Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Iced Taters

My good buddy, Wayne Teeter (1944-2014), loved to cook. Even as a child he relished food...clams, oysters, fish...any kind of seafood, really...and a variety of vegetables grown in his back yard. I remember him talking animatedly about those delicious "iced taters," fresh from his family garden.

If you are not from the South you may be wondering what "iced taters" are. With a little imagination you might guess they are "Irish potatoes," a staple of many an island dish, from old drum "Ocracoke style" to clam chowder.

Gardens are not as plentiful on the island as they once were, but a number of my neighbors still cultivate impressive vegetable gardens, many with iced taters.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it hear:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


"Progging" is a term that has been around since the 16th century, although its origin is unknown.

Ocracoke Islanders in bygone years used the word to describe searching for food, often for turtles. defines "prog" as "to search or prowl about, as for plunder or food; forage."

Walt Wolfram, in his paper, The grammar of rural and ethnic varieties in the Southeast, comments on this unusual word: "Particular lexical differences may also characterize specific enclave communities such as the use of...progging for ‘looking for artifacts’ on the islands of the Chesapeake Bay...."

David Wright & David Zoby, in their book, Fire on the Beach," point out that "...Roanoke Island blacks [in 1867] described themselves as fishermen, hunters of fowl, and 'proggers'...."

Ocracoke Islander, Frank Treat Fulcher (born, 1878), in his autobiography recounting his years at sea, tells about coming home and engaging in "several years more of progging" "in the oyster and fishing business."

Ocracokers occasionally go out progging for oysters or for items washed up on the beach, but it's rare to hear the word "progging" spoken nowadays.

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it hear:

Monday, November 24, 2014


This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the seldom told story of the 1837 murder of Willis Williams by Jacob Gaskill. You can read it hear:

Friday, November 21, 2014


The sea tosses many different gifts upon the shore -- seashells mostly, but sometimes messages in bottles, coins, even cargo from passing ships.

Not long ago I stumbled upon a water-logged, weathered coconut. Of course, it came from some tropical shore, probably from Florida or the Caribbean, carried to Ocracoke by the Gulf Stream and stormy weather off-shore.

In the past I've picked up apples, onions, and other fruits and vegetables that were perfectly fit to eat...but I left this coconut lying on the beach among copious amounts of seaweed.  It didn't look like it was worth the time to break it open.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a 1910 article about waterfowl hunting. You can read it here:  

Thursday, November 20, 2014


In 1985, Melinda Tolson and Steve Cobb, students at Cape Hatteras School, interviewed Capt. Ernal Foster (1910-1996). Capt. Foster was the Hatteras Island native who launched the Outer Banks offshore sport fishing industry in 1937. In that year he carried fishermen into the Gulf Stream in his 37' vessel, the Albatross. Today, the Albatross fleet continues to cater to sport fishermen in three boats. You can read more about the Albatross Fleet here:

In the 1985 interview, Capt. Foster tells about being stranded at the Green Island Club at Ocracoke, 3.1 miles southwest of Hatteras Inlet. The hunting club was located on a marshy island in Pamlico Sound, not far from shore.

The incident happened in 1933, when Foster was 23 years old. He and several friends were fishing in the Sound when the wind started to pick up and the water got rougher. Foster and his friends decided to seek shelter at Green Island, but the wind velocity kept increasing, and the tide rose rapidly.

In no time at all the tide rushed inside the building. When water reached their waists the men went upstairs. The hurricane winds eventually undermined one side of the house, causing the whole structure to tip over so that one side of the roof was down in the water. The men retreated to the roof, staying on the leeward side. They remained on the roof throughout the hurricane, and into the next day, until the water receded and the wind abated.

When the fishermen finally located a castaway boat (theirs was destroyed), and returned to Hatteras, they discovered widespread damage, but no injuries. Capt. Foster described his ordeal as the worst experience of his life.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a 1910 article about waterfowl hunting. You can read it here:  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Naval Stores

If you are like many modern landlubbers, you probably think "naval stores" are commercial establishments that sell anchors, rope, dinghies, life jackets, bottom paint, and anything else associated with sailboats and motorboats.

In fact, naval stores are products derived from pine sap. That's right, "naval stores" means turpentine, paint, varnish, various soaps & lubricants...even shoe polish and linoleum.

The term "naval stores" originated because resin-based products were essential for the construction and maintenance of sailing ships. Naval stores were used to caulk between hull planks, to weatherproof  various items, and to help preserve lines and ropes. Sailors, of course, were often called "old tars" because they were so often begommed with the stuff.

And pine sap came from pine trees; and pine trees grew in abundance in North Carolina.  In the mid-nineteenth century North Carolina produced more than 95% of all the naval stores (turpentine, tar, pitch, and rosin) in the United States. Most of that came from twelve tidewater counties. Many of the schooners from Ocracoke carried naval stores up and down the coast, to the West Indies and to Nova Scotia.

Like so many other human endeavors, over-exploitation of North Carolina's pine forests (at one time longleaf pine forests covered 130 million acres, from Virginia to Texas) led to ecological disaster and financial collapse. By the late 1800s the North Carolina naval stores industry had moved to South Carolina and Georgia...and later to the deep south and Texas.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a 1910 article about waterfowl hunting. You can read it here:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ocracoke and the American Revolution

Ellen Fulcher Cloud has collected a prodigious amount of information about the history of Ocracoke and Portsmouth islands. In her 2006 book, Portsmouth, the Way it Was, she writes this about Ocracoke pilots in 1777:

"Ocracoke Inlet was one of the most important inlets of the Revolution. The British soon became aware of this, and in 1777 Ocracoke Inlet...was threatened when the British unsuccessfully attempted a blockade. Vessels continued to slip in with supplies and privateers were sneaking out. However the British were successful in capturing some of our vessels. On April 14 the British ship LILY, captured the vessel POLLY, and a privateer on the same day recaptured the POLLY and disarmed the LILY. The Pilots at Ocraocke Inlet showed their determination to keep the inlet open for shipping. For three days a group of armed pilots manned five whale boats, proceeded out of the Inlet and captured both vessels and took them to New Bern."

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here: