Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm packing 140 mph winds, was churning away in the Atlantic. The forecast indicated she would make landfall on the coast of North Carolina in a few days. Strong winds and coastal flooding were predicted. Ocracoke, where I live, is a narrow sandy island 20 miles from the mainland. Average elevation is about four feet. Evacuations had been ordered, first for visitors, then for residents.
Various family and friends wondered why I would stay. To some it seemed more than foolish. After all, evacuation orders are designed to save lives, and when ignored can have serious consequences. I knew that.
News programs tracking the hurricane described Florence as a “monster storm” that could cause “serious,” “catastrophic,” and “life-threatening” conditions. Reports said a 12-foot storm surge could cause widespread coastal flooding; strong winds could rip roofs from houses.
I have lived on Ocracoke for nearly 50 years, and have weathered many hurricanes and storms. Not a single Ocracoke resident has ever died in a hurricane. But what were the risks involved in this particular storm, I wondered.
I wanted facts and details, not just scary-sounding adjectives and over-hyped weather reports. Would Florence remain a Category 4 storm, or weaken as it approached land? Would the storm be catastrophic for everyone on the coast, or just for those living in sub-standard housing or mobile homes? Would a 12-foot storm surge inundate houses on the barrier islands, or those along rivers on the mainland?
So, I turned to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for some answers. First, I looked at their “Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map (Inundation)” for Hurricane Florence. Although some sections of Ocracoke Island (right along the shoreline) had a forecast of more than three feet of storm surge, only a few areas of the village were identified for even “more than one foot” of flood waters. As vulnerable as the Outer Banks can be, we know that storm waters come ashore, roll over the islands, and flow into the sound. The process is reversed when flood waters return from the mainland.
On the mainland, however, a storm surge will pile up with no other place to go, inundating communities along rivers, streams, and estuaries. The forecast called for more than twelve feet of water there.
Next, I assessed my house. It is more than 150 years old, and had weathered at least three major hurricanes, in 1899, 1933, and 1944, as well as many others, including Matthew in 2016. In 2005 I did a major rehabilitation of the house. We raised the house, screwed six-foot earth augers into the ground, and anchored the floor joists to the augers with heavy chains. All of the exterior siding was removed, additional studs added, hurricane tie-downs nailed to the rafters and top plates, and an underlayment of plywood applied before the siding was re-nailed. The roof was removed, new and larger rafters nailed to the existing rafters, sturdy plywood laid down, and 40-year asphalt shingles installed. The house was never better prepared for a storm.
Still, I was not naïve. A Category 4 storm could be truly catastrophic. What to do? Outdoor furniture, lawn mowers, and other objects had been brought inside or secured. My carpets were rolled up and placed on chairs. The bottom drawers of my filing cabinets were removed and placed on tables. Family and neighbors were beginning to evacuate. My car’s gas tank was filled with fuel. I had a suitcase and daypack ready to throw into my car if I decided to evacuate.
And so I waited a little longer, and monitored Florence’s track.
The last ferries would leave Wednesday morning. On Tuesday the forecasts converged on a near certainty that Florence would turn south before making landfall near Wilmington, NC. Although Ocracoke would probably be hit by the northeast quadrant of the storm (usually with the strongest winds), it looked as if we would just get the outer bands. What to do?
I knew that hundreds of thousands of residents and tourists would be fleeing from the storm. I was sure that fuel would be scarce, lodging along the way hard to find, and traffic often snarled. I didn’t want to be stranded in a low-lying flood plain. Fatal accidents were a definite possibility. I remembered leaving for Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Although Ocracoke fared well then (as it usually has), it was a nightmare trying to return home. Storm surge and rainfall had flooded nearly all of eastern North Carolina mainland.
We humans are notoriously bad at rational risk assessment. Although many people are afraid of lightning, sharks, or flying, driving on the Interstate at 70 mph, something we do routinely, is one of the most dangerous things we do. I decided to try to think clearly about this situation. Which was less risky…staying on Ocracoke during the storm or driving on the highway for 400 or more miles?
I decided to stay.
The extra time had a number of benefits. It gave me an opportunity to make additional last-minute preparations, including boarding up some windows. I wouldn’t have to drive for hours in an exhausted state. And I could at least make repairs after the storm passed.
I was fully aware that emergency services would be non-existent, and I would have to deal with any injuries or misfortunes myself. I was not expecting others to put their lives in danger for me.
As it turned out, Hurricane Florence had only minimal impact on Ocracoke. Winds did not exceed Tropical Storm velocity, no tidal storm surge inundated the village, and only a few tree limbs were downed. We continued to have municipal water, and power was out for only a few short periods. I know it could have been worse, and some people will continue to think I made a poor decision. That may be, but I will live with it. I respect everyone’s decision in these situations. No one has a crystal ball, and it is never easy or clear what to do. Some leave, some stay. My daughter and grandson, among many others, decided to leave. It was the right decision for them.
I might make a different decision next time, but I am content with the decision I made this time.
I didn’t recognize the woman right away, although she had been on my Ghost and History Tour the summer before. She and almost two dozen other people were with me on that July evening. We stopped at the Island Inn, as we always do. This is the building that had originally been built as Ocracoke’s Odd Fellows Lodge and Schoolhouse.
The Island Inn, now more than one hundred years old, is host to one of the island’s most active ghosts, and I was sharing details. Standing in the parking lot just after dusk I recounted the basic history of the structure and then told the gruesome tale of Mrs. Godfrey’s murder.
Most people recoil at the telling.
The story is not complete without sharing the sightings and strange happenings experienced by employees and guests alike.
I had not quite finished my tale when the woman felt compelled to tell her story. Some years before, she had rented a room at the Inn. After a day of exploring the island she returned to the hotel lobby and climbed the antique stairway to her second floor accommodations.
At the entrance to her room she retrieved the key from her purse and slowly opened the door. It was quiet inside. A delicate breeze wafted through the open window and gently rustled the lace curtains. She was exhausted. The old iron bed, piled high with soft pillows and a cozy quilt beckoned to her. But she could not sleep yet. Her mind raced with images of sailors, pirates, and simple island folks who had called Ocracoke home for generations. What was it like, she wondered, to live here, so far from conventional civilization? Who had built this fine hotel, and what stories did it hold?
Finally, too tired to think any more, she prepared for bed, and turned in about an hour before midnight. Several hours later, aroused from a deep sleep, she had the distinct sensation that someone was holding on to her big toe. She forced herself awake, afraid at first to open her eyes, fearful of what she might see.
With trepidation she lifted her head slowly and opened her eyes. Instantly the sensation vanished. No one was standing at the foot of her bed, and no hand grasped her toe. The curtains were still.
Convinced it had merely been a disquieting dream, she drifted back to sleep, only to be awakened a second time with the identical sensation. Again, no person, no figure, presented itself. And the pressure on her toe disappeared the moment she opened her eyes.
After the third encounter with whatever was holding on to her toe the woman propped herself on her pillows and determined to stay awake until daybreak. In the morning she requested to be moved to one of the newer rooms in the building on the other side of the street. After hearing the stories of Mrs. Godfrey, she said, she now knew who had been tormenting her that night.
The center section of what is now the Island Inn was built by Mr. Charlie Scarborough in 1900/1901 as a meeting house for Ocracoke Lodge #194, Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
The ground floor of the Lodge housed the island’s first community school.
Following the death of Michael Lawrence Piland, a Gates County native who many believe introduced the Odd Fellows to Ocracoke, the fraternal organization was disbanded. The Lodge was sold and converted to a private residence.
In 1940 the building was sold again, this time to Robert Stanley Wahab, native islander and early entrepreneur. Immediately the first floor was converted into a coffee shop with soda fountain and ice cream bar. Rooms upstairs became a boarding house. Later, during the war, the second floor was converted again, this time to an exclusive club for Navy Officers. It was dubbed the “Crow’s Nest.”
After the war a number of improvements and additions were made to the building. Several former Navy barracks were moved and attached to the southwest side of the building. A sizeable northeast wing was added in the 1950s that included a dining hall and more guest quarters. Newly christened the Silver Lake Inn, the former Lodge was now a modern hotel. In addition to guest rooms and a dining facility, the Inn also included a dance hall. Local musicians gathered there on Saturday nights to play for the traditional Ocracoke square dances. The Silver Lake Inn had become a prominent landmark and social center for residents and visitors alike.
The Inn was sold in the 1960s and the name changed to the Island Inn. There is no longer a dance hall associated with the Inn, but the present owners continue to serve the traveling public with comfortable rooms, private baths, and even a swimming pool.
As an added benefit, present day guests at the Island Inn, especially those who occupy rooms on the upper floors of the older section of the building, are sometimes confronted by the ghost of Mrs. Godfrey, a former resident.
During the war Stanley Wahab hired a couple from the mainland to act as managers for his growing hotel. They took an apartment in the hotel. Although capable employees, they soon became well known on the island for their domestic squabbles. Islanders remember them “fighting like cats and dogs.” It became an embarrassment to many Ocracokers, who seldom allowed their private lives to be displayed so publicly.
In those days all of the roads on Ocracoke were primitive sandy lanes. Ocracoke’s primary link to the mainland was by mail boat. The forty-two foot Aleta could carry several dozen passengers — a few in her cabin, others on benches under a protective canvas awning, and more on wooden fish boxes or suitcases arranged on the open deck. She made one round-trip daily between Ocracoke Island and the mainland port of Atlantic, North Carolina.
The mail boat left the island soon after daybreak and arrived at the dock in Atlantic about 10:30 a.m. The Aleta laid over long enough to load mail, passengers, and supplies. Shortly after noon she made her way back east across Pamlico Sound.
At that time the main social event of the day on Ocracoke was greeting the mail boat when it glided up to the dock about 4:30 p.m. It seemed as if the entire village was there waiting for the mail, wondering who was coming home for a visit, and curious to see if any strangers were aboard. Old ladies in slat bonnets, carrying baskets filled with groceries from the general store or vegetables from their gardens, waited alongside old men in slouch hats smoking cigars or chewing tobacco.
The atmosphere was congenial and jovial as adults shared the day’s news and gossip. Teenage boys in bare feet, white t-shirts, and dungarees rolled up to their calves greeted the mail boat and eagerly hefted large canvas bags of mail over their shoulders and carried them down the dock to the waiting postmaster. Younger children squealed and ran about or entertained themselves chucking oyster shells into the harbor. Eventually the mail would be “called over” and everyone would return to their homes for supper.
One morning the manager’s wife boarded the Aleta for a trip across the sound to visit family and friends. Several days later, at the time of her scheduled return, she was conspicuously absent among the passengers disembarking from the mail boat when it arrived back home at Ocracoke. The manager seemed perplexed, but not overly concerned. No doubt his wife had decided to spend several more days with family and friends on the mainland, he thought. She would be home soon enough. In the meanwhile his life was calmer and more peaceful.
A week later, to everyone’s horror, the woman’s mutilated body was discovered on the mainland, the victim of a horrible murder. Lying face up in a pool of blood in an abandoned house, her throat had been cut. Although suspicion immediately centered on an unidentified serviceman who had been seen getting into a car with her, her murderer was never determined. Not surprisingly, many islanders wondered whether her husband had had something to do with the murder.
Already a heavy drinker, the manager relied increasingly on alcohol to dull his senses after his wife’s funeral. He was never accused of the murder, and he returned to work at the Silver Lake Inn. Evenings and nights in his quarters became increasingly troubled. Almost immediately he began seeing his wife’s ghost wandering the halls of the Inn.
All too often he would awake in the middle of the night to see her standing over his bed, fixing him with an accusing stare. She opened doors, and then abruptly slammed them closed. The stairs creaked and groaned as she made her way from floor to floor. He would enter his room to find his wife’s cosmetics, left untouched on the dresser since her demise, now rearranged while he was out.
Eventually the distressed manager could endure no more. He quit his job at the Inn and moved back to the mainland. He never returned to Ocracoke.
Over the years reports have continued to surface of Mrs. Godfrey’s ghost regularly patrolling rooms and hallways of the Island Inn. Most sightings have occurred on the second and third floors of the main section. It is not uncommon for guests who have never heard the story to approach the front desk in the morning with strange tales of doors opening and closing, of unfamiliar footsteps padding nearby in the middle of the night, or of bathroom spigots opening by themselves.
Women frequently report going out for dinner or a walk on the beach and returning to find their cosmetics scattered about on the dresser. One woman awoke with a start and was terrified to see a ghostly figure examining her toiletries. The next morning her makeup was gone. She never located it.
A young couple was staying at the Inn a number of years ago before the installation of air conditioning. The August evening was particularly hot and muggy. Not a breath of wind disturbed the heavy night air. Hoping for some relief, the couple stepped onto the balcony and settled into rockers. After a while the husband turned to his wife with a curious look on his face. “Did you just feel something odd?” he asked her. “I did,” she replied. “All of a sudden I felt a cold ripple of air passing, not over me, but through me, as if something living, but not really living, had touched my soul.” He had felt the same uneasy sensation.
The woman on my ghost tour repeats her story of feeling someone holding on to her big toe. She vows never to stay in the older section of the Inn again. Her voice betrays a lingering dread of unseen forces hovering over her bed. She is content, however, to rent a room in the newer wing, as she does often.
Only a few years ago I asked the current owners of the Island Inn if folks still report strange happenings in the upper floors of the main building.
“Oh, every summer we have at least half a dozen guests come downstairs in the morning and tell us about things they’ve heard or seen during the night. When we explain to them about the manager’s wife they nod and admit they’re not surprised.”
“But there’s more,” she continues, clearly animated by her own experiences.
“We have a regular guest here who always brings her guitar. She comes several times a year and just loves staying with us. She claims she gets the best night’s sleep in her room on the second floor. After one visit I found a small peg on the floor. It had a round, flattened end, but I didn’t recognize what it was, so I threw it away. The next day it was lying on the floor in the hallway. I discarded it again. The third time I found it in the middle of the mirror-stand at the top of the stairs. By then it was beginning to feel creepy. I picked up the peg, carried it downstairs and tossed it into the waste basket.
“The guest called several days later. She had lost one of her guitar pegs, and wondered if we had found it. I explained what had happened and apologized. The peg was gone for good now, I explained.
“Weeks later the guitarist was back, anticipating another relaxing island weekend. Imagine my surprise when she came down to the main desk to thank me for the guitar pin. It was lying on the table in her room!”
“Let me tell you another story,” the owner continues.
“One of our guests dropped her glasses just as she stepped out of her room, and onto the outside stairway. She searched ten minutes or more, but could not find her glasses. When she told us what had happened we went to help. The glasses had simply disappeared. Finally we gave up, and she checked out without her glasses.
“Two weeks went by, then one day another guest walked up to the counter with a pair of glasses. She found them lying on the steps, just outside her room. Sure enough, they were the missing glasses.”
The ghost in the Island Inn often seems to be kind and nurturing. At least that’s what people say. Some even claim that she tucks people in at night, and that is why they sleep so soundly.
She does like to play tricks, though, and has a fascination with jewelry. One woman, staying on the island while going through a difficult divorce, took off her wedding ring before going to court on the mainland. When she returned to the island her ring was gone. She never located it.
Not everyone who stays at the Island Inn encounters the ghost. Some are disappointed when she doesn’t make herself known. Even when she does, she seems harmless enough to those who have felt her presence. If you’re curious, you are invited to reserve a room at the Inn. We recommend you ask for room number 23 or 24.
Update: In 2018 the Inn was sold to the Ocracoke Preservation Society. The two wings have been demolished, and plans are underway to restore the historic center section which housed the Odd Fellows Lodge and School. Eventually the building will serve as a community visitors center and house public restrooms. I am sure Mrs. Godfrey’s ghost will remain at the Lodge as long as it stands!
Ocracoke streets did not have official names until 1999. Street signs appeared in 2005. Prior to that time the names of Ocracoke’s streets were fluid, often reflecting who lived there at the time (Mark’s Path), what public or commercial property was on a street (School Road), or what activity took place on a particular street (Poker Players’ Lane). It was common for islanders to make up names for UPS delivery. Statewide Enhanced 911 Emergency Service eventually dictated that Ocracoke, like the rest of the state, have official street names and road signs posted throughout the village.
The street-naming committee consisted of Kenny Ballance, Darlene Styron, James Barrie Gaskill, and Ellen Marie Fulcher Cloud. Determining official names was complicated because some streets had more than one unofficial name (Ammunition Dump Road, Fire House Road, Sunset Drive), while a few streets had no common names. In other cases, two or more streets had identical or almost identical names (Sarah Ellen Drive, Sarah Ellen Lane).
Well-respected island native, Maurice Balance (1927-2014), was consulted for suggestions about street names. He made a list of historic family names he thought should be honored by naming streets for them. At the bottom of his list he wrote, “No Blackbeard Road (thief, rapist, murderer), a dishonorable bastard”! As you can see, the committee agreed.
Following are all of Ocracoke village’s official street names as of 2018, with historical information.
1st Avenue: This street and the surrounding area (Sunset Village) was named by Robert Lloyd Harcum (1900-1971), a real estate investor from Norfolk, Virginia, who developed this area in the late 1960’s. Harcum also established a furniture store in the building that now houses the Variety Store.
2nd Avenue: Named by Lloyd Harcum (see entry for First Avenue).
Aretta Street: This street is named for Aretta Fulcher Williams (1878-1962). She and her husband, Leonard Williams, lived on Silver Lake Drive. Their house (built in 1913, and a contributing member of the Ocracoke Historic District) is now a rental house (“Blue Harbor”). The street in Upland Trent was named in her honor by family members who live in that area.
Back Road: This road, on the “back side” of the village, was cut through about 1929 (it was just a sandy lane then) to accommodate the growing number of families settling there. It was sometimes called Firehouse Road after the 1960s firehouse was built along the road. This road was also a section of the first road paved on the island, a one-lane concrete road leading from the WWII Navy Base to their “ammunition dumps.” (See also Sunset Drive and British Cemetery Road.)
Beach Road: This short road behind the bank was named by island native and early promoter of Ocracoke, Robert Stanley Wahab (1888-1967), who developed this area. (See also Ocean Road and Ocean View Road.)
Bebe Lane: This unpaved lane is named for Beatrice (Bebe) Tolson Daugherty (1922 – 1989), daughter of Celia Williams Tolson and Enoch Sylvester (Sid) Tolson, and granddaughter of Leonard and Aretta Williams. Their family home (a contributing member of the Ocracoke Historic District) was built in 1933, and is located on Silver Lake Drive, next door to the Leonard and Aretta Williams home (see Aretta Street).
Boos Lane: Named for members of the Boos family who operate Teeter’s Campground and live on this unpaved lane. In 1951 Warwick and Margueritte Vise Boos moved to the island from Illinois, and purchased Gary Bragg’s Cedar Grove Inn on the shore of Pamlico Sound, near the lighthouse. They renamed the business the Soundfront Inn, and operated it until the early 1970s. From 1976 until 1996 Margueritte served as librarian for Ocracoke’s 80 square foot library, the smallest public library in the United States. At Margueritte’s death in 1996 the property passed out of the Boos family. Today the former inn on Sound Road is a popular rental property.
British Cemetery Road: The British Cemetery, which is located along this road, is the final resting place for four sailors from the armed British trawler, Bedfordshire, which was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat May 11, 1942. The section of this road from NC12 to the intersection of Back Road was for many years considered part of Back Road. This section was also sometimes referred to as Curiosity Lane. In the 1950s four island women, Nancy Williams, Lillian Jackson, Helen Fulcher, and Helen O’Neal, lived near the corner of this road and the Back Road. Rashe O’Neal (see Rashe Lane) began calling this Curiosity Corner for these women who gathered nearly every evening in the summer on one of their porches to share island news. Later on, various other women, including Elizabeth Howard, Fannie O’Neal, Etta Scarborough, Maude Fulcher, Irene O’Neal, Maggie O’Neal, Martha O’Neal, Lillian Fulcher, Fannie Pearl Fulcher, Ann Scarborough, and Jessica McManmon, continued the tradition. The road came to be known as Curiosity Lane.
Brugh’s Ridge Road: This unpaved lane is named for Doward and Jackie Overton Brugh. Doward was a 1970s real estate developer (he developed the nearby Oyster Creek area) who married into the Ocracoke Howard family. Before official street names were established this road was often referred to as Rug Road because a number of used carpets were placed in the lane to keep cars from getting mired down in the mud.
Bryant Lane: Named for the Leonard (1874-1960) and Jane Bryant family. Leonard, from the mainland, married island native, Jane Blount. Leonard made his living as a carpenter and barber. He was also the sexton of the Ocracoke Methodist Church. Jane was a domestic. Leonard and Jane had eleven children, three of whom, Julius, Mildred (Babe), and Muzel, remained on Ocracoke. Muzel died on Ocracoke at the age of 103 in 2008. (also see entry for Winnie Blount Road).
Cabana Road: Named by Lloyd Harcum (see entry for First Avenue) who developed this area.
Cedar Drive: For many years this unpaved road was called Old Laundrymat (sic) Road, because a laundromat was located there in the 1960s. Jimmy Jackson and others who lived on the road petitioned to make Cedar Drive the official street name. (See also Jackson Circle.)
Cedar Lane: This short section of road in Jackson Dunes pays tribute to the numerous cedar trees that grow in Ocracoke village. Named by the residents along this road.
Cedar Road: Also known locally as Bank Road (the First National Bank building sits on the corner of Irvin Garrish Highway and Cedar Road), this paved road also pays tribute to the many cedar trees on the island. Before the establishment of official street names this road was generally referred to as Richard’s Road for Richard Farrow O’Neal (1877-1944) who lived at the end of the road.
Cemetery Road: This road dead ends at the Ocracoke Community Cemetery which was established on September 14, 1953. A deed for approximately 5 acres of land was executed by members of the Garrish family for the sum of $1.00 for the purpose of forming a Cemetery Association to supplement the more than 80 small family cemeteries that were increasingly being filled. The Ballance family relinquished a portion of their property to create the road. On November 21, 1953, two islanders were buried in the newly designated Ocracoke Community Cemetery, Benjamin D. Gaskill, age 82, and Robert B. O’Neal, age 66. They both died on the same day and were buried on the same day.
Central Drive: This unpaved lane (along with West End Road) across from the Variety Store was named by Myra Wahab (1903-2002), widow of Robert Stanley Wahab (1888-1967), native islander, entrepreneur, and early promoter of Ocracoke. Myra developed this area in the late 20th
Creek Road: This road connects Lighthouse Road and Silver Lake Drive. Silver Lake harbor was originally called Cockle Creek (it is not a lake, but a wide, shallow tidal creek), hence the name of this road. At one time this was called Scarborough Road because Clarence Scarborough owned and operated a small general store along this road and lived next door to the store. Later Corky Mason operated the business as Corkey’s Store. At that time the road was often called Corkey’s Road.
Cutten Sage Lane: This is the road past the first bridge in the Oyster Creek development. It intersects Cutting Sage Road (see entry for Cutting Sage Road). On some pre-2005 maps this road is identified as Portsmouth Village Road.
