Friday, July 20, 2018

A Close Call

A brief account of the last days of Blackbeard's crew:

Blackbeard was defeated near Ocracoke Island, November 22, 1718 (old calendar), by Lt. Maynard and sailors of the Royal Navy. After his death (he was wounded 25 times with sword and pistol), Blackbeard's head was cut off and his body thrown overboard. At least eight pirates were killed in that final battle. Fourteen others were captured and taken to Williamsburg, Virginia, where they were tried for piracy. Samuel Odell, it was learned, had been captured by Blackbeard the day before the battle. Although Odell participated in the battle, it became clear that he was an unwilling participant, and he was acquitted. The other thirteen pirates were hanged.

Two of Captain Teach's officers, Israel Hands and William Howard, are not on the list of pirates killed or executed in Williamsburg. Why is that?

Israel Hands, one of Blackbeard's most loyal sailors, had left Blackbeard after the captain wounded him in the knee with a pistol shot (!). After Teach's death Hands was captured in Bath, North Carolina. He was tried for piracy in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1718. He was convicted, but later pardoned. When last heard of he was begging on the streets of London.

William Howard, Blackbeard's Quartermaster, also was not with his captain in the battle at Ocracoke Inlet. In the summer of 1718 Howard was apprehended in Virginia, and taken to the jail in Williamsburg as a vagrant pirate. In November he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged. In December, the day before his scheduled execution, a pardon arrived in Williamsburg. The pardon was executed by a commission in London, and offered amnesty for any piratical acts committed before July 23, 1718. As expected, William Howard was quick to accept the pardon! He was not heard from for many years. Forty-one years later a William Howard purchased Ocracoke Island. Most historians believe William Howard the pirate and William Howard of Ocracoke were the same person.  

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a delightful story written by Dr. Warren Silverman, who in 1981 became the island's resident physician after forty years without a doctor. The story is about Dr. Silverman's very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You can read the story here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/my-first-island-patient-by-dr-warren-silverman/

Thursday, July 19, 2018

William Howard

William Howard

Born March 15, 1776
Died August 30, 1851


















"As for man, his days are as grass,
As a flower of the field so he flourisheth
For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone,
And the place thereof shall know it no more."

William Howard was the son of George Howard, and grandson of William Howard, Sr., colonial owner of Ocracoke Island and presumably quartermaster for Blackbeard the pirate. His grave is in the first row in the old George Howard cemetery on British Cemetery Road.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a delightful story written by Dr. Warren Silverman, who in 1981 became the island's resident physician after forty years without a doctor. The story is about Dr. Silverman's very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You can read the story here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/my-first-island-patient-by-dr-warren-silverman/.   

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Elisha Ballance


Blanche Howard Jolliff (1919-2018) told me the following story on August 15, 2005:

In August of 1899 Blanche’s uncle, Elisha Ballance (1880-1977), along with George M. Gaskins (1887-1967), Zora Babel Gaskins (1855-1918), and several other men, were net fishing in Pamlico Sound, about eight miles northeast of Ocracoke village. It was the custom in those days to pitch a primitive camp “down below” (the area on Ocracoke Island northeast of the village) for a week or more while fishing in the sound. 

On August 16 one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever strike Ocracoke hit with a vengeance. Winds exceeded 100 miles per hour, and tide water from Pamlico Sound poured across the sand flats. The fishermen’s fragile sail skiffs were battered and sunk. The hapless fishermen, at the mercy of the storm, dug a hole in a sand dune, and covered it with their sails in an attempt to keep dry. For three days the storm raged, terrifying the fishermen who could do nothing but wait for an end to the fury.
When the hurricane finally abated, Elisha, George, and Zora Babel decided to walk back to the village. The tidal creeks were still swollen, and waist-high water, muddy bottoms, and saturated marsh made for an exhausting trek.

Back in the village after many hours, nineteen-year-old Elisha returned home, weary and hungry, to discover his family home empty. Unbeknownst to Elisha, his parents and sisters had fled the house when the storm commenced. They had taken refuge with a neighbor whose house stood on higher ground. The storm tide had flooded Elisha’s family house. Doors had been blown open, furniture was upended, and the floors were covered in a thick layer of mud. On entering the kitchen, and surveying the scene, Elisha fainted and fell onto the muddy floor. 

Elisha recovered, eventually married, and raised his family on Ocracoke. Many of his descendants live on the island to this day.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a delightful story written by Dr. Warren Silverman, who in 1981 became the island's resident physician after forty years without a doctor. The story is about Dr. Silverman's very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You can read the story here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/my-first-island-patient-by-dr-warren-silverman/.   

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Sense of Humor

O'cockers are known for their sense of humor. Every island family has their share of stories of a relative's or neighbor's humorous, pithy comments. Oscar Burrus (1901-1971) was the origin of several.

Rev. W.R. Hale was assigned to the Ocracoke United Methodist Church in the mid-1950s. Preacher Hale loved to fish. Nearly every day when the weather suited Rev. Hale could be seen standing in the water along the sound, with his fishing pole in his hand.

In those days island men often sat on the benches at the Community Store or Willis' store (where the Working Watermen's Exhibit is today), trading stories. Talk turned to Preacher Hale. "Boys," remarked Oscar, "we're going to have to paint that preacher's feet with copper paint or the ship worms are going to bore into his feet."

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a delightful story written by Dr. Warren Silverman, who in 1981 became the island's resident physician after forty years without a doctor. The story is about Dr. Silverman's very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You can read the story here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/my-first-island-patient-by-dr-warren-silverman/.   


Monday, July 16, 2018

Casket Table

Prior to 1957/58, when NC Highway 12 was paved from the edge of Ocracoke village to Hatteras Inlet, everything having to do with death and dying on the island was handled by family, friends, and neighbors, without professional assistance. All of that changed when the paved highway, and state-operated ferries, made it possible to bring a hearse to the island.

Changes had already begun in about 1948 when Mr. Mace Fulcher started selling commercially made caskets at the Community Store. Before that time all island caskets were built by local carpenters. Typically, islanders kept pre-cut casket boards stored under their houses or in out buildings. At the time of death family members contacted the carpenter who retrieved the boards and nailed the casket together.

I have been told that when Alice Wahab Williams died (she was the wife of Capt. David Williams; their house is now the Ocracoke Preservation Society museum) in 1953 she was buried in a casket purchased at the Community Store. Some years later her daughter, Nina, located the unused casket boards in their shed, and decided to use them as a table top. To the best of my knowledge, that table now rests upstairs in the research library at the OPS museum.

Few people are aware that the original plan was that the wood for the table would be used as a casket.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a delightful story written by Dr. Warren Silverman, who in 1981 became the island's resident physician after forty years without a doctor. The story is about Dr. Silverman's very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You can read the story here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/my-first-island-patient-by-dr-warren-silverman/.  

Friday, July 13, 2018

Grape Vines

Sometimes it's difficult to comprehend the changes that have occurred on Ocracoke Island over the 250 years since the earliest inlet pilots settled here.

Cousin Blanche (1919-2018) told me her grandmother remembered when grapevines "hung over the sea." Blanche also recalled that her Uncle Ike O'Neal (1865-1954) said when he was a boy briars and grape vines created a mat so thick in the trees that he was able to climb the oak tree (on the corner of Howard Street and present-day School Road) and then scramble across the mat of vines "all the way to the sea."

Other accounts mention "the time of the blowing sand" in the late 1800s, after livestock had eaten most of the vegetation near the village. Could the de-nuding of the beach have happened within a quarter of a century (from the time Ike O'Neal was a boy until the turn of the 20th century)? Or could Blanche's informants have remembered climbing to Nigh Inlet, a former channel of water on the northeast edge of the village (what they may have called the "sea"), and not to the Atlantic Ocean?

We may never know for sure exactly what changes have transpired on this sandy barrier island. What I do know is that grapevines were thick along Howard Street as late as the 1970s.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a delightful story written by Dr. Warren Silverman, who in 1981 became the island's resident physician after forty years without a doctor. The story is about Dr. Silverman's very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You can read the story here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/my-first-island-patient-by-dr-warren-silverman/.  

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Home Remedies

Charlotte O'Neal (1851-1947) assumed the duties of island midwife sometime after 1888 when her last child, a fraternal twin, died. Known to islanders as “Aunt Lot,” she delivered more than 100 island babies (one account lists 523 babies!). According to her daughter, Miss Sara Ellen Gaskill, her mother “never lost a case.”

In addition to her duties as midwife, Aunt Lot also tended to the sick and injured with various folk remedies. Below is one account:

"Charlotte O’Neal’s grandson remembered her as 'a little short woman all drawed up.' He described her method of removing carbuncles. First, she would apply thin slices of salt pork to, say, the back of the neck where the infection was. A rag was tied to secure the pork, and the patient left it there for several hours. 'The salt pork draws it to a head, pulls it up,' he explained. Then she settled on the porch with the patient and her tin of snuff, preparing for the procedure. While dipping snuff, she’d remove a thread from the inner seam of her skirt, and make a lasso for the carbuncle. The puss was raised little by little by the tightening string, coming out 'like toothpaste.'"*

A carbuncle (a cluster of boils) is caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Modern health care professionals warn against squeezing or irritating carbuncles since they are contagious. Hand-washing and good sanitation are important to keep from spreading the disease.  

*https://www.nps.gov/ethnography/research/docs/caha_ethno_v2.pdf, p. 374-375

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a delightful story written by Dr. Warren Silverman, who in 1981 became the island's resident physician after forty years without a doctor. The story is about Dr. Silverman's very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You can read the story here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/my-first-island-patient-by-dr-warren-silverman/.