Wednesday, February 22, 2017

National Geographic

Many events have impacted Ocracoke and the Outer Banks. An 1846 hurricane opened the more-navigable Hatteras Inlet, thus diverting shipping away from Ocracoke. Union occupation of the Outer Banks in 1861 caused many islanders to flee, and the establishment of an ice plant on Ocracoke in 1938 helped energize commercial fishing. Other storms, wars, and "man-made" changes have had enormous consequences.

In September, 1969, a quieter, less dramatic event helped propel Ocracoke towards becoming a major tourist destination.

Starting on page 393 of National Geographic (September, 1969), author William S. Ellis and photographer Emory Kristof devoted 29 pages documenting the appeal of the Outer Banks with history, stories, and stunning photos. Three elements of the article stand out: a two-page aerial photograph of Ocracoke Village, a three-page map locating Outer Banks shipwrecks, and the dramatic, space-eye image of the Outer Banks made by the crew of Apollo 9.

This issue of National Geographic is available numerous places on-line, and can often be found in antique stores and thrift shops.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Electrification of Ocracoke Island. You can read it here:  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Nurses, Doctors, and Babies

Last week I wrote about island native, Kathleen Bragg. In 1974 Alice Rondthaler penned this article about her:

"Miss Kathleen Bragg, R.N., retired in February after twenty-five years of service as Ocracoke School Nurse under the Hyde County Health Service. She graduated from the Parkview Hospital in Rocky Mount in 1925 and thereafter followed her profession of nursing in various places all the way from Jacksonville, Fla., to Hatteras. She returned home to care for her father, who died in 1938, and afterward for her mother, who died in 1971. She was appointed Ocracoke School nurse in 1949 and served in weekly contacts with the school children in permanent health record-keeping for them.

Photo Courtesy OPS

"During this time she continued her private practice at Ocracoke and she prepared for and worked in the various clinics which the County Health Service conducted. These included an annual check-up of pre-school and other students, an eye-clinic, a blood-test clinic and other special work, among adults as well as children.

"Dr. Johnson, of the Hyde and Dare County units, now retired, officiated with Mrs. Sybil Bouchard, R.N., in charge of the Hyde County Department and Mrs. Charlie Cahoon, recording secretary, served also at the clinics, with mainland doctors who made special trips to Ocracoke.

"Miss Bragg lived at her home here during the years when not only did Ocracoke have no resident doctor, but there was no one available, and it was she who served as doctor, as well as nurse, at the birth of many Ocracoke children now grown to adulthood.

"The Hatteras Clinic and its resident doctor has relieved this responsibility for Ocracoke but high winds and high tides have prevented expectant mothers from getting to their doctor, and babies have arrived in emergency situations in strange places. In 1963 little Andy S. O'Neal was born in a C.G. helicopter 810 feet above Camden, and as late as 1971 Dr. Burroughs of Hatteras Medical Center, was brought by amphibious U.S.C.G. Larc to officiate at the birth of Beverly Williams, on the C.G. boat, prevented by high winds and low tides from getting from the Ocracoke to the Hatteras side of the Inlet. Weather emergencies will always be an emergency factor from time to time on Ocracoke Island."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Electrification of Ocracoke Island. You can read it here:

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Electrification of Ocracoke

Visitors to Ocracoke often wonder how we get electricity to the island. Power first came to Ocracoke in 1936 when Stanley Wahab housed a salvaged generator in his hotel. The island continued to rely on locally produced generator power until 1966, when electric cables were attached to the Oregon Inlet bridge and laid under Hatteras Inlet.

Ocracoke Power & Light, 1937

Today we rely on power generated in Virginia for normal usage, and we also have a four million dollar generator on site for use in emergencies. We also have a newly installed microgrid of solar panels and Tesla batteries.

To read more about the electrification of Ocracoke Island follow this link to our latest Ocracoke Newsletter:

Friday, February 17, 2017

Kathleen Bragg

Native islander, Kathleen Bragg (1899-1975), was the daughter and granddaughter of Ocracoke Inlet pilots. In 1925 Kathleen graduated from the nursing school at Rocky Mount Hospital, and returned home to care for her family and neighbors. In those days there was no resident doctor on the island.

Kathleen Bragg, courtesy OPS

In addition to caring for the island's sick and infirm, Kathleen also delivered more than 100 babies.

In 1953 Kathleen began working as the Ocracoke School nurse. She spent Wednesdays at the school, often administering vaccine injections. As Alton Ballance writes in his book, Ocracokers, "high absenteeism was not uncommon on Wednesdays."

You can read more about Kathleen here:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Ellen Marie Cloud's first-person account of the Great Ocracoke Lighthouse Window Heist. You can read it here:

Thursday, February 16, 2017


James (1839-1904) and Zilphia Williams (1841-1919) Howard had twelve children, eight of whom (Annie, Cordelia, Elsie, Florence, William, Edith, Stacy, & Thomas) died very young. The eight unfortunate children are buried along Howard Street. Each of the four headstones has one child's name on one side, and another child's name on the other side. Eight footstones, with initials, lie between the dual graves.

Lorena (1866-1897), Homer (1868-1947), Sabra (1870-1951), and Wheeler (1874-1940) survived to maturity. In 1940 Homer sent a postcard to his son, Lawton (who was living off the island), explaining that his brother Wheeler had just died.

The postcard reads, "Dear Son With a Sad heart I Pen you this note. Brother Wheeler died Saturday eve, Father Homer Nov. 2, 1940"

Before Ocracoke had a modern Health Clinic with a resident doctor, and before islanders had easy access to professional undertakers, death was a frequent companion that Ocracoke residents dealt with regularly. They coped as best they could.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Ellen Marie Cloud's first-person account of the Great Ocracoke Lighthouse Window Heist. You can read it here:  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Gaskins-O'Neal House

The Gaskins-O'Neal House on Howard Street was built ca. 1883.

It is a traditional "story-and-a-jump" house, and still retains its original wide, single shoulder chimney and original rear shed. The front gabled dormers may have been added at a later date.

The 1883 deed for this property, owned at one time by Solomon Howard (1807-1853), to William W. Gaskins (1841-1916) mentions buildings on the property. However, oral history indicates that the current house was built for William Gaskins. The original buildings were probably demolished before Gaskins built this house about 1883. Stanley O'Neal (1885-1956) and his wife Mozelle later owned the property.

Photo Courtesy Ellen Cloud

You can read more about Stanley O'Neal here.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Ellen Marie Cloud's first-person account of the Great Ocracoke Lighthouse Window Heist. You can read it here:

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Home Brew

Several years ago I wrote about Ocracoke's homemade meal wine.

Meal Wine Brewing

This is what Cecil Bragg has to say about it in his book, Ocracoke Island: Pearl of the Outer Banks:

"Corn meal wine, now there was a concoction that had a kick like an eight gauge shot gun when fired. Without giving the formula, let's just say it was made from corn meal, sugar and yeast cakes, and set in the sun for fermenting. After three days it was drawn off and bottled. It was now drinkable, and the longer it sat the more potent it became. One old fellow used to say that three glasses full would make anyone fight a circular saw. What a revelry often happened, and sometimes a few fist fights, too."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Ellen Marie Cloud's first-person account of the Great Ocracoke Lighthouse Window Heist. You can read it here: