Thursday, August 08, 2019

Post Office

In 1952 Ocracoke's postmaster, Elizabeth O’Neal Howard, and her husband Wahab Howard, built a new, 18’ X 24’, 432 square foot post office.  The new post office had 150 lock boxes. It was situated near the old store/original post office that dated from the late 1700s. (You can see the roof of the old building on the right side of the photo below.)

Ocracoke Post Office, ca. 1957

A brick Post Office replaced the 1952 building in 1967. In 1997 the Post Office was relocated to its present site on NC12 across from Howard's Pub. A few years later the 1957 building was moved and turned into a rental cottage, and the 1967 building was repurposed as a gift shop.

I wonder how many of our readers can tell me where the 1957 Post Office originally stood, and where it is now located, and which gift shop occupies the brick building. Please leave a comment if you know.


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."  

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

In Celebration of a Small Town

In 1980 Ocracoke had about 650 people living here. Today the population is about 1,000 residents....still a small town.

A few days ago I was perusing a number of old island newspapers, and was amused by a 1980 article, "Ocracoke Welcomes New People." The focus of the article was five different people/families who had recently moved to the island. This is what the paper had to say about where they were living (the last one is my favorite):
  • She lives in the Dave Beveridge trailer.
  • They live near Jimmy Jackson.
  • He is staying with Mrs. Boos.
  • They are living in the Eleanor Gaskins house.
  • The have built a new house "up Trent" where Dan and Jean Robinson used to live.
Of course virtually everyone reading the article understood where the new residents were living. This is part of what makes living in a small town so wonderful.


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit." 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Drum Fish

Last week I published a link to David Cecelski's on-line article about the connection between Ocracoke and Philadelphia. In that article Cecelski mentions "Old Drum," a quintessential island dish prepared from channel bass, potatoes, onions, boiled eggs, and cracklings.

He writes, "According to Blanche [Howard Jolliff], the Ocracokers in Philly had a special fondness for the bars along Delaware Avenue. So, she told me, an old saying was that if somebody ran down Delaware Avenue yelling “Old drum! Old drum!” a crowd would have poured into the street!" (Read the entire article at

As fate would have it, soon after the article was written I was given a goodly portion of channel bass (drum) and blue fish. A traditional Sunday evening dinner resulted:

You might want to try it sometime. Here is Danny & Margaret Garrish's recipe as printed in the Ocracoke Cookbook:

The "ceremony:" Boil drum in lightly salted water until it flakes. In another pot, boil about 2 medium potatoes per person. Hard boil 2 eggs per person. Dice a good size bowl of onions. Dice and fry-out (render) salt pork until brown and crunchy.

Assemble at the table, fixing each plate individually. Mash potatoes with fork, flake drum in with potatoes and sprinkle generously with diced onion. Add salt, pepper and chop up the hard boiled egg in the mixture, adding a good helping of cracklings and grease. Sprinkle with vinegar if desired. Enjoy!

Be sure to mix enough on the first plate. Somehow the second plateful never tastes as good as the first. Never plan anything for a couple of hours after you eat this. Just slide under the table and rest a spell. Don't forget the baked cornbread and lots of butter.


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."    

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Ocracoke and Philadelphia

Two and a half years ago I wrote, "Visitors to Ocracoke are often surprised to learn that many island families have connections with Philadelphia and the surrounding area. "

Delaware Avenue, Philadelphia, 1905

You can read that blog post here:

Just last week, noted award-wining North Carolina historian, David Cecelski, wrote a much more thorough and illuminating article detailing the many connections between Ocracoke and Philadelphia. You can read that article here:


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."   

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Homer Howard House, ca. 1903

Just a few days ago my cousin Lorie gave me this vintage photo of my house. I had never seen it before.

(Click to enlarge)

Sitting in the rocking chair on the left is my grandfather, Homer Howard (1968-1947); in the rocker on the right is my grandmother, Aliph O'Neal Howard (1876-1950). My grandfather appears to be in his mid-30s; my grandmother, in her mid-20s. My uncle, James Enoch, was born in January, 1903. If he is the baby in the picture, my grandmother would have been 27 years old, and my grandfather, 35 years old. In 1903 my uncle Marvin (the young boy in the photo?) was 6 six years old, and my aunt Agatha (one of the two girls?) was nine years old. I don't have a guess about who the other girl might be.

