Some time ago I obtained a transcript of an 1890 advertisement on the back of the stationery for the Ocracoke Ponder Hotel (1885-1900). The hotel was located about where the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (the old US Coast Guard Station) is now. The transcript follows the photo of the hotel.

Ponder Hotel, 1899
Ponder Hotel, 1899

OCRACOKE

On the Atlantic coast bordering on North Carolina and which constitutes her Eastern boundary and immediately facing the Ocean, is one of the most beautiful Islands of this hemisphere. The earliest name we find for it is Ocracoke [see https://villagecraftsmen.blogspot.com/2016/06/wococon-wokokon.html for earlier spellings]. It has always been noted for its health and

SALUBRIOUS CLIMATE

which is not surpassed by any Ocean resort, and has no equal, inasmuch as the breeze from the ocean is salt and if perchance the wind should come from the land, it must first be wafted from the bosom of Pamlico Sound, a salt water sheet, whose expanse is only commensurate with its life giving properties.

IT’S ACCESSIBILITY

is easy and all delays are now laid aside, as the newly repaired and excellent steamer Beaufort has been chartered to make tri-weekly trips from Washington [see https://www.villagecraftsmen.com/steamships-ocracoke/]. The comfort of the passengers was especially considered in selecting this boat and when by a few hours ride the island is reached, a

HOTEL

of excellent dimensions greets the eye, and the seeker after health and comfort will have all the heart desires The many

ATTRACTIONS

offered are various and of a kind to please anyone.

SILVER LAKE

a beautiful sheet of water is immediately in the rear, and offers a sail for the timid who fear the sound or ocean, a bath for those who dread the surf, and fishing for any who prefer to angle for perch rather than trout or blue fish. [This may be the first time the harbor was referred to as Silver Lake, probably a marketing tactic. Traditionally, the harbor was called Cockle Creek (see https://villagecraftsmen.blogspot.com/search?q=Silver+Lake.)]

THE SURF

is only a short walk from the hotel, and this can be reached by a tram railway at any and all times, if the walk seems tiresome [for more information see https://villagecraftsmen.blogspot.com/2017/06/ocracoke-railway.html; the tram railway was operated by Baxter Johnson]. In fact no wish of a guest will be denied to insure ease and comfort.

THE BALL ROOM

is located at the extreme end of the hotel, so that the bustle and stir incident to a dance or promenade will not disturb the invalid.

THE MUSIC

will be furnished by a band of reputation and will be at the disposal of the guests.

THE TABLE

will be under the supervision of an expert caterer and in addition to our home markets, Norfolk and Baltimore will assist in furnishing the food.

FISHING

of every kind can be had at all times, the most exciting of which is probably blue fish trolling.

SPORTSMEN

find game in abundance. It is remarked that the curlew and willet shooting surpasses the quail shooting of California. [The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1916 made hunting curlews and willets illegal.]

THE MANAGEMENT

is directly under the control of Spencer Bros., so well and favorably known as hotelists, to whom all inquiries can be addressed at Washington, N.C.

Already the season is opened at this hotel and everybody will find not only a welcome and every wish gratified, but health, sport and a general good time, and we advise everybody to visit OCRACOKE this season.

 

 

 

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Sometime between 1000 and 500 years ago, Native Americans settled in what is now eastern North Carolina, and began frequenting Ocracoke to fish and gather shellfish in the waters of Pamlico Sound, especially near Springer’s Point. In 1607, the English monarchy ignored the original inhabitants, and laid claim to “Virginia” (originally much of the east coast of North America, including what is now North Carolina) with the establishment of the Jamestown colony. 

In the mid-1660s, King Charles II granted the territory of Carolina, including Ocracoke Island, to eight Lords Proprietors, supporters who had remained loyal to the crown during the English Civil War.

