Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Henry Pigott

Henry Pigott is a legend on Portsmouth Island. He was the last male resident of the island when he died in 1971. The US National Park Service has produced a brochure celebrating the life of Henry.

"One inhabitant," reads the brochure, "was Henry Pigott, born May 5, 1896. His ancestors first came to Portsmouth as slaves. However, after the Civil War when most people of color left Portsmouth, Henry’s ancestors stayed and made it their home. Henry’s grandmother, Rosa Abbot, was a jack of all trades. She was a midwife, doctor and nurse; she also worked in the gristmill, fished and oystered. Her daughter, Leah, had seven children: Ed, Ike, Henry, Mattie, Georgia, Rachel, and Elizabeth (Lizzie). Henry and his sister Lizzie remained on Portsmouth for most of their lives, while their other siblings, faced with the decreasing economy of Portsmouth, left to seek their fortunes elsewhere Lizzie served as the town’s unofficial barber. Many people recall going 'Down the Banks' to Lizzie’s for a haircut. While both Henry and Lizzie continued to fish and oyster for a living, Henry became the 'mailman.' Henry would pole out to the mail boat, retrieve mail and passengers, and give the Captain of the mail boat a list of items needed from Ocracoke. (By this point in history, the economy of Portsmouth no longer supported a general store.) The items needed would either be brought back to Portsmouth via the mail boat or delivered by a resident of Ocracoke who was coming over to the village."

Henry Pigott Meeting the Mailboat













The NPS brochure also relates the story of a reporter who thought Henry was crazy to live on nearly-abandoned Portsmouth Island with mosquitoes and no electricity or water. "Pigott thought for a moment," according to the brochure, "then replied that he had done some traveling. He had been to New York City. He had even seen all the modern innovations. Then he paused and added, 'And I’m not sure which one of us is crazy.'”

You can read the entire brochure here: https://www.nps.gov/calo/planyourvisit/upload/Henry2000.pdf.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a contemporary account of the December 24, 1899 wreck of the Steamship Ariosto. You can read the Newsletter here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news072117.htm

Monday, July 24, 2017

Where Civilization is an Echo

On August 12, 1984, the New York Times published an article by Joan Gould about the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was titled "Where Civilization is an Echo."

At that time Ocracoke had a population of 657 people, and fishing trawlers were a common sight in the harbor, especially when the weather turned nasty.

Photo by Megan Spencer
Courtesy Ocracoke Current



















Although Ocracoke has changed some in the last third of a century (not as many trawlers are to be seen tied up at local docks nowadays), Ms. Gould presents a rather thorough portrayal of the island.  "History," she observes,  "lingers here like old coins in the back pocket of a suit, forgotten until someone shakes it out and sends it to the cleaners."

Click here to read Joan Gould's article.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a contemporary account of the December 24, 1899 wreck of the Steamship Ariosto. You can read the Newsletter here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news072117.htm.

Friday, July 21, 2017

July Newsletter

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the 1899 wreck of the British Steamship, Ariosto.

We have published information about this wreck in the past. This month we are sharing a contemporary account of the disaster from the Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 98, Number 126, December 25, 1899.

Water Bucket from the Ariosto














You can read the Newsletter here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news072117.htm.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Shakespeare

The distinctive Ocracoke Island brogue is sometimes mistakenly described as Shakespearean. In fact the Ocracoke dialect has evolved considerably since the Elizabethan Age.


















However, islanders and visitors will have an opportunity to transport themselves to the 16th century this Sunday, July 23. At 3 o'clock at the Ocracoke Library attendees will be reading a couple of scenes from one of Shakespeare's plays. Discussion will follow. 

No previous study or knowledge required! Everyone is welcome to join in the fun! Hope to see you there.