There are several interesting details in this photo. My father (Lawton, b. 1911) always told me he understood there was at one time an open porch on the back of the house (where the kitchen is today; originally the kitchen was a separate building behind the house), but did not remember it. If you enlarge the photo you can clearly see the open porch.

We believe the house was built about 1865. In this photo the windows have "six over six" sashes (six lights or panes in each sash), a typical 19th century arrangement. Later the windows were replaced with two over two sashes, a style that did not become popular until the late 1800s/early 1900s.

The four dark objects on the roof are not holes or openings; they are handmade "roof jacks" used to provide safe footing while installing or repairing a sloped roof. Note the wooden scaffolding on the far side of the house. 

Below is a photo of the house today: 


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."   

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

William Howard

From 1717 to the summer of 1718 William Howard served as quartermaster (senior officer) of Blackbeard's crew.

Lt. Robert Maynard and his Royal Navy sailors defeated Blackbeard in a naval battle at Ocracoke on November 22, 1718.  After the battle the sixteen surviving pirates (Blackbeard was killed, so was not among them) were taken to Virginia to stand trial. According to most accounts, all but two were convicted and hanged by the neck.* Samuel Odel was released because he just happened to be aboard Blackbeard's ship and was not actually a member of the pirate crew. Israel Hands, former sailing master, was pardoned, perhaps because he had been crippled by a gunshot from Blackbeard some time before the final battle.

In 1759 William Howard purchased Ocracoke Island. Most historians and scholars believe William Howard, owner of Ocracoke Island, was the same William Howard who had served as Blackbeard's quartermaster. But how could William Howard the pirate have purchased Ocracoke if all of Blackbeard's crew (with the exception of Samuel Odel and Israel Hands) were either killed in the battle of Ocracoke or hanged in Virginia?

As it turns out, William Howard had departed Blackbeard's company in July or August, 1718. Shortly thereafter he was among those seen in taverns in coastal Virginia. Alexander Spotswood, Governor of Virginia, had William Howard seized as a vagrant seaman having no lawful business in Virginia.

Public Gaol, Williamsburg
Image Source:

Criminal proceedings were instituted against him. In spite of employing John Holloway, "one of the chief lawyers" of the colony, Howard was tried without a jury, and convicted of "Pyracy and Robbery" on the High Seas.

William Howard was found guilty of piracy and sentenced to be hanged. Fortunately for him, on the night before his scheduled execution the king's Act of Grace (pardon for all piratical acts committed before July 23, 1718) arrived in Williamsburg. William Howard was released...good news for all residents of Ocracoke who can trace their roots to William Howard!  


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."   

*Kevin Duffus, author of The Last Days of Black Beard the Pirate, contends that most of Black Beard’s captured crew members were not hanged in Virginia and that several returned to their communities in eastern North Carolina. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Col. Frederick A. Olds

Frederick Augustus Olds (1853-1935)  was a North Carolina historian, newspaper columnist, lecturer, and editor who was an early advocate of preserving and sharing the history of North Carolina and her people.

In a new book by Larry E. Tise, Circa 1903, North Carolina's Outer Banks at the Dawn of Flight, the author devotes Chapter 6 ("A Jaunt Around the Carolina Coast") to the 1908 recollections of Col. Frederick A. Olds.

According to Tise, Olds describes Ocracoke's "snowy white lighthouse," mentions the Doxsee Clam factory, and comments on the island's competing Northern and Southern Methodist churches. He is also fascinated by the "refreshing...broad dialect" of the locals.

Olds was one of the early writers to observe that the residents of Ocracoke and other Outer Banks villages were "the only North Carolinians who had the privilege 'of seeing the sun rise from and set in the water....'"

Look for Tise's book in your local library or independent book store. 


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."  

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Mr. Stacy Howard's Cool House/Little Free Library

Ocracoke Island just acquired its first Little Free Library. The Library is installed in the front yard of Village Craftsmen on Howard Street.

This Little Free Library is a re-purposed cool house (sometimes called a milk house or a screen house) originally built by Ocracoke native, Mr. Stacy Howard (1885-1968), in 1925.

