Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Israel Hands

Earlier this month I posted a link to Capt. Rob Temple's original poem about Israel Hands, second in command to Blackbeard the pirate.

According to Captain Charles Johnson (A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, published in 1724):

"[Israel] Hands [the master of Blackbeard's sloop] happened not to be in the fight [with Lt. Robert Maynard in November, 1718, when Blackbeard was killed], but was taken afterwards ashore at Bath Town having been sometime before disabled by Blackbeard, in one of his savage humours, after the following manner. One night drinking in his cabin, with Hands, the pilot, and another man, Blackbeard without any provocation privately draws out a small pair of pistols and cocks them under the table, which, being perceived by the man, he withdrew and went on deck. leaving Hands, the pilot, and the captain together. When the pistols were ready, he blew out the candle, and crossing his hands, discharged them at his company; Hands, the master, was shot through the knee and lamed for life; the other pistol did no execution. Being asked the meaning of this, he only answered, by damning them, that if he did not now and then kill one of them, they would forget who he was."

Such was Blackbeard's management style. If yours is more benign, take heart. Blackbeard's career lasted only about 18 months.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Capt. Horatio Williams and his schooner, the Paragon. You can read the story here:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Oyster War

In January I published an Ocracoke Newsletter about the 1890 Ocracoke Oyster War. It seems the appearance of "oyster pirates" in Pamlico Sound, and the strife over oysters extended to the mainland as well. The following report was published in The Economist (Elizabeth City, NC), Tuesday, May 6, 1890:

"As peaceful as they look to be there is something about oysters that engender strife. A case, originating in oysters, occurred in New Bern on Wednesday in which an oyster patrolman named J.C. THOMAS whose headquarters were at Coinjock, Currituck County, was shot, but not mortally wounded, by Jones SPENCER of Hyde County who recently published an article in the Washington Gazette reflecting upon the character of THOMAS and charging that he was bribed while at his official business at Coinjock..., when SPENCER pulled out a pistol and told THOMAS he would shoot him if he came nearer. THOMAS continued to advance when SPENCER fired and a ball struck his abdomen and lodged in his hip. THOMAS was badly wounded and SPENCER was arrested, bought before Mayor WILLIAMS, waived examination and was placed under a bond of $400 .... THOMAS was a patrolman at the oyster grounds, SPENCER was also a patrolman appointed by Hyde County and was ordered to Coinjock. SPENCER published the results of his investigations and charged corruption upon THOMAS and bribery by non-resident oyster pirates. This led to the difficulty between the two."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Capt. Horatio Williams and his schooner Paragon. You can read the story here:

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Downfall of Piracy

On November 22, 1718, Oracoke's most notorious part-time resident was killed just off of Springer's Point.

On hearing the news, 12 year old Benjamin Franklin composed a "broadside ballad" commemorating the event. The title of his poem is "The Taking of Teach the Pirate" or "The Downfall of Piracy; being a full and true Account of a desperate and bloody Sea-fight between Lieutenant Maynard, and that noted Pirate Captain Teach, commonly call'd by the Name of Blackbeard; Maynard had fifty Men, thirty five of which were kill'd and wounded in the Action: Teach had twenty one, most of which were kill'd, and the rest carried to Virginia, in order to take their Tryal."

Following is Franklin's ballad, designed to be sung to the tune of "What is greater Joy and Pleasure."

Will you hear of a bloody Battle,
Lately fought upon the Seas,
It will make your Ears to rattle,
And your Admiration cease;
Have you heard of Teach the Rover,
And his Knavery on the Main;
How of Gold he was a Lover,
How he lov'd all ill got Gain.

When the Act of Grace appeared,
Captain Teach with all his Men,
Unto Carolina steered,
Where they kindly us'd him then;
There he marry'd to a Lady,
And gave her five hundred Pound,
But to her he prov'd unsteady,
For he soon march'd of[f] the Ground.

And returned, as I tell you,
To his Robbery as before,
Burning, sinking Ships of value,
Filling them with Purple Gore;
When he was at Carolina,
There the Governor did send,
To the Governor of Virginia,
That he might assistance lend.

Then the Man of War's Commander,
Two small Sloops he fitted out,
Fifty Men he put on board, Sir,
Who resolv'd to stand it out:
The Lieutenant he commanded
Both the Sloops, and you shall hear,
How before he landed,
He suppress'd them without Fear.

Valiant Maynard as he sailed,
Soon the Pirate did espy,
With his Trumpet he then hailed,
And to him they did reply:
Captain Teach is our Commander,
Maynard said, he is the Man,
Whom I am resolv'd to hang Sir,
Let him do the best he can.

Teach reply'd unto Maynard,
You no Quarters here shall see,
But be hang'd on the Main-yard,
You and all your Company;
Maynard said, I none desire,
Of such Knaves as thee and thine,
None I'll give, Teach then replyed,
My Boys, give me a Glass of Wine.

He took the Glass, and drank Damnation,
Unto Maynard and his Crew;
To himself and Generation,
Then the Glass away he threw;
Brave Maynard was resolv'd to have him,
Tho' he'd Cannons nine or ten:
Teach a broadside quickly gave him,
Killing sixteen valiant Men.

