Thursday, May 28, 2015

One of the Most Mischievous and Vilest Villains

On 14 July, 1719, Capt. Ellis Brand of HMS Lyme penned a letter to the Lords of Admiralty. In it he referenced William Howard, quartermaster to Blackbeard the Pirate who many believe was the same William Howard who later became colonial owner of Ocracoke Island, as "one of the most mischievous, vilest villains that had infested that coast.” Author Kevin Duffus (Looking Glass Productions) photographed these two pages of the letter at the British Archives at Kew, and graciously offered to allow me to post them here.

Here is my best transcription of the relevant passage:

I having on board my Ship a pyrate that I had some time before taking up which knew this fellow when he was Quartermaster in Tachs Ship of forty guns call’d the Queen Anns Revenge, and he being allow’d to be a good Evidence I did desire of the Governor that this Quartermaster might be brought to Tryal, which he concented to and there being publick Notice of it several appeared against him, and it was made appear to the Court that he was One of the Most Mischevious and Vileist Villians that had infested that coast; he was found guilty and receiv’d sentence of Death Accordingly and his life is only owing to the Ships Arrival that had his Majesties pardon on board, the night before he was to have been exicuted; ....

Ellis Brand 

In the interest of  providing some balance to the legacy of my probable ancestor, Kevin added this comment in his email to me: "I’m sure that William Howard was not so vile. Mischievous maybe, but not vile. At some point I hope to remember where I read that Howard had traveled to the Bahamas to testify on behalf of a physician forced into piracy by Blackbeard."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Part II of Crystal Canterbury's account of her first visit to Portsmouth Island. You can read it here:

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Curlicue

As nearly everyone knows, Wilbur and Orville Wright, bicycle enthusiasts and remarkable innovators, accomplished the first controlled, powered, sustained heavier-than-air flight, on December 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

The Wright brothers hailed from Dayton, Ohio, but traveled to the Outer Banks because the wind and terrain were more suitable for their flight experiments. You might think that soaring above the ground (even at just 10 feet of altitude) was a dangerous undertaking, but simply getting to Kitty Hawk in the first years of the 20th century was quite risky, as Wilbur's September, 1900, journal illustrates. A few excerpts:

"At 4:30 left for Eliz. City and put up at the Arlington where I spent several days waiting for a boat to Kitty Hawk. No one seemed to know anything about the place or how to get there. At last on Tuesday afternoon I engaged passage with Israel Perry on his fiat-bottom schooner fishing boat [the Curlicue]."

"The [skiff that took Wilbur to the fishing boat] leaked very badly and frequently dipped water, but by constant bailing we managed to reach the schooner in safety. The weather was very fine with a light west wind blowing. When I mounted the deck of the larger boat I discovered at a glance that it was in worse condition if possible than the skiff. The sails were rotten, the ropes badly worn and the rudderpost half rotted off, and the cabin so dirty and vermin-infested that I kept out of it from first to last."

"The boat was quite unfitted for sailing against a head wind owing to the large size of the cabin, the lack of load, and its flat bottom. The waves which were now running quite high struck the boat from below with a heavy shock and threw it back about as fast as it went forward. The leeway was greater than the headway. The strain of rolling and pitching sprung a leak and this, together with what water came over the bow at times, made it necessary to bail frequently."

"In a severe gust the foresail was blown loose from the boom and fluttered to leeward with a terrible roar. The boy and I finally succeeded in taking it in though it was rather dangerous work in the dark with the boat rolling so badly."

"[There was] another roaring of the canvas as the mainsail also tore loose from the boom, and shook fiercely in the gale. The only chance was to make a straight run over the bar under nothing but a jib, so we took in the mainsail and let the boat swing round stern to the wind. This was a very dangerous maneuver in such a sea but was in some way accomplished without capsizing."

You can read the entire journal entry here:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Part II of Crystal Canterbury's account of her first visit to Portsmouth Island. You can read it here:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Exchange Students

Over the last 25 years Ocracoke School has had a number of foreign exchange students. They came to us from Japan, Germany, Denmark, Argentina, Thailand, and Columbia. Ocracoke Island students have studied in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, Denmark, Romania, Austria, and Ghana.