For more about the Ocracoke Brogue and Early Modern English click here:
http://dialectblog.com/2011/07/07/ocracoke-brogue/.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

1944 Storm Story

Yesterday I shared a story recounted by NC journalist Lawrence Maddry. In his column "They Make 'Em Tough in N.C." he told this story about boat-builder Willie Austin of Avon:

"The worst storm Willie could recall was the hurricane of 1944. He pointed with a finger to the newel post inside his house, showing where the water had risen to 5 feet above the floor.

"'I'd say about 90 percent of the houses around here were knocked off their foundations during the 1944 storm,' he said. 'Houses were floating everywhere like boats.'

"He laughed recalling neighbor Clemmie Gray's experience during the storm.

"'During that blow Clemmie was sitting in his house talking to his wife and watching the hurricane's doings through the window. Then he turned to her and said, 'Look out! That house over yonder is moving right at us.'

"Willie slapped his knee in merriment. I didn't see the humor.

"'Only it wasn't the other house that was moving at all,' he explained. 'Clemmie's was floating, and the other house was standing still.'"

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Scuttle the Floor!

As you might expect, Ocracoke has a number of storm and hurricane stories. This one, told by islander Ike O'Neal (1885-1968) about the 1899 hurricane to Associated Press columnist Hal Boyle, was recounted by Lawrence Maddry, former journalist for the Virginian-Pilot.

"[Ike O'Neal] said as the tide rose around their home, his father handed him an ax and told him to scuttle the floor [to allow rising water to enter, and prevent the house from floating off its foundation].

"'I began chopping away and finally knocked a hole in the floor.' O'Neal recalled. 'Like a big fountain the water gushed in and hit the ceiling, and on top of the gusher was a mallard duck that had gotten under our house as the tide pushed upward.'"

Below is a photo of the Captain Bill Thomas & Eliza Gaskill Thomas house (more recently called the Barksdale Cottage). This house was built in 1899, soon after the hurricane mentioned above. It was the first house on Ocracoke specifically built with a trap door in the floor to allow the owners to let the tide in.


















This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.

Monday, July 17, 2017

New York Bills

On Friday I wrote about a vendue held on Hatteras Island in 1812. The Notice included this sentence: "[The] articles...will be sold for Dollars and Cents, or New-York Bills."

I wondered what a New-York Bill was. This is what I learned. "For most of the colonial period, trade consisted of bartering and using foreign money. But soon, the colonies began printing their own money, which functioned more like a gift certificate. The bill would allow the recipient to withdraw silver money from a bank" (https://www.littlethings.com/early-american-currency/).















The New York Bill pictured above says, "THIS BILL shall pass current in all Payments in this State for TWO SPANISH MILLED DOLLARS, or the Value thereof in Gold or Silver; according to the Resolution of the Convention of New-York, on the Thirteenth Day of August, 1776."

It also says, "Tis Death to counterfeit."

According to Wikipedia, "The Spanish dollar was the coin upon which the original United States dollar was based, and it remained legal tender in the United States until the Coinage Act of 1857."

Spanish Dollar, Photo by Coinman62












Even on the remote islands of the Outer Banks New York Bills and Spanish Dollars were still being used as late as the early nineteenth century. 

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.   

Friday, July 14, 2017

Vendue

The following notice about a vendue (public auction to sell wreckage and cargo salvaged from a wrecked ship) on Hatteras Island was published January 4, 1812, in The North Carolinian Republican.


"Notice Is hereby given to all persons, that there will be sold on the 7th day of January, 1812, on the Sea Beach, on Keneceate, near Ezekiel Hooper’s, 8 miles North of Cape Hatteras Light-house, the Wreck of the Schooner THETIS of Fairfield, all her tackel and apparel, and what of her Cargo that has been saved; consisting of 14 Hogsheads of RUM, some APPLE BRANDY, WINE, CIDER, BUTTER, CHEESE, TEA, POWDER, DRY GOODS, and many other small articles, which will be sold for Dollars and Cents, or New-York Bills. The sale will commence at 12 o;clock, by order of William Pike, and sold by JOSEPH FARROW, Commissioner of Wrecks. Dec. 26, 1811”

