens and its use in theater, solar ovens, cameras, and industry, as well as lighthouse illumination. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/the-fresnel-lens/

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Waterfowl Hunting

Waterfowl hunting has been a popular winter sport on Ocracoke for more than a century. In 1910 the "Book of the Royal Blue," a magazine published monthly by the Passenger Department of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, ran an article titled “Winter Sport in Virginia and North Carolina.” It was an excerpt from an article in “Field and Stream,” by H.C. Herring, M.D., an avid hunter.

“What about geese and ducks? You always bring back a lot. Where do you go?” was a question put to Dr. Herring by an acquaintance.

Dr. Herring's answer: "I told him there was only one section which would completely answer all demands of the amateur and professional sportsman, and that was on the Island of Ocracoke. To supply the necessary information  I turned to a map of North Carolina and placed my finger on a little island, midway between Capes Lookout and Hatteras, where could be found more fowl from November until March than at any other point in America."



















You can read the entire article here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/hunting-ducks-geese-1910/.

If you are interested in modern-day waterfowl hunting on Ocracoke do an internet search for "Waterfowl Hunting Ocracoke." There you can find web sites for a number of Ocracoke hunting guides.

Setting Decoys in Pamlico Sound















And if you are a successful hunter, you might want to use this recipe from the 1950s and 1960s Ocracoke Cook Book:

Stewed Wild Goose

1/4 lb. salt pork
1/4 cup flour
8 potatoes, halved
Corn dumplings or drop pastry dumplings
Cut-up goose
Salt & pepper
Pod of red pepper

In large pot fry out salt pork until light brown, add flour slightly browned, add cut up fowl. Add salt, pepper, pod red pepper, and enough water to cover. Cook until tender then add potatoes and corn dumplings. Lay dumplings in top or add drop dumplings when nearly done.

-- Mrs. Eva Williams (1892-1972)

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Lachlan Howard's essay about the Fresnel Lens and its use in theater, solar ovens, cameras, and industry, as well as lighthouse illumination. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/the-fresnel-lens/

Monday, November 05, 2018

Ocracoke Ponies

Although more than 300 Banker Ponies (actually small horses) once roamed wild over Ocracoke Island, today only a small remnant herd remains, cared for by volunteers and staff of the National Park Service.

Former Park Ranger Jim Henning was one of the first people to investigate the origin of the ponies. According to Jean Day in her 1997 book, Banker Ponies, an endangered species, Henning "identified several physical characteristics of the Spanish mustangs in the horses. They have fewer lumber vertebrae than the average horse, have five to ten times greater bone density than most horses and are able to carry heavy weights. Their wide foreheads and short, strong necks and beautiful flowing manes and tails are also characteristic of the Spanish mustang."


















This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Lachlan Howard's essay about the Fresnel Lens and its use in theater, solar ovens, cameras, and industry, as well as lighthouse illumination. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/the-fresnel-lens/.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Lamb in His Bosom

Earlier this fall a friend suggested I read Caroline Miller's 1933 novel, Lamb in His Bosom. The novel chronicles the lives of a pre-Civil War, non-slaveholding rural Georgia family.

I was struck by several words in the rural Georgia antebellum dialect that were similar or identical to words still in use on Ocracoke today (although mostly by older native islanders). Here are four of them:
  • Give-y -- "Vince would come in with his cowhide boots caked in mud, and give-y with wet...." (Clothes hung out on a clothesline can get stiff when dry; they are described as "give-y" when still damp.)
  • Lightsome -- "...it was...red as the sky's coloring, lightsome as the wanton burst of down from a thistle's bloom...." (Ocracokers use "some" as a post-positional adverb in place of the adverb "very." E.g. "It's cold some today!" or "She is pretty some!")
  • Cunning --  "...the creek...flowed into the river's cunning serpent way that would in time seek out the sea." (Older Ocracokers use "cunning," not as "deceitful," but meaning "attractive," "quaint," or "clever.")
  • Doset -- "[She] took a doset morning, noon and night." (On the island a doset [rhymes with "toast"] is not only a quantity of medicine, but also an infection or other illness. Islanders also use the word as a verb. E.g. "He was doasted right!" 
  • Zilphey -- "She named Zilfey Trent for her mother's dead mother in Carolina." (Zilphia was an Ocracoke Howard family name in the mid-19th century.  Although never a very common name, it was more popular 150-200 years ago. Today only one in every 185,000 babies is named Zilphia.
This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Lachlan Howard's essay about the Fresnel Lens and its use in theater, solar ovens, cameras, and industry, as well as lighthouse illumination. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/the-fresnel-lens/.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Augustus S. Merrimon

There is something about Ocracoke, on the coast of North Carolina, and the Asheville area, about 500 miles west, in the mountains of North Carolina, that attracts kindred spirits. Maybe it's the uniqueness of the places, the isolation (an island served by ferries, and small settlements in the hollers), or the natural beauty of sea and mountains. Whatever it is, many island residents enjoy sojourns to the mountains, and vice versa.

If you frequent Asheville, you've probably noticed Merrimon Avenue, one of the primary roads in the city. It was named for Augustus Summerfield Merrimon (1830-1892), an attorney who was a public servant in Asheville prior to the Civil War, and then served as a U.S. Senator from 1873 to 1879 and as Chief Justice of North Carolina’s Supreme Court from 1889 until his death.

August S. Merrimon













Although Merrimon was opposed to secession, he joined the Confederate Army in 1861. During his time in the army he served in eastern North Carolina where he made a name for himself. 

Augustus Merrimon was the inspiration for the name of a small unincorporated community in coastal Carteret County. Merrimon (population ca. 650), originally called Adams Creek, was named for Augustus S. Merrimon in 1881 by an admirer, Edward F. Carroway, the community’s first postmaster.

During the Civil War Merrimon also served at Confederate forts at Hatteras and Ocracoke. As it turned out, Fort Ocracoke was never completed or fully manned, and was abandoned when Union forces advanced on Ocracoke and Portsmouth islands in the fall of 1861. Little is known about Meerrimon's duties while at Ocracoke, although we can speculate that he might have been as impressed with the natural beauty as are modern residents and visitors.

You can read more about Augustus Sumerfield Merrimon here: https://northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/augustus-s-merrimon-1830-1892/.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is Lachlan Howard's essay about the Fresnel Lens and its use in theater, solar ovens, cameras, and industry, as well as lighthouse illumination. You can read it here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/the-fresnel-lens/.