Last year I published a short account of Ocracoke Island burials gleaned from the notes of Rev. William Crow who served as the Methodist minister in 1936-1938. Rev. Crow was fresh out of seminary when he was sent to Ocracoke. Following is more of his story (slightly edited) that illustrates Ocracoke islanders’ straightforward manner, as told to his son, David Crow, in 1998.


I got to Morehead City and took the bus going to Atlantic…. The gear shift stick was held in place by a forked stick propped against the dashboard. And when we had to stop to pick up a passenger, the driver just took that stick out, and then when we started up again, he pulled the thing back in place and propped it there with his forked stick.

And after I left Morehead City I thought I had left the end of the world…but when I got to Atlantic I knew I had arrived. There was a mailboat at dock there, taking on passengers and some groceries and various things that people on Portsmouth Island and Ocracoke had ordered, and found myself on the deck of that mailboat.* It was a beautiful ride over there. We were up on that top deck, and it was flat and there was a railing around and a bench on either side where we could sit and look at each other and watch the seagulls.

In due time, three hours later, approximately, our boat docked in front of a store there [Willis’s store, now the Working Watermen’s Exhibit]…


I got off of the boat with my suitcase, and a man met me, and I said, “Are you Tommy Howard [1878-1972, grandfather of Betty Helen Howard Chanberlin, owner of Captain’s Landing Motel]?” He said, “No, my name is Homer Howard [1868-1947, grandfather of Philip Howard, owner of Village Craftsmen].”…

Mr. Homer Howard…took my suitcase and let me walk along by his side down to the post office [approximately where Captain’s Landing Motel is today].

Old Post Office
Old Post Office

You can imagine that the post office was a favorite gathering place for the arrival of the mail bag. The people would stand around there until Mr. Tommy Howard [the post master] had sorted out that mail, and then the people could find out whether or not they had heard from anybody. But when we got there to the post office, Mr. Homer introduced me to a lady that was sitting on a stump there, had a stocking on her head, and said, “Mamie, I want you to meet our new preacher,” and when she had attended to the matter of the snuff that was in her mouth, she said, “Howdy.” [The widow, “Aunt Mame” Gaskins Harris, 1876-1957, took in boarders and cooked at the Pamlico Inn.]

Then Mr. Homer took me on down to the parsonage.

Old Parsonage on Howard Street
Old Parsonage on Howard Street

I don’t suppose it was over a hundred yards down there…where four wonderful ladies had prepared my supper. They didn’t call it a dinner; they called it supper. There was a table neatly decorated with a tablecloth on it, one plate, cup and saucer, knife, fork and spoon, and on that table were some hot biscuits and some fish….

I went down to the church to preach my first sermon in my first church to a little congregation on Ocracoke Island.

Methodist Episcopal Church, South
Methodist Episcopal Church, South

Now I did try to look like very nonchalant as if I had been preaching all my life. And so I casually held on to the sides of the pulpit and talked to those good people and preached what was supposed to be a sermon.

And after it was over, I didn’t know enough about preaching at that time to know that you were supposed to go out and stand at the front door and let people come out while you would shake hands with them. So I just stood up in front and anybody that wanted to come up there came up, and several people came up and said nice things. But Mr. Tommy Howard, who I thought might meet me at the door didn’t come up there. He stood in the aisle about half way down, and he waited until I got to him, and this is what he said: He said, “Preacher, it looked to me like you thought the pulpit was going to get away from you this morning.” That was one of the best homiletic lessons I ever learned…. I never did hold on to a pulpit while I was preaching in all the years of my ministry after that.

Then there was another wonderful lesson in homiletics I got about a week or so later from Miss Bessie. Now Miss Bessie was Tommy Howard’s wife, and she invited me to their home for dinner after a Sunday morning service. And so we were sitting there in the living room and Miss Bessie was putting food on the table. It was a good dinner…some wonderful fresh fish and some hot biscuits….

She didn’t call us to dinner right away; she just came in and sat down where we were, and this is what she said to me: “Mr. Crow, we would like your preaching a lot better if you would stop making faces in the pulpit.” I said: “Miss Bessie, do I make faces in the pulpit?” “Yes, you do, and we would like it better if you would stop that.” So I said, “I’ll stop it.” What I had been doing was … screwing up one side of my face when I was supposed to be thinking. Now that was another good lesson in homiletics. Now it hurt me just a little bit to have Mr. Tommy tell me I ought to stop holding on to the pulpit, and it hurt me just a little to have [Miss Bessie] tell me in such a plain way to stop making faces in the pulpit, but I had enough sense to know that they were right, and so I never did make any more faces in the pulpit.




*Early motor powered mailboats that crossed Pamlico Sound from Beaufort, Morehead City or Atlantic included  the Meteor, the Hero, the Viola, the Lillian, the Kitty Watts, the Ripple, the Morehead aCity, and the Ocracoke. According to the late Ocracoke postmaster Elizabeth O’Neal Howard, as quoted in Alton Ballance’s book Ocracokers, “the first [powered] mailboat service was …runned by two men called Mr. Gus and Mr. Pinter…. They had two boats. One would leave Morehead City early in the morning and the other would leave from Ocracoke at the same time.” The mailboat Aleta began the Atlantic – Ocracoke route in 1938 with Captain Wilbur Nelson, and Elmo Fulcher as crew.






Ocracoke Island, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, was first settled by Europeans in the mid 1700’s.  In 1759, at nearly 60 years old, William Howard purchased the entire island for £105, and moved here.

Over the years the village grew.  Families built modest homes, a church was established, schools were built, and businesses flourished as shipping, fishing, and, eventually, tourism blossomed.

Many island homes in the nineteenth century were constructed from materials salvaged from schooners that wrecked on Ocracoke’s beach.  These and other historically significant structures are included in an area of approximately 200 acres around Silver Lake harbor.  In 1990 the Ocracoke Historic District was established, with more than 200 contributing structures identified.

The Homer and Aliph Howard home is one of these contributing structures.

In 1893, Homer Howard (great-great-great grandson of William Howard) married Aliph Dean O’Neal (great-great-great-great granddaughter of William Howard).  As a wedding present, Homer’s father, James Howard, purchased a nearby small home and had it moved to his property on Howard Street.

(This house is being rehabilitated.  As work proceeds, additional information and photos of the project will be posted here.  Please scroll down, and check back periodically to follow our progress.)

You can click on most of the photos below to view a larger version.

The Homer & Aliph Howard Home, on the left, as it appeared ca. 1932, and, on the right, January, 2004:


This house is representative of the basic island home, the historic “story and a jump,” a diminutive frame house, one and a half stories high. In typical fashion, it has a front porch and a one-story shed addition in the rear.  It was built ca. 1860 for Thompson Bragg (born ca. 1837/38), who never married, and it originally sat where the School Road lies now, not far from NC Highway 12.

Homer and Aliph Howard had 13 children.  Although only eight of these children lived to attain maturity (listed below in bold type), all of them were born and reared in this 1000 square foot home.  The house was heated, first by wood, and later by a kerosene space heater. There was no indoor plumbing and the kitchen was a separate building connected to the rear of the house by a wide wooden boardwalk. Aliph prepared meals on a cast iron wood-burning cook stove. Family members obtained water from a pitcher pump that was connected to a large round wooden cistern.






Birth Date


Death Date

Aliph Dean O’Neal Howard

F (Mother)

March 19, 1876

December 13, 1950

Homer Howard

M (Father)

June 21, 1868

May 15, 1947



May 11, 1894

March 11, 1986

Marvin Wyche


September 11, 1897

March 26, 1969

Failing H


November 04, 1899

July 14, 1900



March 04, 1901

Died at birth or soon after

James Enoch


January 21, 1903

January 04, 1972



October 26, 1905

January 21, 1923

Cordelia Zilphia


May 16, 1908

April 19, 1993

Neva May


June 09, 1910

Died at birth or soon after

Lawton Wesley


October 10, 1911

March 23, 2002

Thelma Gray


December 23, 1912

Aliph Carena


May 13, 1915

July 22, 1915

Homer Rodheaver


July 13, 1917

May 29, 1966

Aliph Dean


September 26, 1918

October 12, 1918

Thelma Gray Howard Babb (Aliph & Homer’s tenth child), a feisty, witty, active, and fun-loving woman who turned 91 years old in December of 2003, lives in Texas.

Homer & Aliph Howard with Thelma’s daughter Becky (note round cistern behind Homer), 1939:

This house was sold outside of the family in the mid 1960’s (about a decade after Aliph died), but Philip Howard, Homer and Aliph’s grandson, bought the property again in 1990.  Although several people have owned this house, and even more have lived in it, no truly major renovations were ever made.

In the mid-1930’s the small open porch on the rear shed addition was converted to an indoor kitchen.  And in the mid-1950’s a small bathroom was added on the first floor, the roof was replaced, and plywood was nailed to all of the floors and to most of the walls and ceilings.  Otherwise, few alterations were made.  As a result, although the house shows the effects of nearly 150 years of wear from humans, critters, and storms, it remains remarkably well preserved.

In 2003 Philip obtained approval from the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office for an historic rehabilitation of this significant island structure.  Work was begun in January 2004.


Use the links at the top of the page to see a record of ongoing work done on the Homer  & Aliph Howard home.

Check back periodically for additional photos and more information about the progress of this project.


Spring greetings from Ocracoke Island!

As warmer weather approaches, we are beginning to see many familiar faces returning to the island for rest and rejuvenation.  Welcome back!

Many of you knew my father, Lawton Howard, a member of the early-morning coffee contingent on the Community Store porch, and a frequent, afternoon, behind-the-counter visitor at Village Craftsmen.  He died on March 23, at age 90, in his own home, next door to where he grew up, surrounded by family and friends.  Many people, both on-island and off-island, will miss him and his fabled good humor.

In past newsletters I have chronicled some of his history and amusing stories.  You can read these accounts by following the links below:

The Story of Lawton Howard

Amusing Stories About Lawton Howard

Lawton Howard:
Lawton Howard

After my father suffered a mild back injury several years ago he stopped driving.  My daughter, Amy, or I would take Dad for a daily ride.  Almost every day he wanted to go “down below” to the pony pen and watch the horses.  He was always interested in the health and well being of the herd.  He knew that one of the mares was pregnant and commented on this nearly every day.  On April 5, two weeks after my father died,  a new filly was born.

Ocracoke’s newest member of the pony herd:

Interest in the once-wild Banker Ponies is a long tradition in the Howard family.  My father often told me about the time in 1926 when he was 15 years old.  It was July and the annual Independence Day pony penning was in jeopardy of not happening because several of the young men were squabbling about something and no one was prepared to round up the horses.  My dad and his best friend, Ansley O’Neal, though still teenagers, decided that they were old enough to tackle this responsibility.  They mounted their ponies on July 3 and rode all the way to Hatteras Inlet (this was long before there were any paved roads on the island) where they camped out under the stars.  Early the next morning the two boys began chasing the first small herd southward, toward the village.  As they encountered each succeeding herd they forced them to join the others.  Occasionally some of the animals would swim out into Pamlico Sound and make the boys’ job much more difficult.  Finally, after a grueling day of hard riding in the blazing summertime sun Lawton and Ansley rode proudly into the village behind several hundred stampeding Outer Banks ponies.  It was a proud day for them both, and a fond memory for my father until the day he died.

After the National Park Service purchased the majority of Ocracoke Island in the 1950’s the herd was reduced to a more manageable size and eventually confined to a penned area in the middle of the island.  I remember helping my Uncle Marvin build the first pony pen in the late 1950’s.  Captain Marvin was a native O’cocker who spent many years away from home sailing throughout the world, and then retired in the early 1950’s back home to Ocracoke.  He is well known on the island as a champion of young people and scoutmaster of the renowned Mounted Boy Scout troop.  He wrote the following article, “Ocracoke Horsemen,”  which is reprinted from “The Story of Ocracoke Island.”

Captain Marvin Howard, c. 1960 astride his pony, “Lady:”
Marvin and Lady

“Ocracoke Horsemen,” by Captain Marvin Howard:

We hear a lot about the fishermen of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, but few stories deal with the equestrians of the Outer Banks.  Surely some of them deserve to be proclaimed as among the world’s best for their daring feats on horse-penning occasions.  This is particularly true of the old days when as many as two-hundred ponies were penned on Ocracoke Island alone.

There have been wild horses roaming the Outer Banks since the landing of the Sir Walter Raleigh adventurers.  None of these wild horses were ever large except the Pea Island pony which came from the original quarter-bred horse.  (The quarter-bred horse, which has been developed as the finest cow-pony ever known, originally came from the Carolinas where they were bred for the quarter-mile race.)  However, the ponies of the Outer Banks did vary in weight from five hundred to eight hundred pounds.  They lived on the range the year round as wild as deer or wild horses can ever be.  For sustenance they had only the salt grass, the boughs of live oak and red cedar, and when the winters were severe, they dug in the sand hills with their hoofs to get the succulent roots of the sea oats.  These ponies no doubt had strains of Arab steed for in numbers of them there was untold beauty in color and build.  They were fleet of feet, hardy, well lined, and full of muscle.  They made fine saddle horses when properly trained.  In recent times, two Ocracoke horsemen stand out.  One was Homer Howard, the other was Monroe Bragg.

Homer Howard, (Lawton’s & Marvin’s father) c. 1942, aged 74:

Homer Howard

Homer Howard with his Coast Guard Horse, 1912
Homer Howard and Horse

There are many people on Ocracoke who can recall their daring feats.  People who have seen jockeys in America and England and have been to numerous horse-shows, carnivals, circuses, fat-stock shows, and rodeos in California, Texas and Mexico say that only on Ocracoke on the Outer Banks of North Carolina does the catching of wild horses with bare hands take place.

