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
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:
"March the 16, 1835
"Mr. W. D. Sohier
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/.