Thursday, October 19, 2017

Coast Survey, 1806

In 1806 US Representative Samuel W. Dana (Conn.), introduced a resolution instructing the House of Representatives’ Committee of Commerce and Manufactures to “inquire into the expediency of making provision for a survey of the coasts of the United States, designating the several islands, with the shoals and roads, or places of anchorage, within twenty leagues of any part of the shores of the United States.”

In the debate that ensued, Mr. Dana made this report:

"In 1802, an act was passed, authorizing a survey of Long Island Sound. In pursuance of that act, the Secretary of the Treasury caused a survey to be taken by two men, who appear to have been, what the act intended, intelligent and proper persons. And there has since been published a chart of the Sound, handsomely executed, on a large scale, which must, I presume, be regarded as convenient and valuable by those concerned in that branch of navigation.

"At the last session of Congress, an act was passed for another survey. It made provision for surveying the coast of North Carolina between Cape Hatteras and Cape Fear, with the shoals lying off or between those capes. I understand that measures have been taken for executing this act, but that the vessel employed in the service, and all the papers respecting the survey which had been made, had been lost near Ocracoke Inlet, in one of the desolating storms experienced on the coast in the course of the present year."

Dana must have been referring to the great storm of October, 1806. Among a number of vessels sunk, wrecked, or dismasted at Ocracoke was the Governor Williams. The following account was reported in The Wilmington Gazette, October 14, 1806:

"I have now to add, to the tale of destruction, the total loss of the immensely valuable, philosophical and mathematical instruments of Col Tatham, he yesterday put them on board the Governor Williams, for the purpose of having them conveyed to Newbern, and they are now buried with her in two fathom water...."

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ocracoke Topography, 1949

Yesterday I published an excerpt from "A LETTER CONCERNING A VISIT TO OCRACOKE" By C.A. Weslager. The letter was written July 31, 1949 from Wilmington, Delaware.

The following paragraph is how Weslager described the topography of Ocracoke Island:

"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 grazing on a patch 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 on the island has a rain barrel under the eaves — their source of drinking water. The hotel had a large rain-water reservoir on the roof to supply drinking and sanitary facilities."

Wreck of the "Ghost Ship" (OPS Photo)














This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Ocracoke Village to Hatteras Inlet, 1949

In 2009 I published as one of our monthly newsletters "A LETTER CONCERNING A VISIT TO OCRACOKE" By C.A. Weslager. The letter was written July 31, 1949 from Wilmington, Delaware.

This is what Weslager wrote about his trip from Ocracoke village to Hatteras Inlet:

"The island is covered with heavy sand and only jeeps can navigate. Several natives have them and provide taxi service to visitors. We hired one driver to take us to Hatteras Inlet at the north point of the island. We went when the tide was right so that we could sweep up the beach as each wave washed in and out. The idea is to get the jeep wheels on the sand that the water has just laved — otherwise one either sinks, or slides, and the minute that happens a wave rolls over you and the jeep is carried away. It was a thrilling and dangerous ride. One must also travel fast in order to keep from sinking in the sand. There were four of us and the driver, and he was the only one who didn't seem frightened."













This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Salt Water Apples

Native Outer Bankers have an impish sense of humor. I heard this story recently about one of the deckhands on the Hatteras Inlet ferries.

Some years ago the US Coast Guard was slow to mark a shoal that threatened to ground the ferries and other vessels. Local watermen and/or ferry personnel decided to mark the channel themselves. They cut several saplings and positioned them on the edge of the shoal to warn mariners.

On one crossing a ferry passenger noticed the saplings, stopped the deckhand, and pointed to them.

“What kind of trees are those growing out in the water?” he inquired.

“Why those are apple trees,” the deckhand answered. “But they’re not the kind of apple trees you are familiar with. These are salt water apple trees. The apples taste great, but they are a little salty. We pick them in the late summer and early fall.”













The passenger seemed satisfied with this answer, and vowed to return in September to taste those delicious salt water apples.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Farewell

Any death in a small community affects many people. Recently two well-known and respected native islanders died.  

