The story of Ocracoke’s Island Inn begins with the construction of a meeting house for Lodge No. 194, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, in 1901. And the story of the Odd Fellows Lodge is directly tied to the story of Michael Lawrence Piland (1861-1920), a Gates County, NC, native, the son of a farmer, who moved to Ocracoke Island when he was in his early twenties. Oral history indicates that he left Gates County after his fiancée abruptly canceled their wedding. After moving to Ocracoke, Piland was recruited by members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, as their choir master. He introduced new hymnbooks (with musical notes) which precipitated a division in the congregation. A new church, affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal Church (islanders referred to this as the “Northern Church”), was soon established. Piland continued to play an active role in the life of the new church.

In 1887, when he was 26 years old, Piland married a well-to-do widowed Ocracoke native, Lucretia Wahab Farrow (b. 1848), and soon established himself as a prominent citizen and entrepreneur. By 1888 M. L. Piland was owner of the oldest general merchandise store on the island which housed the island Post Office. He was appointed postmaster on February 28, 1888.

In 1897 Piland was instrumental in the establishment of Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a non-political and non-sectarian international fraternal order founded in 1819 by Thomas Wildey in Baltimore, Maryland. The fraternity’s motto, Amicitia, Amor et Veritas (Friendship, Love and Truth), is symbolized by three interlocking links. Lodge No. 194 was instituted on September 28, 1897, by Achoree Lodge No. 14 in Elizabeth City, NC.

By 1900 Lodge No. 194 was sufficiently established that the trustees purchased from James and Zilphia Howard a one-acre tract of land “for use as a Lodge room or such other purpose as they may deem proper.” A two-story wood frame “Greek Revival” building, the center section of which later became the main section of the Island Inn, was built in 1901 by island carpenter Charlie Scarborough. Formal By-laws were adopted on October 21 of that year. The building housed the Odd Fellow’s Lodge on the second floor. A poster displayed by Lodge No. 194 stated, “Our Wildey Has Not Lived in Vain. We Command you to Visit the Sick, Educate the Orphan, Relieve the Distressed, Bury the Dead.” Public school was held on the first floor.

Ocracoke Lodge No. 194 and Schoolhouse, ca. 1901, Elizabeth Howard Collection, Ocracoke Preservation Society

Few early records of the Lodge survive, but we know that M. L. Piland served as the Chairman of the By-laws Committee in 1901, and as an early Noble Grand (Presiding Officer). In 1907 sixty-two island men, including business owners, entrepreneurs, clergy, and a railroad/steamship agent were members. Weekly meetings were initially held on Mondays; later, on Fridays. Lodge No. 194 continued to thrive for two decades, until shortly after Michael Lawrence Piland’s death in 1920, when it became dormant.

I.O.O.F. Ceremonial Stole, Ocracoke Preservation Society Collection

According to the “Proceedings of the Grand Lodge, May, 1921,” “For the past two or three years we have been putting forth our best efforts to revive several of our dormant lodges. We have had considerable correspondence with the officers of these lodges and in some instances have succeeded in getting them to resume work, but we have found it necessary to take up the charter… of [several, including] …. Ocracoke [Lodge], No. 194….”

Shortly thereafter, according to the Annual Session of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina Independent Order of Odd Fellows for 1923, “Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, at Ocracoke in Hyde County was reorganized May 11, 1922, by Past Grand J. R. Jinnett, special deputy.” Almost immediately, “A communication [to the Grand Lodge] was presented from Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, requesting permission to sell a part of their lot for $15. It was stated that this land was only good for pasture and was of no service to the lodge. On recommendation of the committee on Appeals and Grievances the Lodge was authorized to complete the sale.”

The continued existence of Lodge No. 194 was short-lived, however. The Grand Secretary’s Report of May, 1925, stated that “Other lodges that have ceased to function since [April 1, 1924 include] Ocracoke No, 194….”

In a letter from W. L. Whitley, Supervisor, dated April 13, 1925, to Brother S. L. Whitmore, Grand Master Greensboro, NC, Whitley writes, “Ocracoke Lodge was defunct at the time of my appointment, and no effort to revive it seems to have been availing. Its active membership has transferred to the lodge in Beaufort.”

Soon after the dissolution of the Lodge, islander Benjamin O’Neal (1880-1939) bought the building for use as a private residence for his family. He contracted with Charlie Scarborough to move it about 600 feet to its present location. When the O’Neals moved to Morehead City, in about 1940, another island native, Stanley Wahab (1888-1967), bought the building for $700.

