The following article by Ralph Pool was published in The Virginian-Pilot, Sunday, July 3, 1960:

The Lost Colony never was lost. When Governor John White searched abandoned Fort Raleigh in 1590, his missing settlers were safe, well fed and presumably happy, scarcely a dozen miles away.

This is the theory brought to light last week by Marshall Layton Twiford, 83, of Norfolk, in a story by Victor Meekins in the Coastal Times published in Manteo, N.C.

The theory isn’t Twiford’s. Rather, it is a tradition stemming from the remote past in the East Lake section of Dare County, a region of woodlands and tangled marshes and sluggish creeks, which won wide recognition for the high quality of the corn liquor it produced in prohibition days.

Not many miles from East Lake, and some 10 miles up Milltail Creek from Alligator River, is a wooded area of some 5,000 acres known as Beechland. This land is rich and somewhat higher than the surrounding marshes. For many generations, until about a century ago, it was the abiding place for a thriving community. Then plague struck, many died, and the frightened survivors fled.

Twiford grew up in the river community at East Lake, where his father, M.D. Twiford, a “hard-shell” Baptist preacher, was also a fisherman, farmer, postmaster and merchant. From his father, he learned the story of Beechland’s link with the Lost Colony.

When the English Colonist built Fort Raleigh, the Indians had a settlement at Beechland, with a woodland trail leading to the shore of Croatan Sound opposite Roanoke Island, the tradition says. They made friends with the whites.

John White left Fort Raleigh in August 1587 to bring back needed supplies from England. A year elapsed. With no sign of White, their fears of a Spanish attack from the sea increasing, and supplies doubtless at the vanishing point, the settlers abandoned Fort Raleigh and joined their Indian friends at Beechland, so the story goes.

When White finally returned in the summer of 1590, misfortune dogged him. The weather turned foul, and seven Englishmen drowned when their small boat capsized as they tried to land on Roanoke Island.

Finally reaching shore, White found Fort Raleigh far different from the settlement he had left three years before. He recounts that the houses had been pulled down and a strong enclosure built, with a high palisade of large trees. The place was deserted, but there was no sign of violence or of hurried departure. By agreement, the settlers were to have left crosses marked about the place if threat of danger forced them to abandon the area. There were no crosses. On a tree at the fort’s entrance, he found the word “CROATOAN” carved in “Roman letters”. Also, the letters “CRO” had been carved on a tree on the brow of a nearby cliff.

Croatoan 1870 Etching
Croatoan, 1870 Etching

White believed “Croatoan” to mean an island to the south, possibly the present Ocracoke. He planned to go there to continue his search, but the stormy weather continued and the expedition had to scurry out to the open sea to escape destruction.

White’s next idea was to sail to the West Indies, spend the winter, and return the following spring for further search. But the weather continued bad, the idea was dropped, and the expedition returned to England. There ends the recorded history of the Raleigh
settlements.

One tradition holds that the John White colony journeyed many miles to the south and finally settled in what is now Robeson County, on the South Carolina border. And now there is Beechland.

According to the legend related by Twiford, the word “Croatoan” actually referred to the mainland district across Croatan Sound from Roanoke Island, now known as Manns Harbor. Marshy islands dotted the sound and it was almost possible to cross from island to mainland on foot until about 150 years ago. Then an inlet at the present Nags Head filled up, the flow of water from Albemarle Sound was diverted, and strong currents washed the islands away.

Croatoan, Twiford said, was named for an Indian woman who lived and died there and who must have been in some way notable, though only her name comes down to us.

Beechland was a fair, fruitful and happy land, the story goes. Its deep, black loam produced a bounty of corn, cotton and other crops. Its orchards yielded abundant fruit, its hives produced plenty of golden honey, its herds grazing in the reedy marshlands supplied hides, meat and milk. The sounds and rivers offered fish and oysters for the taking.

In time, the Indian trail of Croatan faded away and the inhabitants of Beechland came to depend on stout boats of their own making for contact with the outside world. They built up a brisk trade with the West Indies, exchanging drawn cypress shingles and farm produce for sugar, spices, rum, salt and other products.

