Friday, November 17, 2017

The Stevensons

Robert Louis Stevenson is best known as the author of Treasure Island. Fewer people know that he was the grandson of Robert Stevenson (1772-1850), a Scottish civil engineer who was instrumental in designing the Bell Rock Lighthouse, a beacon constructed on a barely exposed reef off the coast of Angus, Scotland, and sometimes described as one of the Seven Wonders of the Industrial World.

Robert Stevenson is credited with designing a total of fifteen lighthouses. His sons Alan, Thomas (Robert Louis Stevenson's father), and David designed forty-one lighthouses; and his grandsons, David Alan and Charles Alexander, twenty-six lighthouses.

Lighthouse construction in the United States was strongly influenced by the design and engineering skills of the three generations of the Stevenson family.

Ocracoke Lighthouse
photo by Eakin Howard




















Robert Louis, however, was more interested in writing. Interestingly, one of the main characters in Treasure Island is Israel Hands. In real life Israel Hands was put in command of Blackbeard's sloop, Adventure, although, having been shot in the knee by Teach, he was not on board during the fateful battle at Ocracoke in November, 1718.

According to Captain Charles Johnson, author of A General History of the Pyrates, Israel Hands spent his final days begging in the streets of London.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.   

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Toilet Paper

Today islanders rely on the internet to purchase many items. In the past Ocracokers ordered from Montgomery Ward or Sears & Roebuck catalogs. It was always a happy day when the packages arrived on the daily mailboat.

The story is told that many years ago an Ocracoker decided to order some of that newfangled toilet paper, a novelty on the island. He asked his daughter to draft a letter to Sears requesting several rolls of toilet paper.

Days later he received a reply form Sears. Sears only sold toilet paper in specific quantities, he was told. "Please consult page 126 in our catalog," the letter explained, "and place your order referencing the catalog number."

The islander's reply was classic: "Dear Sears," his daughter wrote for him, "if I had one of your catalogs I wouldn't need any of your damned toilet paper!"

If you want another laugh, check out this brief French commercial for toilet paper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZH_YInXvpoU.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.   


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Controversy in 1894

The following editorial was published July 12, 1894, in the King's Weekly, a Greenville, NC, newspaper (photo added):

"Just think of it! You can go to Ocracoke. And it is so convenient, too. Buy your ticket, get on the boat here, and some time not in the distant future, you are at Ocracoke, historical Ocracoke.

Steamer at Ocracoke, 1899













 
"Let's see how easily it is done:

"You buy your ticket. Two dollars, please ! Then you go aboard the steamer, Mevers. Off you go for Washington. At that delightful town yon spend considerable time and perhaps cash. At 10 p. m . you leave for Ocracoke, and of course get there o. k. When ready, you return by the same route and nearly the same convenience. Now, let's see again.

"You pay $2 for a round trip ticket. You get to Washington and stay there or on the boat, long enough for two meals, costing doubtless another $1. You are only twenty-five miles from home, and though it is yet eighty miles to Ocracoke the round trip fare from there is just $1. For a round trip of 210 miles you pay $2. The people of Washington for a round trip pay $l for 160 miles. Greenville pays one cent a mile, Washington pays [.6 cents a mile] . And the business of Greenville is about what keeps up the O. D. S. S. [Old Dominion Steam Ship] line on Tar river. Did you ever hear of such discrimination and do you wonder that the railroad drove the two lines into consolidation?

"Another thing. People here have to lose a day on that trip while the boats for Ocracoke leave Washington at 10 o'clock at night. Why shouldn't the boat wait here till six or seven p. m. for the benefit of our people, and then make close connections at Washington?"

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.   

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Getting Around

Barbara Garrity-Blake and Karen Willis Amspacher have compiled a wonderful "Heritage Guide to the Outer Banks Byway." Their 290 page book, Living at the Water's Edge, has this to say about "Getting Around" on Ocracoke Island in years past:

"Before roads and bridges, the easiest route for Ocracokers traveling to the mainland was a half-day mailboat ride to Atlantic, where they could catch a midday bus to Morehead City. Otherwise they could ride nine hours on a freight boat to Washington, North Carolina. Traveling north to Norfolk was more arduous, involving thirteen miles of sand tracks just to get to the north end of Ocracoke Island. A private ferry took people across the inlet to Hatteras. The Manteo-Hatteras Bus line, a bus suervice run by the three Midgett brothers from Rodanthe, would take travelers the length of Hatteras Island, across Oregon Inlet via ferry, and up to Manteo. 'It was like going on a safari across a desert to get to Manteo,' remarked Earl O'Neal.

"In 1938 an enterprising Ocracoke resident began a taxi service from the village to Hatteras Inlet, navigating sand paths in a station wagon. The ferry, run by Hatteras resident Frazier Peele, began in 1950 as a passenger ferry and expanded to a four-car operation by the time the state bought his business in 1957. 'The ferry consisted of taking a boat, putting a platform on it, taking boards for a ramp and running the car up on the boat,' an islander recalled. 'We just ran the car off in shallow water, and off we went; there were no docks or anything.'"

Frazier Peele on his early ferry across Hatteras Inlet











This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.  