Home of Benjamin O'Neal and Family
Home of Benjamin O’Neal and Family

Soon thereafter Stanley Wahab opened the first commercial business in the building, the Wahab Coffee Shop, with soda fountain and ice cream bar. It quickly became a popular island gathering place. Rooms upstairs became a boarding house. During WWII (1942-46) the upper floor was rented as a Navy Officers Club called the ” Crow’s Nest.”

Wahab Coffee Shop

After the war Stanley turned the building into a hotel. He called his enterprise the Silver Lake Inn. In 1948, Stanley moved decommissioned former Navy barracks to the property, and attached them to the southwest side of the building for use as a dance hall (dubbed the Beachcomber’s Club), and later, apartments. In the 1950s he added a two-story wing on the other side of the building for more guest rooms and a dining room. Stanley advertised the “New Silver Lake Inn” as offering “rooms with private or connecting bath, studio apartments furnished for housekeeping, complete restaurant, and excellent cuisine.” Liz Styron and Muzel Bryant were the first cooks.

Silver Lake Inn

During the war Stanley Wahab hired mainlanders, Mr. & Mrs. Godfrey, to manage the Inn. Mrs. Godfrey was murdered while on a visit with family and friends on the mainland. The crime was never solved. Mr. Godfrey remained at the inn for a while, but claimed his wife returned nightly to haunt him, and he soon departed. In subsequent years guests at the inn frequently reported strange encounters with Mrs. Godfrey’s ghost.

In 1957 Ruth and Bill Cochran moved to Ocracoke to manage the Silver Lake Inn for Stanley Wahab. Bill also operated a charter plane service on the Outer Banks. In the winter he cooked breakfast for guests at the inn. During the warmer months he flew so frequently that he had no time to cook. At that time Wilbur Gaskill worked in the kitchen. Gaynelle Tillet and Geneva Odom were two of the waitresses, and Lizzie Scarborough served as housekeeper.

By 1960 entrepreneur Doward Brugh had purchased the property and re-named it the island Inn. He owned the inn for only a few years. Pennsylvania natives, George and Emilie Wilkes were the next owners. They operated the inn from about 1965 to 1970, then sold the inn to Bill and Helen Styron. JoKo, a popular artist who owned property on the island, decorated the dining room in a piratical-nautical theme. Walls were stained to look like the inside of a sailing ship, fishing nets and buoys were hung from the ceiling, and two large paintings (one of Blackbeard holding his severed head in his hands, and a beach scene) adorned the end walls.

Island Inn ca. 1965

In 1978 native islander, Larry Williams, and his partner, Foy Shaw, bought the Inn. One of Larry and Foy’s first major projects was to add a modern apartment on the back of the building. They made a number of other changes, including redecorating the dining room. The fishing nets and other nautical decorations were removed, and for a while an aviary (with a parrot, parakeets, and peacocks, as well as plants and vines) was installed on the porch. In 1978-79 Alan and Liz Piper, an English couple who had sailed to Ocracoke in their 48’ ferro-cement ketch, managed the restaurant. When Alan and Liz returned to England the next year island native Chester Lynn was hired by Larry and Foy to manage the restaurant. In 1986 Chester leased the restaurant and dubbed it the Dew Drop Inn. The restaurant thrived under his oversight. In 1988 Larry and Foy had luxury suites and a swimming pool built across the road. The suites were later converted to condos.

In 1990-1991 two couples, Buffy and Ann Warner and Bob and Cee Touhey, leased the Island Inn. Chester’s lease of the restaurant was not renewed. One year later Buffy & Ann Warner bought Howard’s Pub, and relinquished their interest in the Inn. In 1992 Bob and Cee purchased the property outright. Cee’s sister-in-law, Sally Newell, was enlisted to help manage the inn and restaurant.

Over the next several years personal, financial, and banking issues conspired to jeopardize the Island Inn. A foreclosure auction in 2010 threatened the future of the property, but Thomas Storrs, a member of the extended family, purchased the inn. Family members operated the business for several years, but by 2015 the inn was again on the market. Unfortunately, major repairs and renovations to the century-old structure were now necessary, and the island community feared the historic building would be torn down by new owners, and this iconic example of Ocracoke Island history would be lost forever.

Island Inn ca. 2015

In 2018 an ad hoc committee was formed to save the Island Inn from destruction. As of this writing in April, 2018, negotiations are on-going for Ocracoke Preservation Society, with help from Hyde County and the Ocracoke Occupancy Tax, to purchase the Island Inn.

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Village Craftsmen…49 years offering fine quality American handcrafts on Ocracoke Island.

Amy Howard & Philip Howard
Amy Howard, Manager and Philip Howard, owner

Lawton Howard was born on Ocracoke Island October 10, 1911. When he was a teenager he moved north, like so many other young island men, to work with the US Army Corps of Engineers on dredges and tugboats on the Delaware River. Lawton married in Philadelphia, and he and his wife Connie raised their two sons up north.  But every summer they spent their vacation on the island. Lawton always vowed to move “back home” to Ocracoke after retirement. In 1966 Lawton and his wife Connie returned permanently to live in the modest home they had built in 1954 on Howard Street. Their sons Lawton, Jr. and Philip visited often.

After graduating from Gettysburg College, Philip enrolled in Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In 1968, as part of his training, he moved to north central Montana with his wife, Julie, and one-year-old son, Stefen Olaf. There he served as student intern at Our Savior’s Lutheran Mission on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, home to a small band of Chippewa and Cree Indians. On the reservation he met and befriended many tribal members including Yellow Bird, an accomplished translator; Four Souls, son of recently deceased Chief Little Bear; and Raining Bird, the tribal medicine man.

Fascinated by Native American culture and traditions, Philip and Julie embarked on a project to construct a traditional 18’ Cree tipi, complete with lodgepole pine poles harvested from the Bear Paw Mountains on the reservation. The tipi served as a camping tent, and they pitched it with others at the annual Rocky Boy’s Sun Dance.

By spring, 1969, it was time to leave the reservation. Philip and Julie and their son packed up their belongings and moved to Maryland. Back east, having decided to leave the seminary, Philip secured a position at Sandy Spring Friends School in Maryland, teaching English and Math. Julie served as girls’ dormitory house mother. The tipi continued to be used for occasional camping trips, especially during the summer months when school was not in session. In August of 1970 the Howard family brought their tipi to Ocracoke Island when they visited Philip’s parents.

Recognizing the growing tourist industry on Ocracoke Island, Philip and Julie decided to set up their tipi in Lawton and Connie’s side yard, and used it to display and sell some of Philip’s original pen and ink sketches of island scenes, as well as a small assortment of other craft items, including Julie’s beadwork inspired by her time on the reservation.

Tipi
The Tipi in 1970

The Tipi Shop (sometimes spelled Teepee Shop), as the fledgling business was unimaginatively named, operated for three weeks in the summer of 1970. Sales were modest, but encouraging. Total income for the third week amounted to almost $100, a tidy sum for 1970.  That was enough to convince Philip and Julie to return the next two summers for a full three months, and with an expanded inventory. In May, 1972, the Howard’s second child, Amy Janette, was born. She accompanied her parents and brother to Ocracoke that summer, as the family became permanent island residents.

By 1971 the Tipi Shop was selling woven sashes, leather belts, macramé chokers, spoon rings, tin ware, hand-made toys and games, and an assortment of sterling silver jewelry. In that summer a small parcel of land adjacent to Lawton and Connie’s lot on Howard Street, which had been the site of Philip’s great-aunt’s garden, was offered for sale. The Howards scraped together the $2,000 purchase price by cashing in a life insurance policy, and bought the land. At the end of the 1971-1972 school year they resigned their positions in Maryland, and spent the early fall clearing their newly-acquired property. Philip, who had learned the carpentry trade in summer jobs, and with much help from his parents, spent the winter months constructing the building that would become an iconic presence on historic Howard Street. It was just a basic 28’ X 32’ frame building with plywood siding, a shed dormer, and a small landing with wooden steps. The interior front half of the downstairs was sided in 1” X 6” rustic pine boards to serve as retail space. The back half and upstairs, though not finished, became living quarters, as well as storage area and workshop.

Philip, Julie, Stefen, & Amy Howard at Village Craftsmen, 1973
Philip, Julie, Stefen, & Amy Howard at Village Craftsmen, 1973

Although the tipi was set up in the side yard one last summer, in 1973 the business name was changed to Village Craftsmen in order to better describe the Howards’ commitment to offering only quality US-made handcrafts, including Philip’s artwork.

In 1974 Philip’s father, Lawton, an accomplished woodworker, began making handsome replicas of a caned platform rocker that Capt. James Howard, Philip’s great-grandfather and keeper of the US Life-Saving Station, had salvaged from a wrecked ship in 1899. Two dozen chairs, all signed and numbered, were sold for $250 each.

Lawton Howard & Chairs
Lawton Howard and his Chairs, 1974

Every year saw the addition of more quality American-made handcrafts, including duck carvings by local artists, weavings, wood turnings, jewelry, and a growing selection of regional and North Carolina pottery. Wooden folk toys, especially “limber jacks,” as well as spoon rings fashioned by Philip, remained popular items throughout the 1970s and 1980s. For a few years in the late 1970s the Howards also traded in antiques. Eventually, the Village Craftsmen remained open 9 to 10 months of the year, from Easter through Christmas.

A near tragedy occurred in July, 1978, when the building was struck by lightning during a violent thunderstorm. Several fires broke out in the attic. They were quickly extinguished, but not before causing considerable smoke damage. Another lightning strike occurred a few years later, causing no damage, but prompting the Howards to install lightning rods on the building.

By 1980 vertical board & batten cypress siding added a finishing touch to the exterior of the building. During the same period much of the rest of the interior was completed. In 1986, with the help of Stefen and National Park Ranger Jay Robinson, Philip and Lawton added another two rooms to the northwest side of the building, along with a full front porch and handicap ramp. The dividing wall downstairs was removed, allowing conversion of the living quarters to retail space. In 1986 -1987 Stefen operated a small bookstore in the new section.

Village Craftsmen Addition Construction, 1986
Village Craftsmen Addition Construction, 1986

By this time Village Craftsmen was well established as one of the premier craft galleries on the Outer Banks. In 1990, in response to requests about shipping items to customers who were unable to visit the island in person, Village Craftsmen printed a small catalog that featured plant rooters, pottery oil lamps, cutting boards, woven purses, and mugs. The following years’ mail order catalogs were more sophisticated, and offered a selection of handmade wooden boxes, musical instruments, kitchen items, and wooden folk toys.

In 1994 Philip, now the sole owner of Village Craftsmen, purchased a small strip of an adjoining property that included a sizeable outbuilding which served as a much-needed storage area. The outbuilding was then attached to the existing building with a corridor that included ample space for a new office and a workroom. Philip’s cousin, Dallie Howard Turner, who joined the Village Craftsmen in 1990, and Jude Brown, who began working there in 1993, made up the core of the staff, while various college students and other summer employees, including Philip and Julie’s now adult son and daughter, shared their energy and creativity.

Village Craftsmen published their last print catalog in 2000, with 16 pages of pottery, jewelry, kitchen items, carvings, baskets, musical instruments, watches, and handmade soaps. In 2001 a web site, complete with an on-line store featuring a much larger assortment of items, replaced the printed catalog.

Business continued to improve as Village Craftsmen regularly added additional quality American handcrafts to their inventory. In spite of some pressure to expand to a larger building, or even to establish a second gallery, Philip decided to concentrate his energy on Village Craftsmen’s site on picturesque and historic Howard Street.  Nevertheless, in 2005, after 35 years of personally operating the gallery, Philip made the decision to hire Jude Brown as manager. Philip remained owner and advisor, but stepped away from daily involvement at the gallery. Under Jude’s dedicated oversight Village Craftsmen continued to thrive.

When Jude retired at the end of 2016 Philip’s daughter Amy assumed the role of manager. She maintained the commitment to quality American handcrafts and friendly service, and immediately infused the business with her unique enthusiasm and creative energy. When the gallery opened for the 48th season in March, 2017, customers were greeted with a more open and expansive display area stocked with an even larger selection of pottery, glassware, wooden items, and other fine crafts.

Amy, who had earlier served as administrator of the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum brought with her a broad knowledge of Ocracoke Island history, culture, and traditions. Philip, who had continued to publish his daily Ocracoke Journal and monthly Ocracoke Newsletter, began spending more time at the counter, greeting customers, working the cash register, and answering questions about island history. Other family and friends work or volunteer at the gallery, offering a friendly welcome to everyone who visits Village Craftsmen.

Village Craftsmen, 2018
Village Craftsmen, 2018

In the fall of 2017 Amy’s brother Stefen, and Amy’s husband David, worked together to create a more streamlined website that included an up-to-date on-line catalog and links to Philip’s daily Ocracoke Journal and monthly Ocracoke Newsletter.