In this prosperous community, neighbors came to the rescue of anyone whom misfortune struck. None were permitted to go in want; and in time of death, neighbors hewed a coffin out of the rot-resistant cypress, dug the grave and otherwise ministered to the bereaved. There was no thought of taking pay. Graves were marked with rocks from ballast dumped by ships returned from the West Indies. Many of these graves are to be found in Beechland today, and it is possible that archaeological investigation might turn up new evidence of Beechland’s links from the far past.

“I saw one of those coffins opened,” Twiford recalled. “It had been dug up accidentally by a bulldozer. The top and bottom halves had been fitted closely together and fastened with pegs. All I saw inside was a little ashes or dust. It ought to have been examined for buttons or other objects, but it wasn’t. The men reburied it, and the bulldozer crew circled around the graveyard.”

For many generations, Beechland flourished. At long last, tradition says, there came a day when the people paid little heed to spiritual things, refused to listen to the pleadings of a minister in their midst to humble themselves before God. When they failed to build a church and meet for worship, he warned them to expect catastrophe. Not long after, the minister’s warning was fulfilled.

Calamity struck in the form of a plague, likely cholera brought from the West Indies. Scores died. A few packed their belongings in their boats and escaped to Currituck and elsewhere.

Beechland vanished as a settled, prosperous community a few years before the Civil War. In later years, a few families trickled back. Twiford remembers as a small boy accompanying his father to the district, not many miles from East Lake. Three families then lived there, he says, named Smith, Basnight, and Stokes. “After a few years, these families disappeared too,” Twiford added. “I guess they just moved away.”

A check of John White’s roster of the Lost Colony reveals a Thomas Smith, but the link to Beechland is tenuous, to say the least, in view of the multiplicity of Smith’s.

(The Virginian-Pilot – Sunday, July 3, 1960; Section B)

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Almost any time a group of musicians gets together to play sea shanties someone will break out with “The Drunken Sailor.” It is one of the best-known shanties.

Bob Bob Zentz Playing a Sea Shanty on his Concertina
Bob Bob Zentz Playing a Sea Shanty on his Concertina

Here is the refrain…and three popular verses:

What shall we do with a drunken sailor?
What shall we do with a drunken sailor?
What shall we do with a drunken sailor?
Earl-eye in the morning!

Hooray and up she rises
Hooray and up she rises
Hooray and up she rises
Earl-eye in the morning!

Put him in a longboat ‘til he’s sober
Put him in a longboat ‘til he’s sober
Put him in a longboat ‘til he’s sober
Earl-eye in the morning!

Hooray and up she rises
Hooray and up she rises
Hooray and up she rises
Earl-eye in the morning!

Shave his belly with a rusty razor
Shave his belly with a rusty razor
Shave his belly with a rusty razor
Earl-eye in the morning!

Hooray and up she rises
Hooray and up she rises
Hooray and up she rises
Earl-eye in the morning!

Give ‘im a hair of the dog that bit him
Give ‘im a hair of the dog that bit him
Give ‘im a hair of the dog that bit him
Earl-eye in the morning!

Hooray and up she rises
Hooray and up she rises
Hooray and up she rises
Earl-eye in the morning!

 

According to Wikipedia, “The shanty was sung to accompany certain work tasks aboard sailing ships, especially those that required a bright walking pace. It is believed to originate in the early 19th century or before, during a period when ships’ crews, especially those of military vessels, were large enough to permit hauling a rope whilst simply marching along the deck.”

The earliest mention of this song dates to 1841, but many researchers believe it is as old as 1820, or even earlier. The verses suggest various ways to punish a drunken sailor. Many verses are simply created on the spot as the song is performed. One particularly intriguing verse is “Give ‘im a hair of the dog that bit him,” usually attributed to Burl Ives in his 1956 LP “Down to the Sea in Ships.”