Last week Thomas Midgett, a Vietnam veteran who retired from the NC Ferry Division and later worked for the National Park Service, died at his home on Ocracoke. Thomas was friendly and well liked by native islanders, newcomers, and visitors alike. He was known as one of the island's foremost gardeners. Thomas was 67 years old. You can read his obituary here

On October 7 Jule Garrish, 94, died at his home in Beaufort, NC, where he lived with his wife Rosemary. Jule's first wife, Etta Mae Howard, died a number of years ago. Jule was a US Navy veteran and was retired from the US Coast Guard and the NC Department of Transportation. Many of our readers will remember Jule as a featured performer at the Ocracoke Opry in Deepwater Theater. His signature song was "Governor Edward Hyde," a tribute to the Swan Quarter ferry. Audiences loved it when Jule paused to speak into the soundhole of his guitar. "This is your captain speaking...."
You can read Jule's obituary here. Jule is buried in the Howard graveyard across the lane from Village Craftsmen.
 
This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

False Lights

Two years ago I wrote about the Outer Banks village of Nags Head. Legend has it that Nags Head obtained its name from the activity of "wreckers" (unscrupulous bankers who would lure sailing vessels close to shore by tying lanterns around horses' heads or necks, thus suggesting a safe anchorage; when the ship wrecked it would be plundered). (see https://villagecraftsmen.blogspot.com/2016/11/nags-head.html)

According to Wikipedia: "[John Viele, retired U. S. Navy officer] points out that mariners interpret a light as indicating land, and so avoid them if they cannot identify them. Moreover, oil lanterns cannot be seen very far over water at night, unless they are large, fitted with mirrors or lenses, and mounted at a great height (i.e., in a lighthouse). In hundreds of admiralty court cases heard in Key West, Florida, no captain of a wrecked ship ever charged that he had been led astray by a false light."
  
Nevertheless, in 1825 Congress approved an act stipulating that "if any person or persons shall hold out or show a false light or lights, or extinguish any true light, with intention to bring any ship or vessel, boat or raft, being or sailing upon the sea, into danger or distress, or shipwreck, every person so offending, his or her counsellors, aiders, and abettors, shall be deemed guilty of felony, and shall, on conviction thereof, be punished by fine not exceeding five thousand dollars, and imprisonment and confinement to hard labor not exceeding ten years, according to the aggravation of the offense."

Perhaps there is some truth to the legend!

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Big Ike

In 1939 W. O. Saunders from Elizabeth City, N. C., interviewed Ocracoke native Isaac (Big Ike) O"Neal (1865-1954). Big Ike was 74 years old at the time of the interview, which was conducted in his home on the island. Saunders describes Big Ike as "A mighty man he has been in his day, measuring six feet two in his stocking feet and tipping the scales at 240 pounds. At the age of 74 he is still a robust enough man, to all outward appearances, and his speech is punctuated with an infectious laugh and a flashing of good white teeth."

Big Ike begins his interview with these comments:

"Life was hard when I was a boy. There wasn't but one other family on this island that had a harder life than ours. My father fell through the hatch of a ship when I was a little boy and was crippled for life. He couldn't do any hard work after that.

"But we always had somethin' to eat; fish and clams and oysters and crabs. Never had much flour bread; if we had flour bread once a week we did mighty well. Corn bread was our bread.

"We had two wind mills on the island that ground corn. When there was no wind the mills didn't turn. I remember we once had a calm for twenty one days. But most families had their hand stones to fall back on at such times. It took a half hour to grind enough corn for breakfast with those old hand stones.

"No, we didn't grow corn on the island; we got our corn from the mainland; took salt fish, oysters and clams to the mainland and traded for corn and molasses.

"We didn't know what white sugar was; and never saw much of the brown sugar that was used in those days. Coffee? The only coffee we had was parched chestnuts which we boiled and made what we called coffee. Sweetened it with molasses. Most often we drank yaupon tea; just step out your back door and gather your tea leaves. Yaupon still grows wild on the island, but most folks now-a-days hold themselves above drinkin' tea made out of it."

Look for more excerpts from this interview in future posts.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter highlights several noteworthy staircases in historic island homes. To read the newsletter, and see photos, click here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news092117.html.