Pictured below (from l. to r.), with former Ocracoke School teacher Karen Lovejoy (herself a high school exchange student to Germany) are four of our foreign exchange students: Amy Howard (Germany), Emma Lovejoy (Denmark & Ghana), Molly Lovejoy (Austria), and Caroline Temple (Romania).

When Emma was living and studying in Ghana she met Esuon.They fell in love, he recently moved to the US, and they are now planning a fall wedding. Last week the Karen Lovejoy/Dave Frum family welcomed Esuon to Ocracoke with an outdoor potluck dinner at their home.

Potluck at the Lovejoy/Frum Home

L. to R.: Karen, Dave, Esuon, Emma, & Molly

Emma & Esuon

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Part II of Crystal Canterbury's account of her first visit to Portsmouth Island. You can read it here:

Monday, May 25, 2015

Ocracoke Art

It is always fun to see plein air painters on Ocracoke. The other day I noticed a young artist on the corner of NC12 & British Cemetery Road (near the Harborside Motel). He was busily working on a painting of the two hexagonal buildings where Island Golf Carts and WOVV are located.

I stopped to chat for a few minutes. The artist was Mark Hunter Brown, a native North Carolinian who now lives in Chicago. In addition to showing his work in Chicago, Mark has also exhibited in Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, and Italy.

Here is a painting he made a couple of days ago, of the Wilma Lee.

You can see more of Mark's paintings, and read more about him, on his web site:

I also understand that Mark will be spending most of the summer on the island...and he will be playing William Howard in this year's production of A Tale of Blackbeard

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Part II of Crystal Canterbury's account of her first visit to Portsmouth Island. You can read it here:

Friday, May 22, 2015

Firemen's Ball

The tenth annual Ocracoke Firemen’s Ball will be held tomorrow, Saturday, May 23, at the Ocracoke Community Center.

The event (the major fund raiser for the fire department) begins at 5 p.m. with a pig pickin’ followed by a silent and a live auction. The evening ends with live music by The Ocracoke Rockers, The Aaron Caswell Band, and The Dune Dogs.

Bidding for Great Items & to Support OVFD

This is the schedule of events:

5:00 – 6:30 Barbeque dinners @ $12.00 each
5:00 – 6:30 Silent auction (also, Firemen’s Ball t-shirts for sale)
7:00 Live Auction
8:30 -Midnight Music and Dancing

More information here and here

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Part II of Crystal Canterbury's account of her first visit to Portsmouth Island. You can read it here:

Thursday, May 21, 2015

May Newsletter

We have just published our latest Ocracoke Newsletter, Part II of Crystal Canterbury's account of her first visit to Portsmouth Island. You can read it here: If you haven't read Part I, no worry. There is a link to Part I at the beginning of the article.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Friends of Portsmouth Island

The Friends of Portsmouth Island held their spring membership meeting Saturday, May 16, at the Ocracoke Community Center. Several dozen people attended. Many were able to trace their ancestry to historic Portsmouth Island families.

The meeting commenced after a delicious and nutritious brunch provided by various members. After the secretary's and treasurer's reports, James White presented a plaque to Ken Burke in recognition of his contributions to the history of Portsmouth.

James White & Kenneth Burke

Ken Burke discovered Portsmouth in the 1950s, and immediately fell in love with the island, the village, and the people. In 1958 Ken wrote about Portsmouth as his honors thesis for a degree in history from the University of Richmond. It is titled The History of Portsmouth, North Carolina From Its Founding in 1753 to Its Evacuation in the Face of Federal Forces in 1861.

As James White explained, this was the first, and continues to be one of the most important documents chronicling the history of this unique island community. Ken Burke's text can be accessed on the web at

After the presentation, Glenn and Brenda White shared stories and photos documenting their time as National Park Service volunteers in Portsmouth Village.

The next Portsmouth Island Homecoming is scheduled for April 30, 2016. 

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is an article by island resident, Crystal Canterbury, about her very first visit to Portsmouth Village, on the last day of 2014. You can read Part I here: