Friday, April 07, 2017


"Once I thanked God for my treasure, Now like rust it corrodes. And I can't help from blamin' your goin' On the coming, the coming of the roads"

The words above (from the song "The Coming of the Roads") were written by Billy Edd Wheeler (b. 1932). The tune was released in 1965 by Judy Collins (on Fifth Album). It is a sad song about loss of love and loss of a deep sense of place. Although the lyrics evoke images of "cool caverns" a "forest of green" and "the wild wood," the song has a more universal appeal. The coming of roads nearly always brings mixed blessings. Rural electrification, economic growth, improvements in health care, and greater educational well as traffic snarls, culture clashes, and environmental problems...often accompany the coming of roads.

The National Park Service's 2005 Technical Report, Ethnohistorical Description of the Eight Villages Adjoining Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Interpretive Themes of History and Heritage, addresses the coming of roads on the Outer Banks:  "The development of a paved road linking the villages of Hatteras Island preceded the establishment of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in 1953. The road was built in sections starting with Hatteras to Avon in 1948, Avon to Rodanthe in 1950, and Rodanthe to the Oregon Inlet Ferry in 1952. This road was a significant catalyst for change. For example, its development led to the 1955 consolidation of small village schools into the Cape Hatteras School in Buxton. When the Oregon Inlet Bridge was completed in 1963, Hatteras Island was fully connected to the wider world, and this ushered in an era of tourism and development."

The Navy paved the first road on Ocracoke in 1942. It was a one-lane concrete road connecting the Navy base to a series of ammunition dumps along present-day Cutting Sage Road and Trent Drive. The State paved most of the remaining roads in the village in the early 1950s, and laid down the road to Hatteras Inlet in 1957.

Photo courtesy Ocracoke Preservation Society

The coming of the roads has brought tremendous changes to Ocracoke, some positive, some problematic. As always, our community continues to address inevitable changes in order to nurture all those qualities that make Ocracoke a unique and vibrant place to live, work, and enjoy life.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Ocracoke Water Tank Caper. This is the link:


  1. Anonymous5:17 AM

    Philip, this is perhaps one of the better pieces you have written here. It is sad and almost has a feeling of regret that a road was built. I understand. It brought the island into the modern age with all it's problems.
    I sense that you would rather have it back the way it was when you were growing up. It was backwards. Old timey. In the past. I first visited Ocracoke around 1966. I found it to be a great place. I was just a visitor. I can see where the road changed your lives and helped make things better in a lot of ways. The old ways were also good. You can't go back. When I first stood with my box camera at the intersection of hwy12 and the road that circles the lake it was like a dream. Places like this really do exist. The people struck me as honest, friendly, tough, hard working,God fearing, close to the earth and thankful. I still see that in the older folks. I don't know how many more times I will be able to visit Ocracoke as I am now also one of the older folks but each time I do it is like the first time. It's harder to get the kind of pictures that I did because the lake is getting harder to see with all the buildings. The water is still there, the docks are still there the feeling is still there. Preserve all you can because it never comes back to the way it was. You have a good sense of that, I also sense that you would like it back the way it was. It's in your writings everyday and there is nothing wrong with that.

  2. Anonymous8:38 AM

    The road led to the consolidation of the schools is that true? It made it easier it made sense it was more convenient for who? If a school is for students did their achievement scores improve? If people protested the consolidation of the schools it should be noted perhaps as a footnote. If teachers and students welcomed the move I.E. "Now we can have a football team, a basketball team..." What was the first school team sport? Wait I bet it was football and say 20 plus years later a team sport for girls happened right? The road led to the formation of a girls sport team yeah!

  3. Anonymous9:43 AM

    Im not sure what my life would be without Ocracoke. It is all my children and I talk about when we are together. ... From the last visit to the next visit. We always have Ocracoke on our minds and in our hearts. Cheers! Anita Baker