Cool houses were used to help preserve food (fish, salt pork, eggs, milk, fruits and vegetables) before the electrification of the island in 1938.

This Cool House was restored recently by Philip Howard, owner of Village Craftsmen. This is a public book exchange. When you are on the island please stop by to visit the library. You are welcome to take a book to read or leave one for someone else to find.

We like to think that Mr. Stacy, who was an avid reader, would be pleased to see his cool house used today to promote reading. 

Here are a few more photos (compliments of Tom Baxter) of us moving the cool house/library to its permanent site:


You can read more about the Cool House, and see more photos here:

Monday, May 13, 2019

Lighthouse Plan, 1892

I thought our readers would enjoy seeing this detailed 1892 plan of the Ocracoke Lighthouse.

Look carefully to see the design of the original spiral wooden stairs that were connected to the inner wall of the light tower. The current metal staircase replaced the wooden stairs in about 1950.

In 1853 the outdated illuminating apparatus was changed to an Incandescent Oil Vapor (I.O.V.) lamp, a fourth order Fresnel lens was installed, the revolving light was changed to a fixed light, and the original bird cage lantern room was replaced with the current prefabricated lantern room.

For a comprehensive history of the Ocracoke Lighthouse click here.


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."  

Friday, May 03, 2019

Ocracoke, Early 20th Century

The following is an excerpt from a 1949 letter published in the North Carolina Historical Review:

"[Ocracoke] island is covered with heavy sand and only jeeps can navigate. Several natives have them and provide taxi service to visitors....

"Between Ocracoke village and Hatteras the terrain is bleak -- the sea on one side, the sound on the other, less than a mile separating them. All along the beach are remnants of wrecks -- one called the 'ghost ship' is still partially intact. Offshore one sees the masts of wreckage extending above the water level at low tide. The heat was terrific -- no trees -- just wild grass here and there. There was a flock of wild horses on a path of grass at the end of the island. We were told that they dig in the sand with their forepaws to expose surface water when they are thirsty. Each home had a rain barrel under the eaves -- their source of drinking water....

"The south point of Ocracoke near Ocracoke Inlet is less desert-like than the country between it and Hatteras Inlet, but there are a number of sand dunes."

Below is a detail from an 1883 Coast Chart of Pamlico Sound. The topography of Ocracoke did not change dramatically until the 1950s when NC12 was constructed and the continuous row of barrier dunes was built between the highway and the ocean. In the image below notice "The Plains," a large area of un-vegetated sand reaching nearly to the lighthouse.


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."  

Friday, April 26, 2019

Chocolate Easter Egg

For many generations Ocracoke Island women made chocolate eggs at Easter, then gave them away to family and friends. Unfortunately the tradition is slowly dying. Only a few islanders still make the eggs. I was fortunate to receive one a few days ago!


 If you have a sweet tooth, and want to make your own Ocracoke chocolate egg, here is Ms. Wilma Williams' (1909-1990) recipe:

2 pkgs. powdered sugar
1/2 lb. butter
Sm. jar maraschino cherries, cut up, and their juice
1 sm. can coconut
About 1/2 c. chopped nuts
1/2 box raisins
1 8 oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate squares

Put sugar in a bowl. Work in softened butter; add nuts, raisins, coconut and cherries. Add cherry juice slowly until mixture can be molded into egg shapes. If it gets too soft, add more sugar. Set egg shapes on waxed paper. Chill. Melt chocolate in double boiler and spoon over cool eggs on waxed paper; chill. When chocolate is hard, eggs may be decorated with icing, small candied fruits or candy.


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."  

Monday, April 22, 2019

Capt. Myron A. Garrish

We have published another Ocracoke Newsletter, the story of Ocracoke native, Capt. Myron A. Garrish.

Capt. Myron died in 1929, and is buried across the street from Village Craftsmen, along Howard Street.

Capt. Myron's house on Howard Street is now owned by Bob and Kathy Phillips, and has been rehabilitated as a rental cottage.


You can read the Newsletter here:


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit." 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Honor and Morals

I recenttly finished reading Brad Melzer and Josh Mensch's book, The First Conspiracy, The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington. I was reminded of some of the reason's Washington is so revered even today. Although our first president was at times embroiled in controversy (click here to read about the John Jay Treaty) he is almost universally regarded for his character and sense of honor. Melzer and Mensch comment on his "values of integrity, duty, and trust." For example, when Washington's name was proffered as a candidate for the command of the Continental army, he  simply disappeared. The book's authors report that he didn't "want it to look in any way as if he [was] hoping to win the position out of vanity or arrogance, or that he [was] somehow suggesting his own superiority over the others."

With that said, George Washington, can also be described as having feet of cay (see Daniel 2:31–33) since in his younger years "he seemed to have no problem profiting from [slavery], a practice we now regard as a moral atrocity." Nevertheless, "within a few years, [Washington] comes to believe that slavery is morally incompatible with the American ideals he and so many others fought for."

Reading these words reminded me of our 2011 Ocracoke Newsletter article about Slavery on Ocracoke. It explains the conflicted and complicated racial relationships on the antebellum Outer Banks, and illustrates changes in attitudes and behaviors over time.


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."    

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Ghost Story?

Ocracoke native, Capt. Thomas Franklin Gaskins (1854-1948), was known for his sartorial elegance. In retirement he almost always dressed in suit and tie, then walked down to Big Ike's store every morning to socialize with friends and neighbors. Tom Franks, as he was known to everyone, dreamed every night...vivid and sometimes disturbing dreams of his wife and daughter who had died years before.

One morning Tom Franks explained that Annie, his deceased wife who was extremely thin, and his daughter, Julia, were tormenting him from under the house. They had even come into his bedroom during the night and frightened him!

"How did they get in?" one of the men sitting around the pot-bellied stove asked.

"They came right through the cracks in the floor," Tom Franks explained, as he cast a bewildered look towards his questioner.

"Hell," exclaimed the quick-witted Oscar Jackson, "Miss Annie could have done that while she was still alive!"


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."   

Monday, April 01, 2019

Hatteras Ferries

I wonder if anyone has noticed the new electronic devices recently attached to some of the pilot houses on the state's ferries. It seems that the NC Department of Transportation, Ferry Division, has ambitious plans for the 2019 season.

According to the latest information, beginning next month, selected Hatteras Inlet ferries will be crossing with a state-of-the-art autonomous navigation system developed by Google.

As the director of the Ferry Division explained, "All of our ferries are already equipped with the latest navigational devices...compasses, radar, depth finders, and GPS." It was relatively simple to add autonomous capability."  And, unlike the complicated and ever-changing situations on our nation's highways, the route between Hatteras and Ocracoke is pretty straightforward. The channels are clearly marked, and the routes are already entered into the GPS database.   

The only serious issue was fully integrating the electronic data into the mechanical operation of the vessels, such as throttles and bow thrusters. This was critical for being able to properly dock the ferries, especially in windy conditions. 

It may not be too far-fetched to envision a time in the near future when the ferries will only require deckhands to tie the vessels to the docks. Even directing traffic on and off the ferries will probably be accomplished with electronic signs and traffic lights. 

For more information scroll to the bottom of the page.


April Fool! Don't be concerned....Just kidding.

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Ocracoke School Song

A few days ago, Sundae Horn, our local community librarian, sent me a copy of the sheet music for “The Ocracoke School Song.” Arnold Sundgaard wrote the words; Alec Wilder composed the music.

With the annual PTA Variety Show coming up, Sundae thought it would be fun for the kids to revive the song that she remembers hearing students sing once about fifteen years ago. Principal Leslie Cole located a copy in the school files and shared it with Sundae, who asked me, “Any idea who Arnold Sundgaard was?”

Not only did I have no idea who Arnold Sundgaard was, I had never seen or heard of the song.

As it turns out, the story is quite interesting. Sundgaard was a nationally recognized American playwright, librettist, and lyricist.Wilder was a prominent composer.

You can read the story of how two nationally known artists came to create "The Ocracoke School Song" and download the complete sheet music from our latest Ocracoke Newsletter at


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."  

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Old Quawk's Day

Although tomorrow, (March 17) is St. Patrick's Day, today (March 16) has traditionally been more recognized on Ocracoke Island. This is Old Quawk's Day. Almost every year I relate the legend of Old Quawk. 