Cutting Sage Road: This is an alternate spelling of “Cutting Sedge,” a member of a family of tufted marsh plants, Cyperaceae, and is the traditional name of the western portion of this road that leads from the intersection of Sunset Drive to Oyster Creek. This road was sometimes called Bridge Road since it crosses three canals. Also, some pre-2005 maps list the section that crosses the first bridge as Bay Ridge Road. Confusingly, the road past the first bridge in the Oyster Creek development, which intersects “Cutting Sage,” is named “Cutten Sage Lane.”
Elizabeth Lane: This unpaved lane honors Elizabeth O’Neal Howard (1910-1996), wife of Robert Wahab Howard (1914-1974). Elizabeth, whose historic family property lies in this area, served as Ocracoke’s postmaster from 1941 until 1972, and was an early collector and preserver of island history and genealogy.
Esham Lane: This road is named for David Esham (1941-2001) and family. David was the son of Ocracoke native Virginia Williams and Elisha Esham from the Eastern Shore of Virginia. David Esham, business owner, fisherman, and first president of the Ocracoke Preservation Society, had a house and a dock at the end of this road.
Faraway Oaks: Named by Frank Wardlow (1917-1997), who developed this area.
Fig Tree Lane: Named by island native, Ray Thomas Waller (1940-2007), for the luxurious fig trees growing along this lane where he lived.
Fish Camp Lane: Ocracoke has a long tradition of fish camps, primitive 19th century huts constructed of bull rushes, erected “down below” (the part of the island north of Ocracoke village) for use by local fishermen. Later fish camps were simple wooden buildings. Since the mid-1950s, when the National Park Service purchased most of the land outside Ocracoke village, the old fish camps were demolished or moved. However, a number of small, current-day “fish camps” with boat docks have been erected along a boardwalk on the marsh bordering a tidal creek at the end of Cutting Sage Lane in the Oyster Creek area. Thus, Fish Camp Lane.
Friendly Ridge Road: Named by the developer of this area, Lloyd Harkum, in the late 1960’s. (See also 1st Avenue)
Garrish Lane: This small lane off of Water Plant Road is named for Uriah Wahab Garrish, Sr. (1874-1968) and the Ocracoke Garrish family. The earliest documents relating to a Garrish on Ocracoke are in the estate papers of Jobe Wahab. In 1785 the estate paid 4 pounds 16 shillings to Henry Garrish (b. ca. 1760) for gradeschooling of Thomas Wahab. Henry served in the American Revolution, and married islander Elizabeth Howard (1765-1837). The name Garrish is derived from the Middle English word Gerysshe, meaning “changeful, wild, wayward.”
Gaskill Lane: William Gaskill (b. before 1737 – d. 1768) was a whaler and fisherman, and Justice of the Peace in Carteret County in 1749/1750. He and his wife, Ann Jarret, had ten children. At least two of their children settled on Ocracoke. Thomas Christopher Gaskill (b. ca. 1752 d. ca. 1828) arrived on Ocracoke Island before 1800. His brother, Benjamin Gaskill (d. 1787), married Jane Williams Wahab, daughter of John Williams of Ocracoke (and widow of Job Wahab). James Barrie Gaskill (1943-2017) owned property at the end of this lane, and maintained a commercial fishing operation on the canal. Gaskill is an English name derived from the location of this family in the late Middle Ages, in Gatesgill, a hamlet in Dalston Parrish within the city of Carlisle in Cumbria County on the northwest coast of England. Gatesgill, recorded as Geytescales in 1273, derives from the Old Norse words “geit” (goat) + “skali” (shelter), meaning “shelter for goats.” Modern variations include Gaitskell, Gaitskill, Gaskill, Gaskell and Gaskall.
Harbor Cove Lane: Named by the residents along this road.
Horse Pen Road: At the time this one-lane unpaved road acquired its official name (in 1999), it terminated at the property of Jim and Jennetta Henning. Jim had served as Ocracoke Island’s chief National Park Service ranger, and was a tireless supporter of the island’s Banker Pony herd. He and Jennetta maintained a sizeable horse pen on their property.
Howard Street: At one time Howard Street was referred to as the “Main Road.” In 1835 what had been merely a foot path was widened by court order and made a public thoroughfare. It extended from close by the present-day “School Road” all the way to the Sound (in the vicinity of today’s National Park Service Visitor Center). Several stores were located in this area – Mr. Blackwell’s store, John Pike’s store, and Willis Williams’ store and tavern. The area “Around Creek” grew considerably, especially since the post office and mailboat dock were located there.Once the state of North Carolina took control of the ferry operations in the mid-1950s and decided to pave many of the island’s sandy lanes Ocracoke’s destiny began to change. Early on the pavement was extended around the harbor from the Navy’s concrete road. Where once there had been little more than a foot path, there was now a hard surface road (where Highway 12 is today).This meant that the western end of the “Main Road” (in front of the Community Store) was now paved. And that left the eastern end of the road still a one-lane sandy path lined by family cemeteries and embraced by cedars and gnarled old live oaks.It wasn’t long before Stacy Howard nailed a hand-painted sign to a tree in front of his house. “East Howard Street” it read. The new name stuck. Of course, most of the residents there were Howards, and it was the eastern end of what had been the “Main Road.” Today, the official name of this road is simply Howard Street.
Ikey D’s Road: Named for island native, Isaac D. O’Neal (1935-1978), who lived on this road. Ikey D was a master carpenter who worked for Sam Jones building “Berkley Castle” and other buildings. Ikey D is also the name of Sam Jones’s horse, buried beside him at Springer’s Point. Ikey D’s son, also named Ikey, still lives on this road.
Irvin Garrish Highway: Irvin Garrish (1916-1997) and his wife Elsie Ballance Garrish (1915-2003) were both born and raised on Ocracoke. Irvin’s mother was a direct descendant of Agnes Scott for whom Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, is named. For a time Irvin & Elsie lived and worked off the island, but later returned to their island home on Howard Street. Irvin was a ferry captain and the island’s first representative to the Hyde County board of commissioners. NC Highway 12 (Irvin Garrish Highway) is named for him. Elsie was the island’s nurse.