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.   
 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Perils of the Sea

The following account is from The Gastonia Daily Gazette - Friday, Nov. 8, 1927:

TRAPPED IN GALE, THREE LOSE LIVES

ELIZABETH CITY, Nov. 8 - Trapped by heavy seas in a roaring gale off Ocracoke last Saturday, three fisherman lost their lives, and a fourth, able to withstand the buffeting waters, managed to swim ashore to safety. First definite details of the tragedy were received at the coast guard station here today from James H. Garrish, keeper of the Ocracoke life guard station. The sinking of the craft, the motor boat 2021-T, was witnessed by M.P. Guthrie, member of the Ocracoke coast guard crew patrolling the beach Saturday morning. The lone survivor, Joseph Gaskins, was observed wading in the surf near the shore a short time later. He was taken to the coast guard station and the crew set out in a motor boat in an effort to save the others. The body of John P. Spencer was found floating and by use of a seine, the bodies of William and Ivy O'Neil [sic] were recovered.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.   

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

British Invasion

A NC Highway Marker in Swan Quarter proclaims "A British force under Admiral Cockburn occupied Portsmouth and Ocracoke, July 12-16, 1813. S.E. 30 miles across Pamlico Sound."











The North Carolina Historical Highway Marker Program website includes this essay to further explain what happened in July, 1813:

"On June 12, 1812, tensions between the United States and Great Britain concerning American expansionism and the Royal Navy’s impressment of American sailors resulted in a declaration of war. Although a small number of North Carolinians, most notably Captains Benjamin Forsyth and Johnston Blakeley took part in the conflict as members of the United States military, the state played only a minor role in the war.

" Perhaps the most important contributors to the state’s war effort were the privateers such as Otway Burns who outfitted their vessels in North Carolina’s port cities. Burns’s vessel, the Snap Dragon, savaged British shipping off the coast. In July 1813, a little over a year after the war was declared, a British fleet comprised of a 74-gun man-of-war, three frigates, a brig, three schooners, and several transport vessels containing nearly 3,000 British soldiers and marines, appeared off North Carolina’s coast. Under the command of Admiral George Cockburn, the expedition was headed to Norfolk and Hampton from Bermuda, intent on destroying privateering bases.

" Cockburn’s fleet landed troops at Ocracoke and Portsmouth on July 11-12, after a brief sea engagement with an American privateer, the Anaconda, and a French vessel, the Atlas. The Anaconda was sunk, and the Atlas was captured, but the Mercury, an American Revenue cutter managed to outrun the British fleet and escape. Among the British troops landed on the two islands were 300 regulars of the 102nd Regiment of Foot and 400 marines and sailors, all under the command of Lt. Col. Charles Napier.

"The British plundered the islands of “200 head of cattle, 400 sheep, and 1,600 fowls of various kinds.” The troops paid the inhabitants for what they took but at prices far below actual value. The Redcoats also took customs collector Thomas Singleton’s “papers in his library” and “tore up his law books.” Only one American, Richard Carey, a Portsmouth native, was killed during the expedition. While attempting to flee the island with his wife and family in a small boat, Carey was fired on and mortally wounded by a British marine.

"As news reached the mainland of the British invasion, militia units from across the state gathered at New Bern. Fortifications were dug and musket flints, bullets, and powder gathered. The militiamen were described as being “high spirits and eager to meet the brutal foe. God grant that they may do honor to themselves and country.” Poorly armed, with little military experience, they would have been no match for the British regulars. One citizen soldier described the corps as “with our sparse columns hastily marshaled and but poorly furnished—without any assurance of victory, than a firm and intrepid spirit.

"The North Carolina militia would never have the opportunity to test that “spirit.” On July 16, the British fleet departed, headed up the eastern seaboard for Halifax, Nova Scotia. Admiral Cockburn would later gain infamy as the British officer who burned Washington, D.C. in 1814, while Lt. Col. Napier would eventually leave the North American theatre to fight against Napoleon. Napier remained in the army until shortly before his death in 1853, having served during his military career in North and South America, Europe, South Africa, and India."