About 200 years ago there lived on Ocracoke Island a fisherman of indeterminate provenance. He was a reclusive figure, preferring to live in a small hut made of driftwood and bullrushes about 5-6 miles from the village. No one remembers his given name, but folks called him "Old Quawk" because, they said, he "quawked" like an old night heron.

Old Quawk was a bold fisherman, often venturing out into Pamlico Sound in his sail skiff when cautious islanders stayed in port waiting for more propitious weather.

On this date, March 16, many years past, Old Quawk made his last voyage into Pamlico Sound. Storm clouds were piling up in the darkening sky.

Legend has it that Old Quawk defiantly disregarded the warnings of other islanders, raised his clenched fist to the heavens and dared the gods to thwart him, then set out in his sail skiff. A frightful gale churned the Sound into a wild turbulence and swamped Old Quawk's tiny craft. Neither Old Quawk nor his boat were ever found.

For many years Ocracoke fishermen refused to go out in their boats on March 16. Even today it's best to be prudent on Old Quawk's Day. There's no telling what the weather gods will dish out on March 16.

For another account of Old Quawk see


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."       

Monday, March 11, 2019

A Visit to the Clinic

A few years ago a native islander walked into our local clinic and announced that she was suffering from the distemper. The receptionist, who had moved to the island from the mainland, duly noted the complaint as the islander took her seat in the waiting area. But the receptionist was troubled. "I thought only dogs were afflicted with distemper," she said to herself. Curious, she did a bit of research. Soon enough she discovered that distemper is, in fact, "a contagious and serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of puppies and dogs." But still, she thought, maybe it is possible for humans to be infected also. Who knows?

Some days later the receptionist met the islander and inquired about how she was doing. In the course of the conversation the receptionist discovered that her neighbor did not think she was afflicted with a canine malady. Ocracoke islanders, especially of the older generations, use the term "distemper" to mean any troublesome or serious ailment like a bad cold or flu. 

In fact, if you do a thorough search for the definition of distemper you will discover that "ailment" and "disorder" are also listed.

Coincidentally, I was recently reading about early American history. In early 1775 a deadly smallpox epidemic began to sweep through the colonies. By summer and fall this highly contagious disease was threatening to infect soldiers in the Continental Army. Founding Father, John Adams, commented that "The Small Pox is an enemy more terrible in my imagination, than all others. This distemper will be the ruin of every army from New England if great care is not taken."

This is one more example of  how Ocacoke's long isolation from the mainland resulted in the retention of peculiar words and phrases from the colonial period...some still in use in the 21st century.


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."      

Monday, March 04, 2019

A Secret Plot to Kill the President

According to a new book by Brad Melzer and Josh Mensch, The First Conspiracy, The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, New York Governor William Tryon and New York City Mayor David Mathews conspired during the spring and summer of 1776 to kidnap and assassinate George Washington and his chief officers.

I had never heard of this, and I have not yet read the book, but I learned of it from a review in The Week magazine. Although there is some skepticism surrounding the allegations (one reviewer commented that there is "too thin a factual record," and another writes that "it's hard to know if Washington was ever even targeted for assassination.") I am looking forward to reading the book and learning more, especially because William Tryon, a Lieutenant General in the British Army,  had served as the 8th Governor of North Carolina (from 1765-1771) before being appointed to serve as Governor of New York.

There seems to be no doubt that Tryon was a dedicated Loyalist whose policies have been described as savagely brutal. Towards the end of his tenure as NC Governor he was instrumental in suppressing the Regulator Movement (a popular uprising against corrupt colonial officials).

According to the jacket of The First Conspiracy, "This is the story of the secret plot against George Washington and how it was revealed. It is a story of leaders, liars, counterfeiters, and jailhouse confessors. It also shows just how difficult the battle was for George Washington -- and how close America was to losing the war."

Whatever is the truth about William Tryon, his legacy lives on in North Carolina. The town of Tryon is named for him, as is Tryon Hills (a prominent neighborhood in Charlotte), Tryon Road in Raleigh, Tryon Street (one in Burlington, another in Hillsborough), and of course, Tryon Palace in New Bern.


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."     

