By Jamie Tunnell

(This article was originally published in the December, 2006 issue of the Ocracoke Observer.)

Generations of watermen have haul-seined off Ocracoke for mullet in the fall season. When a combination of a cold front and a northeast wind come through, the mullet migrate south right off the beach. Local fishermen start dory fishing about mid-October in hopes of catching the mullet blow that will travel through these local waters.

A Fall Catch:
(Need Photo)
(Photo by Jamie Tunnell)

This is hard work, not to be mistaken for an easy haul and big cash. There are long hours, high costs and expenses, and a hit or miss season. They also have to deal with the rules and regulations of Marine Fisheries

Dory fishing is still an active method in eastern North Carolina, but commercial fishermen in nearby Bogue Banks and Ocracoke are seeing the end of a tradition if it is not passed on. Simple haul seine nets, that are pulled in by hand, were used by Native Americans centuries ago and the process has evolved to use trucks and tractors for the pull in and dory boats to take the net out.

According to the NC Fisheries, “the harvest proportion of annual landings has dwindled since 1972 and fluctuated greatly since 1992. Landings by beach seines occur almost entirely in October and November. Extremely poor landings in 1996 and 1999 were probably the result of fall hurricanes and strong weather conditions, which have a particularly profound effect on stop net harvest because of its limited fishing season. Landings from the other, smaller, seine fishery are harvested in ocean waters (< 3 mi.), primarily in Carteret, Dare, and Hyde counties. Typically, monofilament gill nets (200-300 yards) are used to intercept ocean schooling striped mullets and are hauled onto the beach as functional seines. Ninety-two percent of the striped mullet landings in this fishery occur in October and November during the fall spawning migration. Outside of October and November, much of this seine fishery targets other species.”

The dory boat is a flat-bottomed boat with a high bow and high sides, usually less than 20 feet long. Originally, dories were carried on large boats out into the water and then launched. In most coastal communities, dories are launched from the beach.

An Ocracoke Dory:
(Need Photo)
(Photo by Jamie Tunnell)

With this type of fishing, hundreds of yards of netting are sent out into the ocean with a dory and then either pulled back in or set. There are two methods of dory fishing. The set-net method uses a dory to get the net out into the ocean, but may stay set up three or four days. To pull in the nets, about a dozen men are needed to haul in the catch, sometimes over 50,000 pounds in one day.

Locally, it is more common for fishermen to use a different method where the nets are pulled back in by a truck whose condition is of less concern, due to the saltwater that has already contributed to a little rust on. A dory is released into the ocean off of a trailer and one or two fishermen jump in as it meets the waves to lower the motor. While one end of their net is attached to the shore, they head straight out towards the outer bar, sometimes using up to 800 yards of net. They circle back towards the north perpendicular to the shore and then head back. They can immediately begin pulling their net in with the truck, an entire process that is only about 30 minutes. Then, they can spend hours picking out the mullet. Mullet is the main target catch, but this method of fishing can also be done for rockfish and trout. One positive of dory fishing is the low by catch  – what you are going after is at least 90% of what you haul in.

Instead of using the heavy haul-seine nets, most of the commercial fishing community has switched to gill nets, a lighter monofilament net with less upkeep.

It’s a few hours of fast and furious, but the pay can be worth it. One of the biggest catches this fall that was hauled into the Ocracoke Fish House was 25,000 pounds. They are after the mullet roe, but the male mullet can bring in a good price if sold on the bait market.

Wade Austin, son Colby, and Erick O’Neal were part of the biggest catch of the season this fall:
(Need Photo)
(Photo by Jamie Tunnell)

After unloading the nets, they rush off to the fish house to separate the male and female mullet:

(Need Photo)
(Photo by Jamie Tunnell)

While commercial fishermen fight regulations and the decline of the fishery, the recent attention to saving the local fishermen and establishing working waterfronts has helped boost their cause. The market for roe mullet has declined in recent years, and due to other factors such as the inability of fishermen to make a living off the water, and rising expenses, this fishery has been reduced significantly. People that wander up on the haul seine process on the Ocracoke beach in the fall walk up on a rare experience; a treasure that not everyone gets to witness.

(Many thanks to Jamie Tunnell, and Linda Rippe, owner of the Ocracoke Observer, for allowing us to reprint this article.)

(0)

Last month a visitor to the Ocracoke Preservation Society museum wondered aloud about the name “Portsmouth Island.”  As many of our readers know, Portsmouth lies just southwest of Ocracoke, across Ocracoke Inlet.

The visitor wanted to know why and when the name had been changed from “Croatoan” to “Portsmouth.”  This question took the museum staff by surprise.  No one there had heard this claim.

“Oh yes,” he said.  He had read that Portsmouth was called Croatoan in the sixteenth century.  Julie, OPS’s museum manager, called me (as well as a number of other island historians) and asked us to research this question.

Immediately I consulted Dot Willis and Ben Salter’s fascinating little book, “Portsmouth Island Short Stories & History” (first published in 1972).  There it was on page 9:  “Portsmouth Island, North Carolina, was first settled by white people in the year 1700.  Before then,” the second chapter continues, “it was called ‘Croatan,’ [sic] home of the Indians.”

I had never heard that before (or, at least, I hadn’t paid any attention on other occasions when I had read that passage).  I had always been under the impression that Croatoan was the early name given to that part of the Outer Banks that included what is now the northern end of Ocracoke Island and the southern end of Hatteras Island (the inlets are constantly opening and closing along this fragile chain of sandy islets).

So I consulted another book, Clarence L. Robinson’s 1970 collection of his memories, “The Core Sounder.”  Sure enough, in his last chapter he comments, “According to an old map of Lane’s Expedition, Portsmouth was called ‘Croatoan,’ the home of the Indians Manteo and Wanchese, who sailed to England with some of the Colonists in 1584 and returned the next year.”

Now this was fascinating.  And it challenged what I’d always thought about Croatoan.  Could it really be, I wondered, that Croatoan was Portsmouth?  Luckily, I have in my possession a copy of the White-De Bry map of 1590.  This is the map of Lane’s expedition, referred to by Robinson.  In fact Robinson includes a copy of this map on the last page of his book.

Below is a detail of the White-De Bry map.  You can click on the map to view a larger image.

(Need Photo)

You will notice in the lower right hand corner a compass rose.  To fit the map into my scanner I had to cut off the extreme right hand edge, but you can still see the fleur-de-lis.  On the map this is designated as “Septentrio.”  According to dictionary.com “Septentrion” (designating the seven stars of the constellation Ursa major) was the more common spelling, but, though obsolete, they both mean “north.”

“Occidens,” “Oriens,” and “Meridies” (West, East, & South, respectively) are clearly visible on the map.

This map, then, is oriented differently than most modern-day maps.  North is to the right, rather than to the top of the map.  Obviously this caused some confusion.

If you look carefully at the map you will see that I have underlined, from north to south, “Hatorask” (Hatteras), “Croatoan,” and “Wokokon” (Ocracoke).  Portsmouth remains unnamed, although I have indicated it with an arrow, just to the south of Wokokon.

As I had always understood, Croatoan is in fact the north end of present-day Ocracoke and the south end of present-day Hatteras.  It is not Portsmouth Island.  Unfortunately the White-De Bry map had been misread.

The islands of the Outer Banks are constantly shifting and changing.  It is their nature.  Also, early explorers lacked the technology to produce highly accurate maps.  Nevertheless, they did provide valuable evidence for the shape of our coast, location of native settlements, and place names of numerous landmarks during the Age of Discovery.  But some features of the early coastline remain a mystery.

One thing that has puzzled me for several years is the sixteenth century shape & configuration of Ocracoke Island. In August of 2003 I wrote a Newsletter documenting the more than fifty different names for our beloved island.  In the process of doing my research I came across a 1795 map of “Occacock” produced by Johathan Price.

Price’s map is accompanied by a document entitled “A DESCRIPTION OF OCCACOCK INLET; and of its COASTS, ISLANDS, SHOALS, and ANCHORAGES: With the COURSES and DISTANCES to and from the most Remarkable Places, And DIRECTIONS to sail over the BAR and thro’ the CHANNELS Adorned with a M A P, taken by actual survey, by Jonathan Price.”

1795 Map by Jonathan Price:

(Need Photo)

As I noted three year’s ago, Price’s “Description of Occacock Inlet” is noteworthy for a number of reasons.

In the third paragraph he states:

“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.  Small live oak and cedar grow abundantly over it, and it contains several swamps and rich marshes, which might be cultivated to great advantage; but its inhabitants, depending on another element for their support, suffer the earth to remain in its natural state.  They are all pilots; and their number of head of families is about thirty.”

You might want to re-read the above passage.  Occacock, Price states, is no longer an island, though it is still called an island.  He claims Occacock is a peninsula, now connected to the sandy banks. Whatever could he mean?

Price states that Occacock is three miles long by two and one half miles wide.  In addition, Price describes Occacock’s vegetation — live oaks & cedars, swamps, and rich marshes.  This matches our historical understanding of the area surrounding Silver Lake harbor.  The “banks” on the other hand, are “strikingly” different, and, like today, little more than narrow ribbons of sand.

Geologists have long speculated that the area of Ocracoke Island which includes the present-day village was originally an island separate from the “banks.” much like Roanoke Island is today.  Price’s description bears this out.  Although the present area of Ocracoke village is approximately two miles by two miles, slightly smaller than Price’s description suggests, there are several factors that could account for this.  Price’s calculations might not be accurate, or the area of the village might have been that much larger two hundred years ago.  We know that significant erosion has reduced the shoreline near the Visitor’s Center and at Springer’s Point.

Surprisingly, none of the early maps that I am familiar with unequivocally confirms Price’s “separate island” observation.   I am guessing that as early as 1585 the process of joining “Ocracoke” with the Outer Banks had already  begun.  It could be that natural forces ebbed and flowed like the tides and that the connection was sometimes more obvious, and sometimes less so.

The recent history of Ocracoke bears witness to this process.  Even though the village and the banks had been viewed as one entity for as long as anyone can remember, as late as the 1970’s the area between the edge of the village and the airstrip was often underwater, especially during periods of high tide.

Today’s visitor to Ocracoke Island is usually amazed to learn that in times past the “bald beach” extended much closer to the village.  My father often remarked that islanders shook their heads in disbelief when Thurston Gaskill built his home (now the Thurston House Bed & Breakfast) “on the edge of the beach” in the 1930’s.

The following photos, from the 1950’s document the fluid nature of this area.

In this aerial view of Ocracoke village you can clearly see the  the tidal flats (in the forefront) with a line of trees separating them from the village (and Silver Lake Harbor).  The flats are covered with tidewater.

(Need Photo)

This 1950s photo of an airplane landing on the newly-constructed NC Highway 12 near the present-day South Point Road (Ocracoke village is in the distance) shows tidewater covering the flats on the right (in front of Loop Shack Hill).  Water lay on the other side of the roadway, as well.

(Need Photo)

Some older residents remember hearing tales of fishermen mullet-fishing in this area.  Blanche Styron (born 1922) recalls fishing there as a young girl.

Today the area between the village and the NPS campground is thickly covered with cedars, myrtles, yaupon, and other vegetation.  Only fifty years ago there was hardly a sea oat to be seen there.  It was (and still is) called “The Plains” and had the appearance of a vast wasteland or desert. It is only because of the continuous row of man-made dunes (constructed by the National Park Service in the 1950’s) that protect the island from frequent overwash that trees and shrubs are so abundant today.

(0)

Modern-day visitors to Ocracoke Island typically imagine that the small village of several hundred homes clustered around strikingly charming Silver Lake harbor has always been a “traditional fishing village.”

Although fishing has long been one of Ocracoke’s major activities, before the advent of motor-powered vessels and modern refrigeration, transportation of seafood to mainland markets was frustratingly difficult and often took prohibitively long. The island was able to support little more than a modest commercial fishing industry until the dawn of the twentieth century.

It was seafaring and related jobs that provided early Ocracokers with their primary source of income. In the nineteenth century young island men regularly shipped off on schooners, many to become captains and even owners of two- three- and four-masted ships that carried lumber, coal, molasses, and rum along the eastern seaboard. A modest boat-building trade also emerged on the island.

Seafaring, of course, was part of a larger mercantile enterprise. As early as 1789 John Blount and John Wallace had established a business center on nearby Shell Castle Rock, a 25 acre island of oyster shells in Pamlico Sound. At one time as many as 40 people lived and worked there, part of an extended enterprise that received goods from sea-going vessels, transferred them to lighter boats that could navigate eastern North Carolina’s shallow sounds, and delivered them to waiting merchants in Bath, Plymouth, New Bern, and other inland ports.

On Shell Castle the entrepreneurs built homes, docks, warehouses, a wind-powered grist mill, and at least one small store. This was also the site of Ocracoke Inlet’s first lighthouse, a 55′ wooden, pyramid-shaped tower covered with cedar shingles, and mounted on a substantial stone foundation. Atop the tower was a six-foot lantern and a three-foot dome.

Early 1800’s Pitcher Showing Settlement on Shell Castle Rock:

(Need Photo)

The location of the lighthouse was chosen because of its benefit to local pilots and merchants, as well as to owners and captains of vessels that regularly used Ocracoke Inlet. It was primarily an economic decision.

Shell Castle Rock was not the only center of commerce near Ocracoke Inlet. A small settlement had developed on Williams’ Point (later called Howard’s Point, and ultimately Springer’s Point) on the southwestern shoreline of Ocracoke Island. Public land was set aside there for the use of the pilots who guided the many sailing vessels that passed through Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina’s only consistently navigable inlet until 1846, when both Oregon and Hatteras Inlets were opened by a violent storm. Pilots were necessary to help captains unfamiliar with the shoals and narrow, ever-shifting channels bring their goods safely to port.

In time homes, docks, warehouses, stables, and at least one store dotted the shoreline at the Point. In addition, there was a blacksmith shop on the point, and even a windmill.

By the early nineteenth century an increasing number of islanders had also settled on the north side of Cockle Creek (Silver Lake), and an existing footpath was widened to create what was soon to become the island’s “main road.” Beginning near the present-day School Road, it included what is today known as Howard Street, and continued all the way to the sound shore.

There, in the vicinity of the modern-day ferry offices and Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum, John Pike and Willis Williams opened stores that sold general merchandise. Willis Williams’ establishment, at the mouth of the “ditch,” also included a small tavern. T.S. Blackwell operated a store some distance to the east.

Over the years a number of other general merchandise stores sprang up around the village.

In the early 1800s, on the “creek side,” Solomon Howard established a store where Lawton Howard’s home is today, on the corner of Lawton Lane and Howard Street. Later, A.B. Howard built a relatively large store on Cockle Creek. Ownership eventually passed to M.L. Piland, and still later to “Big Ike” O’Neal. Nearby, Walter O’Neal opened another store, as did Dr. Charlie Angle, although his merchandise was limited primarily to patent medicines, candy, and soft drinks.

As a young man Homer Howard operated a store where the Community Store is now located. His son, Lawton, said the store did not last long because his father “ate up all the profits.” More likely, his good nature prevented him from collecting money owed to him on charge accounts.

Charlie Minor O’Neal sold groceries, soft drinks, and more from his establishment on what is now the British Cemetery Road. Will Willis’ general store was unique. It was situated on the end of his dock in Cockle Creek.

Bill Styron had a small establishment “down point” (near the lighthouse) where he sold ice cream and milk shakes. Albert Styron’s store was nearby. It became the commercial center on that side of the village with a large assortment of groceries and fresh meat. Clarence Scarborough ran a modest business not far away.

One of the largest general stores on Ocracoke was that established by John W. McWilliams in the late 1800s. Located down point, on the shore of Cockle Creek, with a view of the harbor from one side, and the lighthouse from the other, the “Department Store,” as it came to be called, included several structures joined together. McWilliams traded in groceries, boating supplies, hardware, clothing, and other general merchandise. He even carried a line of furniture. A barber shop sat across the lane. The fierce storm of 1933 did considerable damage to the store, and sometime after John McWilliams’ death the store was abandoned.

Amasa Fulcher (1876-1946), a former member of the US Lighthouse Service, worked with John McWilliams for several years. In 1918 “Mace,” who lived “around creek,” left the McWilliams enterprise and established the Community Store on the harbor nearer to his home.

The Community Store soon became a focal point of community activity on the north side of Cockle Creek. Mace was a prominent and upright citizen, and an active member of the Ocracoke Methodist Episcopal Church (Ocracokers called this the “Northern Church”). By all accounts he conducted business in a “fair and square” manner. Although his opinions may not have always been popular (he was a Republican in a predominantly Democratic township), he was universally respected.

In later years Mace was elected one of the island directors of the county-wide fraternal organization, Knights of Hyde. As a prominent Methodist layman, the task of conducting burial rites for the crew of the British armed trawler, “Bedforshire,” fell to him in 1942.

The Community Store was a square building with a “shed addition” attached to the northwest side. Although close to the sandy lane that would eventually be called North Carolina Highway 12, the main entrance faced Cockle Creek. A porch with benches invited customers to stop and chat for a few minutes, or to sit for hours. Men congregated there to swap tales, tell jokes, carve small wooden birds, and talk about fishing and the weather.

The accompanying dock extended up to the store and connected with the front porch. A small barbershop operated by Gillis Riddick, Mace’s step-son-in-law, was erected alongside the dock, a few yards from the porch. A short section of the dock adjacent to the porch was customarily lifted up to allow passage along a sandy path that led around the shore of the harbor. The removable section was lowered whenever a shipment arrived at the dock, and boxes and barrels of new goods were hauled into the store. A fish house on the end of the dock served the growing number of commercial fishermen.

The Community Store, ca. 1944:

(Photo courtesy of Ocracoke Preservation Society.)

Inside, not far from the front door, stood a large pot-bellied stove. Kerosene lanterns provided light when it was needed. The Community Store had no spittoon, but a round cheese box filled with sand served the same purpose. A wooden rocker was pulled up close to the stove on cold winter days, and two or three other chairs stood nearby.

With fewer than 900 square feet, the store nevertheless held a copious amount and variety of merchandise.

There were groceries, of course. These were arranged on shelves behind the long, wide counter along the right hand side of the store. All of the usual items were there — flour, bread, sugar, salt, canned milk, butter, jellies, spices, and other staples. On the counter rested three large oval glass containers, fastened together and filled with hard candy. Small scales served for weighing candy. Larger scales for weighing other bulk items sat on the counter as well, near the brass cash register.

Wooden bins filled with potatoes were stacked under the front window. Barrels held beans and peas. Another large barrel held high quality West Indies Molasses. Rice was displayed in an adjacent container.

Tea and coffee, as well as various brands of snuff and tobacco, were also offered for sale.

Meat was often in short supply, although salt pork and slab bacon were almost always on hand. Large tubs of lard complimented the grocery section.

Children loved to inspect the cookie display. Six boxes of FFV (Famous Foods of Virginia) cookies, both plain and fancy, were stacked neatly near the center of the store. One of the favorites, “Mary Jane” cookies, contained molasses. Mr. Mace also sold “Johnny Cakes,” fig newtons, chocolate cookies, and marshmallow cookies with sprinkles.

A prominent feature of the store was a large wheel of cheddar cheese that perched on the counter. A heavy cast iron cheese cutter stood ready for Mr. Mace. After years of experience he could slice just the right amount for a customer almost every time.

In the center of the store, behind the pot-bellied stove, stood a long handmade walnut table with shelves built on top of it. Here Mr. Mace displayed bib overalls and dungarees. Above these were men’s, women’s and children’s shoes. Higher yet were caps and hats. Underneath the table he stocked rubber boots and tennis shoes.

A small office was located in the back corner, on the left. Adjacent to it were shelves of sewing material. There was white material for bed clothes and such. Bolts of material for work clothes, printed material for children’s togs and house dresses, and fancy materials for Sunday clothes rounded out the selection. Nearby was the O.N.T. (Our New Thread) cabinet with spools of cotton, needles, buttons, and other supplies, including several patterns of fancy lace.

A glass showcase on the same side of the building contained dress shirts, collars, pants, dresses, socks and underwear. A tall glass case was used to display perfumes and other cosmetics.

Other areas of the Community Store were filled with dishes, pots and pans, and sundry household items. Mops and brooms were hung from nails and pegs, as were oil skins and other boating supplies. Kerosene lamps, along with wicks, chimneys, and shades, were arranged next to new-fangled flashlights and batteries.

To meet the needs of local carpenters and do-it-yourselfers, Mr. Mace carried an assortment of nails, screws, tacks, nuts and bolts, and other hardware.

Oil and gasoline tanks on the property provided fuel for fishing vessels, and even for the small but increasing numbers of motor vehicles.

At Christmas time, Mace would rearrange the center shelf and pile it high with toys, gifts, and other enticements for the holiday season.

One noteworthy feature of Ocracoke’s Community Store was the shed-roofed “lean-to” on the northwest side of the building. In addition to chicken and horse feed Mace added a rather unusual item to his inventory. For years islanders had been keeping casket boards under their houses or over the rafters in outbuildings. When a death occurred a carpenter was summoned to nail the boards together to fashion a simple pine casket.

But times were changing. Sometime in the 1940s the Community Store began selling professionally built caskets. Two adult and one child’s casket were now kept in stock on a regular basis. Neighbors no longer had need of their casket boards and many were used for other projects. At least one dining room table on the island was constructed from wood originally intended as a coffin.

Mace Fulcher died in 1946. Shortly thereafter his widow, Maude Williams Fulcher, sold the Community Store to Mace’s sister’s husband, Isaac Freeman O’Neal (known by all as “Little Ike”), and Little Ike’s son-in-law, Jesse Woolard Garrish. Although the store retained the official name, The Community Store, it became popularly known as Garrish & O’Neal’s Store.

Sometime in the early 1950s Little Ike and Jesse had the original building demolished, and a new, larger store built in its place. The Community Store was a growing business. As a result, several years later the new store was enlarged. By the mid-1950s the store was commonly referred to simply as “Jesse’s Store.” Presumably by then Little Ike had sold his interest to Jesse Garrish.

Jesse was an energetic and hard working man. He was also pleasant and quick-witted. The store thrived under his ownership. By then change was in the air, however. Frazier Peele ran his first ferry across Hatteras Inlet in 1950, and the state of North Carolina took over operations several years later. Just as importantly, sandy lanes throughout the village were being paved, and a new, hard-surface road was laid down from the village to the north end of the island.

With better access to markets, fishing became a more practical occupation. And an ever growing tourist industry was initiated. The Community Store became a gathering place for locals and visitors alike. A bench and rockers on the front porch beckoned all to sit and share stories. This was the place to be if visitors wanted to meet local fishermen and island characters.