Amy, David, Philip, Stefen, and the entire staff of Village Craftsmen invite you to visit them at their gallery on Howard Street. A special treat often awaits you on Friday afternoons, when Amy’s husband, Fiddler Dave, brings homemade fig cake to share with customers.

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The following article is from The Deming Headlight (Deming, New Mexico) ·  Fri, Oct 5, 1923.  No author is cited. Although there are a few fanciful comments (e.g. how Ocracoke got its name), the article generally provides an accurate view of island life 100 years ago. Enjoy!

 

Ocracoke, N.C. – Ocracoke, a throwback to the days of the English explorers and a queer mixture of the romance of the South Seas, the religion of the Puritans and the civilization of the nineteenth century, is the quaintest little town in America.

The eight hundred inhabitants, who have spent their lives here, following in the footsteps of their fathers and grandfathers, live from the fish in the sea at their doors and the figs as fine as Smyrna’s which grow wild in the sand mountains in their back yards.

The main street of Ocracoke is a creek. The town has no streets or roads, only footpaths running down to the beach, or connecting the rear door of one dweller with that of another. There is not an officer of the law in town and although some of the doors have locks, relics of bygone days, the keys long have been lost and forgotten.

The town is on an island by the same name, fifteen miles in length, barely a mile wide and five hours journey by boat from the mainland. The island of Ocracoke is within sight of the graveyard of the Atlantic, Hatteras’ wretched shoals, and occasionally at dawn the natives have arisen to find an ocean steamer stranded almost in their yards.

Horses run wild outside this little town, just as do the mustangs in isolated sections of western plains. Cattle, as wild as on the pampas of Argentina, rove the ocean beach to the northward. There are no dogs on the island, but cats have multiplied until there are hundreds. Having rid the village of mice and rats, the felines have almost eradicated the many snakes which once thrived in Ocracoke.

There are thousands of chickens about the place, but they are community property and no fences to restrict them are in evidence anywhere. Tame geese, brants and duck also are numerous. They are used to decoy the millions of Labrador wild fowls which swarm in the marshes of Ocracoke and Currituck to feed.

The people are just as unusual as the town itself. They dance almost nightly, but their dances are the ones introduced by their grandfathers and the shimmy, tango and fox trot are as strange here as crime. A favorite melody of the island orchestra is “Pop Goes the Weasel.” Lamp light is the only illumination after dark.

The great lighthouse of the village sheds its beam over Ocracoke as it flashes far out to sea to warn away navigators. Meals in the town cost eighty cents and lodging can be procured for ten cents. Hosts usually are angry if their guest does not eat heartily of the supper, which ordinarily consists of fresh fried fish, fried chicken, fried ham, stewed oysters, clam chowder, baked potatoes, rice, hot cakes, coffee and fig preserves.

The race line is rigidly drawn in Ocracoke, but there is one negro permitted to reside here, and he is regarded as indispensible. He is the island sexton.

The natives tell a simple story of the division in the church. The original church was the Southern Methodist. An elder wanted an organ and another said the idea was preposterous, insisting musical instruments had no place in houses of worship. When the progressives rolled the organ into the building he secured a missionary and established the Northern church. The congregations now are about equally divided and equally strange is the fact that although in the heart of the “Democratic south,” most of the men of the Northern church are Democrats and those of the Southern branch are Republicans.

Ocracoke is without a peace officer, as there is no crime. A magistrate gave up his commission last year without trying a case. Tragedy has stalked thru the little community, but that was when seafaring residents battled with the elements and lost. The islanders are as expert boatsmen as the Kanakas of the Pacific and they ride outriggers to ballast their tiny fishing crafts.

While most of the men have journeyed from home, visiting port towns, few of the women have been farther away than the little settlement on the mainland, where the Ocarcokers go on occasions to attend the theatre or visit a doctor. The villagers are a big sun-tanned lot, running to blue eyes and freckles.

The town is one of the historic spots of the Southland. The first English speaking colonists to arrive in the western world landed first at Ocracoke. They were the lost colonists of Virginia Dare, who went to Roanoke Island and vanished.

Edward Teach, the pirate “blackbeard,” caroused here, gave the place its name and met his death, according to legend. He was killed when a British naval expedition attacked his two ships. Teach, confident of victory, longed for daybreak, the villagers say, and cried, “O, crow cock,” and from that phrase with alterations came the name Ocracoke.

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