Monday, February 25, 2019

Etched Goblet

Back in the 1970s finding and identifying old bottles was a popular hobby on Ocracoke. For years, lacking village trash pickup or a community dump, islanders simply buried their trash or tossed bottles and other items behind their houses. It was fun searching for bottles, researching their provenance, and wondering about the lives of those who used them.

In 1973, while clearing the land for the Village Craftsmen, I was proguing* about near where my great uncle Wheeler and aunt Tressie's chicken coop had been when I spied a glass object buried in the sand. I dug it out and discovered a beautiful glass goblet etched with pintail ducks.

At the time there were few resources for identifying the origin of the goblet. But recently, as I was sorting through boxes in the attic I rediscovered the goblet. It is signed "Richard E Bishop." In 2019 it didn't take me long on the computer to learn about Richard Bishop.

Born in Syracuse, New York in 1887, Richard E. Bishop  was a noted artist, painter, and etcher. He graduated from Cornell University and settled in the Philadelphia area where he was a member of various artistic societies and clubs. Bishop was internationally acclaimed for his wildlife prints and etchings. He was the original artist for the Federal Duck Stamp program when it was established in 1936. Bishop died in 1975, just two years after I unearthed the goblet, at the age of 87.

I can only speculate about how a Richard Bishop work of art came to Ocracoke. However, since more than 50 Ocracoke men worked in Philadelphia with the US Army Corps of Engineers in the 20th century, it seems likely that one of them brought the goblet home. At any rate, the goblet is a beautiful reminder of uncle Wheeler and aunt Tressie, and their appreciation for art.

*Proguing is the present participle of progue, which is a variation of the obsolete term "prog" (going back at least to 16th century England & Scotland), meaning to search, prowl about, or forage for food or plunder. On Ocracoke it can be used to mean searching for seafood, or more generally for just poking about or jabbing at something.


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."   

Monday, February 18, 2019

Early 2oth Century Marketing Strategy

In 1937, the Hyde County Board of Commissioners, in response to a petition signed by 132 “citizens, taxpayers, and voters,” passed a resolution to ban the sale of beer on Ocracoke Island. It was not until 1978, when Howard's Pub opened, that beer was again legally for sale on Ocracoke. In the late 1970s an ABC store was established. And only in 2006 was the sale of liquor by the drink approved. Nevertheless, various alcoholic beverages were usually available from local bootleggers. I recently heard the following anecdote from about 1940:

An islander approached J......... B........., one of the local bootleggers, inquiring about purchasing a bottle of liquor.

"You're lucky," J......... replied. "There's been a run on liquor lately, and I only have one bottle left."

After a brief pause, J........... added, "What would you like, rum or vodka?"


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."  

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

East Howard Street

East Howard Street

This picturesque sandy lane is a portion of what was once merely a foot path, but then became the main road through Ocracoke village.

In 1835, petitioners requested permission to lay out a one-lane public thoroughfare on the North side of Cockle Creek, from “just North of Thomas Bragg’s House” (near the present-day School road) to “John Pike’s garden” (in the vicinity of where the OPS Museum is today) and then all the way to the Sound.

In 1957, when the state of North Carolina paved most of the island roads, the eastern end of this road was left untouched. Almost immediately Mr. Stacy Howard nailed a homemade wooden sign to a tree in front of his house and dubbed this "East Howard Street." At that time at least eight Howard families, all descendants of William Howard, Sr., colonial owner of Ocracoke, lived along this street.

Second-Generation Howard Street Sign

In 1759 William Howard, Sr., purchased Ocracoke Island. He was the last of the colonial owners, but the first to call Ocracoke home. Descendants of his son, William, Jr., settled in this area. Five generations of the original Howard family are buried in the several small graveyards along East Howard Street, protected by simple wooden fences.

Eventually the lane became known simply as Howard Street. It is generally only the older generation of islanders who still use Stacy Howard's original designation, East Howard Street.

This past fall the Howard Street sign disappeared. In a spirit of community that is so typical of Ocracoke, several friends and neighbors immediately made new signs.

Howard Street Signs, 2019


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."  