Maynard boarded him, and to it
They fell with Sword and Pistol too;
They had Courage, and did show it,
Killing the Pirate's Crew.
Teach and Maynard on the Quarter,
Fought it out most manfully,
Maynard's Sword did cut him shorter,
Losing his Head, he there did die.

Every Sailor fought while he Sir,
Power had to weild [sic] the Sword,
Not a Coward could you see Sir,
Fear was driven from aboard:
Wounded Men on both Sides fell Sir,
'Twas a doleful Sight to see,
Nothing could their Courage quell Sir,
O, they fought courageously.

When the bloody Fight was over,
We're inform'd by a Letter writ,
Teach's Head was made a Cover,
To the Jack Staff of the Ship:
Thus they sailed to Virginia,
And when they the Story told,
How they kill'd the Pirates many,
They'd Applause from young and old.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Capt. Horatio Williams and his schooner Paragon. You can read the story here:

Friday, November 20, 2015


Nearly every Wednesday evening throughout the summer Capt. Rob Temple entertains folks at the Ocracoke Opry with stories and original poems. Capt. Rob's poem about Israel Hands, second in command to Edward Teach (Blackbeard), is an historically accurate retelling of his story in verse. The poem has been acquired by National Geographic. Below are the first two verses.

A Pirate's Tale: The Story of Israel Hands

I was strolling the lane through Hyde Park in foggy London town
when the cries of a beggar distracted me and caused me to turn around.
Approaching me from out of the mist was a shabbily clad old soul
hobbling along on a wooden leg with the help of a wooden pole.
From his deeps set eyes and leathery skin
it was instantly clear to me
that the guy was a tar who had journeyed from a far
and spent most of his life on the sea.

You can listen to Capt. Rob recite the entire poem here: Click on "Launch Audio" below Capt. Rob's photo.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Capt. Horatio Williams and his schooner Paragon. You can read the story here:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

E.D. & Clara Springer

Many visitors to Ocracoke are familiar with Springer's Point, the last vestige of a maritime forest situated within Ocracoke village. This is where the earliest European settlers made their homes, and from the shore you can look out over Teach's Hole, where Blackbeard was killed in 1718. At one time several houses, a blacksmith shop, horse stables, docks, warehouses, and even a wind-powered grist mill, were situated on the Point.

But why is this area called Springer's Point? Read below for our latest explanation of one more Ocracoke landmark named after a prominent islander.

In the mid-1700s that area on the southwest edge of the village was called Williams' Point. John Williams had purchased it from William Howard in September, 1759. Later, it was sold back to members of the Howard family, and islanders began calling it Howard's Point. It later passed to Daniel Tolson, a prominent islander who is buried on the Point. 

Before her death in 1883, Daniel Tolson's widow, Sidney McWilliams, sold her land and buildings to E. D. and Clara Springer, from South Creek, North Carolina.

E. D. Springer

Although the Springers enjoyed spending time on Ocracoke they never made this their permanent home. In 1923 the elder Springers sold their property to their son, Wallace. He was the last person to live in the old house on the Point, but only for a short while. Wallace, who never married, continued to stay on Ocracoke for some years. Instead of remaining in the old house, he eventually moved in with Mr. Jamie Styron and other island friends. In 1941 Sam Jones purchased Springer’s Point. Wallace Springer died March 13, 1963.

 Sam Jones died in 1977, and is buried at Springer's Point, next to his horse, Ikey D. 

The Point to this day is still called Springer's Point. It is one of several areas on the island named for people who have been part of our history.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Capt. Horatio Williams and his schooner Paragon. You can read the story here:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Prominent Ocracoke Citizen

From The Tar Heel (Elizabeth City), Friday, March 26, 1909, pg. 3:

"Mr. J[ohn] W[ilson] McWILLIAMS of Ocracoke, was elected to serve Hyde County in the House in 1909 by a majority of 625. He was born in Hyde County on March 10, 1869 and was educated in the public schools of his native county. He is a member of the Methodist church. On May 20, 1889 he was married to Miss Elizabeth WILLIAMS. He is a leading merchant of Ocracoke* and a leading citizen of his district. He served two terms as commissioner of wrecks for Hyde County. Mr. McWILLIAMS was a members of the following committees: Fish & Fisheries, Oyster Interests, Game Laws and Insurance and Institution for the Blind. He was mostly interested in the legislation affecting drainage, game laws and the fish and oyster industries and was prominent in shaping this legislation. Hyde has just cause to be proud of its representative."

*" One of the largest general stores on Ocracoke was that established by John W. McWilliams in the late 1800s. Located down point, on the shore of Cockle Creek, with a view of the harbor from one side, and the lighthouse from the other, the "Department Store," as it came to be called, included several structures joined together. McWilliams traded in groceries, boating supplies, hardware, clothing, and other general merchandise. He even carried a line of furniture. A barber shop sat across the lane. The fierce storm of 1933 did considerable damage to the store, and sometime after John McWilliams’ death the store was abandoned." (from our September, 2006, "Ocracoke Newsletter,"

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Capt. Horatio Williams and his schooner Paragon. You can read the story here:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of colorful island sea captain, Horatio Williams, and his schooner, Paragon, which Capt. Williams sank at the outbreak of the Civil War to keep her out of the hands of the Yankees and the Confederates.

After the war Capt. Horatio raised her up and put her back in service. You can read the story here: