Elisha Ballance & The Historic Storm of August 1899…By Jack M. Willis


  It was summer of the last year of the 19th century.  The weather had been exceptionally pleasant for days.  Young Elisha Ballance and several other Ocracoke fishermen were out in the sound in their small skiffs.  Scanning the skies, they realized that a fierce storm was bearing down on them.  They sought refuge in the sand dunes about eight miles “down below” (that area of the island north of the village of Ocracoke).  As the weather deteriorated they scooped out a hole in the side of a small hill and covered it with their sails.  

  They endured the full fury of the hurricane in this primitive shelter, barely surviving the windblown debris and rising tide.  The storm continued relentlessly for three days (August 16, 17 & 18), covering the island with salt water, and threatening to drown the men with every tidal surge.  

  Elisha Ballance was only 17 years old when he was caught in this terrible maelstrom.  On the 19th he could endure the tension no longer.  Concerned for his family back in the village, and unwilling to wait for the tide to fully recede so the boats could be repaired and the sails mended, Elisha, along with two others, insisted on walking the eight miles back to the village.  It was a long and arduous trek fraught with danger along the way.  

  The island’s waterways were still swollen, and at times the men were forced to wade waist deep across creeks or trudge through saturated marshland.  Snakes that had been forced out of their habitat slithered past them.  Elisha and his companions were weak, hungry, and exhausted from the three-day ordeal. 

  Eventually Elisha made his way to his family home.  The scene was heartbreaking.  Alone in the house he found the lower level and all of the furniture soaked and coated with muck and sludge. Seaweed, sand, and mud covered the floor.  In the kitchen he slipped and fell.  The depressing sight before him, coupled with his weakened condition, left him with few resources.  He passed out.  

  In due time Elisha regained consciousness and began a search for his family .  As with so many others threatened by the rising tide, they had sought refuge with neighbors.  

  Elisha and his family recovered, as did the rest of the villagers, but memories and tales of the Old August Storm live on, more than one hundred years later.

  Following is a first hand account of the storm, as related by Mr. S.L. Dosher, official Observer with the Weather Bureau on Hatteras Island. 

Hatteras Devastated by Hurricane

U.S. Department of Agriculture
Weather Bureau
Office of the Observer

Subject: Hurricane
Station: Hatteras, North Carolina
Date: August 21st, 1899

Chief of the Weather Bureau,
Washington, D.C.


  I have the honor to make the following report of the severe hurricane which swept over this section on the 16th, 17th and 18th instantly.

  The wind began blowing a gale from the east on the morning of the 16th, varying in velocity from 35 to 50 miles an hour. During the early morning of the 17th the wind increased to a hurricane and at about 4 a.m. it was blowing at the rate of 70 miles, at 10 a.m. it had increased to 84 miles and at 1 p.m. it was blowing a velocity of 93 miles with occasional extreme velocities of 120 miles to 140 per hour. The record of wind from about 1 p.m. was lost, but it is estimated that the wind blew even with greater force from about 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and it is believed that between these hours the wind reached a regular velocity of at least 100 miles per hour.

  At about 7:30 p.m. on the 17th there was a very decided lull in the force of the wind and at 8 p.m. it had fallen out until only a gentle breeze was blowing. This lull did not last more than half hour, however, before the wind veered to east and then to south-east and began blowing at a velocity estimated from 60 to 70 miles per hour which continued until well into the morning of the 18th. During the morning of the 18th the wind veered to the south and continued to blow a gale, with heavy rain squalls, all day, decreasing somewhat in the late evening and going into southwest. This day may be said to be the end of the hurricane, although the weather continued squally on the 19th , but without any winds of very high velocity.

  This hurricane was, without any question, the most severe of any storm that has ever passed over this section within the memory of any person now living, and there are people here who can remember back for a period of over 75 years. I have made careful inquiry among the old inhabitants here, and they all agree, with one accord, that no storm like this has ever visited the island.

  The scene here on the 17th was wild and terrifying in the extreme. By 8 a.m. on that date the entire island was covered with water blown in from the sound, and by 11 a.m. all the land was covered to a depth of from 3 to ten feet. The tide swept over the island at a fearful rate carrying everything movable before it. There were not more than four houses on the island in which the tide did not rise to a depth of from one to four feet, and at least half of the people had to abandon their homes and property to the mercy of the wind and tide and seek the safety of their own lives with those who were fortunate enough to live on higher land.

  Language is inadequate to express the conditions which prevailed all day on the 17th. The howling wind, the rushing and roaring tide and the awful sea which swept over the beach and thundered like a thousand pieces of artillery made a picture which was at once appalling and terrible and the like of which Dante’s Inferno could scarcely equal.

  The frightened people were grouped sometimes 40 or 50 in one house, and at times one house would have to be abandoned and they would all have to wade almost beyond their depth in order to reach another. All day this gale, tide and sea continued with a fury and persistent energy that knew no abatement, and the strain on the minds of every one was something so frightful and dejecting that it cannot be expressed.

  In many houses families were huddled together in the upper portion of the building with the water several feet deep in the lower portion, not knowing what minute the house would either be blown down or swept away by the tide.