In 1719, the Lords Proprietors, none of whom ever set foot on Ocracoke, granted the island to John Lovick, Secretary of the Colony of North Carolina. Within just a few years, Lovick sold “Ye Island of Ocreecock,” consisting of 2,110 acres, to Richard Sanderson, a North Carolina councilman and justice, who utilized the island to graze a considerable “stock of horses, sheep, cattle and hoggs.” At Sanderson’s death in 1733 ownership of the island passed to another Richard Sanderson (the elder Sanderson’s son or nephew) who sold his holding to William Howard, Sr. in 1759. Howard and his family, who were probably already living on the island with a dozen or so other families, none of whom were originally land owners, was the first owner to make his home on the island, and the last of the colonial owners to own the entire island (or what was considered the entire island in 1759).

William Howard paid £105 (equivalent to about $185, or about $7,000 of buying power in 2022) for the 2,110 acres of Ocracoke Island.

Less than two months after he bought Ocracoke, Howard sold ½ of the island (including the Point, today known as Springer’s Point, a heavily wooded point of land on the western edge of Ocracoke village) to his friend, John Williams.

Springer's Point
Springer’s Point

The Outer Banks (including Ocracoke Island) has always been a dynamic, evolving place. As testimony, Ocracoke Inlet is the only Outer Banks inlet that has been continuously open since Europeans began keeping records. Since the 1580s, storms and hurricanes have routinely opened and closed other inlets, and with every storm the islands of the Outer Banks changed size and shape.

In 1795, Jonathan Price, an early cartographer who surveyed Ocracoke Inlet wrote that “Occacock was heretofore, and still retains the name of, an island. It is now a peninsula; a heap of sand having gradually filled up the space which divided it from the bank. It continues to have its former appearance from the sea; the green trees, that cover it, strikingly distinguishing it from the sandy bank to which it has been joined. Its length is three miles, and its breadth two and one half [about 7.5 square miles, or 4,800 acres].” 

Clearly, Price is using “Occacock” to describe, not the entire island we know today, but a separate, smaller island that includes the present-day village of Ocracoke. As the Outer Banks migrated to the west with rising sea levels, the banks bumped up against this small island, and fused the two, creating what Price referred to as a peninsula attached to the sandy banks. Interestingly, in 1719, “Ye Island of Ocreecock” consisted of only 2,110 acres (just over three square miles). This must have been that separate inside island (including the “Point”), a geological formation distinct from the “sandy banks.” The modern village of Ocracoke comprises about 2,500 acres (just under 4 square miles), while the entire island as we know it today is about 9.6 square miles (over 6,000 acres).

The Point has played a significant role in the history of Ocracoke Island since the early 1700s.  Although many people imagine Ocracoke as originally a traditional fishing village, the reality is much more complex. Trade and commerce brought the first settlers to the island.

In 1715 the North Carolina Colonial Assembly passed an act to settle inlet pilots at Ocracoke. The pilots’ task was to guide ships through Ocracoke Inlet and across the bar in order to bring vessels safely into Pamlico Sound, and across to mainland North Carolina ports, including Bath, Washington, Plymouth, Belhaven, and New Bern. Individuals who knew the waters well were granted licenses or certificates of competency, known as branches. These individuals (there was at least one female pilot, Patsey Caraway) were known as Branch Pilots, and were situated at the Point (originally called Williams’ Point.).

In spite of the act of 1715, there is no record of settlement on the island until the mid-1730s. Presumably, the periodic presence of sea dogs, buccaneers, and pirates, including the notorious Blackbeard, kept law-abiding citizens at bay. Ocracoke, in fact, was one of Blackbeard’s favorite anchorages. In the fall of 1718, he hosted a memorable gathering of buccaneers on the beach, and soon after was killed in a naval battle with the British Royal Navy just offshore of the Point.

With the eventual settlement of pilots at the Point, public land there came to be known as Pilot Town. By the end of the 18th century, much of this public land had eroded away. In 1801 another 6 ½ acres of the Point was set aside to expand Pilot Town. The pilots were permitted to build houses and other structures, but the land was not privately owned. Eventually, storehouses, kitchens, smoke houses, wharves, warehouses, a store, a blacksmith shop, and a windmill, as well as private homes, were constructed on the Point.  

