PO Box 248
July 01, 2001
Summer is upon us and soon it will be Independence Day. If you will be
on the island July 4 be sure to check the schedule
of events. These include the annual sand castle contest, sky-diving
demonstration, Blackbeard appearance, classic car show, lighthouse tours,
old-time parade, and fireworks display.
In the midst of all the summer activities it is well to remember our island
history and the unique contributions of many of our native O'cockers.
Following is a short story I wrote based on one of my Aunt Leevella's common
Leevella & Daughter, Martha Dean, 1961:
This photo was taken not far from Village Craftsmen. Note the small dune
and sea oats behind the two women. The road is deep, soft sand.
Behind them is Silver Lake Harbor.
"Too late," Leevella admonished, "Iíve done promised Freener."
Martha Dean had hoped her mama would pick her a plump, juicy fig when she
stepped outside to empty her wash basin. Ocracokers knew that fig trees
fared best when someone lived nearby. That was because everyone emptied
their dish water on the oyster shells at the base of the fig trees. It was
not just the water. It had something to do with a little bit of soap and
maybe a few food scraps.
But Martha Dean was too late in asking. Leevella had already finished this
last of the clean-up chores and was looking forward to a momentís rest in the
Martha Dean wouldnít get her fig, at least not unless she was willing to
walk outside and pick it herself. On this sweltering August evening the
thirsty Ďskeeters were swarming so thick you could hear them humming like a
new frigedaire when you put your ear up to the side of the white porcelain box.
Grandmama Aliph, who lived just across the narrow sandy lane, was, like most of
the older folks, in the habit of painting her screens with kerosene to help keep
the bugs out of the house. But Leevella was content just to swat the few
strays that managed to follow her into the sittiní room.
After Leevella had lowered herself down into a nice soft chair Martha Dean
inquired, "Tell me again who Freener was, mama. And what does a
promise have to do with not getting me a fig?"
"Freener," Leevella explained, was short for Epherena who was born
on the island in 1867 and died here in 1948. She and her husband lived "up
Trent." Years ago, sometime in the late 1800ís, Alexander Garrish
had fallen in love. When he asked his girlfriend for her hand in marriage she
turned him down. She refused his offer so many times that he finally gave
up and quit trying anymore. He even quit asking her out. But then one day she
decided that it was time to get married and told him so. Unfortunately, by
then Alex had fallen in love with Epherena Fulcher. (Her nickname, "Freena"
was pronounced "Freener" by Oícockers). Thus, the origin of
the saying. "Too late," he told her, "Iíve done promised
No one seems to know who Alexanderís first love was, but the saying, though
no longer common, is remembered by most of the older residents.
Epherena is, to say the least, an odd name. It reminds me of many
other unusual island names. From my childhood I was fascinated by our own
family monikers: Aliph, Zilphia, Failing, Cordelia, Leevella, and many others.
I donít know where most of these originated (some are Biblical, some just
archaic), but Iíve cataloged over one-hundred Ocracoke names from the last
two-hundred years that are unique, unusual, uncommon or otherwise noteworthy.
There are more than 80 small cemeteries scattered throughout the village,
including several Howard family plots across the lane from Village Craftsmen.
When you are next on the island look for some of these names on our tombstones:
Callas or Callis
Tilmon or Tilman
Be sure to stop by and say hello on your next visit to Ocracoke. We are
adding new craft items regularly. Click on the "What's New" link
near the top left of the page to view some of our latest additions.
Until next time, have a great summer and we look forward to seeing you soon.
Philip and the entire staff of Village Craftsmen