  Cattle, sheep, hogs and chickens were drowned by hundreds before the very eyes of the owners, who were powerless to render any assistance on account of the rushing tide. The fright of these poor animals was terrible to see, and their cries of terror when being surrounded by the water were pitiful in the extreme.

  The damage done to this place by the hurricane is, at this time difficult to estimate, but is believed that the total loss to Hatteras alone will amount to from $15,000 to $20,000. The fishing business here is the principal industry from which is derived the revenue upon which the great majority live, and it may be said that this industry has for the present time been swept entirely out of existence.

  A great majority of the houses on the island were badly damaged, and 5 or 6 are so badly wrecked as to be unfit for habitation and that many families are without homes, living wherever they can best find a home. The Southern Methodist church building was completely wrecked…All of the bridges and foot ways over the creeks and small streams were swept away. The roadways are piled from three to ten feet high with wreckage.

  The telegraph and telephone lines are both down. It is reported that several vessels are stranded north of Big Kinnakeet Life Saving Station.

  A large steamship foundered about one mile off Hatteras beach and it is thought all on board were drowned.

  The Diamond Shoals Light Ship which was stationed off Hatteras, broke loose from her mooring on the morning of the 17th and was carried southward by the gale. This vessel will probably prove a total loss.

  The damage to the instruments and property of the Bureau here was considerable. The office building was flooded with water to the depth of about 18 inches, and the rain beat in at the roof and windows until the entire building was a mass of water.

  I live about a mile from the office building and when I went home at 8 a.m. I had to wade in water which was about waist deep. I waited until about 10:30 a.m., thinking the storm would lull, but it did not do so, and at that time I started for the office. I got about one-third of the distance and found the water about breast height, when I had to stop in a neighbor’s house and rest, the strain of pushing through the water and storm having nearly exhausted my strength. I rested there until about noon when I started again and after going a short distance further I found the water up to my shoulders. I had to give it up again and take refuge in another neighbor’s house where I had to remain until about 8 p.m. when the tide fell so that I could reach the office.

  I started to the office against the advice of those who were better acquainted with the condition of the roads than I, and continued on my way until I saw that the attempt was rash and fool-hardy and that I was certain to reach low places where I would be swept off my feet and drowned. There has never been any such tide as the one here mentioned.

  The rainfall was as heavy as I have ever seen. It fell in a perfect torrent and at times was so thick and in such blinding sheets that it was impossible to see across a roadway 20 feet wide.

  Everything went before the fury of the gale. No lives were lost at Hatteras, although many narrow escapes occurred, several families being washed out of their homes in the tide and storm. At Ocracoke and Portsmouth, 16 and 20 miles south of this station the storm is reported about the same as at Hatteras, with a corresponding damage to property. Reliable details from these places however, being lacking. A pleasure boat at Ocracoke with a party of men from Washington, N.C., was lost and a portion of the party were drowned.

  There has been no communication with this place by wire or mail since the storm, and it is not known when there will be. It is therefore requested that so much of this report as may be of interest to the public be given to the Associated Press for publication in the newspaper.

Very respectfully,

S.L. Dosher

Observer, Weather Bureau

( Note )  Samuel L. Dosher  was born about 1862. He married  Cora D. Gaskins,  Daughter of George Washington Howard Gaskins & his wife Mary Elizabeth Styron

The Hatteras Weather Station photograph used in this blog was obtained from the Outer Banks History Center. It is part of the Carol Cronk Cole Collection.



Leroy S. Hulan : 5th District United States Life Saving Stations Photographs – Continued Collection

The collection continues…

On March 27th, 2011, Richard Hulan and myself put together the first blog exhibiting the photographs that his Father, Leroy S. Hulan, took in 1944 while manning the role of USNR Chaplain assigned to the Coast Guard lifeboat stations of the 5th Naval District. The collection featured the stations located on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

One may view the blog here:

Fifteen additional photographs have now been added to this online collection. All stations were located within the United States LSS 5th district. Please click on photographs to view larger images.

Assateague LSS

Cobb Island LSS

Hog Island LSS

Little Creek LSS

Little Island LSS

Little Machipongo LSS

Metomkin Island LSS

Metomkin Island LSS

North Beach LSS

Ocean City LSS

Popes Island LSS

Smith Island Dock

Virginia Beach Lifeboat Station Office

Wallops Morring Dock

Wash Woods Tower


The long road to Hatteras: A Lighthouse Keeper Travels Home

Devaney F. Jennette and Grandchildren

The letter head reads, Department of Commerce and Labor, Light-House Establishment…

On April 9th, 1909, at Smith Point Light Station, 2nd Assistant Lighthouse Keeper Devaney Farrow Jennette, wrote to Commander Robert L. Russell, of the United States Navy. Russell, at that time was the Lighthouse Inspector of the Fifth District and located in Baltimore, Maryland.


I want to take a month to go home to see my family and if you will grant me the privilege you can send a man to fill my place and I am willing for him to draw my full payment. I would like to go by the third of May and will return back the third of June. Hoping that you will except of my going.

Yours truly

(Signed) Devaney F. Jennett.

J. B. Williams


It was a long haul from Smith Point Light Station, which was located in the waters of Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay, to the village of Buxton, located on Cape Hatteras, NC. This was the home of Devaney’s childhood. A place where generations of his family had lived and toiled as fishermen, lighthouse keepers, and Surfmen. The sea was part of their every breath. They led a life which often took them away from their families for days, weeks, and months at a time.

On April 17, 1909, Inspector Russell wrote a letter to The Lighthouse Board in Washington, D.C. describing the perils of travel which Keeper Jennette, would endure in order to make his way home to his loved ones…


I have the honor to enclose a letter from Mr. Devaney F. Jennette, Second Assistant Keeper at Smith Point Light-Station, Va., applying for one month’s leave of absence, beginning May 3, 1909, for the purpose of visiting his family. In this connection, I would state that in October last, Mr. Jennett was appointed Assistant Keeper at Thomas Point Shoal Light-Station, Md., where he served up to the 9th instant, and has had no leave except to come ashore for the mail and for other purposes.
Mr. Jennett’s family resides at Cape Hatteras, N.C., and he has not been able to visit his people since his entrance into the Light-House Service. In order to reach his home, it is necessary for him to come to this city by boat, then take a steamer to Norfolk, Va., and go by rail and boat to Roanoke Island; and to reach his home from the latter place, he has to procure passage in an open gasoline boat for upwards of forty (40) miles. This journey is slow and expensive and in view of the time and money involved in reaching his home, I would recommend that the restriction of to 15 days be waived in his case, and that he be granted a full month’s leave of absence with the usual provision that he furnish a competent substitute during his absence. The return of the enclosed letter is respectfully asked.

Respectfully yours,

(Signed) Robert L. Russell
Commander, U.S.N.
Light-House Inspector

Pop’s career in the lighthouse service began in 1908 and ended upon his death in 1932. Page after page from his personnel file tells of his travels up and down the coast, from beacon to beacon, during this time. By 1917, transportation was not much different than when he had began his career all those years earlier. The road from Carney’s Point, NJ., to Hunting Island Light Station, SC., was no exception…

As I read and re-read the letters and documents, thoughts of today’s NC Hwy 12, come to mind. Often we grumble when we have to wait in line as repairs are made to the road. Or wonder what in the world will we do when bits and pieces of asphalt are taken out by nor’easters or hurricanes such as Irene. If only we had to travel as Pop did. But then, Lighthouse Keepers spent much of their lives enduring. A hardly lot, indeed.


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LCRG – Nov 2012 Newsletter Part 2: The Dig

Lost Colony Research Group: Part 2 of their Nov 2012 Newsletter
Written by Roberta Estes

The 2012 Dig

For those of you who follow along, the Lost Colony Research Group has sponsored archaeological digs now on Hatteras Island in 2009, 2010, 2011 and now, 2012. This year’s dig was somewhat different since we feel we have located the original site of the colonists on Hatteras Island in previous years. Additionally, we welcomed to our project this year Dr. Charles Ewen at ECU as well as two additional professional archaeologists. We have been very blessed. Our new project archaeologist is Jennifer Gabriel.

As you also know, due to modern day pirates called treasure hunters, we have to keep the sites where we dig a well-guarded secret. Besides, the last thing a property owner wants to find is their yard looking like swiss cheese when they return home one day, meaning that someone with a metal detector has trespassed and not only stolen historically important items, but ruined the area for subsequent archaeology. So while I can’t tell you exactly where we were, suffice it to say that we are still on Hatteras Island and we are still pursing the colonists.

We actually dug in several location this year as our dig time in the field was expanded to two weeks. I will post two or three different blogs that shows some of our different activities and the group as well. We’ve never had a better group, or a better time. Were it not for the extreme heat, the massive number of mosquitos and ticks, it was almost like a vacation.

Refrains from the nursery rhyme, “The Old Gray Mare, She Ain’t What She Used to Be” played through my head every morning as I got my old, achy self out of bed to go and dig some more.

However, this dig was blessed from the beginning. Dawn found a lucky penny and we saw a beautiful double rainbow from the deck of the house that we rented on the first morning. Did I mention that there were 37 steps up and down. If not, I probably will mention that several times Houses on Hatteras are built on stilts so that the flooding doesn’t damage the contents. However, that means that the first floor is really the second floor, and so on.

Rental properties are often “ridden hard and put up wet,” so to speak, and this one was no different. The electricity didn’t work correctly, the AC worked only on the second floor and not on the third which is where we cooked (and where I slept) so we simply left the windows open. However, the windows had no screens, so suffice it to say that we had “visitors” in the night. I finally simply covered up entirely, regardless of the heat, as a form of protection from the mosquitos and whatever else I might wake up to discover crawling through my hair, like the creature below.

Anne, who camped in a tent under the house, actually had the best accommodations of all….until the storm…..but that story is for another day.

The good news is that we were able to dig on a property that is undeveloped. This translates into the fact that the land is likely much less disturbed than areas where there is development. The bad news is that it is also covered in forest and we had to hack and chop our way though it to create transits to dig test pits in a line across from one side of the property to the other. Suffice it to say that this took a couple of days and it was the hottest, sweatiest two days of my life. On day two, Alex showed up with a chain saw and he, indeed, was the hero of the entire dig. Hats off to Alex.

Here is a picture of part of our crew, flanking the woods we would be digging through shortly. Baylus, on the left, our map-maker and one of our historians, Dawn, founder of the Hatteras Island Genealogical Society, Andy Powell, our historian from England, Dr. Charles Ewen, head of the Anthropological Lab at ECU and our new project archaeologist, Jennifer Gabriel.

A few minutes later, after instructions were given, the clearing began. We quickly decided that indeed, the real impediment to the colonists survival was not hunger, not at all, but instead, mosquitos, brown recluse spiders, ticks and the diseases they carry, alligators and other critters, combined with dehydration and poison ivy. If you add in the clothes they were wearing, we figured that they either sweat to death in short order, or they stripped plumb naked and adopted the Indian way of life very nearly immediately. The Native people knew how to survive in this hot, humid environment. Somehow the word hot just doesn’t convey the gravity of the situation. You began to sweat walking down the stairs in the morning. Ice melted in the cooler, entirely, in half a day, and that cooler was in the shade. We bought bandanas as sweat bands so we could see. You had to peel your clothes off at the end of the day. You had to reapply insecticide constantly because you sweated and wiped it off continuously. To say this was “not fun” is the understatement of the year.

As an example, here is a transit that has been cleared. Notice the undergrowth beside he cleared area. That’s what we started with. You could not even begin to walk through it.

Let the clearing begin!! Dawn is wearing our group mascot, our pirate bandana.

The part of Hatteras Island that is not forested or developed is primarily swamp or beach. Keep in mind that the water table has risen approximately 3 feet since the time the colonists lived there. So some of the area now swamp may have been drier then.

One of the residents in the area allowed us to walk out on their “pier.” I’m not sure what a quarter mile long walkway built through swamp that eventually ends at the water is called. It surely is beautiful though. The local residents could not have been nicer or more accommodating.

One extremely important part of our day was “tick check.” Are you modest? Then check it at the door because, truthfully, you can’t see every part of your body. And let’s just say that ticks are very good at being evaded by people’s prying eyes. Yes indeed, we had “tick removal” every evening. We began checking several times through the day when we took breaks. In the tick check picture that follows, I want you to notice Andy’s ankles. Andy is the only one of us who has actually experienced Lyme disease. It went undiagnosed for 5 years or so and nearly killed him. He is extremely tick conscious and he taped his pants to his boots with duct tape. Now even the most determined tick can not get through duct tape. However, one did get through the weave in my socks, which were pulled up over the bottom of my pants, and down my boot. Some ticks are so tiny you almost can’t see them, and those are the dangerous ones, the deer ticks that carry Lyme disease.

At the beginning and end of each day, Cousin George cooked for us. That man has the stamina and patience of a saint. He also made us lunch. Often we needed rest as much as food at lunchtime. Some days he delivered to the site and others we went back to the house, and the AC in the house, such as it was, for an hour or so.

Andy brought us some English treats. One was called Marmite and it was, well, interesting. It’s either a love it or hate it kind of thing with a very unique, strong, savory, salty, taste. In fact, the company slogan is “Love it or hate it.” It is made from yeast extracts which are the byproducts of beer brewing. Well, now we know why Baylus loved it You can read more about Marmite here.

It was fun to experience something new culturally. Personally, I liked the strawberry and the chocolate covered ginger biscuits that Andy brought better. In the US, we would call them cookies, but by whatever name, they were yummy.

However, Anne Poole got even for the Marmite by introducing Andy to fatback and collard greens. Andy of course was a good sport, but he’s not convinced just yet about the collards. However, Anne neglected one critical component of collards and that is the pepper vinegar. How can one eat collards without pepper vinegar? For those who don’t know, it’s a southern thing where you take hot, and I do mean those tiny very hot peppers, put them in an old salad dressing bottle, cover with vinegar, let them set, and then enjoy. The vinegar preserves the peppers, the peppers flavor the vinegar and you can put it on many things, including but not limited to collards. I also like it on vinegar coleslaw. You can tell that Andy is unconvinced, below.

The ocean was just a block away and we were fortunate that the house we rented provided a nice view through an area that was undeveloped. The sand and the ocean are beautiful, except when having a storm, but that is a story for another newsletter, so stay tuned.

We were extremely lucky because we were afforded a stunning view of the sunset every night while we were there. By the time the sun set, we had rested for awhile, some took a nap after the days digging, had a wonderful “chef’s choice’ dinner and were relaxing in the Adirondack chairs on the deck. Yes, that third floor deck that was 37 steps up. Seeing sights like this almost made those 37 steps worthwhile.

Hatteras Measles

We were fortunate to have two British people with us on our dig. Andy Powell, of Bideford, is by this time an old hand at archaeology, but Alex, or Little Alex as we affectionately call her, isn’t. In fact, this is her first dig. I think this might have been a bit more than she was counting on – with the insects and such, but indeed she was a trooper. And what a lovely young lady!

When I asked them to stand together for a photo, little did I realize they both struck the British “pose” apparently, as they are standing in the same exact position. And they sounded quite a bit alike too when they spoke. We all know how the British love their hats too. What a wonderfully rounded, international, group we had.

I want to call attention to the their ankles. Most of us did what Alex did, pulled our socks up over our pants legs to attempt to preclude opportunistic ticks from attaching themselves to us. Andy, however, in a fit of ingenuity, duct taped his pants to his socks and boots. Now, he’s not just a worry wart, he’s a veteran, and a survivor of Lyme disease that he caught in England some years ago. So Andy is understandably concerned about creepy crawley things.