At this time only one public road had been laid out on the island. This sandy path went from the Point to approximately where the Methodist Church is today, and from there continued to Hatteras Inlet. This road was said to have “served the purpose of all the inhabitants” of Ocracoke village.  However, by 1835 the population of Ocracoke had increased to almost 500 people, many of whom were now living on the northeast side of Cockle Creek (today known as Silver Lake Harbor). A new road was laid out, connecting the area of the present-day Methodist Church to the shoreline of Pamlico Sound. This road, the eastern end of which was later dubbed “East Howard Street” (now, just “Howard Street”), became the main thoroughfare through the village. 

Two small tidal streams (the “Big Gut” and the “Little Gut”) flowed from Cockle Creek. They effectively divided the growing village into two sections. “Creekers” lived “around creek”, along the northeast side of the harbor, while “Pointers” lived  “down point,” on the southwest side of the harbor. A friendly rivalry developed, and has persisted even after the two guts were filled in when the Navy dredged the harbor during World War II.

Bridge over the Gut
Bridge over the Gut

By 1840, more than 1,400 sailing vessels were passing through Ocracoke Inlet annually, aided by more than 40 or 50 pilots, most living on the Point. In 1846 a violent hurricane opened both Oregon Inlet and Hatteras Inlet. As it turned out, Hatteras Inlet was now much more navigable than Ocracoke Inlet. Over the next decade or so most of the ships sailing to and from mainland North Carolina opted to use Hatteras Inlet, and piloting became a dying enterprise on Ocracoke. By 1850, the number of pilots working at Ocracoke had declined to 27. In 1860, there were only 13. By 1870 the number was reduced to four, and only one pilot remained in 1880. 

After Hatteras Inlet opened, a few Ocracoke pilots moved to Hatteras, but most young men who remained at Ocracoke shipped out on 2, 3, or 4-masted coastal schooners carrying lumber, shingles, cotton, molasses, rum, and other goods between Nova Scotia, and the West Indies. The census record of 1880 lists 66 mariners based on Ocracoke.  

In 1855, nine years after Hatteras Inlet opened, the Point was sold to Daniel Tolson, who moved into a large house with an observation tower. This house, which may have been built by John Williams or another of the early pilots, was one of the oldest houses on the island, and had been used to look for ships waiting to cross the bar at Ocracoke Inlet. 

House at Springer's Point
House at Springer’s Point

In 1882, three years after Daniel Tolson died, his widow sold the Point and house to E.D. and Clara Springer, of South Creek, NC. Although the Springers enjoyed spending summers on Ocracoke, they never made it their permanent home. The Springers maintained the house as well as they were able, even constructing a new round brick cistern in 1899.

Springers Cistern
Springers Cistern

In 1923 the Springers sold the property, including the house which by then was badly in need of repair, to their son, Wallace Springer. In 1941 Wallace Springer sold the Point to the wealthy and mercurial entrepreneur, Sam Jones. Although Sam embarked on major development projects on Ocracoke in the 1950s (including Berkley Castle, Berkley Manor, the Homeplace, and the Whittlers’ Gathering Place), he never developed Springer’s Point. Sam died in 1977, and was buried on the property alongside his favorite horse, Ikey D.  Daniel Tolson is buried some distance away, surrounded by a tangle of cedars, vines, shrubs, and briars.  

By the mid-1800s, railroads were replacing schooners for transporting goods up and down the east coast. Recognizing that their livelihoods were threatened, many young Ocracoke seafarers moved north looking for work, and many others followed. Several dozen ended up working on dredges and tugboats with the US Army Corps of Engineers in the Philadelphia area. Others who remained on the island enlisted in the United States Life Saving Service, the precursor to the US Coast Guard, which established a station on Ocracoke in 1883. This began a long and meritorious tradition of islanders’ service, especially to mariners shipwrecked along our coast. 