By then, Jesse had purchased coolers and freezers. Mayola ice cream was popular with the local teenagers, along with soft drinks and Nabs. Boys and girls spent many summer afternoons on the porch, drinking Coca-Cola (filled with peanuts), or Orange Crush, listening to the old-timers recount tales from years gone by. Whittlers wiled away many an hour on the Community Store porch carving seagulls and pelicans. They prized Mayola’s small wooden ice cream spoons because they were shaped just right for fashioning wings.

In 1962 Jesse died and his son, Danny, took over operation of the store. Like his daddy, Danny loved people and enjoyed bantering with locals and tourists alike. He hired good folks to help him out. One of his most memorable employees was Monford (Monk) Garrish who had the enviable ability to say the most outrageous things without offending anyone.

Of course, the store continued to provide groceries and basic necessities. In addition they began carrying coolers, suntan lotion, and other items for the tourist trade. One afternoon a woman from off-island walked up to the counter and asked Monk if they sold Nose-Kote, an early brand-name sun block designed especially for noses and ears. Monk immediately noticed that the woman had a larger-than-average nose. Without a moment’s hesitation he blurted out, “Yes ma’am, we do carry Nose-Kote….but not in gallon buckets.”

The Community Store functioned as headquarters for the Burial Association. A large map of the Community Cemetery and its various plots (with names of those interred there) hung on the office wall. Even after Twiford’s Funeral Home in Hatteras began directing funerals on Ocracoke Danny and Monk continued to tend to the immediate needs of the deceased and their families. It was not uncommon for Monk to transport a body from the church to the cemetery on his old blue Jeep pickup truck.

In 1978 Danny’s mother, Lucille, decided to sell the store. Philip and Julia Howard purchased it. They continued to hire Danny as manager. While they owned the store, the warehouse section, which had been an attached “L” extension alongside and parallel to NC Highway 12, was detached, moved, and reattached to the store in its present location near Silver Lake (Cockle Creek).

The Community Store, ca. 1980:

Philip and Julia kept the store stocked with all of the modern-day necessities, as well as items reminiscent of Mace’s general store. Pottery mixing bowls, agate cookware, tin cups and buckets, coal oil lamps, and wheel cheese shared space with cereal boxes, cans of vegetables, bread, cookies, flour, and soft drinks.

In 1980 Philip and Julia, unable to manage two businesses (they already owned the Village Craftsmen on Howard Street) sold the Community Store to David and Sherrill Senseney. Long-time employee, Ricky Tillett, eventually took over management of the store.

Located on Silver Lake near several docks and other businesses, the Community Store continued to be a magnet for locals and visitors. A bulletin board on the porch was always filled with posters and announcements – pot lucks, fish fries, items for sale. A nearby chalkboard listed the day’s birthdays and anniversaries, as well as other significant events.

Islanders were saddened when the Community Store closed its doors in the spring of 2006, after eighty-eight years of uninterrupted operation. Although the Ocracoke Variety Store, which had been serving islanders for several decades, continued to live up to its name with a large assortment of groceries, t-shirts, hardware, and other items, Ocracoke residents and visitors continued to hope that in the near future another entrepreneur would come forward to inject new life into the Community Store, one of the island’s most prominent traditional businesses.

Update, April, 2008:

In 2007 James and Susan Paul made that dream come true with a commitment to lease the Community Store from David Senseney. Throughout the winter and spring of 2008 they have been busy repairing, restoring, repainting, and cleaning the store.  Reopening is scheduled for Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 6 a.m., an event eagerly anticipated by Ocracoke residents.

The Community Store, ca. 2000:

(Need Photo)

With determination, hard work, and the support of the community, James and Susan, trading as the Community Store, should continue to serve the village of Ocracoke for many years to come.

(0)