I was aware that the “hair of a dog that bit him” refers to an alcoholic drink taken to cure a hangover, but I wondered where that expression originated. Then, not long ago, I read this passage in “The Adventures of John Nicol [b. in Edinburgh, 1755], Mariner, During Thirty Years at Sea”:

“I was on shore for a good while at Wampoa [Pazhou Island, China], making candles, for our voyage home…. After the candles were made, I [proceeded] to repair the cooper work, and screen sand and dry it, to pack the tea-boxes for our voyage home. One day, a boy was meddling rather freely with the articles belonging to me. Neptune [Nicol’s dog] bit him. I was extremely sorry for it, and…dressed the boy’s hurt, which was not severe. I gave the boy a few cass [small brass coins] who went away quite pleased. In a short time after, I saw him coming back, and his father leading him. I looked for squalls; but the father only asked a few hairs out from under Neptune’s fore leg, close to the body; he would take them from no other part, and stuck them all over the wound. He went away content. I had often heard, when a person had been tipsy the evening before, people tell him to take a hair of the dog that bit him, but never saw it in the literal sense before.”

A little research led me to “Four Thousand Years of Concepts Relating to Rabies in Animals and Humans, Its Prevention and Its Cure,” published by the National Institutes of Health, where I learned that “the first edition of Medicina Curiosa, the first English-language journal wholly dedicated to medicine [published on 17 June, 1684], describes post-exposure prevention [of rabies]…after a [dog] bite [was] based…on applying hair of the biting dog (‘hair of the dog’) to the wound.”

Another NIH article notes that ‘[t]he widespread practice of using dog hair to heal wounds and to avoid rabies infection…has…been reported in studies carried out in [Spain and] other European countries: Albania , Italy and Portugal.

The NIH rightly describes this “’hair of the dog’ cure” as “fanciful” and “ineffective.”

Likewise, reputable health care practitioners describe drinking alcohol to cure a headache as “completely ineffective,” and “causing dehydration which may make some hangovers worse.”

Nevertheless, sea shanty enthusiasts continue to sing with gusto “What shall we do with the drunken sailor? Give ‘im a hair from the dog that bit him…give ‘im a hair from the dog that bit him! Earl-eye in the morning!”

Ocracoke Native, Edgar Howard, with his Banjo
Ocracoke Native, Edgar Howard, with his Banjo

It would be much better to “put him in a longboat ‘til he’s sober.”

 

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The following article (author unknown, but with the explanation,“information and photos supplied by George Tichenor”) is copied from Junior Natural History magazine, February, 1956.

 

Off the coast of North Carolina is Ocracoke Island; a spot rich in history, heroism and legend. It is a sixteen-mile strip of the Carolina Outer Banks. Pamlico Sound separates it from the mainland. The Inland Waterway between New York and Florida down which so many small craft sail makes it an anchorage. A quarter-mile oval of blue water gives it a beautiful harbor.

At the southern end of the island is the village of Ocracoke. Here live some five hundred and fifty healthy ruggedly individualistic people – mostly related, descendants of the original seven families who settled the island. Although closely related through marriage, they produce strong stock and live to ripe old age. Nearly every family has a relative in the home of at least seventy-five! All appear healthy. No doctor lives on the island, only a nurse. The sea provides the main diet – fish.

Ocracoke is not a town of comforts and convenient luxuries as most of us know them. There are no sidewalks. No street lights shine on the sandy lanes. There is only one paved road. It was built by the Navy when they occupied the island [during WW II]. It is a mile long and nine feet wide; just wide enough for one car at a time to travel its length.

The island has its cars. Many people own one; but few bother to register it unless it is taken on the mainland. This isn’t due to lack of money, for no one seems poor.

Life in the village of Ocracoke is quiet and free. It is not controlled by a mayor (there is a civic cub instead). It has no jail, no sheriff, no crime —and no problem children. Even the speech of its people is different – so different a native southerner finds it hard to follow! As Mr. Tichenor described it: “the speaker starts with a drawl seems to think better of it and attempts to swallow his words too late!”

Children on Ocracoke live a wonderful life. Although they share from childhood in the work of the adults, they enjoy everything and have a sense of belonging in the scheme of things. Boys of all sizes ride their domesticated horses bareback. Their steeds come from the band of beautiful wild thoroughbred Arabian horses that roam the sand dunes of the island. Occasionally a sale of captured horses is held. Buyers come over from the mainland for the event. Teenage boys often get up at six in the morning and ride herd until perhaps two-thirty in the afternoon to make the sale worth-while.

Ocracoke, 1956
Ocracoke, 1956

Boys and men seem to be the riders; but everyone dances. They do it often and take it seriously. Several nights a week men, women and children gather in the local school house and solemnly feed quarters to a brilliant, garishly-colored juke box.  Then, without a reel caller, they dance their square dances. No one seems to run the affair; no one collects the money; all enjoy themselves in a solemnly-gay sort of way.

The biggest occasion for all on the island is a three-day Fourth-of-July celebration. There are speeches by the local minister, prizes for the winning bathing beauty, rescue drills by the coast guard, penning and roping of “wild bulls.” There are floats and masquerading and drills by the “only mounted boy scout troop in America!” There is even an “imported’ policeman from the mainland to direct traffic – which goes as it wishes anyway!

A great event of each day is the arrival of two boats from the mainland. The one reaching the northern tip of the island [Frazier Peele’s four-car private ferry] brings passengers, trucks and private cars. Often passengers disembark in six inches or so of sea water and wade to drier sands. They then have sixteen miles of shore line to travel to reach the village. Driving or walking the tide or wet sand can bog them down. Those coming on the mail-and-passenger ferry [the mailboat Aleta] at the southern tip of the island fare better. But they too may be delayed by the tide and condition of the beach. In fact, all events on the island are regulated by the tide. It even put a wedding reception before a wedding!

Ocracoke, 1956, Waiting for the Mailboat
Ocracoke, 1956, Waiting for the Mailboat

Many young [men] go to college on the mainland; many others serve in the armed forces. But practically all of them return to the island to live. They become fishermen or join the coast guard. The sea and its traditions have left its mark everywhere.

The long strip of the Outer Banks upon which the historic village of Ocracoke is located is rich in legend history, and bravery. Its wild, lonely, flat beaches hold hundreds of partially buried hulks and bits of wreckage from ships; victims of storms, accidents or human violence. The famous “ghost” ship, the Carroll A. Deering left its bow on Ocracoke Island. The ship was found stranded on Diamond shoals just off the Cape Hatteras coast guard station in 1921. Food was still in the galley pots; but no living soul was on board, only the ship’s cat. What a tale it could have told! Later on the bow drifted to Ocracoke’s beach.

The ill-fated English settlers of Raleigh’s expedition landed on Ocracoke Island before going to settle on Roanoke Island in 1585. Later, settlers stayed and played an important part in the Revolution, bringing in valuable material to Washington through the blockade. Many ancestors of these brave people became coast guardsmen.

Our National Park Service is helping to preserve for future generations the history and color of the place At Cape Hatteras, within the national seashore recreational area, is a Maritime Museum.

Ocracoke Island and the rest of the strip of the Outer Banks didn’t exist some 20,000 years ago. During the last glacial period the sea level was about fifty feet lower than it is today; the shore line was about twenty-five lower than at present. Pamlico and the other sounds were sand flats. Winds gradually shifted the sand and built up dunes and ridges which started the formation of the Outer Banks. When the huge continental ice sheet melted, the sea came in and flooded the sand levels and made the Sounds. Winds still continue their building-up and tearing-down work with the sand dunes.

At Cape Hatteras the sands underwater are gigantic dunes two hundred feet high. They are so high they almost rise above the waters for twelve miles from Cape Hatteras Point straight out to sea. If you stood on the Point on a stormy day you could see these turbulent waters “come together in an awesome display of savage fury.” Flowing from the Gulf Stream of the Caribbean they cascade into huge foamy sprays. This action continually builds up the underwater dunes of Diamond shoals, the barrier that means death to any ship caught within it.

To the north of Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks is Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, supervised by our Fish and Wildlife Service. Here, migrating waterfowl find refuge. Several thousand winter on the island; goose, brant and all species of ducks of the North Carolina coast. Many whistling swans stay for the winter. Loons, grebes, herons, egrets, gulls, terns, vultures, bald eagles, morning doves and others can be seen.

As so often happens, the isolated uniquely independent little village of Ocracoke is about to feel the effects of “civilization.” A road [NC12] connecting it with the mainland, is to be built. With it will come many changes that no amount of historic background and stamina can withstand. What will it do to the free-living, closely knit, picturesque sea dwellers of the island? What will be the fate of the beautiful wild horses that claim this stretch of sand and sea as their own? Only Time will tell.

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