Several months ago I was visiting cousin Blanche and she brought out an old photo album for me to look at. I made copies of a few of the pictures and I share them this month, along with brief captions. I hope this ecclectic glimpse into Ocracoke’s past brings a bit of our history into sharper focus. Unfortunately the photos are small, so much of the detail is lost.

Aftermath of the 1944 Hurricane:

On September 14, 1944 a fierce storm pummeled Ocracoke Island.  Winds were estimated at over 100 mph, and tides were running at fourteen feet.  The entire island was under water as powerful waves crashed into boats, homes and businesses.  Six houses were completely destroyed.

 Boats Ashore after the ’44 Storm:

The mailboat Aleta and another boat are left high and dry near the Island Inn. Note the lighthouse behind the Aleta’s bow.
Another Victim of the ’44 Storm:

One resident’s first-hand account relates that there was “three feet of water pounding through this cottage,” that the porch was “blown off and front windows shattered, and front door blown in.”  “Practically all furniture [was] upturned and much of it washed into [the] kitchen.”

The Old Post Office:

The Post Office (notice the sign above the door) was located in Big Ike’s store (located where Captain’s Landing Motel sits today). Even with the windows shuttered the building sustained considerable damage from the 1944 hurricane. The front porch was blown away and portions of the siding were torn lose.

The Ghost Ship of the Outer Banks:

The five-masted schooner, Carroll A. Deering, wrecked on Diamond Shoals in January of 1921. All sails were set, the tables were prepared for dinner, and there was food in the galley stove, but no one was aboard when the Coast Guard approached the wreck. Only a six-toed cat was found. Speculation about the disappearance of the crew focused on mutiny, piracy, and mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle. The Carroll A. Deering soon came to be referred to as the Ghost Ship of the Outer Banks. In the early 1950s a storm washed much of the wreckage onto the north end of Ocracoke Island. The capstan (visible on the right hand side of this vintage post card) became the iconic image of this unfortunate vessel.

The Island Inn:

Called the Silver Lake Inn in the 1940s, the Island Inn is the oldest operating hotel on Ocracoke. This building (the center section of the current structure) was built in 1901 as the Oddfellow’s Lodge (they met on the second floor; school was held on the ground floor). A one-story wing was added on the southern side of the building (toward the lighthouse) after WWII, and was originally part of the WWII Navy Base. Some years later a two-story addition was built onto the other side (the side visible in this picture). This photo was taken from somewhere near Lawton Lane, after spoil from the dredging of Cockle Creek (Silver Lake Harbor) was pumped up and deposited in front of the building. Today this view is obscured by a number of cedars and other buildings.

The Ocracoke United Methodist Church:

This photo was taken soon after the dedication of this new church in 1943. This building replaced the Southern Methodist Church (located on Howard Street) and the Northern Methodist Church (located on the Back Road) after the two national bodies reunited and the two local buildings were demolished. Again, notice the soft sand in front of the church, where the paved School Road is today.

The Wreck of the Nomis:

On August 16, 1935 the Schooner “Nomis” ran ashore at Hatteras Inlet. James and Charlie Williams were among those islanders who hauled home a significant quantity of lumber from the wreck.  The Williamses donated part of the lumber, and several men worked at building crude benches for the outdoor congregation of the newly organized Assembly of God Church.

The Wahab Village Hotel in the 1940s:

The Wahab Village Hotel in the 1950s:

Now called Blackbeard’s Lodge, this was Ocracoke’s first truly modern hotel, built by R. Stanley Wahab in 1936. At that time it sat on the edge of the bald beach (the hotel has not been moved; but vegetation has colonized the area in front of the hotel that was once nothing by sand, shells, and bird’s nests). Old Jake Alligood operated a four-wheel-drive taxi (a converted army vehicle) that would transport visitors across the adjacent tidal flats to the Atlantic Ocean. Today the hotel is operated by Stanley “Chip” Stevens, the great grand-nephew of Stanley Wahab. 

We hope you have enjoyed this virtual “photo album” showing a few scenes from Ocracoke’s past.


Happy Holidays to all of our friends!

Ocracoke Lighthouse in a Winter Snow, 2002
Ocracoke Lighthouse Snow

As the depth of winter envelopes us we often come together with family and friends to pass through this season of long nights with meaningful rituals.

On Ocracoke, as elsewhere, many folks decorate their homes with lights and greens.

Ocracoke Christmas Decorations
Sue O'Niel's House

The Ocracoke Preservation Society hosted its annual Tree Lighting & Wassail Party on Friday, December 13.  The term “wassail” comes from the Old Norse language meaning “to be well or healthy.”  Today it refers to a traditional English toast to someone’s health, as well as to a hot drink made with cider, spices, and sugar.  Wassail is traditionally served in a large punch bowl during the Christmas season.  Although “wassail” can refer to riotous drinking and revelry, Ocracoke Preservation Society (OPS) normally hosts a rather mild gathering.

On Saturday, December 14, OPS also sponsored the second annual Historic District House Tour.  Eight homes were represented and over two hundred residents and visitors walked, biked, or drove through the village for an opportunity to view some of Ocracoke’s historic structures.

Later that evening, Jimmy & Linda Jackson and Jamie Jackson opened up their garage for another community Christmas party & pot luck dinner. Several hundred residents were there to share food, drink, stories, music and dance.

Tables filled with food line the garage

Paula visits with David as he readies his fiddle
David and Paula

A friend makes a special guest appearance

Several of us also gathered on December 22 for our second annual solstice pot luck dinner.

As we now know, of course, the earth is actually nearer the sun in January than it is in June — by three million miles.

The seasons of our year, therefore, are caused not  by the proximity of the earth to the sun, but by the 23.5º tilt of the earth’s axis. The angle of the earth’s rays to the surface of the earth varies based on how far the surface is tilted toward or away from the sun. 

At 8:14 pm EST, December 22, 2002, the northern hemisphere of the earth was tilted furthest away from the perpendicular angle.  This is the winter solstice — the first day of winter, when the sun appears lowest in the sky and night time hours are maximum.  The tilt also causes the seasons to be reversed in the southern hemisphere.

We continued last year’s tradition of crowning Ocracoke’s Monarch of the Winter Solstice.  Last year we followed a medieval tradition and baked a bean in a holiday cake.  Pat Tweedie, mother of Molasses Creek’s fiddler Dave, found the bean in her dessert and was crowned Queen in 2001.  This year we drew lots and Blanche Howard Jolliff was honored with a throne, a staff, a royal robe and a star-studded crown.

Blanche, Queen of the Solstice, 2002
Solstice Queen

In other news, the Ocracoke Assembly of God church held their annual Christmas program on Sunday, December 22.  The Methodist church hosted a live nativity on the church lawn this holiday, and conducted a traditional Christmas eve candlelight service.  Christmas caroling, again this year, was a joint venture of the Methodist and Assembly churches.  Caroling was on December 20.

Of course, the days will now be gradually lengthening, the sun will be rising higher and higher into the sky each day, and within a few months we will be looking for the first robins and the early signs of new growth.

All of us at Village Craftsmen join me in wishing you and yours the happiest of wintertime holidays and the very best in the coming new year.

Hoping to see you again soon,

Philip, Dallie, Jude, Amy, Mary and Leon