Friday, November 30, 2018

Nags Head, 1849

In 2014 I wrote a Newsletter about Steamships and Ocracoke. Because steamships facilitated travel to the Outer Banks, Nags Head began to develop as a resort area in the nineteenth century. By 1885 a significant number of well-heeled North Carolinians had discovered Ocracoke Island. However, by then Nags Head had been a favorite resort area for half a century.

David Stick has compiled several historical accounts of life on the coast of North Carolina in his 1998 book, An Outer Banks Reader. He includes excerpts from an 1849 diary recounting a tutor's time in Nags Head. The tutor, George Higby Throop, writes that "planters, merchants, and professional men" and their families make up the majority of visitors to Nags Head. Unmarried men take up residence in a large hotel. Families spend the summer in "snug cottages" outfitted with the "more common articles of household furniture" as well as "one or more horses, a cow, and such vehicles as are fitted for use on sandy roads; a buggy sometimes, but oftener a cart.... One, two, three, sometimes half a dozen servants accompany the family."

Nags Head's "Unpainted Aristocracy"

After reading that account no one has reason to cast a critical eye toward present-day visitors who arrive on the Outer Banks with trailers loaded with kayaks, bicycles, lawn chairs, and coolers of beer. I have yet to see anyone bringing a horse or a cow!

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a chapter from Philip Howard's book, Digging up Uncle Evans, about the 1837 wreck of the Steamboat Home, one of the most horrific wrecks ever on the North Carolina coast. You can read it here:

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