A small cemetery, enclosed by an unpainted, cedar picket fence, lies in the middle of the Springer’s Point Nature Preserve on Ocracoke Island.

Ikey D was buried there in the 1960s. For years no tombstone marked the spot.

In September of 1977 another body was laid to rest beside Ikey D. His tombstone reads:

“Samuel G. Jones, July 31, 1893 – September 27, 1977, I shall pass this way but once. Any good therefore that I can do let me do it  now for I shall not pass this way again.”

His footstone reads:

“’SAM’ When Morning gilds the Skies I’ll Be Looking Home to You. In Loving Memory From Your Many Friends.”

By all accounts Sam was a colorful character. Born in Swan Quarter, the principal town in the county of Hyde, in coastal North Carolina, Sam was only thirteen years old when he quit school and left his hometown to seek his fortune.

Sam soon found his way to Norfolk, Virginia. There he secured work at Berkley Machine Works and Foundry. He was industrious, enterprising, creative, and endowed with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. In 1919, when he was just 26 years old, Sam purchased Berkley Machine Works. Shortly thereafter he invented a stoker for coal-fired steam locomotives, a product which proved to be in great demand. As a result he soon found himself a wealthy man.

In his mid-20s Sam married Mary Ruth Kelly, daughter of Neva May Howard and a Maryland mariner, Captain William Kelly. Neva May was the daughter of Captain George Gregory Howard of Ocracoke Island. Captain George, great-great-grandson of William Howard, Sr., colonial owner of Ocracoke, and a seafaring man (he owned several coastal schooners), lived in a large, two-story house on Howard Street.

In the early 1930s Sam established Sajo Farm, an 800 acre estate in Princess Anne County, Virginia. The original home was a log “cabin” with seven bedrooms and two bathrooms. Eventually he built a 22,000 square foot brick mansion with 30 rooms. It was situated on the shore of Lake Lawson, and housed his growing collection of antiques, paintings, Persian rugs, rare books, and custom-built furniture. He was especially fond of Victorian and Art Deco pieces.

In addition to his home, Sam had a state-of-the-art woodworking shop built on the estate. There he employed two of Norfolk’s best known furniture makers, Rosario Cicero and George Houmis, who constructed, among other items, impressive five-foot and six-foot diameter lazy-Susan tables of walnut and cherry.

Books and artwork comprised a significant portion of Sam’s collections. He was an ardent student of American history, and his extensive library housed a large collection of Abraham Lincoln memorabilia, as well as works related to America’s Founding Fathers. Numerous oil paintings by early 20th century artists adorned the walls. Sam has been described as “a voracious and eclectic collector.” “He bought some crazy stuff,” it was said, “but it was all really cool.”

Mary Ruth and Sam had five children, Samuel, Jr., William, Mary Ruth, Howard, and Charles.

According to Sam’s own account he had visited Ocracoke island “as a boy on the Fourth of July which was a big occasion,” and prided himself “as one of the old-timey square dancers.” After his marriage he began making regular visits to Ocracoke in the early 1930s and soon fell in love with the island and its people. He would often speak of the “easy-going solitude and unique flavor” of Ocracoke Island and the simple folk who lived there. Over the next several decades he would have a significant impact on the life and economy of this isolated barrier island and small village.

Sam Jones’ impact on Ocracoke is immortalized in a subtle verse of a local song, Paddy’s Holler, about a “party part” of town many years ago that was named after a taproom in Philadelphia.  Written by Ocracoke Island native, Walter Howard, and popularized by his banjo-picking brother, Edgar, the fourth verse goes like this:

“Now in the olden days nobody offered praise
For anybody livin’ up the holler
As the years rolled by, moved in on the sly
Now it’s Mrs. Jones of Paddy’s Holler.”

Mrs. Jones, of course, was Mary Ruth Jones, Sam’s first wife, whose Howard family property was on the edge of Paddy’s Holler.

In 1941 Sam purchased more than fifty acres of maritime forest at Springer’s Point on Pamlico Sound. This Point was the site of the earliest settlement on Ocracoke, and several dilapidated structures still stood, including an old house, a stable, a jail or storage shed, and a round brick well. Although Sam made use of some of the lumber for projects elsewhere in the village, he never developed the Point, preferring instead to allow the live oaks, cedars, and other vegetation to reclaim the area.

Sam acquired several more tracts of land on Ocracoke, some in the village, and at least one in what is now the National Seashore Park, where he built his Green Island Clubhouse for entertaining hunters and fishermen.

In about 1951 he commenced construction of the first of four large structures in the village, all of which reflected his unique architectural style… Colonial Revival combined with distinctive shingled towers and numerous dormers. One wag from Hatteras Island remarked that Sam Jones had “shingled Ocracoke.”

The Manor:

(Courtesy Ocracoke Library [Mike Riddick Collection].)

Berkley Manor, with more than twenty rooms, a dozen chimneys, many fireplaces, and a four-story tower, was constructed around the old Dezzie Fulcher home on the northeast shore of Silver Lake harbor. Walls and ceilings were finished in clear, hand-picked cypress. Quarter-sawn oak was laid down on the floors. Federal-style mantels, decorated, as was the ceiling trim, with dentil moldings, gave the Manor an air of quiet elegance. Outbuildings included smaller guest quarters (the Ranch House), stables for the several dozen horses he owned, storage sheds, a traditional privy, and buildings for boat storage.

Sam Jones’ Stables and Compound:

Courtesy Outer Banks History Center [Aycock Brown Collection])

In 1953 Sam became embroiled in a campaign to prevent the establishment of the National Seashore Park, realizing that his Green Island Club property would be subject to purchase by the US government. In testimony before a committee in Raleigh he stated that his clubhouse was worth $70,000. The Coastland Times, in March of that year, editorialized that “[i]f that is true, then Hyde County is losing a lot of taxes that Mr. Jones ought to pay, for the total property valuation on Ocracoke Island last year, which included everybody’s property, amounted to only $124,371…. Mr. Jones’ new home, now being built in the village outside the park boundaries, will cost another $70,000. So his properties are worth more than the whole of Ocracoke Island on the Hyde County tax books.”

Sam Jones lost his battle with the National Park Service, and Green Island is now part of the Seashore Park.

Sam became passionate about more mundane issues also. It was said that around 1948 he was known for a “vigorous and colorful campaign against daylight savings time,” another battle that he lost.

Sam’s interest in art also led him into battles (literally). According to an article in the October, 2010 issue of “Virginia Living”  Sam’s patronage of the famous American portrait artist, Alphaeus Phelemon Cole (1876-1988), resulted in a CBS TV national interview with Cole. When the interviewer asked Cole about affairs he may have had with his models Sam Jones became incensed and “emerged from backstage brandishing a broom and began swating the interviewer and the production crew. The interview was unceremoniously aborted.”

By the mid-1950s construction had begun on the second of Sam’s palatial residences, Berkley Castle, halfway around the harbor. As with Berkley Manor, the Castle was built entirely by island carpenters according to the same style. There is no evidence that Sam ever employed the services of an architect. Nor did he have blueprints. More often than not he would simply stand on the property with his work crew and tell them what he wanted. Sometimes he would make sketches on the back of an envelope, or draw designs in the sand.

The Castle:

(Courtesy Ocracoke Library [Mike Riddick Collection].)

Stories are told about how he told his carpenters, one morning, where to put the windows…then had them move them the next day…only to direct them to put them back in the original location the following day. Perhaps as a result of this daily, short-term vision Sam’s Ocracoke buildings are often quirky and unconventional. Rooms were originally arranged in a somewhat haphazard way, frequently with few hallways. As a result it is sometimes necessary to walk through one room to get to another.

In the Manor the dining room was reached only by traversing the huge kitchen fitted out with several large commercial gas ovens. Dormers in some rooms in the Castle are positioned directly across from other dormers, separated by only a few feet. Stair steps in all of his buildings have very short risers, exactly the arrangement that for Sam was most comfortable. Although his buildings appear symmetrical at first glance, a closer look reveals subtle idiosyncrasies. For example, the gable ends and roof lines on the left and right wings of the Castle are remarkably different.

After completion of the first stage of construction, the Castle became Sam’s guest house, while the Manor was used mostly for storage.  When he brought friends, clients, business partners, employees, and politicians to Ocracoke for hunting and fishing trips he would nearly always lodge them in the Castle. These trips often included lavish parties with music provided by local performers. It was not uncommon for Sam to require women to wear ankle-length colonial-style dresses which he personally selected from his well-stocked closets. At times he would even bring professional square dancers down from Virginia to entertain his guests in the 18’ X 60’ ballroom designed expressly for that purpose. During daylight hours 15-20 people could sometimes be seen playing croquet on the well-kept lawn in front of the Castle.

 

Party at the Castle (Sam Jones standing):

Courtesy Ocracoke Library [Mike Riddick Collection])

Sam’s wife, Mary Ruth, died in 1956. A year later he married Ursula Brandt, a native of Bremerhaven, Germany.  They had two children, Selby (born 1959) and Carolyn (born 1960).

On November 4, 1958 Sam Jones was indicted on charges that he had evaded more than $275,000.00 in federal income taxes. He was accused of falsifying income figures on individual and corporate tax returns for the years 1952, 1953, and 1954.

A ten day trial was held in US District Court in May of 1959. Jones’ defense was that his holdings on Ocracoke were not used for personal pleasure, and were therefore tax deductible. He claimed that they were used to entertain prospective customers in lieu of national advertising. Nevertheless, Sam Jones was convicted of tax evasion. He was fined $30,000 and sentenced to five years in the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

The presiding judge ordered a study to be made of Jones because of his “unusual conduct” during the trial. Sam was described as “outspoken,” and frequently cited for contempt. The study was to focus on Sam Jones’ background, abilities, and mental and physical health.

In the midst of Sam’s troubles with the IRS he was engaged in a feud with Ocracoke native, Stanley Wahab, an adjacent Ocracoke property owner who had constructed a dock on Silver Lake with a “T” on the end. Sam then built a dock extending from their adjoining property line, past the “T.” In the process he hemmed in Wahab’s small boat, preventing him from getting out or in, except by hauling the boat over land. As a result Wahab filed a $10,000.00 damage suit ($7,500 actual damages, and $2,500 punitive damages), which was settled in his favor. Sam Jones’ dock was dismantled.

Meanwhile Jones had filed an appeal with the United States Supreme Court regarding his conviction for income tax evasion, but on March 20, 1960 the court refused to hear his case.

In August of 1960 Sam was granted a conference with his trial judge, the Honorable Walter E. Hoffman. Dr. Edward H. Jones (no relation), pastor of First Presbyterian Church, was there, and he described Sam as a man of “integrity, honor, and morality.” Sam reiterated that he had “not taken advantage of anyone.” He recounted his boyhood years growing up on a farm in eastern North Carolina, his years of labor, and his many philanthropies.

Judge Hoffman stated that he believed that Mr. Jones did not think he did anything wrong by charging off numerous personal expenses as business costs. He was “puzzled,” he said, because what Jones had done was “obviously wrong.”

“Frankly, Mr. Jones,” Hoffman said, “I don’t know what to do with your case.” He refused to grant probation or suspend the sentence, and Sam Jones surrendered to the US Marshall days later to begin serving his time.

At some point his sentenced was reduced, although he served more than six months before he was released from prison.  Maggie Brydges, in her “Virgina Living” article quotes Sam after his release: “They didn’t know anything about running a prison up there. They should have let me take a crack at it.”

Sam soon returned to Ocracoke and began more building projects.

Eventually Sam constructed two additional structures, a large home in the style of the Manor and the Castle, on the west side of Silver Lake that he dubbed the Homeplace (this is where he and his family stayed when on the island), and the Whittlers’ Club (a smaller building designed with local bird carvers in mind). He envisioned them gathering on the three open porches where they could swap stories and whittle decoys and small birds for the tourist trade. A few years later he installed floor looms inside, thinking island women would learn to weave (Ursula was an accomplished weaver), thereby providing additional income for their families. This never happened.

Whittler’s Club Membership Card (front & back):

(Courtesy Ocracoke Preservation Society [James Barrie Gaskill Collection])

Sam continued to add on to his island buildings, especially the Castle, for the next two decades. Eventually the building encompassed 12,500 square feet. The story is told of the time Sam gave instructions for an addition he wanted, and promptly left the island for a week. When he returned he discovered that most of the men had remained on the job, performing admirably, but a few less responsible workers had gone off and gotten drunk. He paid his best carpenters their regular wages. The scofflaws were paid time and a half!

Sam Jones had a mercurial personality. He might not be seen on Ocracoke for months. Then, suddenly, he’d call Fowler O’Neal at 2 o’clock in the morning and tell him his pilot would be flying him down to the island so Fowler could cut his hair. For days or weeks Sam would then become a commanding presence on Ocracoke, visiting friends, planning events, and suggesting civic improvements.

Sam was an early promoter of a paved airstrip on Ocracoke Island. With the help of Albert W. Cowper, Resident Superior Court Judge of Lenoir County, and an avid sailor who frequently visited Ocracoke, Sam made contact with Kinston attorney, Thomas J. White, chairman of the NC Advisory Budget Commission and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.  White, incidentally, was an avid fisherman and hunter who loved Ocracoke Island and the Outer Banks.

As the result of considerable lobbying by Judge Cowper, Mr. Jones, and others, appropriation for the 3000 foot paved airstrip was approved, and it was built in the early 1960s.

In 1964, Sam Jones, newly enthusiastic about easier air travel to the island, commissioned a sign to be placed at the airport.  It read, “White-Cowper Airport.”

Sam is reported to have remarked, “I named the Ocracoke airstrip ‘White-Cowper Airport’ because Senator Tom White got the money appropriated, and I named it for Judge Albert Cowper for getting Tom White to do it.”

One Thursday evening in the 1970s Sam arrived on the island unexpectedly and hurried over to the Methodist church. He marched down the aisle while the choir was practicing, accompanied by several employees from his company. Each man carried several white boxes. Sam picked up the boxes, one by one, and presented them to the ladies of the choir and the organist. Inside were dresses of the finest quality, each one especially picked out by Sam for specific ladies.

In addition to having an eccentric streak, and sometimes a fiery temper, Sam Jones was incredibly generous. As well as providing employment for many islanders as carpenters, cooks, cleaners, gardeners, and maintenance men, he donated the first ambulance and fire engine to the island in the mid-1960s. He also gave money to support the country’s only mounted Boy Scout Troop, Ocracoke Troop 290.

It was said that Sam would never give money to anyone who asked, but it was not unusual for him to spontaneously pay a widow’s grocery bill at the Community Store, or finance the inoculation of the wild ponies. An attender at both the Methodist and Assembly of God churches, he donated money regularly, purchased new carpets, and replaced both organs.

In many ways Sam could be manipulative, as well as eccentric. By offering sometimes excessive fees to islanders for routine favors (e.g. $50.00 for saying grace before a meal) he acted as if he were then entitled to more subservience. He frequently gave money away, but he seldom did it anonymously.

Sam was known to insist that all of his off-island guests accompany him to church on Sunday mornings. They would typically arrive as a group just as the service was starting, and, with some fanfare, Sam would direct them to sit in the pews at the very front of the church. As the congregation was singing the opening hymn Sam would stand up, pull out his wallet and pass a few dollars to each of his quests to deposit in the offering plate.

On one memorable Sunday morning Sam was visibly distracted and seemed not to be paying much attention to the liturgy. During the sermon he fidgeted and squirmed. About ten minutes into the homily Sam stood up abruptly and addressed the preacher, Rev. Jimmy Creech. Jimmy had no choice but to stop and acknowledge Sam, who then proceeded to compliment Jimmy on the wonderful job he was doing as pastor of the Ocracoke Methodist Church. Jimmy politely thanked Sam for his kind words, and Sam sat back in his seat as Jimmy picked up the thread of his sermon.

Jimmy frequently organized local get-togethers with island musicians at the church recreation hall.  On hearing word of one such event Sam offered a room in the Castle that included a small stage. He wanted his guests to enjoy the local talent. Jimmy, who never compromised his integrity for a handout from Sam, explained that this was a church event, and he would accept Sam’s gracious offer on the condition that he not interfere.

Sam agreed, but remaining in the background was not Sam’s style. During one of the livelier songs Sam removed his hat and strolled among the crowd soliciting donations. He reached into his own wallet if any of the guests were unable or unwilling to contribute. With a flourish he placed the hat at the feet of the musicians. At the end of the evening Sam picked up the hat, but with no intention of distributing the money among the entertainers. He presented it to the preacher for the church.

In addition to Sam’s trademark, light grey, broad brimmed planter’s hat, he routinely wore imported, white shirts pleated down the front, with band collars. At times he embellished his shirt with a bow tie; at other times he wore a simple black ribbon of cloth crossed beneath the collar. A lanyard typically hung about his neck, the end tucked neatly into his breast pocket. No one can remember what it was attached to (perhaps eyeglasses or a wallet). It was said that he ordered his shirts in quantities, and seldom altered his sartorial choices.