During this time, railroads in eastern North Carolina began partnering with steamship companies to take visitors to the developing tourist destinations in Nags Head. Enterprising businessmen from near Morehead City, North Carolina, recognized Ocracoke’s potential, and built a large Victorian hotel where the old US Coast Guard Station/NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching building stands today. From 1885 until 1900, the Ponder Hotel hosted well-heeled eastern North Carolinians with lavish seafood dinners, parties, and square dances nearly every evening. When the hotel burned down in 1900, elite tourism came to an end. Islanders continued to cater to visitors, but now as guides for hunters and fishermen who stayed in modest rooming houses or in one or two small hotels.  

At about this same time, the New York-based Doxsee Clam Company built a plant on the southwest side of the Ditch (the opening that connects Pamlico Sound to Silver Lake harbor). For several years, island men harvested clams while many of the island women worked opening the clams and processing them. After the Doxsee Clam Company depleted most of the clams in Pamlico Sound and moved to Florida, islanders who remained made their livings as life-savers, hunting and fishing guides, or by selling a few fish or home-grown vegetables to neighbors. 

In 1938, a community electric generator was installed in the building that today houses Kitty Hawk Kites. Ocracokers could now illuminate their homes with incandescent lights and purchase newfangled electric gadgets like washing machines and vacuum cleaners . The generating plant served also as the island’s ice plant. Ice meant fishermen could now easily preserve fish long enough to transport them to markets on the mainland. By replacing masts and sails in their skiffs with engines from old Model T’s it meant they could also transport their fish to markets on the mainland more quickly, more safely, and more conveniently.  

Electricity was just the beginning of major change on the island. During WWII, the Navy built a 600-personnel Base along the shore of the newly dredged harbor. While many island men found wives while working up north, the new pool of Navy and Coast Guard sailors provided husbands for a number of young island ladies left behind. Ocracoke’s concentrated gene pool was much enriched.

Ferries and hard-surface roads followed in the 1950s, along with the creation of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Increased visitation followed a 1969 issue of “National Geographic” magazine that featured an article about Ocracoke with beautiful color photographs. A municipal water system was established in the 1970s. By the latter part of the 20th century, new hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops were opening every year. Modern tourism was off and running, and the population of the island steadily increased.  

At the turn of the 21st century, a number of far-sighted individuals, including Camilla Herlevich, Executive Director and Founder of the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, recognized the cultural, historical, and environmental significance of Springer’s Point. No one had lived on the Point for more than half a century, and stately old live oaks, red cedars, yaupons, birds and other wildlife were flourishing there in one of the last remaining areas in Ocracoke village untouched by modern development.  

In 2002, the North Carolina Coast Land Trust, with help from individuals and organizations, purchased the first 31 acres of Springer’s Point. Another 91 acres was added in 2006, the year Springer’s Point Nature Preserve was officially opened to the public. Today, the Preserve includes more than 130 acres of maritime forest, tidal red cedar forest, salt marsh, wet grasslands and a sound-front beach. The only remaining artifact from the Point’s human inhabitants is the brick cistern built by E. D. Springer in 1899. Just offshore is Teach’s Hole, where the pirate Blackbeard was killed in November, 1718.  

Residents and visitors alike, all value the pristine natural beauty of the forest, the tranquil waters gently lapping at the beach, and the rich cultural significance of Springer’s Point.

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In September, 2005, we published a Newsletter about the 1899 hurricane. I included a brief account about 17-year-old Elisha Ballance, and a report by Mr. S.L. Dosher, official Observer with the Weather Bureau on Hatteras Island.  Your can read that Newsletter here.

This month we are posting a detailed report of that storm (with very minor editing) written in February, 1964, by R. G. Thompson, a North Carolina mainlander who was six years old and staying with his family on Ocracoke when the storm struck. Thompson’s account was discovered in a stash of letters and papers in the Blanche Howard house after she died.

 

My Recollections of the August Storm of 1899 at Ocracoke, NC, by R. G. Thompson

I was born at Aurora, in Beaufort County, N.C., in Feb. 1893. At that time my father owned and operated a farm, a sawmill, a cotton gin, and a working, two-masted, single top-mast schooner, named Love D. Cobb, which was used to haul any freight available between Aurora and Washington, New Bern, Belhaven, Elizabeth City and Norfolk, the freight consisting chiefly of bale cotton, cotton seed, fertilizer and Irish potatoes. Our family had owned, for many years prior to my birth, a cottage at Ocracoke, where my mother and all her small children lived throughout each summer. We were taken to this summer cottage at Ocracoke in the hope of avoiding the malarial fever which was so prevalent at Aurora at that time. My father and his older boys stayed at Aurora, attending to his various businesses, but visited us at Ocracoke at week-ends using the schooner Cobb for transportation.

On these weekend visits my father would bring not only provisions for the family, but many other things for sale and barter with the local Ocracoke people, such as vegetables, potatoes, corn, chickens, meat, both smoked and salt, and firewood. And watermelons. We children, and all the Ocracoke people, were quite fond of my father’s watermelons.

Our cottage at Ocracoke was located on the sound-side directly in front of Capt. Bragg’s home, and so close to the water’s edge that we could almost leap from our porch into the water at normal high tide. It was a small two-story house, with a kitchen on the back, connected to the main house by a breezeway, and with a rainwater cistern in the vee between the house and kitchen. The house was set on blocks that had been cut from ships’ masts which had been taken from the many wrecked sailing ships on the Ocracoke beach. These blocks were six feet in length, with four feet buried in the sand, leaving the house about two feet above ground, and with the sills of the house securely pinned to the blocks. These precautions were taken in the full knowledge that sooner or later a “big blow” might knock the house off its blocks.

Even these precautions were of no consequence when the “big blow,” the “big storm,” the August Storm of 1899 struck. My mother and her four smallest children were in the cottage on this day when the storm clouds gathered in the early morning. By noon the water was upon our doorstep, and the winds were of gale force. Soon after, Capt. Bragg came to our door and advised my mother to bring the family up to his house which was on higher ground, saying that he was fearful that this was going to be a very violent storm, and that it would be dangerous to remain in our home. We moved to Capt. Bragg’s house, carrying nothing with us except the clothes on our backs.

When we left the house we left my father’s bird dog shut up in the house. By late afternoon the water had risen until there were several feet of water in our house. At this time my brother Rob thought of the dog and determined to go rescue him. He did so but had to swim part way to the house and back. When he opened the door of our cottage, he found the dog swimming around the room trying to find a safe place by clinging to the floating trunks and beds. He and the dog both swam back to Capt. Bragg’s.

My memory does not serve me as to when the “eye” of the storm passed over and as to when the wind shifted to the west. I do remember that the water continued to rise until it was in the floors of Capt. Bragg’s house. Capt. Bragg thought it was wise to do what he called “scuttle” his house, and with an ax chopped holes in the floor of each room, in the down-stairs part of the house. At this height of water the water at our house was nearly up to the second story.

I do remember that it was a very violent night. No one slept. Such a screeching and howling of winds with live oak trees being blown down and against the house, with the timbers and framing of the house groaning as if the house would be smashed to pieces at any minute.

When the “storm” (hurricane) struck, there were three small sailing vessels anchored in the channel directly in front of our house, two small, single-top-mast schooners, of about twenty tons each, and a sloop, of about ten tons. One of the schooners had no one aboard, one had two on board, and the sloop had a teen-age boy aboard.

The men aboard these small ships, after the storm had gotten real bad, signaled ashore that they wished to be taken off and ashore. It was out of the question for them to come ashore in their own small skiffs, because of the high winds, high seas and swift tides. There was no Life Saving Station at Ocracoke at that time, the nearest one being at Portsmouth, five or six miles to the southwest. There were no power boats at that time, and any effort to rescue them had to depend on men using oars. Capt. Bragg, who was a licensed pilot for Ocracoke Inlet, and who owned two very able, big, sailing skiffs, which he used in pilot work, and which could also be manned by eight oarsmen, organized a party to try to rescue these men. He made two attempts, but was never able to even launch the skiffs from the shore, as the winds by that time, from the west, were blowing at an estimated 100 miles per hour and seas were running very high.