Duct tape, while apparently effective against ticks, is not so much so against what appear to be mosquito bites. We weren’t sure what this was, and he had it on his hands and arms as well. There were votes for poison ivy, but poison ivy never got near his skin through all that duct tape.

Andy is also apparently quite sensitive to our US insects as he had a much more pronounced reaction than any of us who live here. So, in honor of Andy, we’ve now named his crud the Hatteras Measles. Looked like measles, itched like measles, and we had numerous home “cures” we wanted to try on him. For some reason, after the first one where we made him walk in the ocean, he balked at the rest. I do think one had something to do with collards and grits…but I’m not sure. But judging from his expression, he looked somewhat doubtful as to the relative effectiveness of the various proposed home remedies!

Catch us Online
Our Lost Colony website includes more than 8000 pages of research, all free, at and
Our Project on Facebook –!/pages/Lost-Colony-of-Roanoke-DNA-Project/126053773239?v=wall – thanks to Janet Crain for this
Our Blog – – If you don’t subscribe to our blog…now’s a great time to do that…just click on over and sign up so you don’t miss anything!! Thanks to Janet Crain and Penny Ferguson for our wonderful blog.
Our Website – – Nelda adds to information to our website almost daily. Have you checked your surnames lately to see what is new? Please contribute something for your surnames, or a county of interest. Thanks to Nelda Percival for her untiring work on our website.

GenealogyWise – – Thanks to Andy Powell for setting this up.
Hatteras Island Genealogical and Preservation Society webpage – our sister organization -
Hatteras Island Genealogical and Preservation Society Blog –
Our DNA projects at Family Tree DNA:
Lost Colony Yline – (paternal surname) –

Lost Colony Mitochondrial – (maternal line) –

Lost Colony Family Finder – (autosomal)

Hatteras Island Fathers DNA project at

Hatteras Island Mothers DNA project at

Hatteras Island Family Finder project at
Hatteras Island Genealogy Society at!/group.php?gid=245433063719&ref=ts


LCRG Nov 2102 Newsletter : Part 1 – Bertie County Potential Fort Location

Thought our members would enjoy reading this newsletter written by Roberta Estes. She is a noted professional in the field of scientific DNA analysis and research. She is also co-founder of the Lost Colony Research Group, with Anne Poole. There will be two parts to this blog.

Lost Colony Research Group


Genealogy ~ DNA ~ Archaeology

October 2012

Bertie County Potential Fort Location

By Roberta Estes

In May, 2012 the now famous Bertie County fort icon on John White’s map was discovered at the British Museum . We covered this in two postings, one about the discovery and a second one that provided some historical analysis.

This image of the fort icon was exposed on John White’s map at the confluence of the Roanoke and Chowan Rivers in present day Bertie County.

During a recent trip to North Carolina, I had the opportunity to visit the area and was excited to do so.

On the map above, the red arrow points to the approximate location of the fort on White’s map. You can see the inlet above and the indention for current day Edenton across the sound.

A closer view shows the road from Plymouth, crossing the Cashie, Middle and Roanoke Rivers where they join to form Swan Bay which is part of Albemarle Sound. The Chowan flows from the north and is the body of water that separates Bachelor Bay and Edenton.

Crossing the rivers, I was surprised how undeveloped this region is, and I do mean totally undeveloped in most places. The next two photos were crossing the bridges of the three rivers. They all look exactly the same, tree lines and if you didn’t see the bridge, you would never be able to tell that it wasn’t 1585. This must have been exactly what the military expedition of colonists saw when they explored here in 1585-1586. The water is brackish here, not totally fresh water, nor totally saltwater. The key to survival in this location would have been fresh water, and of course, the ability to defend yourself, or being friendly with a tribe that would help. The Indians would probably have been all too willing to assist in trade for guns. They understood a competitive edge.

Let’s take a look and see what is there today. The area from NC45 to the Bachelor’s Bay development is a good candidate location. The road is about 2 miles long and this is just about the only place on that road where there is anything except forest until you get to the end where you find the Bachelor’s Bay development right on the sound.

You can see the other side of the Sound from here. The area does flood, as you can see, and probably significantly more so in times of heavy storms. Dr. Charles Ewen (ECU) tells me that archaeological digs have taken place in Bachelor’s Bay in the past, with no relevant results.

Driving on Sutton Road, we find more farming. The land has been cleared and is relatively flat. This would be a good fort location, assuming we can find a creek with fresh water.

Today on Sutton Road, literally in the middle of nowhere, is the Scotch Hall Preserve, a 900 acre gated golf community that includes sculpted grounds and a golf course designed by Arnold Palmer. This encompasses nearly all of the peninsula from where Sutton Road intersects with Sutton Road all the way to and including Avoca Farm Road east of Sutton Road. It’s a huge area. In fact, the reason it’s there is because it was entirely undeveloped. Below is a photo from their ads. You can see that the entire area is heavily sculpted, meaning little has been left undisturbed, and I’m not thinking they are going to welcome an archaeology dig in the middle of Arnold Palmer’s hole 7.

The front of the Scotch Hall Preserve is protected by gates and access only granted to residents and members, but in all developments, there is always a construction entrance. Below is what is left of Avoca Farm Road within the development.

This is the right area, but looking at the map, appears to be too far north, if the map is accurate at all, and if there was ever a fort. The photo below is along the front on Sutton Road.

On the Google Earth map below, you can see Bachelor Bay at the bottom and you can follow Sutton Road to the Scotch Hall Preserve.

So, are we walking in the footsteps of the colonists, or are we on a wild goosechase? Only time, research, and archaeology will tell, if that. In the mean time, whether indeed you believe it’s the footsteps or the goosechase, I think everyone will agree that what we are looking for is indeed a very small needle in a very large, very remote and very overgrown haystack, except of course, for where it’s the golf course.


Nitrograss Music Festival Benefit for HIGPS

Nitrograss playing HIGPS Benefit at Papawack Theater

Appalachia, bluegrass, banjos, bass, guitar, and mandolin…

One mention of these melodic words does not make one think of the sounds that are customary to those of us who live on the coast. But after this past week these words and the bluegrass band Nitrograss, have become forever a part of preserving our way of life and our heritage. On August 7, 2012, this foursome drove into town with their instruments and talents in tow. They traveled over mountain, bridge, and sandy road in order to tour the Outer Banks and play the first ever Nitrograss Music Festival Benefit for the Hatteras Island Genealogical and Preservation Society at Spa Koru’s Papawack Theatre.

The evening’s forecast was rain, but those attending found nothing but a foot stopping good time while listening to the two time National Banjo Champion, Charles Wood, pound out originals and old time bluegrass classics like he was born with a banjo in his hands. Brothers Micah and Caleb Hanks, also added an irreplaceable ingredient to the mix. Micah with his outgoing personality worked his guitar and the crowd with such enthusiasm and a spicy zest that left the crowd swooning for more. Then there was Caleb. His quick comical wit and style just added that much more to the flavor of the band. He flat tore that mandolin up ! Then there is the bass player, Dakota “Smoky” Waddell. The sweet deep tones emerging from his bass seemed to bring it all together and drive it home. This was a magical night of mountain music on an island thirty miles off shore.

There are many thanks that need to be given out to those who made this wonderful event come together. First, we’d like send out our great appreciation to the men of Nitrograss…Charles Wood, Micah Hanks, Caleb Hanks, and Dakota Waddell. We love you down here on Hatteras. Our door is always open and you will always be a welcomed part of our family. Then there is Susan Davidson, who is Nitrograss’ Marketing/PR powerhouse. She is also the one who first conceived the idea of the band playing a benefit for HIGPS. Susan, you are beyond words. Many many hugs to you. Can hardly wait to see all of you again.

To Joe Thompson and the Spa Koru Family…I do not believe there are words enough to show our appreciation for you. Spa Koru, played a major roll in hosting this event for HIGPS. You are such an asset to our community and thank you for allowing us the privileged and use of the Spa Koru Beach Klub’s Papawack Theater. What an awesome evening and turnout. We couldn’t have done it without you !

Next comes the good part…the eats. To Hurricane Heather’s and Hatteras Harbor Deli, thank you. You put in a lot of time and effort to feed this hungry crowd of bluegrass lovers. You deserve a gold medal and are so very appreciated. Y’all have quite a few hugs waiting for you. You rock !

Stacy Oneal, Greg Humphrey, Elizabeth B. Fox, and Malcolm Roberts…thank you for your time and your help during this very special event. You are all a treasure and truly care about this island. I could probably go on for hours, but I won’t 🙂

Cape Pines Motel in Buxton – Thank you so much for showing HIGPS and Nitrograss that good old island hospitality by providing accommodations for our guys. Your place has always been a favorite and you are greatly appreciated.

To Lee Etheridge and TNT Services of the Outer Banks, you helped where no one else could. Many thanks to you and your staff for all that you did and continue to do in our community.

Last but not least, thank you to all who attended and donated to the cause. It’s our heritage and it’s up to us to preserve it. Looks as if HIGPS, is well on their way to making that happen. Without people like you, none of this is possible.

Dawn F. Taylor
President – HIGPS

Dawn Taylor and Micah Hanks (NItrograss) pre-concert – Papawack Theater

L to R: Mole Man (sound) Dakota Waddell, Caleb Hanks, Micah Hanks, Dawn Taylor

Elizabeth B. Fox and Malcolm Roberts – Taking Tickets 🙂

Stacy Oneal and hubby Greg – Manning the station 🙂

Nitrograss playing Hurricane Heather’s on Hatteras Island

Nitrograss playing Gaffer’s on Ocracoke while touring the OBX.

Dawn Taylor manning the Nitrograss table.


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Memories in clay ~ An interview with Ms. Dixie Burrus Browning

Ms. Dixie Burrus Browning with clay Coast Guardsman statue she created.

Ms. Dixie Burrus Browning, grew up in a small island village known as Hatteras. She has fond memories of a childhood spent fishing and exploring what she considers today, a place that belongs to it’s people. The stories I heard today, she has passed down to her children and they to theirs. But her stories have not solely confined themselves to spoken words. No…glimpses of them are present in the years she spent as a romance writer. Her novels are mainly based on places she has been and the place she calls home. And then…there is her art.

