Friday, April 28, 2017

NPS Visitors Center

I recently located this vintage photo of the NPS Visitors Center. I am wondering how many of our readers remember this building.

If you do, please leave a comment explaining where it was located. You might want to add what the building was originally used for, and tell a little about the boat in the photo. Also, does anyone have a guess about what year the photo was taken?

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:  

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Capt. Denis Daly & Augustin Daly

Few people today know the story of John Augustin Daly (1838-1899), but in his day he dominated American theater. In addition to being a playwright and critic, he was a prominent theater manager who founded Daly's Theatre in New York City in 1879.

Augustin Daly

Daly's father, Captain Denis Daly, was born near Limerick, Ireland, in 1797. He was well educated, and as a young man obtained a position in the British navy. In 1838 Capt. Daly emigrated to America and established a lumber business in Plymouth, North Carolina. Augustin was born soon thereafter.In September, 1841, Captain Daly set sail in the Union, a vessel loaded with lumber. Augustin Daly's brother, Joseph Francis Daly, in his 1917 book, The Life of Augustin Daly, recounts what next transpired:

"Three weeks later a letter arrived telling of [Captain Daly's] death. It came from Captain Pike of Ocracoke, a small settlement at the inlet of the same name south of Cape Hatteras and situated upon the long sandy breastwork which forms the Atlantic coast of North Carolina and separates the waste of ocean from the inner waters known as Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. When detained by adverse winds or calms quite a fleet of outward bound vessels collects at the inlet, The coast had an evil reputation for wreckers and many stories were told of vessels lured on the breakers by false lights fastened to horses which were led up and down the sands. Upon receipt of the distressing communication our mother hastily left for Ocracoke taking with her a captain and two seamen for the Union as she was advised would be necessary. She set out with her infant son and a nurse by coach at four in the morning for Little Washington on Pamlico Sound, found a sloop ready to sail to Ocracoke, and reached it the same day. Captain Pike and his wife showed her every attention and gave her full particulars of all that had taken place. It was owing to light winds and calms that Captain Daly was three weeks in reaching Ocracoke from Plymouth. When his vessel arrived at the inlet he was found prostrated with fever and was taken ashore. Doctor Dudley of Portsmouth, twelve miles distant, was sent for but could not save him. He was interred in a plot set apart for burials in Captain Pike's garden. The ravages of wind and wave have devoured the shore line and buried the little cemetery beneath the waters of the Sound."

Captain John Pike's home, store, and garden were located somewhere along the soundside shore in the vicinity of the present-day NPS Visitors Center and parking lot.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Bugeyes and WWII

During WWII the US Navy established a base on Ocracoke. Earl O'Neal has written a comprehensive history of this time in his book, Ocracoke Island, Its People, the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy Base During World War II.

On page 50 Earl includes the following photo of the Nettie B. Granville, a bugeye sailboat (a type of vessel originally produced in the Chesapeake Bay for oyster dredging) purchased by the Navy in 1942 for use as a freight boat.

Elizabeth O'Neal Howard Collection

The Nettie B had been owned by Ocracoke Native, Stanley Wahab, who equipped the sailboat with a diesel engine. During the war the vessel was captained by Thurston Gaskill, another island native, who used the boat to haul freight and supplies for the Navy Base.

After the war Stanley Wahab, Thurston Gaskill, and Wahab Howard purchased the Nettie B, and used her as a freight boat for several years, bringing needed goods to Ocracoke village.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


From the Sacramento Record-Union, Volume 98, Number 126, 25 December 1899:

"CHICAGO, Dec. 24. —A special to the "Tribune" from Norfolk, Va., says: The British steamship Ariosto, Captain Baines, bound from Galveston to Hamburg, was wrecked at 4 o'clock this morning, six miles south, off Hatteras, N. C, and twenty-one of the crew were drowned. Captain Baines and eight of the crew were saved by the heroic efforts of the Ocracoke life saving crew, under Captain James Howard. Those who lost their lives attempted to reach the shore in a small boat, which was swamped shortly after it put off from the ship. Captain Baines and the eight men remained aboard and were landed by the life savers in the breeches buoy, but not until after a struggle which lasted all day."

Several weeks ago I was chatting with a neighbor about the wreck of the Ariosto, and he told me his wife's grandmother had come into possession of a wooden bucket from the ill-fated ship, and had passed it down to her granddaughter. A few days ago I stopped by to take a look. Here is a photo of the bucket:

If you enlarge the photo you can clearly read the name, "Ariosto," carved into the bucket. Look for more about the wreck of the Ariosto in a future Ocracoke Newsletter.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:     

Monday, April 24, 2017


Dorcas is a name not heard very often today. But it was popular in the nineteenth century, especially on Ocracoke Island. At least six women on Ocracoke were named Dorcas.

Dorcas, also called Tabitha (Dorcas is the Greek translation of the Aramaic word for gazelle), was a character in the New Testament who was devoted to good works and acts of charity (see the Acts of the Apostles, 9:36-42). Dorcas Societies are church-sponsored groups that provide clothing to the poor.

Below is a photograph of a stained glass window in St. Michael's Parish Church, Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire U.K. depicting Dorcas. (source: 

Photo by Alsto911

One of the last Ocracoke women named Dorcas was my cousin, born 1962. Although she does not live on the island, she traces her family roots directly to William Howard, colonial owner of Ocracoke Island.

Several years ago Dorcas and her husband were standing in line to purchase tickets for a recently released popular movie. The line was long, and moving very slowly. Impatient, her husband turned to her and said, "Do you really want to stand here any longer just to see this movie, Dorcas?"

Hearing Dorcas' husband's comment, but never having heard the name before, a woman in front of them turned around, directed her steely gaze directly at Dorcas, and admonished her firmly: "I would not tolerate him speaking to me that way!"

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:

Friday, April 21, 2017

April Newsletter

In April, 1996, Ocracoke resident Calvin Wilkerson entered the World Submarine Invitational, a human-powered submarine race in San Diego, CA, pitting design teams from around the world.

Calvin's quirky submarine, using paint rollers to force water through 42 condoms, and dubbed the "Condomed Nautilus," competed against MIT, the University of Massachusetts, the University of California, and the U.S. Naval Academy, among other notable institutions.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the entertaining story of Calvin Wilkerson and his Condomed Nautilus. You can read it here:

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Bus to Norfolk

The first bus service connecting Ocracoke island and points north, including Norfolk, Virginia, was established in the late 1930s or early 1940s. 

Van Henry O'Neal (right) and the Ocracoke Bus, ca. 1940

This is what Earl O'Neal writes in his book O'Neals of Ocracoke Island, their Ancestors and Descendants: "This bus was owned by Stanley Wahab to support his Wahab Village Hotel and other enterprises. It was operated by Van Henry O'Neal. Much of the time he picked people up at their homes, transported them to Hatteras Inlet Coast Guard Station [on the north end of Ocracoke], then carried the passengers on a small boat without the vehicle, to Oden's Dock in Cape Hatteras. From there you rode with the Midgetts, Anderson, Stockton or their dad to Manteo, NC, where they met the Trailways bus to Norfolk VA.... [T]here were no roads, only sand tracks, or if you were lucky and the tide was down, you got a smooth ride on the back of the beach along the edge of the ocean." 

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