Parties at the Castle were wholesome, but lively, affairs. Smoking was absolutely forbidden, and drinking, though tolerated, was discouraged. Invitations were typically sent on his Berkley Machine Works 8 ½” X 11” stationery. Only a tiny white space was available for correspondence. Over the years Sam produced several different versions of his stationery. Some had as much as a 4 ½” X 4 ½” block for writing; others as little as 4 ½” X 2.” Surrounding that was a catalogue of Sam’s favorite sayings and quotations (in several different fonts) including a paragraph promoting the 1610 “Ham House” in Surry, England, Abraham Lincoln’s 1861 Message to Congress, and quotations by Ben Franklin, Epictetus, and others. Several quotes by Sam Jones himself (e.g. “Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.”) adorned the margins.

Sam’s “Landlord’s Invitation” was displayed prominently at the top center of the paper: “Here’s to Pa’ nds PenDas’ OCI alh OURin ha! RMLes, Smirt ha ND Fun le TFRIE nd’s HIPRE ign B eju ST an DKIN –dan Devils PEAK of N’ one.”

Sam Jones’ Stationery (front):

The back side of the stationery was almost completely covered by Sam’s eclectic history of Ocracoke Island, including a geography lesson, the story of Blackbeard, the legend of the Lost Colony, and personal anecdotes.  Interestingly, different “editions” recounted different stories. In one he praised Mildred’s clam chowder and apple pie, then remembered his “friend Homer Howard’s singing – Sister Susie’s sewing shirts for soldiers, such saucy soft short shirts for soldiers Sister Susie sews. Some soldiers send epistle, say they’d sooner sleep in thistle than the saucy soft short shirts for soldiers Sister Susie sews.”

Sam’s history ended with these words: “Ocracoke remains in its primitive state; it clings to its easy-going solitude. It is different. Ocracokers don’t object to some modernization but they aim for their island to retain its unique flavor. They glory in doing things the old, hard way. They are friendly, unhurried, and welcome visitors to the island. By – Sam Jones”

Below the history was Sam’s short essay on “Being Thankful” that attributed his success to his mother, his father, and his Maker. For Sam, faith and hard work were always two sides of the same coin.

Sam Jones’ Stationery (back):

Sam had his Landlord’s Invitation, as well as his admonition against smoking (“Please Do Not Smoke. Smoke Destroys the Flavor of our Good Food”), both attributed to him, cast in bronze, and hung on the wall in the Castle.

During dinner Sam was frequently moving about, helping his servers and making sure his guests were happy and satisfied.  It was not unusual for him to walk around the table and sample food from guests’ plates.

For years he had occasionally brought his favorite horse, Ikey D, into the parlor to stand around the organ and enjoy sing-alongs with his family and friends. Needless to say, Sam’s wives were less than enthusiastic about this arrangement.

Sam, Ikey D, and Friends in the Parlor:

(courtesy Outer Banks History Center [Aycock Brown Collection]

Sam Jones died in September of 1977, after suffering complications from an automobile accident. He was 84 years old. As he had wished, he was laid to rest at Springer’s Point, beside Ikey D. Family and friends gathered to bid him adieu, just as they had gathered years before when Sam made arrangements with the local Assembly of God preacher to conduct a funeral service for Ikey D.

Sam Jones with Ikey D at the Manor House:

(Courtesy Outer Banks History Center [Aycock Brown Collection] to view larger image.)

Today a statue of a horse, reared up on its back legs, marks the horse’s grave. On a concrete disc in the shape of a hoof print at the foot of the grave someone has inscribed “In Memory of Ikey D.”

After Sam’s death most of his furnishings were sold off, and are now scattered around Ocracoke and beyond. This article is being written on one of the lazy-Susan tables that once graced the Castle. One of his many Persian rugs lies nearby.

Sam’s Ocracoke real estate lay vacant for nearly twenty years.

Today the Manor, which had been converted to an elegant bed & breakfast some years ago, is owned by a developer who appears to have fallen on hard times. The estate is overgrown with weeds, and the building shows significant signs of neglect*.

The Castle, on the other hand, is in the hands of capable and committed owners, and is enjoying its rebirth as an outstanding bed & breakfast.

The Whittlers’ Club has been a private residence for some time, and continues to be well maintained.

Springers’ Point was sold out of the family after Sam died. After changing hands several times, the Point was finally purchased by the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust and is now a public nature preserve. The Land Trust maintains the graveyard where Ikey D. and Samuel G. Jones are buried.


* 2020 update: The Manor has been rehabilitated and repaired since this article was first published.

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Powered, controlled flight and the Outer Banks, especially Kitty Hawk, NC, will be forever linked in our minds.

The Wright Brothers never set foot on Ocracoke Island, but airplanes have been landing here for many years, at first using the flat, hard-packed beach sand as a natural landing strip.  Although difficult to imagine today, in the early years before the barrier dunes were erected and vegetation took hold, planes would often taxi almost to the front door of the “Wahab Village Hotel” (better known today as “Blackbeard’s Lodge”).

Older Ocracokers also tell the story of the day in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s when Charles Lindberg himself touched down on the north end of the island and visited with the crew of the Hatteras Inlet Coast Guard Station.

On October 12, 1937, Mr. Thomas Wallace Howard, Ocracoke’s Postmaster, had the honor of sending the first airmail to, among other places, Kitty Hawk, NC, the birthplace of aviation.

First airmail to Kitty Hawk, NC (from Ocracoke):
Old Airplane

My grandfather, Homer Howard, mailed a letter to my father on that day.  The imprint on the envelope reads:

“FIRST ALL NORTH CAROLINA AIR MAIL FLIGHTS
OCT. 11-16, 1937
Wright Memorial, Kitty Hawk, NC
Ocracoke, ‘The Fisherman’s Paradise'”

The letter reads,

“Ocracoke NC
October 10th 1937

Dear Son

Will rite you just a few lines to let [you] no we are all well but mama[‘s] hand[s] are worse again. Would very much [like] to see [you] all to day.  Give our best regards to the old folks.  Now listen [I] am Sending you this letter in order that you get one of the[m] that ever went by air mail.  Take care of the envelop Keep it as a Souvenir Hand it down to your child & his chind [children].  So you will all ways no when the first air mail left Ocracok NC

good luck & much Love to all
write soon  your Loving Father,  Homer”

In the 1950’s Bill Cochran, a retired Air Force colonel and pilot, moved to Ocracoke with his wife, Ruth.  Together they operated Stanley Wahab’s “Silver Lake Inn,” now called the “Island Inn.”  During this time Bill, who earlier had run a flying service from Buxton to Ocracoke, also served as mail carrier for Ocracoke during inclement weather.  Ruth remembers, “When it was windy and the mail boat couldn’t go, he’d fly the mail in.  One time the wind was so strong that I had to go out and hold down the wing while he was warming up; the engine.”

Bill Cochran’s “Airlift to Ocracoke:”

Bill Cochran loading mail into his plane:
airmail

After 1957 pilots used the newly paved and straight stretch of highway 12 between the village and the National Park Service campground as an airstrip. It wasn’t until the early 1960’s, however, that an official, though unmanned, airstrip was built…thanks in large measure to eccentric, part-time island resident, Sam Jones.

Sam, originally from mainland Hyde County, married Ocracoke native, Ruth Kelly.  Sam was a prominent businessman/industrialist and owner of Berkeley Iron & Machine Works in Norfolk, Virginia.  He enjoyed spending time on Ocracoke, but preferred to travel to the island in his medium-sized twin engine aircraft.  In the 1940’s and 1950’s the daily mail boat trip from Atlantic, NC took four hours, far too long to suit Mr. Jones.

Sam wanted a paved landing strip. Although an improved landing surface would certainly benefit him, Sam accurately promoted the idea as a service to the local community in times of emergency.

With the help of Albert W. Cowper, Resident Superior Court Judge of Lenoir County, and an avid sailor who frequently visited Ocracoke, Sam made contact with Kinston attorney, Thomas J. White, chairman of the NC Advisory Budget Commission and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.  White, incidentally, was an avid fisherman and hunter who loved Ocracoke Island and the Outer Banks.

As the result of considerable lobbying by Judge Cowper, Mr. Jones, and others, appropriation for the 3000 foot paved airstrip was approved, and it was built in the early 1960’s.  The airstrip is about one mile from the village and little more than 100 yards from the ocean, at an elevation of 5 feet above sea level.  The FAA identifier is W95.

In 1964, Sam Jones, newly enthusiastic about easier air travel to the island, commissioned a sign to be placed at the airport.  It read, “White-Cowper Airport.”

Sam is reported to have remarked, “I named the Ocracoke airstrip ‘White-Cowper Airport’ because Senator Tom White got the money appropriated, and I named it for Judge Albert Cowper for getting Tom White to do it.”

The sign has been gone many years, and few people remember the earlier history of our tiny airstrip.  Since then, however, it has been used countless times by aviation enthusiasts, visitors, emergency medical personnel, and even delivery companies…especially last year after hurricane Isabel cut off major delivery routes to the island.

Today there is a new service being offered by Ocracoke resident, Phil Platt, of Pelican Airways…..scheduled flights from Norfolk, VA & Beaufort, NC to Ocracoke Island and back again.

Pelican Airways’ Britten-Norman Islander Aircraft:

Day

Flight
#

Departure 

Arrival

One-Way

Round-Trip

Friday 11 Norfolk:  3:20 pm Ocracoke:  4:40 pm $129.00 $244.00
Friday 15 Beaufort:  7:25 pm Ocracoke:  7:50 pm $79.00 $149.00
Saturday 17 Norfolk:  12:20 pm Ocracoke:  1:40 pm $129.00 $244.00
Saturday 21 Beaufort:  4:30 pm Ocracoke:  5:00 pm $79.00 $149.00
Sunday 22 Ocracoke:  1:30 pm Norfolk:  2:50 pm $129.00 $244.00
Sunday 24 Ocracoke:  5:30 pm Beaufort:  5:55 pm $79.00 $149.00
Monday 28 Ocracoke:  10:30 am Norfolk:  11:50 am $129.00 $244.00
Monday 30 Ocracoke:  2:30 pm Beaufort:  2:55 pm $79.00 $149.00

Pelican Airways will also be serving the North Carolina towns of Manteo, Hatteras and New Bern, per request.  Call for schedules, fares and special family rates (1-888-7 Pelican [1-888-773-5422], or 1-252-928-1661).

Now, instead of driving for 31/2 hours from Norfolk to get to the ferry where you may have to wait in line, you can be delivered from one airport to the next in about an hour. The flight from Beaufort to Ocracoke takes less than 30 minutes……..Plus, you get a great view!

In addition to these regular scheduled services, Pelican Airways has also scheduled flight-seeing tours every day of the week.  The fare is $40.00 per person.  Be sure to bring your camera!

Flight-Seeing Tours:

Sunday 11:00 am
Monday 9:00 am & 7:00 pm
Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday 12:00 pm & 5:00 pm
Friday 11:00 am
Saturday 9:00 am & 7:00 pm

For reservations or more information call 1-888-7 Pelican (1-888-773-5422), or 1-252-928-1661.

For the real ambitious, you can also take flying lessons.

Until next month,

Philip and the entire crew at Village Craftsmen

(Special thanks to Thomas J. White, III for information about the White-Cowper airstrip.)

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The Ghosts of Springer’s Point
© Philip Howard, 2003

With 42 acres of maritime forest, Springer’s Point remains one of the last undeveloped treasures in Ocracoke village.  Although that will likely change somewhat with the construction of homesites on two large lots in the southwest corner of this tract, and the potential development of eight additional acres on the edge of existing development, the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust has succeeded in purchasing the core 31 acres of this remarkable area.

(Click here to learn how you can make a donation to help preserve Springer’s Point.)

Springer’s Point

The preservation of a substantial portion of Springer’s Point highlights the natural and historic significance of this area of Ocracoke village.  For some years, in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the island was used chiefly by mainland colonists for raising cattle, sheep, and other livestock. In addition, a navigable, deep water channel passes close to the southwest shoreline, near Springer’s Point.

It was in this area that some of the first permanent residents built modest homes.  As early as 1715 the colonial assembly recognized the need for establishing pilots on Ocracoke Island.  The pilots were to be responsible for seeing that vessels bound for the mainland were guided through the narrow channels between the numerous shoals.  The assembly therefore passed an act for “settling and maintaining Pilots at.….Ocacock Inlett.”  The settlement was dubbed “Pilot Town” but there is no evidence that pilots actually settled there until sometime in the 1730’s.

Although much of the low-lying shoreline has succumbed to significant erosion over the years, today Springer’s Point is thickly covered with ancient, gnarled live oak trees, English Ivy, and numerous other trees and plants indigenous to Ocracoke and the Outer Banks.  Standing underneath the canopy of branches and year-round foliage, especially at daybreak or dusk, leaves one with a sense of quiet awe and timeless wonder.

Live Oaks at Springer’s Point

Following one of the narrow paths through a tunnel of thick growth leads onto a narrow, sandy beach where gentle waves from Pamlico Sound lap against the seaweed-strewn shoreline.  The sky is bright here, as one looks out towards the distant horizon. Just under the breaking waves lie numerous pieces of broken shell.

Tunnel Through the Woods at Springer’s

Sometimes a stroller is rewarded by spying a piece of broken crockery, or other man-made artifact. I once retrieved a small, primitive clay pipe bowl from the water along Springer’s Point.  Others have reported finding arrowheads left behind by Ocracoke’s earliest adventurers.  No evidence exists to indicate that Native Americans ever established a permanent settlement on Ocracoke Island.  However, they must have frequented the island, especially the area around Springer’s Point, gathering clams, oysters, crabs and fish, all of which are abundant in the nearby waters

Old Stone Pipe Bowl

Just offshore, hardly more than a clamshell’s throw away, is “Teach’s Hole.”  This channel connects the Atlantic Ocean and Ocracoke Inlet with the deeper waters of Pamlico Sound.  Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard the Pirate, frequented these waters during his brief career.  This was, in fact, Blackbeard’s favorite anchorage.  From one of the higher dunes, or from one of the trees on shore, it would have been possible to spy any ships approaching Ocracoke Inlet.

In October of 1718, in the vicinity of Springer’s Point, Captain Blackbeard hosted one of the largest gatherings of pirates ever to be held.  Teach, along with pirate captains Israel Hands, Charles Vane, Robert Deal, and John Rackham, partied for “some days,” along with their motley crews.  Rum flowed freely and hogs and cows were butchered and barbecued on the open beach.

It was also at Teach’s Hole channel, only one month later, on November 22, 1718, that Blackbeard met his fate in a fierce battle with Lt. Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy. The decks were running with blood and the air was thick with gunpowder smoke. Blackbeard, himself, was wounded twenty-five times.  Towards the end of the battle, Blackbeard nearly dispatched his adversary.  A mighty blow from Teach’s cutlass severed Maynard’s sword at the hilt.  As Maynard stepped back to regain some advantage, Blackbeard moved in for the kill.  At that fateful moment, one of Maynard’s sailors, a Scotsman, approached the villain from behind and, with a mighty slice of his sword, severed the buccaneer’s fearsome head from his powerful body.

Blackbeard’s disembodied head was tied to the bowsprit of Maynard’s sloop.  The gruesome trophy was carried to Williamsburg, Virginia, where it was stuck on a pole at the entrance to the harbor, a grim warning to Teach’s “Brethren of the Coast.”  Before departing from Pamlico Sound, however, Maynard and his men tossed Blackbeard’s body over the side of his boat.  Legend has it that Teach swam around the vessel seven times as an eerie reminder that he was bigger than life itself.

Even today, the spirit of Edward Teach lives on in the consciousness of those brave enough to visit the area near his watery grave, especially after dark. It is not uncommon for visitors to Springer’s Point to report seeing unusual lights on the water, or among the trees and bushes nearby.  Rustling of the tree limbs and other odd movements and unidentified sounds often seem to emanate from within the otherwise protected confines of Springer’s Point.  More than one person has reported feeling the presence of the ghost of Blackbeard, searching in vain for his head.

View of Teach’s Hole

The existence of a graveyard at Springer’s Point only adds to the uneasiness people feel there.  Although this area was quite busy during the early history of Ocracoke Island, today it holds mainly memories.  Other graves are likely located in the area, but only one stone marker remains from the early period, that of Daniel Tolson who died in 1879.  Located on a narrow ridge, the gravesite is extremely difficult to find.  After trudging through wet, marshy lowland and then pushing through thorns, briars and thick underbrush one is finally rewarded with the sight of a single, prominent marble headstone on the edge of a small grassy clearing.

Grave Marker for Daniel Tolson (1816-1879)

William Howard, Sr. purchased Ocracoke on July 30, 1759.  He was the last person to own the entire island, and the first of the colonial owners to make his residence there.  Less than two months later, on September 26, 1759, William Howard sold one half of the island to his friend, John Williams.

