[The following article is from a collection of newspaper clippings saved by an island resident. I had heard this story many times. My father, cousin Blanche, and other older islanders all knew the story, but I had never seen this article before. It was almost certainly written by Aycock Brown (1904-1984), journalist and civilian Intelligence Officer on Ocracoke during World War II. Brown married island native Esther Styron. Although neither the name of the publication, nor the date, was saved, this article was probably published in.1974 — Philip]
On August 27 [1974], The News and Observer flashed the headlines “Lindbergh Dies at 72” – “N.C. Man Taught Lindy to Fly” and a picture showed the famous hero at Greensboro in 1927 with the N.C. Highway commissioner. Had this information been revealed sooner, another headline might have read, “The Day Lindberg [sic] Landed On Ocracoke.”

The following story which I have known for some time was recalled by several people living on the island and might now be added to the aviation lore of the Outer Banks. Twice history used the narrow strip of sandy banks as her launching pad – in 1903 when the Wright Brothers conquered the air at Kitty Hawk and in 1923 as “Billy” Mitchell took off from Hatteras to give aerial bombing its place in modern warfare. In 1927, the site of Ocracoke Island became a landing field for Charles A. Lindbergh whose recent solo flight was being compared to Columbus’ discovery of America.

After making aviation history May 20, 1927, by crossing the Atlantic from N.Y. to Paris (3,600 miles in 33 ½ hours) Lindbergh took his famous Spirt [sic] of St. Louis on tour of seventy-five American Cities and Mexico.

Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis:

While flying over North Carolina on this famous tour the combined forces of night and weather forced Lindbergh to pick the Cedar Hammock Coast Guard Station on Ocracoke as his refuge. The beach was much wider at this point almost fifty years ago and the packed sand provided an adequate landing.

When Lindbergh arrived at Cedar Hammock the men had already finished their supper meal and Uncle Ben Gaskill, the station cook, was cleaning up the large kitchen when he was told to bring a serving of food to a lone visitor. At first Lindbergh’s identity was kept a secret, but while serving the meal, Uncle Ben’s eyes began to observe familiar features. In almost a single breath he exclaimed with surprise, “Why you look like that Lindbergh fella.”

Almost fifty years and the lack of living eyewitnesses prevent us from knowing the hero’s entire meal that evening, but Uncle Ben’s wife Sarah Ellen recalls that her husband prepared a dish of baked beans and Lindbergh told Ben that they were the best he had ever eaten.

Mrs. Beulah Willis who is a native of Ocracoke and living on the Island at the time of the famous visit told me that as Lindbergh was preparing to take off the next morning he offered to take Uncle Ben up for a ride in the famous airplane. Uncle Ben’s answer was quite typical of the skepticism held by most in his day who were not particularly fond of flying. “NO, NO thank you, Not Ben you won’t.”

This is a simple story, but it does cause us to ponder the statement once made that “Heroes are created by popular demand…” Even the gods on Olympus had to be served by the Greeks who created them.

Today there is a fine little landing strip on Ocracoke. Planes no longer had to land on the flat beach as Lindbergh did or pick a slack moment to land on the highway as I have so often seen them do. Since the Ocracoke air strip has no name it would seem proper for me to make this proposal – Why not remember the story of the meeting between the Hero [and the Cook].

Served Supper to Lindbergh

BEN GASKINS [sic] of Ocracoke was the cook at the Cedar Hammock Coast Guard station at the time Charles A. Lindbergh dropped down out of the skies and landed on the beach to spend the night on the island. Gaskins [sic], told to serve a “visitor” supper, did not at first recognize the famous aviator who was making a trip to 75 cities in his plane, “The Spirit of St. Louis.” But something was familiar to the Coast Guardsman and he finally said to the visitor, “You look just like that Lindbergh fella.” The year was 1927 (Photo courtesy of William Eley)


The U.S. Coast Guard has recently expressed an interest in having the NC Department of Cultural Resources place a highway marker on Ocracoke in honor of the Revenue Cutter Mercury which was engaged in and around Ocracoke two hundred years ago, during the War of 1812.

Many residents of Ocracoke and visitors to the island are unaware of the significant role Ocracoke played in resisting an invasion of the North Carolina mainland by British forces in that war.

The United States Coast Guard has published a well researched, 16 page booklet, “War of 1812, Revenue Cutter Operations and the Core Coast Guard Missions” written by William H. Thiesen. (The booklet is available on line at http://www.uscg.mil/history/1812/doc/WAROF1812DOC.pdf.)

In his first paragraph Thiesen notes that “During the War of 1812, the revenue cutters protected American commerce and enforced trade legislation, but they also performed defense and combat missions that were essential to the war effort….”

Revenue cutters were typically schooners (sailing vessels with fore and aft sails on two or more masts; the forward mast never being taller than the rear masts) or brigs (sailing vessels with two square-rigged masts).

The Revenue Cutter Pickering, similar to the Mercury:

(U.S. Navy Historical Center Photograph)

On November 27, 1812 the British Navy instituted a blockade “around all major ports along the nation’s East Coast.”

Theisen goes on to relate that on “March 30, 1813, [the British had] extended the blockade…. By summer, the blockade closed in around Southern ports and, on September 15, 1813, a British officer landed at Ocracoke, North Carolina, under a white flag and delivered to the deputy customs collector a notice declaring Ocracoke ‘and all others of note to the southward of this, in a state of blockade.’”

Theisen describes the situation at Ocracoke:

“During the British invasion of the North Carolina coast, the revenue cutter Mercury proved the value of small maneu­verable vessels in these shallow sounds and inland water­ways. Homeported in the city of New Bern, North Carolina, Mercury was perfect for operating in North Carolina’s shal­low coastal waters. The cutter’s master, David Wallace, came from a prominent family from the state’s Outer Banks and he had an intimate knowledge of the coast.… Ocracoke proved easy prey for British attackers. On May 21, the brazen British privateer Venus of Bermuda, attempted a surprise attack on cutter Mercury and American vessels anchored at Ocracoke. The local inhabitants detected the plot and raised an alarm before the British privateer could spring its trap. The enemy raider managed to escape and searched for easier prey sailing offshore.

“In mid-summer a more ominous threat loomed on the horizon, as a Royal Navy squadron appeared off Ocracoke. On July 12, 1813, the cutter Mercury saved the day after the squadron launched a surprise attack. Fifteen armed barges, supporting approximately 1,000 British officers and enlisted men, captured two American privateer brigs, but Mercury managed to escape with the local customs house papers and bonds by ‘crowding upon her every inch of canvas she had, and by cutting away her long boat.’ The British had hoped to take the cutter, so their barge flotilla could enter Pamlico Sound and capture the city of New Bern. Mercury thwarted those plans by outrunning the barges, sailing quickly to New Bern and warning city officials of probable attack by British troops. Mercury’s early warning allowed locals the time to muster the necessary army and militia forces to defend the city and the British reversed their invasion plans.”

Another account of the War of 1812 and the prominent part played by Ocracoke was published in The Story of Ocracoke Island. The article, “1812-1813, The British Invasion of North Carolina,” compiled by Calvin J. O’Neal, Alice K. Rondthaler, & Anita Fletcher, Copyright 1976, is reproduced below with  permission from the Hyde County Historical Society:

“In the War of 1812 the British forces made a landing on the Carolina shores with the intention of blockading Ocracoke Inlet, as it had been successful in doing elsewhere. These forces conducted landing raids which caused alarm and panic among the inhabitants of the coastal regions. In the spring and early summer of 1813 the people of eastern North Carolina feared that they also were threatened, and it was not long before they were actually subjected to attack.

“The chief incursion occurred in July, 1813, and is described in an account in the Philadelphia Aurora, August 10, 1813, reprinted from the Baltimore Patriot, which quoted liberally from a letter from Thomas S. Singleton, legislator, lawyer, and customs collector of New Bern and Ocracoke, as follows: ‘On the 11th of July a fleet under the command of Cockburn, consisting of one-74, three frigates, one brig, and three schooners was discovered at nine o’clock at night off Ocracoke bar. The revenue cutter got underway with the money and customhouse bonds belonging to the office at daylight. The barges started from the fleet at the time the cutter weighed anchor. The first eleven came in regular order until nearly within reach of the shot of the privateer brig Anaconda, and Letter of Marque, Atlas. Then they separated and hauled off under the edge of Ocracoke, waiting the arrival of the other ten, and on their arrival, slowly approached the vessels, firing their 12-lb carronades…but without effect. The Anaconda and Atlas began firing, but it was of short duration for they had but 11 men and the other had 30; and the enemy had less than 3,000 inside the bar and crossing. The crews of the vessels took to their boats and mostly escaped. The captain of the Atlas kept on board and continued firing at the enemy after all his men had left him.’

“A North Carolina privateer who used Beaufort and Occacock Inlets during the War of 1812 and British Invasion of 1813 was Capt. Otway Burns. Burns was a native of Onslow County from near Swansboro. Before the War of 1812 he had been given command of a merchantman sailing between New Bern and Portland, Maine. During the War he operated the Snap-Dragon. The Snap-Dragon carried four 12-lb. guns and a pivot fun, and at Ocracoke and Beaufort Inlets Burns took a big toll of British shipping during the War. Without pilotage he one time made it across the bar at Ocracoke Inlet and up to shell Castle anchorage where his ship was lightered and from thence up the Neuse River to New Bern. He married a Portsmouth girl and they move to Portsmouth in 1842, where he lived until his death about 1850. From 1821 to 1834 Otway Burns served in the North Carolina Assembly, and was instrumental in the forming of Yancey County in the western part of the state. Its county seat, Burnsville, is named after Captain Otway Burns.”

Also, in May, 2006 we published an Ocracoke Newsletter recounting Ocracoke’s role in the War of 1812. That Newsletter includes an annotated article describing the invasion which appeared in the “Raleigh Register, Extra” of July 17, 1813, entitled “The Enemy in North-Carolina.” You can read that article here:  http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news051706.htm.


For this month’s Newsletter we are going to take a stroll down Lawton Lane and Howard Street and look at the many fences around houses, yards, and cemeteries. You can click on any photo to view a larger image. Enjoy!

Walking down Lawton Lane from NC 12 (which is in the background) you will pass my fence (left, below), then Amy & David’s (right, below).

If you look to the northwest you will see the private lane leading to “Cousin Elsie’s” On the corner is “Diabando” ( Marvin & Leevella’s).

Starting on Howard Street from the School Road, the Natural Selections chain link fence (covered with vines) is on your left; the Homer Howard cemetery (with vines growing on the gate) is on your right.

Next are several other graveyard fences with mosses and lichens growing on them.

Gates and fences surround each of the small family cemeteries.


The Village Craftsmen fence is a simple, traditional design.

Some fences are white.

Others are unpainted.

Blanche’s yard has a simple wooden fence around it.

Lela’s house is framed by another white fence;

Just up the lane is the fence around the old George Gregory Howard property, then the fence at the Methodist parsonage (with one of the largest live oak trees on the island).

Next to the parsonage is John & Elizabeth’s place, the old Stanley O’Neal house.

Then there is Betty & Chris’s fence around the old Virginia Howard home, one of the oldest houses on the island.
Lindsey Howard’s fence is one of my favorites. It is covered with lichens.

Next up is Matt & Michelle’s (Dicie’s House).

Across the lane is a simple “rope fence” strung between posts.

Elsie & Irvine’s house, now owned by Kathy and Bob Phillips, is next.

At the end of the lane is Fred & Ernie Westervelt’s fence, adorned with flowers this time of year.