I remember, as if it were yesterday, watching these small sailing vessels at anchor, doing their violent pitching and rolling, mostly rolling as they were laying almost side to the seas. A sweeping, fast running tide, probably as much as 10 mph held them in a side to the sea position. One of the schooners rolled its topmast right out, or broke it off right at the mainmast head. This probably was due to the crew’s carelessness in clewing up the topsail when last used. They had clewed it up at the head of the topmast, rather than settling it to the head of the main mast. A topsail when clewed up is like a big bag with a cord around its neck. If the clewing is not properly and snugly done, an opening is left at the neck into which the wind can get, ballooning the topsail out, causing tremendous pressure and weight. After breaking off, the topmast and attached topsail were left hanging by the shrouds or rigging. It slatted back and forth for some time, and finally the shrouds broke, and the topmast and topsail plunged overboard. All three of these small sailing vessels held onto their anchorage much longer than anyone expected them to, but finally no man-made gear could hold against the violence of this storm, and they, one by one, either parted their chains or dragged away, headed for the inlet and out to sea. The two schooners, nor the two men aboard them, were ever seen or heard from again. The teenage boy aboard the sloop had a miraculous experience and escape. His sloop, when it passed Springer’s Point, cut across the beach, which was covered by many feet of water, and hit an isolated sand dune which we knew at that time as a “hammock”.  When the sloop hit the hammock, the boy decided to get off the sloop and onto the hammock, although the hammock was under water, and he had to stand in waist-deep water. The sloop soon freed herself and went on out to sea and was never seen again. The boy stayed on the hammock until the storm abated and the water went out, and then walked back to Ocracoke Village. Of course, everyone had given him up for lost and were amazed to see him.

There was an old hulk of a vessel, a de-masted sailing ship, which was anchored in the sound, just outside the reef, probably 4-5 miles west of Ocracoke, which was called the “Lay Boat”. It was federal government property, and its purpose was to serve as a transfer ship for mail and messages. It was crewed by a man and his wife. It was of about 200 tons burden, was not loaded so stood up high in the water, and was a familiar sight from around in clear weather. Everyone was concerned during the storm as to what was happening to the man and wife crew. The rain and spume and mist of the storm cut off sight of the Lay Boat, and it was only after the storm had died down did anyone know. It had dragged its anchor, several miles to the southeast, had struck the reef, had broken completely in half, and one half had disappeared. The remaining half had grounded somewhere in the vicinity of Castle Rock or Beacon Island, and luckily, the man and wife crew were aboard the grounded half.

Lay Boat (Fred Walton)
Lay Boat (Fred Walton) in better days

Our small two-story house which was so close to the sound side was a complete wreck after the storm, and was never rebuilt. The battering of the huge waves had knocked it off its blocks, had moved it several feet until the house stood over the rain water cistern, had knocked off all the weather boarding up to the second story, and had washed away every single item of furniture and clothing on the first floor. The one-story kitchen, behind the house was completely gutted, with all its weather boarding gone.

My mother had a small trinket box, about the size of a cigar box, in which she kept a few small valuables and heirlooms. It had a hasp and a tiny lock, and was kept locked. It was also washed away. My mother cherished it so much that she offered a reward for finding it, and one of the older local boys found it lodged against a timber several hundred yards from the house.

Upshore from our house stood the Tuthill Hotel, a frame structure of about 25 rooms, and like our house, stood almost at the sound’s edge, with a substantial wharf or deck running right from the front porch to the channel. Like our house, the hotel was completely wrecked and de-weatherboarded up to the second story. Its dock was carried away with only a few staggering pilings left.

Tuthill Hotel
Tuthill Hotel

Down shore from our house was the Old Dominion Steamship Co. wharf and dock. This structure was built of huge pilings and heavy timbers, with only a small warehouse and office on its outer end. The whole structure was carried away except for a few staggering pilings.

