Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Portsmouth Island Schools

Education was an important part of community life on Portsmouth Island from soon after its first settlement. A chart of the coast of North Carolina between Cape Hatteras and Cape Fear from a survey taken in 1806 by Thomas Coles and Jonathan Price, clearly shows an "Academy" in Portsmouth village (click on the map to enlarge; the academy, a two-story building with chimneys on each end, is pictured at the bottom left).

1806 Map & Chart

Another schoolhouse was located on the "Straight Road" about half-way between Portsmouth and Sheep Island (Sheep Island is just to the west of Portsmouth village).

School on Straight Road (Cape Lookout Seashore Collection)

 The last schoolhouse stands yet today, managed by the Cape Lookout National Seashore.

Present-day Schoolhouse

In 1894 Portsmouth school students numbered 75. In 1903 there were 52 students. The school population had declined to 24 by 1916. In 1942 there were only two students. When one of the students moved off the island in 1943 the school was closed. The last residents left the island in 1971.

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: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/the-1837-wreck-of-the-steamboat-home/.

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