One can tell by studying her water color paintings that she truly cherishes the marshes and beaches that make up the Hatteras landscape. The various shades of blues, greens, and browns lead one down winding paths to scenes that can only be painted by someone who has studied their characteristics and kept each detail, consciously or subconsciously, in that special corner of their mind that only harbors the memories that are solely meant for safe keeping.

This past year Ms. Dixie’s daughter, Elizabeth “Liz” B. Fox, donated to our society, another type of artwork her mother created sometime in the 60’s. The painted clay bust is that of a Coast Guardsman. Liz believes that it’s eyes and ears are reminiscent of her Father’s, Leonard L. Browning Jr. But after Ms.Dixie gave a quick side view glance of her profile, I can definitely state that yes…the statue does have a Burrus nose.

I asked Ms. Dixie what inspired her to create the piece. The answer was quick. She didn’t know. At that time she had been doing a lot of painting and teaching art and it was quite a bit later that she sought out making a living from her talent as a writer. She never examines why she writes or paints. “The inspiration is just there and it just bubbles to the surface”, was her only explanation. It was the only one I needed.

We went on to discuss the Coast Guardsman’s hat, which is real by the way. She had painted it with metallic paint and gave it a tilt as she placed it on his head. Memories of where she bought her paints and what she made them out of came back to her. As a child she would buy them from Sears. But she also found natural sources as well. Moss and poke berries were often used and she would have used Mercurochrome, if she’d of had it.

Our visit lasted about an hour. It is always a pleasure to sit and listen to the stories told of how things were on the island by those who were born many years before my time. Ms. Dixie is one of our most fascinating treasures and I am very fortunate to be able to call her my “kin”. The history of this place fascinates her as it does most of us. She feels an undeniable connection to this place and it’s people. Just ask any butterfly that crosses your path (wink).

Thank you again, Ms. Dixie. Perhaps we’ll visit and chat again real soon.

Ms. Dixie’s original artwork and prints may be purchased at Indian Town Gallery in Frisco, NC.

Dawn F. Taylor


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Carl Ross Jennette Sr ~ A daughter’s remembrance

Carl Ross Jennette

In April of 2012, I received a package in the mail from my Cousin, Anne Jennette Kelsey. Anne’s Father was Carl Ross Jennette Sr, brother to my Grandmother, Gladys Winifred Jennette. The pages contained within the package shed some light on an Uncle who I didn’t really know much about due to him being partially raised away from Cape Hatteras, NC. Thank you Cousin Anne, for sharing your memories.

Carl Ross Jennette, was born on September 17, 1912 in Buxton, North Carolina. He was the son of Devaney Farrow and Ella Gray Jennette. Dr. Johnson delivered this fourth child to the family which was also composed of his two brothers, Devaney Elwood and Hubert Winton Jennette. And of course his sister Gladys Winifred Jennette, as mentioned prior.

Slender and tall in statue, he was a serious man that carried this trait into adulthood. A trait that would be of great benefit to him later in life. Being from this tiny barrier island thirty some miles offshore, like most whose family had lived there for generations, he could boast kinship to many. Ross spoke often to his daughter Anne, of his Cousin Isaac Jennette and the adventures that they shared. Isaac was the son of Baxter Jennette who was brother to Ross’s Father, Devaney “Dane” Jennette. The two grew up across from each other in the village of Buxton, just north of the present day location of the post office.

Ross’s time on Cape Hatteras was not to be long though. He had almost reached his teen years when in 1919,his Father received assignment as Assistant Keeper at the Cape Fear Lighthouse on Smith Island, North Carolina. So together the family moved to this remote island near Southport. But with time, he came to love the island. Being that he was born and raised in a place so similar, he quickly felt right at home.

There were of course differences between Cape Hatteras and the island he now called home. The later of the two did not have a schoolhouse or teacher. With only the lighthouse keepers, their families, and the men stationed at the Cape Fear Life Saving Station on the island, there was no need for such. So during the school year Ross and Elwood boarded at Mrs. Seller’s in Southport, so that they could attend classes. Mrs. Sellers took in children throughout the county and island.

During the summer months the two brothers would return to Smith Island so that they could be with their family. No doubt they assisted their Father with tasks common to manning a lighthouse. But when it came to ways of making money, Ross had other ideas. He would scour the island collecting turtle eggs which he would then sell. Turtle Egg Duff, was a common dish in the area.

As with all students, those school years eventually came to an end. Ross and two friends decided to turn to shrimping for a living. They did very well with this venture. In the meantime this lighthouse keeper’s son met his bride to be. Marie Wescott was the daughter of the Reverend William Chester and Annie Thomas Wescott of Southport. On April 18, 1931…the two married.

L to R: Elwood Jennette, Ella Nora Dickerson, Carl Ross Jennette Sr. Devaney F. Jennette in background.

Times were tough in the south during those years which led Ross to enlist in the United States Coast Guard at the Ditch Plain Station in Montauk, New York. Yet again, he found himself living on an island much like the one of his youth. This act led him to a twenty six year career in the service. In all, he was stationed up and down the coast at twelve different locations.