Wednesday, February 06, 2019


A number of years ago I came into possession of a 1976 manuscript that had been housed in the University of Iowa Library system. Titled Epitaphs for Voice Oboe & Harpsicord (or Piano), it was composed by Lewis Phelps, winner of the 1976-1977 Composition Competition of the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors.

Phelps' preface to his compilation of twelve "miniature songs" explains that "Epitaphs, written to extol the virtues of the deceased, often reveal something about the survivors as well, and present an interesting commentary on humankind generally." His compositions use texts that are "actual inscriptions found in cemeteries from New York to Arizona," selected from "American Epitaphs by Charles L. Wallis."

The composer's ninth selection is based on the epitaph (one commentator has called this epitaph a "convoluted tribute") found on the tombstone of Agnes Howard (1780 - 1857), located in the old George Howard cemetery on British Cemetery Road:

"She was!
But words are wanting to say what.
Think what a wife should be.
She was that." 

Agnes Howard Grave Marker on Ocracoke

 The following two pages show Phelps' score for "Agnes Howard":

Phelps explains that "Epitaphs is written for a small one-manual harpsichord with a range of four octaves, 8' and 4' hand-operated stops, with a lute on 8'. When a larger instrument is used, the registration may be adjusted slightly.... Dynamic markings which appear in the keyboard part are intended for piano."

Maybe some of our readers will enjoy playing and singing ("tenderly," advises the author) this song based on the epitaph of Agnes Howard from Ocracoke Island.


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."  

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Hurricane Gloria, 1985

I was cleaning up and organizing a bunch of files and photos the other day....and found these two pictures from September, 1985, after Hurricane Gloria hit Ocracoke.

As you can see from the next photo, the storm tide from Hurricane Gloria has only been exceeded twice since 1985:  Hurricane Alex (2004) and Hurricane Matthew (2016).


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit." 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

1989 Award for Karen Lovejoy

From 1986-2010, The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation annually presented North Carolina citizens with the Nancy Susan Reynolds Awards. The awards, which included a $25,000 payment ($20,000 to be donated to a charity of the recipient's choice; and $5,000 for the recipient) went to individuals in one of three categories –Race Relations (originally designated Community Change), Advocacy, and Personal Service. Recipients were unsung heroes who made an impact in North Carolina communities.

In 1989, Ocracoke resident Karen Lovejoy was honored with the award for Personal Service. The other recipients, pictured below with Karen, were Willie I. Patterson (Community Change), Lowery W. Reid (Community Change) and Leo J. Teachout (Advocacy). 

As part of Karen's nomination process, nearly two dozen island residents (colleagues, friends, students, and neighbors) submitted written testimonies to Karen's impact on our island community. 

The Z. Smith Reynolds website includes this tribute to Karen:

"Karen Lovejoy has made a difference in the lives of nearly all 700 of her fellow inhabitants of Ocracoke Island. When she arrived there 10 years ago, it was for a job: special education teacher at the Ocracoke Island School. Most would have scoffed at the daunting task of teaching each of the school’s exceptional children, from kindergarten to 12th grade, but Lovejoy has taken up the challenge with energy and devotion.

"Whether it be learning Braille so she could help a blind student, or teaching sign language to a deaf student and his family, Lovejoy has gone well beyond her job description. Students treasure her willingness to listen and her knack for imparting self-confidence.

"Outside school, Lovejoy's dedication to others does not end. She visits senior citizens and takes a genuine interest in their lives. She and her husband, David Frum, founded a running club that takes young people to meets all over the state. She organized a foreign-exchange program that has exposed students to experiences far beyond their small, isolated island.

"Then there are the tales about her uniquely personal service to her neighbors, whatever their needs. 'In all of her tasks,' says one admirer, 'she makes true the word "trust." She energizes the word "enable," and she makes vital and caring and promising the words of her own name - "love" and "joy."'"

Karen and her husband Dave live on Ocracoke to this day, and Karen continues to enrich our community with her enthusiasm for life and her concern for others. As you might guess, Karen is modest and does not advertise her award. As a result, many of today's island residents are unaware of this special recognition Karen received in 1989. When you see her, please let her know how much we appreciate all she's done for this community. (But please don't tell her I wrote this, or she will take me to task!)


To be notified when we publish a new post simply add your email address in the box at the top right and click "submit."