Monday, May 21, 2018

Ocracoke Lighthouse Newsletter

Most visitors to Ocracoke fall in love with our plain white lighthouse that casts a steady beam. Few people know that the Ocracoke light was a revolving light until 1854. Also, from the time of its construction in 1823 until 1854, when a Fresnel lens replaced the old reflecting/illuminating apparatus, the lantern room was a taller octagonal structure with a "birdcage" design.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the Ocracoke Lighthouse, with information about the earliest lantern room. You can read the Newsletter here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/ocracoke-lighthouse/.

Artist's Rendition of Ocracoke Light, 1823-1854
Drawing by Philip Howard




















Friday, May 18, 2018

Conch or Whelk

When I was a young boy nearly everyone on Ocracoke called the following seashell a "conch":














Nowadays, we're told, this is a whelk, not a conch. In fact, in 2015 Terri Hathaway wrote an informative article in Coastwatch Currents explaining the difference (and bemoaning the confusion). You can read it here: https://ncseagrant.ncsu.edu/currents/2015/03/whats-in-a-name-conch-vs-whelk/.

Wikipedia includes this photo of a conch:

Photo by cheesy42














Wikipedia explains that a conch "is a common name that is applied to a number of different medium to large-sized shells. The term generally applies to large snails whose shell has a high spire and a noticeable siphonal canal.... The group of conchs that are sometimes referred to as "true conchs" are marine gastropod molluscs in the family Strombidae, specifically in the genus Strombus and other closely related genera."

A whelk, on the other hand, "is a common name that is applied to various kinds of sea snail [that] are relatively large and are in the family Buccinidae (the true whelks)...."

It's all a little bit confusing to me. But since I am a big fan of Humpty Dumpty, I will let him speak for me. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.” (From Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll.)

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. You can read the Newsletter here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/island-inn-lodge-no-194-independent-order-odd-fellows/

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Gossip

"There is no human society without gossip," according to anthropologist, Pascal Boyer, in his 2001 book, Religion Explained. "Gossip is practiced everywhere, enjoyed everywhere, despised everywhere," he explains. Ocracoke, like many other small towns, has its fair share of gossip.

Gossip can be defined as casual conversation or reports about other people. Although gossip is sometimes despised for being mean-spirited, especially when the shared information turns out to be false, Boyer reminds us that "gossip is perhaps among the most fundamental human activities as important to survival and reproduction as most other cognitive capacities and emotional dispositions."

Gossip, information about other people, Boyer reminds us, "is a resource...not to be squandered." It helps us recognize members of our tribe who are trustworthy and cooperative (and who are not), and without such knowledge we would not have stable social interactions.

One native islander summed up Ocracoke's usually non-judgemental gossip in what has become an unofficial island motto: "We don't care what you do, we just want to know about it!"

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. You can read the Newsletter here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/island-inn-lodge-no-194-independent-order-odd-fellows/

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Buck & Puck

I have written about this before (in 2010), but I think it is worth repeating:

"Buck" is a common island word meaning pal or friend, and is used as a form of greeting, typically between men, as in the expression, "Hey Buck, how's it going?" (Buck is undoubtedly of ancient origin, from the word"bucca" (male goat) and "buc" (male deer), that in 18th century England came to mean "dashing fellow.") To my knowledge, Buck is a term unique to Ocracoke Island.

"Puck" is used locally as a diminutive of Buck, and is generally used to address women, and children, or by women to address men...and sometimes implies a degree of impishness. In Shakespeare Puck is a jovial, but pranksterish wanderer of the night. I think it's a good guess that the early British settlers on Ocracoke brought with them both terms, Buck & Puck.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. You can read the Newsletter here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/island-inn-lodge-no-194-independent-order-odd-fellows/

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Died Before He Was Born?

In the right front row of the old George Howard Cemetery on British Cemetery Road are the graves of Eliza Howard Wahab and Job Wahab. Next to them are the graves of several of  their 15 children.

A few graves in particular are of special interest.  In his 1956 book, Ocracoke, Carl Goerch includes a chapter entitled “Died Before He Was Born.”  He refers to the gravestone of Warren Wahab, son of Eliza and Job Wahab.  According to Goerch, the inscription states that Warren was born in 1855 and died in 1842.

Sure enough, if you walk up to the fence and peer into the cemetery, you will see Warren’s marker, seemingly stating that he died thirteen years before he was born.  This is how Goerch surmises what happened:

“Relatives of Warren Wahab placed an order for the tombstone and had it made in Washington, New Bern or some other town along the coast.  The man who cut the stone either was careless with his figures or else they hadn’t been written very distinctly.  When the stone arrived at Ocracoke, the probabilities are that the error was discovered immediately.  But it would have taken such a long time to get another stone that the family decided to put up this one and have it altered at a later and more convenient date……Weeks passed into months, months passed into years and eventually—-well what’s the use of bothering about it at this late date?”

If you look along the front row you will notice that Warren was one of three of Eliza and Job’s children who all died within seven days in September of 1842. Job died on September 4.  He was seven years old, having been born in 1835.  Jonathan and Warren died on September 11.  A glance at the tombstones will show that both Job and Warren appear to have been born in 1855.  Careful inspection reveals, however, that Job was actually born in 1835, and Warren was born in 1833.


















Over time the 3s have weathered to look like 5s.  The difference is most noticeable on Job’s marker.

No stonecutter made any mistake.  Several years ago I had the opportunity to peruse the Wahab family Bible.  Sure enough Warren’s birth date was listed as 1833, and Job’s was 1835.  But Goerch’s story is still bandied about by folks even today.  I suppose it does make an entertaining story.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. You can read the Newsletter here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/island-inn-lodge-no-194-independent-order-odd-fellows/

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mariners in the American Revolution

A 1998 edition of Ocracoke Preservation Society's Fall Newsletter, The Mullet Wrapper, included a page of information by Ellen F. Cloud (1940-2016) titled "Mariners of the American Revolution." Ellen Cloud listed 44 sailing vessels that "were captured by the British, and the crews taken and held as prisoners" between 1771 and 1782.


















The Newsletter's editor noted that "[several vessels] were known to have been local to our area. ...Ocracokers were among those listed as crew members.... Notice also, that some of the prisoners such as William Howard [and three others] escaped and eventually made it back home. What a story that must have been!" 

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. You can read the Newsletter here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/island-inn-lodge-no-194-independent-order-odd-fellows/

Friday, May 11, 2018

Row Galley

Yesterday I mentioned that a large row galley was stationed at Ocracoke Inlet during the Revolutionary War to guard American shipping from attacks by the British. The name of the vessel is not recorded. Some of our readers might wonder what a row galley is. 

A row galley was an armed United States Navy vessel employed during the age of sail. As the name suggests, row galleys used oars rather than sails as their primary means of propulsion . While sailing ships might be slowed down (or even halted) because of lack of wind, row galleys were able to continue to move as long as the crew could endure. Some row galleys also employed sails, making them even more versatile.

Model of the Row Galley, USS Washington
Photo by Sturmvogel 66>


















Above is a model of the Revolutionary-era row galley, USS Washington. This row galley had a complement of 60 oarsmen. 

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. You can read the Newsletter here: https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/island-inn-lodge-no-194-independent-order-odd-fellows/.