Monday, November 13, 2017

Aurora

In June, 1837, the schooner Aurora wrecked on Ocracoke Bar. Unlike so many other shipwrecks, the Aurora struck the bar in fair weather. The captain and crew were able to make it to shore under their own efforts. In January, 1838, the true nature of the shipwreck emerged.

David Stick, in his book Graveyard of the Atlantic, quotes this article that the New York Courier ran about the Aurora:

“On Thursday last, Mr. Waddell, the United States Marshal, arrested Richard Sheridan, late master of the schooner Aurora of New York, John Crocker, mate, and James Norton, seaman, on the charge of the most serious nature, and which, if proved, will place the lives of the offenders in jeopardy. The prisoners are charged with willfully wrecking and losing on Ocracoke Bar, the schooner Aurora, bound from Havana to New York, in June last, and they are also charged with stealing from the vessel after she was wrecked $4000 in doubloons, which had been sent on board in Havana, consigned to Don Francis Stoughton, Spanish Consul in New York.”

Stick goes on to explain that, "The Marshal specifically charged that Captain Sheridan had enlisted the aid of the two crewmen, and together they had carefully planned the shipwreck and stolen the 264 doubloons, which had then been entrusted to the Captain by his henchmen for transfer to the north where they could be converted into American money. About the time this charge was made public it may have become obvious to Crocker and Norton that they joined forces with the wrong man, as on meeting him in New York they were told that he had been robbed of the doubloons and there was no loot to divide.

When the Captain was brought to trial in New York in February he was found guilty—the doubloons had been discovered in the hands of yet another accomplice—and he was ordered to pay costs and to repay the Spanish Consul, $4,919 in all. Captain Sheridan was kept in jail for an undetermined period as further punishment."

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.   

Friday, November 10, 2017

Portsmouth Coast Guard Station

For nearly two decades (in the 1920s and 1930s) Dorothy Byrum Bedwell spent her childhood summers on Portsmouth Island. She recounted those idyllic years in her book Portsmouth, Island with a Soul. This is what she remembers about the Coast Guard Station:

"A team of beautiful, large, white horses is in my earliest recollections of the Coast Guard. They were useful in many ways, one of which was shore patrol especially when the tide covered the beach. On patrol, the men punched keyposts which were standing at intervals along the beach (similar to the time-clock process). I remember too the wide ramp into the expansive room that housed the surf boats and surf boat drills which were held regularly. I thought of the kitchen house which was apart from the main building, and of the tantalizing aromas of supper cooking on late afternoons when we were trudging home hunglily from a walk on the beach and an ocean swim. I recall how, during hurricanes, the Captain of the Coast Guard would invite everyone to come to the station for safe housing. During the terrible hurricane of 1944, when my mother, brothers and sisters-in-law were on the island, the Coast Guardsmen came and escorted them to the station. The tide was rising so rapidly that before they reached the station, the water was up to my mother's armpits and she said that the Coast Guardsmen on each side of her literally lifted her through some of the deeper places."

Today, the Portsmouth Coast Guard Station has been restored and outfitted with reproduction surf boats and life saving equipment.
















This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.  

Thursday, November 09, 2017

George P. Hassell

The 1890 Federal Census of Ocracoke Island lists George P. Hassell, age 39, his wife Ida, age 24, and their two year old son John. George was not from Ocracoke, but he married island native Ida Ballance. George's occupation is recorded as "Agt. N&S RR."  This means Agent, Norfolk and Southern Railroad.

Readers might wonder why Ocracoke needed an agent for the railroad.

Photo by Petar Milošević













In 1885 the Spencer brothers from Washington, NC, established a large Victorian hotel (the Ponder, or Ponzer, hotel) on Ocracoke Island. This was in response to the expansion of railroads and steamships in eastern North Carolina, and the growing interest of well-heeled Tar Heel residents in vacation resorts on the Outer Banks.

As recorded in http://www.carolana.com/NC/Transportation/railroads/nc_rrs_elizabeth_city_norfolk.html:

"On January 20, 1870, the Elizabeth City & Norfolk Railroad was chartered to build a railroad line between Norfolk, VA, and Elizabeth City, NC. [The railroad was completed in 1881.]....

"In 1882, less than a year after the railroad's completion, the railroad company signed a five-year contract with the Old Dominion Steamship Company to make connections with the railroad in Elizabeth City and to provide passenger and freight service between Elizabeth City and New Bern and Washington, North Carolina. This arrangement ended in 1887, with the Norfolk and Southern Railroad operating its own line of steamers and the Old Dominion Steamship Company continuing its Norfolk to New Bern-Washington route through the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal. This route change meant the loss to Elizabeth City of much of the trade of the Pamlico Sound region. During the summer, however, most vacationers going to the prospering resort at Nags Head [and Ocracoke!] were still dependent on taking a steamship from Elizabeth City."

And thus the need for a "railroad" agent on Ocracoke Island!

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a transcription of a letter describing the September, 1944, hurricane, its aftermath and cleanup. You can read the letter, with vintage photographs added, here: www.villagecraftsmen.com/news102117.htm.