The complete wreckage of our house left our family with no food at all, and no change of clothes. There were other families left almost equally destitute, and food was very scarce all over the Island. Capt. Bragg and other neighbors were very generous in sharing the little food that was available. Many drowned chickens were picked up after the storm, and they were dressed and cooked and eaten. I remember the queasiness of my stomach at the thought of having to eat drowned chickens. But we had to and did eat it.

From somewhere, I know not where, my mother found some highly colored, red flowered window curtains, which she cut up and made into make-shift clothing for us small children. I remember the big red flower on the pants she made for me, and the teasing, because of them, from my small associates.

There were many other families on the island like ours from the mainland, from Aurora, Washington, Belhaven, New Bern and other places. We had no knowledge of how violent the storm had been on the mainland, nor whether any boats had been left afloat. But we knew that if my father were alive and if the old schooner Cobb were afloat, that he would be away in her at the earliest possible moment, and that other boats would bring relief as soon as possible. It was a time of praying and hoping and waiting.

To the older people of Ocracoke, especially Capt. Bragg, every sailing vessel that sailed between the mainland and Ocracoke was recognizable, from miles away, by the “cut of its jib”, or some other feature of the rig. I remember how hopefully everyone watched the horizon to the west for the first eying of an approaching vessel with relief. It was not many days after the storm abated, if my memory serves me, when a “speck” was discovered in the horizon. Capt. Bragg almost immediately identified it as the schooner Cobb, Capt.Thompson from Aurora. This was the first vessel to arrive at Ocracoke with relief and provisions.

In all the long history of Ocracoke, probably no vessel arriving elicited more joy and thanksgiving and hallelujahs. The schooner Cobb had a long history of plying to Ocracoke, and had always brought many things the Island people wanted. Every man, woman and child on the island knew her by her rigging, at great distance, and even in normal times she was always gladly welcomed. This time they knew she would be loaded with the things they all so badly needed.

My father was so well acquainted at Ocracoke that he could call about every man there by his first name. He knew their needs and at this time he knew that, not only his own family, but every family there needed everything. So, at the cost of a whole day’s delay in seeing his own family, he had stocked the old Cobb with everything he could think of. He had aboard great stocks of provisions, meat, lard, flour, corn meal, fruit, medicine, old clothes, salt, sugar and coffee. She even had barrels of fresh water.

I do not recall that anyone on the island was near starvation or was even particularly hungry.  And the old people were cautious enough to carefully ration out the little food they had. We could probably have survived for a number of days. But when the old schooner Cobb pulled in there was a full stomach for everyone, and within a few days other ships began to arrive.

I do not recall that there was a single human life lost on the Island in this storm, other than the two men who were lost when the small schooner dragged to sea.  Practically all live stock and chickens, ducks, geese and pigs were lost. The wild ponies survived by taking to big sand dunes north of the village.

The damage to houses in low lying areas was very heavy. Small boats, fishing gear, nets and such things were nearly all carried away. It was a terrible blow to the economy of the natives of Ocracoke. The Island natives were plunged into a depression from which it took them many years to recover.

The visitors such as our family, and other family from the mainland who regularly went to Ocracoke for the summer had had enough. The experience was too frightening. All of them as soon as they could get transportation, hurried back home to the mainland. After my father had discharged its cargo, by sale, by barter, and by gift, he packed us all aboard and took us home. We never had a cottage on Ocracoke after that. We had many friends there and continued to visit, but never to stay for the summer.

The oldest people of Ocracoke said that the “August Storm” was the worst one within the memory of living men. Certainly, there has not been one since that matched it for high winds, high water and destruction. I myself have been on or near the coast during every hurricane, every storm, Hazel, Diane and Ione, and all the named hurricanes have merely been boisterous young women with billowing skirts on a windy day compared to the “Big Blow”, “Big Storm”, the August Storm of 1899.

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