Jackson Circle: In about 1745 Francis Jackson (ca. 1723- ca. 1798) married Susannah Howard (ca. 1725 – 1830), daughter of William Howard, Sr., last colonial owner of Ocracoke Island. Francis Jackson was an inlet pilot, and the first Jackson to live on Occracoke. Jackson Circle is located in the area where the Jackson family lived for many generations. Jackson Circle was developed by Doward Brugh (d. 2016) and Nathaniel Jackson (1929-2007).
Lake Street: This unpaved road parallel to Central Drive is divided into two sections by a marshy lake near the Ocracoke Community Ball Park.
Lawton Lane: This narrow sandy lane runs from NC12 to Howard Street. This lane never had a name until the 1990s when Libby & Bill Hicks rented the Homer and Aliph Howard house on the lane and used “Lawton Lane” as their address, a tribute to their neighbor, Lawton Howard (1911 – 2002), who was born in the house.
Lighthouse Road: This road was traditionally called Point Road since it led to Springer’s Point. When official Ocracoke street names were first introduced this was designated Point Road. Only because several residents objected was the current name officially adopted. They had already established their addresses as Lighthouse Road in recognition of the island’s most prominent structure (built in 1823).
Live Oak Road: This road, named by the residents along the road, pays tribute to the numerous live oaks (Quercus Virginiana) found on Ocracoke. Many of these trees, the dominant hardwood tree on the island, are hundreds of years old.
Loop Road: The name of this road is simply descriptive. It “loops” around from the southwest end of Lighthouse Road back to the intersection of Lighthouse Road and Creek Road. However, in the 1960s this section of road was sometimes called Moonlight Valley Road. This more colorful name was inspired by a glamour magazine and coined by island teenagers.
Lumpy’s Road: Leslie and Kenneth (Beaver) Tillett live on this unpaved road. When Leslie was pregnant with their first son, Andrew (born 1996), Beaver would put his hand on her abdomen and jokingly comment on how lumpy it was. It didn’t take much before they were both referring to the unborn baby as “Lumpy.” And thus the name of the road where Leslie, Beaver, & Andrew (and now Kyle also) live.
Mark’s Path: This unpaved lane is named for William Marcus Gaskins (1858-1937) who lived on this lane. Family members still live nearby.
Martha Jane Lane: Martha Jane O’Neal Gaskins (1903-1971) lived on this short section of road that connects Lighthouse Road to Loop Road. Martha Jane was married to Gilbert Bryan Gaskins. Her house is the small cottage sided with cedar shakes. Many years ago Martha Jane was taken to Duke University hospital complaining of abdominal discomfort. She was diagnosed with a nervous stomach and sent back home. Some months later she took a snapshot of her “nervous stomach,” her newborn baby son, and sent it to the doctors at the hospital.
Mary Ann Drive: This short lane is named for Mary Ann Styron Williams (born ca. 1795). She was married to Francis Williams (1790- ca. 1865), grandson of John Williams who bought half of Ocracoke Island from William Howard, Sr., in 1759. Mary Ann and Francis lived on the shore of a shallow pond in this area that came to be called Mary Ann’s Pond. This pond was located just west of Northern Pond but the pond was filled in by the Navy during WWII.
Maurice Ballance Road: This road honors native islander, Edgar Maurice Balance (1927-2014), the son of the late Elisha and Emma Gaskins Ballance. He was a retired port captain with the NCDOT-Ferry Division, commercial fisherman, master carpenter, talented musician, veteran of the Korean Conflict, and a respected and beloved member of the Ocracoke community. The name for this road was suggested by a friend of Maurice Ballance who has a cottage on this road.
Middle Road: This road is located in the middle of “Wahab Village,” an area of Ocracoke developed in the 1930s and 1940s by Robert Stanley Wahab (1888-1967), island native and early promoter of Ocracoke. In 1936 Stanley established the Wahab Village Hotel (now Blackbeard’s Lodge) on Back Road, on the western edge of Wahab Village.
Miss Elecia Lane: Miss Elecia Garrish (1889-1978) was the second wife of Alexander Norman Garrish. They lived in the house on this lane which Alexander built in 1903 (it was remodeled in the 1940s). The house is a contributing member of the Ocracoke Historic District. Today it is a rental home. Miss Elecia was the island seamstress.
North Street: This street behind the Ocracoke Coffee Company intersects Sunset Drive. It was named by Lloyd Harcum. (See 1st Avenue)
North Pond Road: This road is adjacent to Northern (or North) Pond, a small cove located in Pamlico Sound, on the north side of the village of Ocracoke.
NPS Road: This road to the east of the National Park Service public parking area passes the NPS maintenance buildings and leads to NPS housing units.
Nubbins Ridge: This is a curious name for one of the island’s narrow lanes. Carrie, Elnora, and Delphin Williams, whose family home was located here, named this road years ago for an area they were familiar with in Richmond, Virginia.
Ocean Road: This short road between the back of the Island Inn (the old Odd Fellows Lodge) and the Boyette Condos at one time led to the “bald beach” and the ocean. (See also Ocean View Road.)
Ocean View Road: Prior to World War II this road was on the edge of the “bald beach.” Hence the name. After the construction of the continuous row of barrier dunes between the ocean and NC12 in the mid-twentieth century, numerous beach grasses, sea oats, myrtle bushes, yaupons, and other vegetation colonized the area between the dunes and this road. Houses and businesses followed. For many years it has been impossible to see the Ocean from Ocean View Road.
