Friday, January 19, 2018

Old Christmas and Old Buck

Every year the residents of Rodanthe on Hatteras Island celebrate Old Christmas with feasting and merriment.

Photo: Outer Banks History Center

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is about how this event came to be. You can read it here:

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Gulf Stream

The Gulf Steam is a warm water current about 60 miles wide and, in places, almost 4,000 feet deep. It originates in the Gulf of Mexico, and flows along the eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Its maximum speed is approximately 5 1/2 miles per hour.

The cobalt-blue Gulf Stream, which flows about 30 to 50 miles offshore, has a major influence on the climate of North Carolina. The warm current (about 60 degrees in the winter) creates milder winter temperatures, particularly along the Outer Banks. 80 degree water temperature in the summer draws tourists to the Banks for swimming, surfing, snorkeling, birding, and just relaxing on the beach. Gulf Stream fishing is a major industry from Oregon Inlet to Ocracoke Inlet.

The Gulf Stream is so important to the economy of North Carolina that it has created some minor controversies, as indicated by this 1938 editorial in The Beaufort News:

From The Beaufort News, Sept. 29, 1938

"Beyond Understanding

"The action of a Wilmington man in seeking to deride the Gulf Stream in an article in a well known state magazine two weeks ago is a little beyond our understanding. He claimed to quote official sources of information, yet a careful perusal of the article leads to the impression that the quotations were carefully selected for the purpose of being misleading.

"The gentleman says the Gulf Stream is 100 miles off Southport. In the face of this claim the writer has a telegram from J. H. Hawley, acting director of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, who asserts that the approximately inner edge of the stream is 35 miles south east of Cape Fear. And the Wilmington man takes a dig at the Wilmington, Morehead City and Beaufort Chambers of Commerce and at the Southport Civic club for boasting a climate influenced by the Gulf Stream. Our answer to this is that if he does not like the climate along the coast he is perfectly welcome. In fact we will be glad to see him take himself further away from it. The Gulf Stream does not need ‘debunking’ from a man who know nothing about it. When the true facts about it and what it means to our coast are brought out it will be found to be worth vastly more than the average citizen now dreams of. Meanwhile, we are more than willing to accept the findings of the United States in preference to those of an illinformed individual."

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Beach Landing

Several days ago I wrote about the Ocracoke Airport. As I mentioned, before the airport was built, and before NC12 was constructed (in the 1950s it sometimes served as a runway), pilots landed right on the beach. In the 1930s and 1940s the area from the edge of Ocracoke Village to where the NPS campground is today was a wide tidal flat, a near-perfect landing area. This is what was written in The Beaufort News in August, 1941:

Largest Plane Ever Made Can Land Safely On Ocracoke Island Beach

Photo by Aycock Brown

NO PLANE IS TOO large to land on the mile-wide beach of Ocracoke Island. Aviators who have landed there say it is the largest natural airport in the world. The above picture was made on Ocracoke beach a few days ago. It shows a partial view of the big 3-motored Stinson owned by Mayor R. J. Reynolds of Winston-Salem. In this plane, Mayor Reynolds, who is also treasurer of the National Democratic Committee, gets about the country in a hurry.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Trouble Follows Road

The following is from Miscellaneous Newspaper Articles for Hyde Co., NC (The Coastland Times - Friday, January 2, 1953; pg. 1)


Ocracoke Island was shocked to the roots of its so called Elizabethan foundation when the first trial in approximately 30 years was heard before Justice of the Peace Harvey Wahab. The news of the scheduled hearing swept over this sandy soil like a prairie fire and the natives from all over the island flocked to the courthouse building to hear the testimony, Mackley [Maltby] Bragg was charged with assault on the person of Stanley Wahab. He was found guilty of the charge and received a 30 day road sentence suspended upon the payment of $10 and cost and on the good behavior of the defendant for a period of six months.

The trial and the events leading up to it has been called the "news of the year." For a period of 30 years Ocracoke has been known as the one place in North Carolina without any form of law. It received much publicity due to the fact that it did not have a jail, any law enforcement officers, and there are no license plates on the cars and no licenses for driving. The fact that the problems of civilization were slowly encroaching this island of legend became evident in 1950 following the construction of Scott's Highway. The citizens were faced with the problems of speeders along the narrow highway which had been called the road which "started from nowhere and ended at the same place."

In order to check the speeders and the Saturday night celebrators, Ausley [Ansley] O'Neal was appointed Deputy Sheriff. Additional problems appeared when it was discovered that following an arrest the defendant and all witnesses were forced to travel through four counties to get to Swan Quarter, the county seat of Hyde County. This trip, due to the boat and bus schedule, requires a period of four days. As the result, the deputy sheriff didn't have too much business. In order to offer a solution to the problem, Harvey Wahab, a retired Coast Guardsman, was appointed Justice of the Peace. He received his appointment in the spring and today was his first trial.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Cremation Jewelry

Recent after-dinner conversation at my house turned to burial practices and cremation. I was reminded of a customer at the Village Craftsmen a number of years ago.

A congenial elderly couple came into our gallery. While I was chatting with the woman I nodded toward the gentleman with her, and referred to him as her husband. "Oh, he is not my husband," she countered. "My first husband is here," she said, pointing to the locket-type earring dangling from her right ear. "And my second husband is here," she added, touching her left earring.

Noticing a matching locket on a chain around her neck, and nodding to the gentleman with her and pointing to the necklace, I remarked, "So, I suppose he will go there."

"Oh no," she quickly informed me, "that's my dog."

You meet the most interesting people at Ocracoke!

(I just did an internet search for "cremation jewelry" and came up with more than one million links!)

Friday, January 12, 2018

White-Cowper Airport

Access to Ocracoke is by state-operated ferries, private boat, or airplane. In the '30s and '40s pilots landed on the beach. After NC12 was completed in 1957 pilots often used the new highway as a runway.

OPS Photo, Cochran Collection

Sam Jones (1893-1977) liked to fly to Ocracoke from Norfolk, Virginia. He was a colorful entrepreneur, originally from Swan Quarter, NC, who married Ocracoke native Mary Ruth Kelly. Among other things, Sam was an early promoter of a paved airstrip on Ocracoke Island. With the help of Albert W. Cowper, Resident Superior Court Judge of Lenoir County, and an avid sailor who frequently visited Ocracoke, Sam made contact with Kinston attorney, Thomas J. White, chairman of the NC Advisory Budget Commission and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. White, incidentally, was an avid fisherman and hunter who loved Ocracoke Island and the Outer Banks.

As the result of considerable lobbying by Judge Cowper, Mr. Jones, and others, appropriation for the 3000 foot paved airstrip was approved, and it was built in the early 1960s. In 1964, Sam Jones, newly enthusiastic about easier air travel to the island, commissioned a sign to be placed at the airport. It read, "White-Cowper Airport." Sam is reported to have remarked, "I named the Ocracoke airstrip 'White-Cowper Airport' because Senator Tom White got the money appropriated, and I named it for Judge Albert Cowper for getting Tom White to do it."

It has been many a year since any sign advertising the White-Cowper Airport has been displayed on Ocracoke Island. Few people even remember the sign, and I have been unable to locate a photo of it. I wonder by what authority (if any) Sam named the Ocracoke Airport, and if the airport has an official name in any state documents. It would be interesting to find out. 

This article in the Ocracoke Observer describes a 2016 visit to the island by Conor & Sam Dancy in their rented Skylane airplane:

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Junius Harris Fulcher

Junius Harris Fulcher was born in the small village of Frisco on Hatteras Island in 1876. He was the son of George Leffers Fulcher and Cynthia Stowe. George Fulcher (born 1839) had worked as an inlet pilot, fisherman, teacher, and Methodist minister.

Like so many young men from the Outer Banks, Junius entered the US Lighthouse Service. In July, 1918, when he was 42 years old and married with an eight-month-old daughter, Junius was called into service with the Naval Reserve.

Junius Fulcher served as Lieutenant (junior grade) on board the USS Ticonderoga, a 5130 gross ton cargo ship under charter to the United States Navy. The Ticonderoga was built at Bremerhaven, Germany in 1914 as the German flag merchant steamer Kamilla Rickmers. The ship was seized by the U.S. Government in 1917, and renamed Ticonderoga later in that year.

The Ticonderoga

On September 22, 1918, the Ticonderoga left New York on her fourth voyage to France. Eight days later a German U-boat, U-152, surfaced in her path. Commanding officer, James J. Madison, attempted to ram the submarine, but missed by just a few feet. The U-boat attacked, critically disabling the Ticonderoga, and killing and injuring many of the crew, including the captain.

Seriously wounded and losing consciousness, Madison ordered his crew to abandon ship as it sank. His lieutenants, Frank L. Muller and Junius Fulcher, were placed in charge. Of the ship’s 237 crew members only 22 sailors and the two officers survived the battle. Lt. Junius Fulcher, badly wounded, and Executive Officer, Frank Muller, were picked up by the German submarine and taken aboard as prisoners of war. Junius Fulcher was treated by the U-boat’s doctor and recuperated well. After the November 11 Armistice, Fulcher and Muller were released in Harwich, England.

US Naval History & Heritage Command Photo
Muller, left foreground; Fulcher, right foreground

Fulcher returned to work with the US Lighthouse Service, where he served for 40 years. He and his wife Grace had one more child, a son. Junius Fulcher died in 1967 at the age of 91 in Norfolk, Va.

James Hardy Overton met and befriended Junius Fulcher around the turn of the 20th century, some years before Fulcher’s fateful encounter with U-152. Impressed with Fulcher’s character, Hardy Overton named his first son Junius Fulcher Overton. Years later, Junius Overton’s two daughters, Margaret and Kay, married Ocracoke men, Danny Garrish and Mike Riddick. A number of the family continue to live on Ocracoke Island to this day.