You can read more about Ocracoke and the War of 1812 on our Ocracoke Newsletter page: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102112.htm.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.   

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

First Paying Job

In the past I published a few paragraphs from a 1939 interview with Ocracoke native Isaac (Big Ike) O'Neal (1865-1954). Here is another excerpt, reprinted especially for all of the parents in our reading audience!

"I remember the first money I ever made. There was a clam factory here on the island. The man who owned it paid 25 cents a basket for a five-peck basket of clams. I was eight years old, went to Hatteras to get clams, came back with thirteen bushels. I took a yawl boat and was gone two weeks and the man paid me 75 cents, the first money I ever made. And that wasn't money; the clam factory man paid off with due bills that you had to trade out at his store. I got three 25 cent due bills.

"How did I feed myself during the two weeks I was away from home? Well, I started out with two or three pones of corn bread, some sweet potatoes and a cask of water. I took along my steel and flint. Clams were plentiful and two or three times I would catch me a fish and broil it over the coals after I made a fire. Slept on the beach rolled up in the sail cloth which I'd taken off the yawl when I tied up for the night."

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.   

Monday, July 10, 2017

Ice Cream

My father (born in 1911) enjoyed telling me about eating ice cream when he was a boy growing up on Ocracoke. At that time Mr. Walter O'Neal operated a general store where the Silver Lake Motel is located today. Periodically in the summer Mr. Walter would churn ice cream. Then he would hoist a flag high up on a flagpole as a signal to the villagers that he had ice cream for sale.

Mr. Walter, standing on the porch of his store













According to Fred Mallison, in his book To Ocracoke!, by the 1930s Capt. Bill Gaskill, owner of the Pamlico Inn, provided a "special import service." Mallison writes that "the Sunday night boat always brought a heavy, smoking, wooden box for the Pamlico Inn. A truck from the Maola Ice Cream Company in Washington [NC] delivered it just before sailing time. The box traveled wrapped in quilts in the hold, and it was filled with blocks of ice cream packed in dry ice. Cap'n Bill stored the box in a cool place and sold all of it that was surplus to his hotel guest's needs."

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.   

Friday, July 07, 2017

July 4 Parade

This year Ocracoke Island hosted another grand Independence Day Celebration, complete with a sand sculpture contest, old car show, square dance, fireworks, and parade, among other activities.

Below are several photos of the parade (taken by Jim Fineman of Manteo). In the parade were Lady Liberty, a headless Blackbeard, a bagpiper, a horticulturalist, Jebediah Quigg and his Fig Picker assistants, tropical ladies (and gentlemen), surfers, and more.





















This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.   

Thursday, July 06, 2017

The Business of Shrimping

New York native Carl Goerch (1891-1974) loved North Carolina, and especially Ocracoke. In 1956 he wrote what may be the first full-length book written about the island. Its title was simply Ocracoke. The book's 58 short chapters contain descriptions of island characters, the local square dance, funeral practices, shipwrecks, religious life, and much more. They are a splendid chronicle of island life in the mid-20th century.

Here are some excerpts from Goerch's chapter "The Business of Shrimping":

"A typical shrimping boat is 40 feet in length.... The boat, [with a captain and two men, leaves] the dock...at about four o'clock in the morning.... First thing to be done is heave the try net overboard.... If the showing of shrimp is...good, the the big net goes overboard.... After [an] hour and one-half is up, the big net is hauled up.... The men put on their oilskins and gloves.... If the haul yields as much as 75 pounds, the men are satisfied. They sell the shrimp at prices ranging from 25 to 35 cents a pound...."

Photo by Meagan Spencer


















Goerch asked one of the shrimpers how much money a man makes at this business.

The answer: "That's like asking how much money does a man make shooting craps."

Carl Goerch's book Ocracoke is available for sale at Village Craftsmen.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.   


Wednesday, July 05, 2017

1960 Video

I recently discovered this 6 minute YouTube video of Ocracoke in the late 1960s. I am not sure whose footage it is, but I think I recognized some island folks. You will see one of the earlier state-run ferries, the Methodist Church, the old schoolhouse, an Easter egg hunt at the lighthouse, and even a snowball fight (!), as well as families having fun in the surf.  Enjoy.


(Here is the direct link if the embedded video is truncated or missing:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcNoz_iNIdg).

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.  

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

July 4

Happy Independence Day from all of us at Village Craftsmen!!

Photo by IceFlowStudios.com

On this date in 1776 the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. It declared, of course, that the thirteen American colonies were now a new nation, the United States of America, and were no longer part of the British Empire.

That was 241 years ago. Happy Birthday USA!

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.   

Monday, July 03, 2017

Independence Day Celebrations

Ocracoke Island's Independence Day Celebrations begin today!

Monday, July 3:

 6:00pm – 8:00pm: TRADITIONAL ISLAND SQUARE DANCE
Music with Molasses Creek; Philip Howard as square dance caller.
Located at Community Square

8:00pm – 9:15pm: GATHERING AT THE NPS DOCKS
Fun dance tunes and patriotic songs spun by a local deejay

9:15pm: FIREWORKS!!!!
Gather at the NPS docks and around Silver Lake Harbor to see the Pyrotechnic Show shot from the NPS Parking Lot

Tuesday, July 4:

8am – 10am: MEET JOBELLE!
Jobelle was born May 7th, and is the newest member of Ocracoke’s wild pony herd.
At the NPS Pony Pens

9am:  FLAG RAISING CEREMONY and SINGING OF NATIONAL ANTHEM                                                                                                                                  
Led by Ocracoke Boy Scout Troop # 290 at Ocracoke School flag circle on School Road

9:30am – Noon: 39th ANNUAL SAND SCULPTURE CONTEST                                                                                            
At the NPS Lifeguard Beach

10am – 2pm: CLASSIC CAR SHOW
On the Pony Island Motel lawn; sponsored by Jimmy’s Garage.

10am – 2pm: OCRACOKE LIGHTHOUSE                                                                                                                   
The lighthouse will be open for viewing – all are welcome to see inside!
  
4pm:  OLD TIME OCRACOKE PARADE                                                                                                                        
All are welcome to enter! Entrants should register by July 2nd, by emailing a photo of the entry form to info@ocracokevillage.com
Pick up your parade entry number between 1–4 PM on July 4th at Ocracoke Station.
Entry forms available at the Post Office or request a form from info@ocracokevillage.com
Parade route starts at Ocracoke Oyster Company, left on Lighthouse Rd., right on Creek Rd., right on Silver Lake Dr., follow road around harbor to Parade’s end at NPS Parking Lot. Cash prizes!

6pm: STORYTELLING WITH DONALD DAVIS 
On the lawn at Books to Be Red; bring your own chair or blanket

7pm: NATIONAL ANTHEM AND AWARDS PRESENTATION
Winners announced for Parade and Sand Sculpture Contest!
On the lawn at Books to Be Red

EVENING CELEBRATION
At the Ocracoke Day Use Area/Lifeguard Beach                                                                                        

7pm–10pm: COMMUNITY BEACH FIRE
Bring your beach blanket, chair, and marshmallows to roast.
OCBA will provide a beach fire for all to enjoy.

Sponsored by the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association with lots of assistance!


This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a recording of Rex O'Neal telling about the time he fell overboard when he was gigging for flounder. The story was recorded for Coastal Voices, an oral history project about the maritime heritage of the Outer Banks and Down East region of coastal North Carolina. Click here to listen to Rex telling his story: https://carolinacoastalvoices.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/rex-oneal-gigging-flounders-2/.