Captain Jim Howard was keeper of Hatteras Inlet Life Saving Station for a good many years.

Captain James W. Howard, (Homer’s father) c. 1888, aged 49:
James Howard

He owned quite a few cattle and wild ponies on Ocracoke.  Jim bought a two-year old Arabian horse from somewhere on the mainland.  His son, Homer Howard, broke and trained this horse for running the wild cattle and penning the wild ponies.  His name was “White Dandy,” though he was mottled with gray.

James Howard astride his horse, White Dandy, c. 1888
James Howard and White Dandy

On “White Dandy” Homer on many occasions started at the north end of the island in the cool of the morning, driving the herd of wild ponies south. He rode merrily along across Tar-Hole Plains.  There he would come upon a second herd of ponies headed by “Old Wildy,” a long, rangy stallion.  This herd, too, he would start driving southward.  The third herd he encountered at Scraggly Cedars, then the Great Swash.  After passing Great Swash he came to Knoll Cedars where the sheep pen used to be, and from there on southward the driving got touchy and more strenuous for the herds from the north were reluctant to go farther south and would try to cut through the thickets or sand hills back northward.

There were about two-hundred wild ponies in those days. They had to be driven over sand hills, through bogs, across creeks, through marshes, and through woodland thickets of myrtle, cedar, oak and yaupon. At about ten o’clock in the morning of pony-penning day, the horses could be seen spread out on the plains around “First Hammock Hills,” just north of Ocracoke Village. Each little band was headed by a tough and stringy stallion. They ran hither and thither, their manes and tails flying, heads held high, ears pointed forward, and necks arched to meet a foe. And whenever the stallions met, they did battle-biting, kicking, pawing — until the rider closed in. Then, they veered off from each other, returning to their herds. It was no easy task to drive these wild ponies sixteen miles southward to the corral in Ocracoke Village.

Ocracoke boys perched in a big live oak tree with one limb at least thirty feet long to get the first view of the ponies as they were driven down the sandy road to Cockle Creek, the harbor. There were no docks in those days; the ponies were herded along the shore and in the shallow water to the corral by people on shore and in boats. After all the horses were penned and the bars closed, the people went home, ate dinner, and then returned for the branding and selling of the stock.

There were buyers from the mainland who wanted the ponies for saddle horses or for farm use.  As soon as people began to climb the corral fence, a general movement among the stallions started.  Hoofs began to fly, and teeth snap, with much squealing and snorting.  Then, suddenly someone on the fence would yell “Homer’s caught the motley roan over there.”

To catch a wild stallion with nothing but bare hands took wit, agility, strength and stamina. Homer Howard would walk quietly through the mares, slapping them on the rump, working his way between them slowly, gradually — getting closer and closer to a great stallion — crouching panther-like, ready, alert — and in a flash he was astride the stallion, holding its mane with his left hand, throwing his elbow over the horse’s withers, hooking his knee behind the elbow of the horse’s front leg, reaching out with his right hand to catch the horse’s lower face just above the nostrils, clamping down tight, and sticking there with the tenacity of a bulldog. The stallion would rear, pitch, squeal, snort, paw the air for thirty of forty minutes, but finally, out of wind, tired, and afraid, he stopped his violent struggling. Slowly the horseman eased his grip; immediately, the stallion lunged and reared. Only after several attempts did the horse admit his defeat. “Old Widdie”, “Guthrie Sam”, and “Rainbow” and others were truly great stallions and had the spunk and grit to put up terrible battles. Their tusks, or cutting teeth, were long from age and could be used to cut and slash, and their forefeet and rear hoofs held a wicked kick.

They used mostly McClellan saddles in those days, never western. Here again, Homer Howard was a master horseman, as he crawled astride and called for the blindfold to be snatched off.  Then with a mighty heave the wild horse began to buck or run or sun-fish — backing, twisting, turning, rearing — coming to a full stop with head down, stiffened legs or standing on his hind feet, groaning in every nerve, his body sweat-soaked from his efforts, nostrils extended, expanding and contracting like a bellows.  But finally he was out-mastered by the victorious horseman.

On your next stop to visit the Ocracoke pony pen try to imagine these stories of outstanding horsemanship, Fourth of July Pony Pennings, and the long history of the Outer Banks ponies.  And be sure to look for the new filly.

Until next time, our best to you all from

Philip and the entire staff at Village Craftsmen