Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The "Best" Story

Ellen Marie Cloud (1940-2016) compiled a small book documenting eighteen historic Ocracoke family names. One of the more colorful chapters is titled "The 'Best' Story."

Capt. James Best (1791-1846) appears to have been born at Davis Island, NC (in Carteret County). About 1820 Capt. Best married Ocracoke native Nancy Howard (1801-1857). Presumably the couple met when Capt. Best was sailing to the Port of Ocracoke. They made their home on Ocracoke in the vicinity of Pamlico Sound, at North Pond.

When he was 28 years old Capt. Best purchased a 54 ton schooner, "Louisa." In 1844 he and his father-in-law, William Howard, purchased a schooner named "Little John."

Although the Bests never had any children, all indications indicate that Nancy Best longed for children. The Bests, however, were sufficiently well-to-do to have a housekeeper, a young woman who did the laundry, scrubbed the floors, and polished the silverware. Her name was Ann Scarborough, and she was fourteen years younger than Capt. Best. As sometimes happens, the man of the family and the hired help found themselves attracted to each other. In 1838 Ann Scarborough gave birth to a son, Capt. Best's only child.  Ann named him Thaddeus Constantine Scarborough.

Five years later, in 1843, Ann Scarborough, who never married, died. In her will she designated James Best guardian of their son. James and Nancy Best willingly accepted care of young Thaddeus. Unfortunately, Capt. Best died three years later. Nancy Best continued in her role as mother to eleven-year-old Thaddeus.

Nancy Howard Best's tombstone reads, "She was, but words are wanting to say what. Think what a wife should be: She was that."

Descendants of Constantine Thaddeus Scarborough (and, thus, of Capt. Best) continue to live on Ocracoke today. 

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/

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