Odd Fellows Road: In 1897 islanders established Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a non-political and non-sectarian international fraternal order founded in 1819. The Lodge building was constructed on the corner of this lane in 1901 by Thaddeus Scarborough. The ground floor was used as a schoolhouse until 1917. The upper floor was the Lodge’s meeting room. After the Lodge was disbanded in 1925 the building was sold as a private residence. Eventually it was turned into a coffee shop, and after World War II it was re-purposed as a restaurant and inn, eventually acquiring the name Island Inn. In 2018 the Ocracoke Preservation Society, with help from Occupancy Tax money, purchased the property.
Old Beach Road: This was a former sandy path leading from the village to the “bald beach.” (See also Ocean View Road.)
Old Church Lane: This narrow lane carries this name because the property where Zillie’s wine store is now located was once the site of Wesley Chapel, a congregation of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1883 this denomination sent a preacher to the island because a schism had erupted in the local Methodist Episcopal Church, South (which was located on Howard Street), over the use of hymn books. From 1883 until 1939, when the national denominations merged to form the United Methodist Church, Ocracoke village was home to two Methodist churches. The two existing church buildings were demolished, and the materials used to build the present Methodist Church on School Road.
Old Pony Lane: This unpaved lane adjacent to Blackbeard’s Lodge which narrows to a footpath connects Back Road with the Ocracoke School property. The name harkens back to a time when semi-wild Banker Ponies roamed freely through the village.
O’Neal Drive: This road passes by an area of the village settled by members of the Ocracoke O’Neal family. An O’Neal cemetery on this road includes graves of several prominent and influential members of this historic island family. Some of the O’Neal (O’Neil, Neal, Neil, Neel, Neale) family from Ireland came to Virginia in the seventeenth century, and later to Hatteras Island. The first O’Neals settled on Ocracoke in the late 1700s. The O’Neal family has owned land in this area for many years. The final several hundred feet of this road (past the curve) was sometimes called John Gaskins Drive.
O’Neal Lane: This lane is named for members of the Ocracoke O’Neal family. (Also see entry for O’Neal Drive.) Named by the residents along this road.
Pamlico Shores Road: This road in the Northern Pond area intersects British Cemetery Road,,and was named by Frank Wardlow (1917-1997) who developed this area in the 1970s.
Pilot Town Circle: This paved road loops around the back of the National Park Service Visitors Center. The name was suggested by Maurice Ballance (see Maurice Ballance Road). It pays tribute to one of Ocracoke’s earliest names, Pilot Town. Ocracoke’s first European settlers in the early eighteenth century acted as inlet pilots, guiding sailing vessels through the sometimes treacherous Ocracoke Inlet. Today, Pilot Town Circle serves as stacking lanes for the Cedar Island and Swan Quarter ferries.
Pintail Drive: This road is named for the northern pintail (Anas acuta), a large migratory duck that frequents Ocracoke Island. The male’s long central tail feathers provide the species’ common and scientific names. This road was named by Frank Wardlow (1917-1997), who developed this area.
Poker Players’ Road: Not surprisingly, this road was named to recognize a group of island men who gathered regularly in the woods nearby to play poker. Anonymous sources identified them as Ikey D. O’Neal, James Barrie Gaskill, Billy Garrish, James Garrish, Jr., Julius Bryant, and a few others.
Pompano Place: On Ocracoke Island pompano is a popular and prized marine delicacy and game fish in the genus Trachinotus, in the family Carangidae.
Rasche Lane: Named for Ocracoke native Horatio (Rasche) Willis O’Neal (1894-1981), who lived nearby.
Sand Dollar Drive: The Sand Dollar Motel is located on this road. Sand dollars, which are found frequently on Ocracoke’s beach, are extremely flattened, burrowing sea urchins belonging to the order Clypeasteroida.
Sand Dune Trail: This road off of Middle Road in the Wahab Village section of Ocracoke is named for the sand dunes that formed in this area before the erection of the man-made barrier dunes between NC12 and the ocean, when this area was on the edge of the “bald beach.”
Sarah Ellen Drive: Named for Miss Sarah Ellen O’Neal Gaskill (1879-1984) many years ago by her friend Susan Barksdale who owned property near this paved road “Up Trent.” (Susan Barksdale also owned the Capt. Bill Thomas house on the corner of Silver Lake Drive and Sarah Ellen Lane.) This is one of two roads honoring this much beloved island native. Miss Sarah Ellen was the daughter of Howard and Charlotte O’Neal, and she lived on the island all of her life. Her father was a fisherman and she grew up to marry a fisherman, Benjamin Gaskill, with whom she shared 46 years of marriage and five sons. (See also Sarah Ellen Lane.)
Sarah Ellen Lane: This unpaved lane off Silver Lake Drive on the south side of the harbor honors Miss Sarah Ellen O’Neal Gaskill (1879-1984) who lived at the end of the lane. Her descendants still live there. (See also Sarah Ellen Drive.)
School Road: The 1971 schoolhouse, which replaced the 1917 schoolhouse, sits at the end of this eponymous road, directly across from the circle.
Silver Lake Drive: This road travels around the south shore of Silver Lake harbor. The harbor, originally called Cockle Creek, is a tidal creek that is connected to Pamlico Sound by the “Ditch,” the narrow opening used by ferries and other water craft. In the 1930s, and again during WWII, the shallow Creek was dredged to provide a suitable harbor for larger boats and US Navy vessels. As early as the nineteenth century Cockle Creek was sometimes called Silver Lake. In an 1890 newspaper promotion in The Daily Journal (New Bern, NC) the Spencer brothers, new owners of the large Victorian inn, the Ocracoke Hotel (1885-1900), refer to “Silver Lake, a beautiful sheet of water…immediately in the rear and offer[ing] a sail for the timid who fear the sound or ocean, a bath for those who dread the surf, and fishing for anyone who prefers to angle for perch rather than trout or blue fish.”
Sound Road: This road is connected to Live Oak Road, and proceeds to the Soundfront Inn on the shore of Pamlico Sound. (See also Boos Lane.)
South Point Road: This two-lane sand road from NC12 at the edge of Ocracoke village to the South Point of the beach was created by the National Park Service in the 1980s to keep beach vehicles in one corridor, and to prevent destruction of vegetation in the surrounding sand flats.
Styron Lane: This road in the Oyster Creek development pays tribute to the Styron family of Ocracoke. George Styron, Jr. (b. ca. 1700) was the ancestor of all the Ocracoke Styrons. The family settled first in Virginia, then, after receiving land grants in Carteret County, moved to Portsmouth Island. By 1790 William and James Styron, sons of George, Jr., were living on Ocracoke.
Sunset Drive: The road directly across from the original Ocracoke fire hall was among the very first streets paved on the island. When the US Navy established their base here in July of 1942 they created an ammunition dump along the ridge that now connects the Oyster Creek development and Jackson Dunes, but they found the deep soft sand lanes unsatisfactory for efficient movement of vehicles. In short order they paved a one-lane concrete road from their base on the harbor to the dump. A few of the aprons that served the dumps are still visible on present-day “Cutting Sage Road” and “Trent Drive.” That section of the first road directly across from the original fire hall (now the Ocracoke School shop classroom and WOVV radio station studio) was dubbed “Ammunition Dump Road” by locals. Later on, after the fire hall was built, the road was sometimes called “Fire House Road.” In the mid to late 1960s Lloyd Harkum (1900-1971), from Norfolk, Virginia, purchased property along this road and divided it into small lots. He officially named this thoroughfare “Sunset Drive.” It is only in the winter that this road faces directly into the sunset. In the 1970’s, before the trees had grown so tall, the top of the lighthouse was clearly visible as you were driving west on this road. A few folks referred to it by its most confusing moniker, “Lighthouse Road.”
Terrapin Drive: This road is named for the diamondback terrapin, a turtle native to Ocracoke which was harvested for many years to make turtle stew. The name is derived from the Algonquian word torope. Frank Wardlow (1917-1997), a native of Indianapolis, IN, moved to Ocracoke in the early 1970s and became manager of the Ocracoke Sanitary District. He developed this area and provided the name.
Tom Neal Drive: This Ocracoke street is named after Thomas Martin O’Neal, “Tom ‘Neal” (1866-1933). He was a master boatbuilder. He began construction of the boat now on display behind the Preservation Museum ca. 1929; Stacy Howard bought the boat a year or so later; Homer Howard completed construction of the boat, and it was launched in 1934.Tom ‘Neal was also an excellent fiddler who played for local square dances, and later was a founding member of an island band, The Graveyard Band. He had six children. Martin Garrish, Tom ‘Neal’s great-great-grandson, was named after him, and is recognized as one of Ocracoke’s finest musicians.
Trent Drive: The southeast extension of Cutting Sage is called “Trent Drive” (sometime Upland Trent Drive). One historically major section of Ocracoke village included this area near Pamlico Sound and beyond the present-day community cemetery. It is called “Up Trent” or “Upland Trent” and, although all of the homes there today are relatively new, years ago quite a few islanders lived amongst the trees there. Hence, “Trent Road.” Interestingly, several other geographical areas in eastern North Carolina bear the Trent moniker. For example, there is the Trent River in eastern North Carolina (its origin is near Kinston, and empties into the Neuse River at New Bern).The small village of Frisco, on Hatteras Island, was at one time called Trent or Trent Woods. Although Algonquin Indians had established a village there centuries earlier, the first European settlers called the area Trent. In 1898 the U.S. Post Office renamed the village Frisco to avoid confusion with another town on the mainland called Trent. Because the majority of early Outer Banks settlers came from the British Isles, the name Trent most likely indicated a connection with the small English village of Trent in northwest Dorset. Unfortunately, details of that connection have been lost over time.
Tuttles Lane: This unpaved road is named for the Tuthill (Tuttle) family who moved from Long Island, NY, to South Creek, NC, in the 19th century. They became close friends of the E.D. Springer family, and married into that family. E.D. had purchased a large tract of Ocracoke land that came to be called Springer’s Point. Effingham Tuthill (1834 – 1917), a former carriage maker, established a “hotel” (several buildings and apartments) along this lane. In 1895 he advertised The Tuthill House this way: “the reputation of this house for good food, well prepared, and general comfort of guests goes without saying. Rates Reasonable.”
Water Plant Road: Not surprisingly, this road passes by the island’s elevated water tank and the buildings that house the Ocracoke Sanitary District. The District was established in 1972. In 1977 the plant commenced operation of a newly developed reverse osmosis desalination municipal water system. The plant has been expanded and upgraded several times. Prior to 1977 islanders relied on rainwater collected in individual water cisterns for their drinking water.
West End Road: This unpaved lane (along with Central Drive) across from the Variety Store was named by Myra Wahab (1903-2002), widow of Robert Stanley Wahab (1888-1967), native islander, entrepreneur, and early promoter of Ocracoke. Myra developed this area in the late 20th
Widgeon Woods Road: This unpaved road in the Widgeon Woods development is named for the American wigeon (Mareca americana), a dabbling duck formerly called the baldpate by ornithologists. The road forks to create North Widgeon Woods Road and South Widgeon Woods Road.
Winnie Blount Road: Winnie Blount (affectionately known to islanders as “Aunt Winnie”) was the only native black person to return to Ocracoke after the Civil War. She married another former slave from the mainland (Hercules [Harkus] Blount) and they raised two children on the island, Jane and Annie Laura. Jane eventually met and married Leonard Bryant from Engelhard while she and Winnie were working at the old Doxsee Clam Factory which was located near the entrance to the harbor. Annie Laura also lived on the island with her husband, but they moved to Elizabeth City, NC, soon after their little boy fell off the back porch into the water barrel and drowned. Aunt Winnie worked as a domestic; Hercules was a boat builder and carpenter. (also see the entry for Bryant Lane).
(Additional information about several roads was added July 25, 2018.)