PO Box 248
December 19, 2005
Ocracoke Street Names (Part II)
Last month I took the opportunity to share some island history by explaining
how several of Ocracoke’s street names came to be. Other names are just as
interesting. Consider these.
On your visits to the island you may have noticed "Ocean View Road"
and " Old Beach Road." The Pony Island Motel sits between these two
roads. If you’ve been coming to the island for a while you are probably
aware that "Ocean View Road" has no view of the ocean, and that
"Old Beach Road" does not take you to the beach.
Present-day View from "Ocean View" Road:
When the signs went up earlier this year many of us imagined first-time
visitors to the island vainly driving down these roads looking for the beach.
Even more confusing, there is a narrow, unpaved road just off of the
"Bank Road" (actually the official name is "Cedar Road"
though most islanders still refer to it, for obvious reasons, as the "Bank
Road.") called "Beach Road." Not only does this road not lead to
the beach, it terminates in a dead end. Residents along this road worried that
the green road sign would lure countless tourists on a fruitless quest for sun
The "Beach" Road:
Why these misleading names? It turns out that Ocracoke’s topography was
quite different years ago when these roads acquired their names. When the
Variety Store was built in the early 1960s it sat right on the edge of the bald
beach. From there to the Park Service campground was a vast tidal flat,
virtually devoid of vegetation. In fact, the traditional name for this part of
the island is the "Plains." Today this stretch of land is
covered with myrtles, yaupons, cedars, and many varieties of
NC Highway 12 & The "Plains" in 2005:
No doubt Ocracoke Village is situated on what was once a separate
"inside island" that was gradually fused to the advancing "sandy
banks" as sea level rose. Islanders living today can remember fishing in a
slough between the village and the banks. My father remembers folks shaking
their heads when Thurston Gaskill built his home (now the Thurston House Bed
& Breakfast) on what they considered "the edge of the beach." The
Thurston House is not 1600 feet from Silver Lake Harbor.
In fact the three roads mentioned above, "Beach Road," "Old
Beach Road," & "Ocean View Road" all lie between Thurston’s
house and the beach. For many years they did provide access to and views of the
ocean beach. Today they are but reminders of the way Ocracoke used to be.
"Nubbins Ridge" is a curious name for one of the island’s narrow
lanes. It turns out that Carey, Elnora, and Delphin Williams, whose family home
was located here, named this road years ago for an area they were familiar
with in Richmond, Virginia.
"Paddy’s Holler" is another peculiar Ocracoke name. There is no
street named for this area of the island, if only because this one-time public
lane is now little more than a footpath & driveway. Years ago this lane
passed from the school and church to the intersection of "Fig Tree
Lane" and the "Back Road."
Paddy’s Holler was at times the "party part" of Ocracoke village.
Many a game of poker was played in the woods near the lane, and many a crock of
homemade meal wine was brewed in the vicinity.
Walter Howard immortalized Paddy’s Holler in a song, and his brother Edgar,
after he retired and moved back home, popularized it in the 1970’s. Ocracoke’s
folk band, "Molasses Creek" has included this lively song in their
There are, of course, no "hollers" anywhere on flat, sandy
Ocracoke. I’m told that one of the old-time imbibers (was it Wid Williams?)
named this area of the village after a pub in Philadelphia.
"Lawton Lane" intersects "Howard Street." It is the
narrow sandy lane where my grandparents lived in a small "story and a
jump" wood frame house. I never knew the road to have a name until Libby
& Bill Hicks rented the house in the 1990s and used "Lawton Lane"
as their address, a tribute to my father who was born in the house. At that time
he lived next door, on the corner of "Lawton Lane" & "Howard
Street," one of only a few people, I’m sure, to live on two streets, both
of which were eponymous.
There is a story behind "Martha Jane Lane," the short section of
road that connects "Lighthouse Road" to the "Loop Road."
Martha Jane’s house is the small cottage sided with cedar shakes. Some years
ago she was taken to Duke University hospital complaining of abdominal discomfort. She was diagnosed with a nervous stomach and sent back home. Some
months later she took a snapshot of her "nervous stomach," her newborn
baby son, and sent it to the doctors at the hospital.
Martha Jane Lane:
Even if you’ve been visiting Ocracoke for some time you may not have had
opportunity to drive down "Winnie Blount Road." It is, after all, a
dead end residential road and not very visible. Winnie Blount (affectionately
known to islanders as "Aunt Winnie") was the only black person to
return to Ocracoke after the Civil War. She married another former slave from
the mainland and raised two children on the island. Of her eleven grandchildren
only three survive. Mamie lives in New York City, Annie Laurie lives in Swan
Quarter, and Muzel stays on Ocracoke’s "Back Road" with Kenny
Ballance. Muze is truly an island treasure. She will celebrate her 102nd
birthday this coming March.
On a more contemporary note, I was discussing my research on island street
names with Leslie Lanier (owner of "Books to be Red") and I mentioned
that I had no clue how "Lumpy’s Road" got its name. A grand smile
came over Leslie’s face and she told me how delighted she was that for once
she was able to fill me in on some island history.
It seems that when Leslie was pregnant with her first son, Andrew (born
1996), her husband, Beaver, would put his hand on her abdomen and jokingly
comment on how lumpy it was. It didn’t take much before they were both
referring to the unborn baby as "Lumpy." And thus the name of the road
where Leslie, Beaver, & Andrew (and now Kyle also) live.
As you drive, walk, or bike around the village, maybe you will have a
different appreciation for our road signs now. They may not be aesthetically
pleasing, but they at least preserve a bit of our island history.
Click here to read Ocracoke Street Names, Part