John Williams’ portion of Ocracoke included what is now known as Springer’s Point.  In June of 1787 John Williams sold a sizeable section of his holdings, including Springer’s Point, to his son, William Williams.  William Williams (born 1745/50) died in testate in 1799.  At the time of his death he owned land extending from the mouth of Cockle Creek (now known as the “Ditch”), around the western edge of the Creek (now known as Silver Lake), and from there, south, all the way to the ocean and back around the Sound shore to the Ditch.

During the period of Ocracoke’s colonial history the north shore of Ocracoke Inlet was much closer to the area referred to as the First Grass.  It was only later, after William Williams purchased the land from his father, that the South Point built out in the vicinity of the present-day inlet.

In 1801 William Williams’ holdings were divided among his heirs by court-appointees.  Six plats were designated, one each going to the following:

  • Comfort Williams, daughter (and her husband, George Dixon from Portsmouth Island)
  • Elizabeth Williams, daughter
  • William Williams, son
  • Delancy Williams, minor daughter
  • Thomas Wahab, guardian to Delancy Williams (Thomas Wahab was William Williams’ first cousin, the son of Job Wahab and Jane Williams, William Williams’ sister.)
  • Six and one half acres of Comfort Williams’ portion was conveyed for the use of the public pilots.  This was set aside to compensate for the loss of other land due to erosion..

As mentioned, many of the earliest permanent settlements in Ocracoke Village were situated there, on the southwest side of Cockle Creek (Silver Lake).  According to a legal petition and map from 1835 only one public road had by then been laid out on Ocracoke Island. It began at the Sound (near Springer’s Point), went by the lighthouse (built in 1823), then continued past where the present-day Methodist church and school are situated.  From there it passed the original Methodist Church (which was established in 1828, and was located near the present day firehouse), all the way north to Hatteras Inlet. The petition averred that this one road, from its establishment until 1835, had “served the purpose of all the inhabitants” of the village of Ocracoke.

The map below shows the approximate location of Ocracoke’s first road (in red).  Springer’s Point is shown on the left.  (The two present-day churches and the US Coast Guard Station are indicated for reference.)  The blue line shows the new road that was laid out in 1835.  This eventually was called the Main Road and included present-day Howard Street and that portion of Highway 12 that runs past the Community Store to the Cedar Island/Swan Quarter ferry landing.

According to the tax lists from 1802, 1805, 1806, and 1814, we know that William Howard, grandson of William Howard, Sr., and son of George Howard, owned 28 acres, 78 acres, 103 acres, and 183 acres, respectively.

William and Agnes Howard

It was not until after 1814, however, that he acquired any land in the area now referred to as Springer’s Point. On May 25, 1820 William Howard purchased a house on Ocracoke, situated in a part of the village known then simply as the “Point.”  He purchased this two-story dwelling house, along with a storehouse, from a Mary Cabarrus who acquired the buildings from her uncle, Augustus Cabarrus, one of the early pilots. These individuals owned only the structures, not the land, as this six and one half acres was an expansion of Pilot Town and was set aside for public use.

The Old House with Tower

Another deed from July 23, 1820 indicates that William Howard purchased one half of an additional store house and lot adjoining the public lands.

By 1832 William Howard was ready to sell part of his real estate to his son-in-law, Elisha Chase.  According to a deed dated May 13, 1832, William Howard sold to Elisha one half of an additional piece of land which he had purchased from Comfort Dixon on January 15, 1831.  Although the description of this parcel of land is somewhat unclear, it  includes the area of large live oak trees commonly known today as Springer’s Point. William Howard mentions several buildings on his property (including “two old kitchens,” a “smokehouse,” a “new kitchen” an “old stone house,” a “wharf,” a “new wharehouse,” a “store,” two other “houses,” a “blacksmith shop,” and even a “windmill,” as well as his own home, which he describes as “two dwellings attached together” ).  All of these, he says, “are now, and have long been the property of the said William Howard.”  Most of these structures, however, were built on the six and one half acres of Pilot Town, which was not private property.

Outer Banks Windmill Similar to the One at Springer’s Point

William Howard’s dwelling place was the two-story house purchased from Mary Cabarrus in 1820.  This house, as previously mentioned, was actually two houses joined together.  Constructed sometime before 1800, part of it may actually have been built John Williams or his immediate heirs.  Legend suggests that this building may have originally belonged to Edward Teach himself, although this is highly unlikely. The pirate captain probably had nothing more than a temporary campsite on Ocracoke Island.

For many years this large tract of land was called Williams’ Point, and later, Howard’s Point.  At William Howard’s death on August 30, 1851, his son, William Hatton Howard, inherited a sizeable portion of the property, including the “Point.”  Fours year later, in 1855, he sold his inheritance to Daniel Tolson, and moved to Florida where he died after being thrown from a runaway horse. The Howard family had owned the Point for only twenty-four years (1831-1855).

Daniel Tolson made his home on the Point.  He was married twice, first to Cynthia Williams, Thomas Wahab’s granddaughter, then to Sidney Ross (widow of Abner Bennett Howard, Sr.).

A prominent feature of the house at the Point was a distinctive observation tower that rose above the tops of the trees.  This tower was a later addition, possibly built by Daniel Tolson, and from there the occupants of the house had a commanding view of the Atlantic Ocean and Pamlico Sound.  Any ships approaching Ocracoke Island would have been easily spotted by a lookout in this tower. If pirates had ever inhabited this dwelling their spirits would have welcomed the addition of the tower.

After Daniel Tolson’s death, Sidney Ross inherited the property and then married John Small McWilliams.  Before her death in 1883 from complications of childbirth, Sidney McWilliams sold her land and buildings to E. D. and Clara Springer, from South Creek, North Carolina. Although the Springers enjoyed spending time on Ocracoke they never made this their permanent home.
Old House with Tower

My father, Lawton Howard, was born in 1911.  As a young boy he remembers his parents taking him down to Springer’s Point to visit “old man Springer.”   In 1923 the elder Springers sold their property to their son, Wallace.  He was the last person to live in the house, but only for a short while longer.

Wallace, who never married, continued to stay on Ocracoke for some years.  Instead of remaining in the old house, he eventually moved in with Mr. Jamie Styron and other island friends. Wallace Springer died March 13, 1963.  My father left the island in 1927, but he remembers exploring the abandoned house with playmates, and hearing strange noises inside.

In 1941 Sam Jones purchased Springer’s Point.  By then little was left standing that was not badly in need of repair.  Ocracokers remember the dilapidated old house and a smaller structure (a smokehouse or jail) with barred windows, as well as a long-abandoned stable.

When I was a small boy, in the very early 1950’s, the house was nothing more than collapsed walls and piles of old lumber. Sam Jones contracted with Mr. Walter O’Neal to dismantle the old dwelling.  Mr. Walter used some of the lumber when building “Miss Dicey’s” house on Howard Street.  Other timbers were taken by Sam Jones for use as sills in “Berkley Castle” and a small house for Eleanor Gaskins. People familiar with the “Castle” claim that five ghosts — two women and three men — wander the halls and rooms there. Could they be the spirits of the Williamses, or the Howards, or the Tolsons, or even some of the pirate crews?

Sam Jones died September 27, 1977, and is buried at Springer’s Point, next to his favorite horse, Ikey D.

Sam Jones’ Grave

No remnant of any of the structures remains, with the exception of the base of an old brick cistern, now overgrown with ivy.  Few people visit this area of the village anymore.  Those who do often report strange phenomena there.

Old Cistern at Springer’s Point

Roy Parsons worked for Sam Jones for many years.  For a while after Sam’s death, Roy would visit his grave periodically to pay his respects.  Today, gesturing with his thumb and forefinger as if measuring a think stack of banknotes, he opines, “If someone offered me a pile of one hundred dollar bills this thick to go down there to Springer’s of an evening after dark, I’d tell him to keep his money.”

Roy remembers fishing from his skiff near Teach’s Hole one evening.  It was near sunset and the western sky was on fire.  “It was then that I noticed five men standing out in the water.  I wondered what they were up to.  They each had broom handles, buckets, and lanterns.  They seemed to be gigging for flounder, but they were acting mighty peculiar.  Then, without warning, they walked up onto the shore and headed straight through the woods towards the grave.  Í don’t know who they were, or what they were up to, but I didn’t want to stick around and find out,” Roy says.  “For all I know, they could have been ghosts!”

On another occasion Roy was visiting Sam’s grave just before daybreak.  He had run his skiff up onto the shore, and walked through the underbrush into the protective enclosure that is Springer’s Point. The sun was just beginning to lighten up the sky out on the water; under the canopy of trees Roy could barely see to find the path.  No sooner had his eyes adjusted when he noticed a figure standing near the grave site “He had on a white shirt,” Roy offers.  Then Roy runs his open palms along the sides of his head; his eyes open wide.  “His hair was all slicked back,” he adds.  “The oddest thing about him,” Roy continues, “is that there weren’t nothin’ to him below the waist!  I could see him fine from the waist up, but that was all.  I high-tailed it out of there, I did.”

Roy ran back to his skiff as fast as he could, tripping over roots and scraping his arms and legs against the thick undergrowth.  ”I jumped right into my skiff,” Roy explains.  “I never even tried to pull that string to start the motor.  There weren’t enough time.  I just pushed off with my oar.”  Once out into the safety of the channel Roy ventured a look back.  He was just in time to see the figure moving out onto the water.  “He just disappeared.  Went right on down like smoke,” Roy relates, obviously still spooked by his encounter.

Once more Roy ventured down to Springer’s.  This time it was dusk again.  He was approaching the abandoned cistern, not far from Sam Jones’ grave.  Like  before, Roy noticed another figure standing by the graveyard.  “It was a tall man,” Roy explains.  “He was wearing a black straw hat, a white shirt, a necktie, and sunglasses.  I turned around and started to walk back out.”  Roy felt a presence behind him, and he turned back to look.  The figure was walking toward him, not saying anything.  Roy turned around and began to walk faster.  The figure matched Roy’s pace.  “By that time I was running,” says Roy.  “But he was like a vapor.  I turned around again and he just faded out.  I never saw him again.”

Roy shakes his head from side to side, raises his eyebrows and looks me straight in the eye.  “I’m telling you,” he says, “there’s a difference between imagining something in your head and seeing it with your own eyes.  I saw these things I’m telling you about just as surely as I see you right now.”  Roy insists that he will never go back down to Springer’s Point again, especially after dark.  “And,” he continues, “you’d be wise to take my advice and stay away from there yourself.”

Ancient Live Oak at Springers

Special thanks to Ellen Marie Cloud; Earl O’Neal, Jr.; Mildred and John O’Neal; Roy Parsons; Ward Garrish; Blanche Howard Jolliff; Chester Lynn; and Julie Howard for sharing their research and recollections.


Donate Now to Help Preserve Springer’s Point!
As noted above, the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust  is purchasing 31 acres of Springer’s Point.  The area most beloved by residents and visitors, including most of the ancient live oak trees, the old brick cistern, two small graveyards, and much of the shoreline will now be protected from development.

Additional funds are needed to help pay for the purchase, to fulfill a financial obligation to Hyde County, and to manage the site for future educational and environmental purposes.

For more information about their work, you can read the Coastal Land Trust’s Campaign to protect Springer’s Point.

On-line donations can be made through “Network for Good.” For more information visit the NC Coastal Lant Trust site at  http://www.coastallandtrust.org.

Once on their site click on the “Join Us” link and then the “Donate Now Through Network for Good” button.  You can designate your donation specifically for Springer’s Point.

Donations can also be mailed to  North Carolina Coastal Land Trust
3806-B Park Ave
Wilmington, NC
28403

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