The Great New England Hurricane of 1938, found Ross stationed at the Shinnecock Life Saving Station located at Hampton Bays.The crew was lucky to escape with their lives as the fierce storm swept the station out to sea and left the men with many a harrowing story to tell. R.A. Scotti has published an excellent book about this hurricane for those who are interested in learning more.

Carl Ross Jennette, no doubt if he was here, could tell us much more about his time spent in the U.S.C.G. Perhaps he would sit and chat about the events of World War II, where German saboteurs landed on Long Island on June 13, 1942 while he was in charge of the Amagansett Station. His following obituary sheds some light on that historic event.

Ross had many sea stories to tell and like most who served in the USCG, he lived a dangerous life at times through acts of rescuing those in distress on both land and sea. Anne recalls the story of when the fishing vessel, The Pelican, sunk off Montauk Point, New York. Ross and his crew had to assist in retrieving the dead bodies from the ocean. Some of which had been in the water for quite some time. He remembers how horrific it was and how the young sailors got sick due to the stench.

When he retired he was working at Guild Hall in East Hampton, NY. His wife Marie, passed when she was fifty five years of age. Ross never remarried. She was the love of his life. Out of this union two children were born, his son and namesake Carl Ross Jr, and their daughter Anne. Five grandchildren also followed.

From his daughter Anne…

“He was a quiet man who came from humble beginnings. He saw hard times and he rose above them. He was always a perfect gentleman. He loved his family and that was the most important thing to him. He could be stubborn but he also was a man of high principles…He is missed.”


Julian Austin: Portrait of a Keeper’s Family

Siblings ~ Julian Haywood Jr & Marilyn Austin
Photo courtesy of Marilyn Austin Meads

Written by Cheryl Shelton-Roberts

In the living room of the Cape Hatteras Double keepers’ quarters (DKQ) in 1928, Katherine Dobson Austin, placed a mirror under her Christmas tree that her husband, Julian Austin Sr., had cut for her in nearby Buxton Woods. Upon it she rested various miniature animals and fish, creating a Christmas scene for her family. It was her favorite time of year. She hung angel-faced ornaments and old Kriss Kringle paper ornaments while arranging and rearranging a string of glass beads on her Hatteras Christmas Tree. She took great care with these ornaments that she had brought from her home in Maryland. As she looked out the window, she proudly watched her young husband stride across the spacious light station grounds, wearing the cap of a respected Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Keeper.
Assistant Keeper Julian Haywood Austin, son of John Lotson Austin and Markey “Empie” (Poyner) Austin, had been born February 20, 1898, at their family home in Trent, now know as Frisco, North Carolina. From mid 1916 until Christmas Day 1917, Julian served on three lightships including LV 71 stationed on Diamond Shoals off Cape Hatteras. He hopped jobs from one “oiler” to another and returned to the U.S. Lighthouse Service June 27, 1921. Julian began work on LV 49, which would begin his uninterrupted Lighthouse Service career. He transferred to Choptank River Light, Maryland. It was here that Julian began courtship of a lovely young lady, his future wife.
Katherine married Julian on September 27, 1923. They spent a month-long honeymoon at the Choptank River Light, and Katherine loved her time as a new bridge on the old Chesapeake Bay Light. Julian transferred to the Cape Charles Light Station on Smith Island, Virginia, in 1925, and Katherine bore Julian a fine son, his namesake, May 18, 1926. Several months later, the young family would find themselves at Cape Hatteras.

At Christmastime, Katherine was happy amongst a network of friends and family, learning to bake Miss Sudie Jennette’s famous biscuits while shaping their half of the DKQ into a warm home. Keeper Unaka Jennette’s son, Rany, often told Katherine that her Christmas tree was the prettiest he’d ever seen. The colorful, hand-blow glass ornaments in the shapes of a pipe with Santa’s head at the end of the stem, and the festive round ornaments became a lifelong memory for this young boy. And Julian Jr’s strongest memory at Hatteras as a wee lad is how he loved to swing on the porch of the DKQ. Contented days continued as Katherine was expecting her second child.
Marilyn Ione Austin, was born in the family home in Frisco, the next village south of the Cape Hatteras Light Station, on April 14, 1929. Just days before her birth, Julian Sr. transferred to Brant Island Lighthouse in the Pamlico Sound, and later to the Roanoke River Lighthouse at the mouth of the Roanoke River, North Carolina.
Though Julian was often absent from his young and growing family, Katherine was safely in the charge of Julian’s widowed mother who lived in the home built by Julian’s grandfather, William Poyner. Just across the street from his mother Empie, Julian Sr. had finished his and Katherine’s own home in 1923.
Katherine was a venturesome young woman who took her two little ones with her to visit Julian at the Roanoke River Light, the family traveling to and from the water bound screw pile lighthouse by boat. When returning to the mainland, they walked to Mr. Askew’s farm near Mary Hill, where Keeper Austin parked his car in a barn. If alone on these trips, he would occasionally drop in and visit the Askews for a little friendly conversation and share news. During one trip, one of the tenant farmer’s children had measles and shared them generously with visitors.
And then the decisive factor that would separate the family for several years happened. Marilyn continued, “momma contracted tuberculosis. She got real sick and she went to the McCain Sanitarium in Pinehurst, North Carolina, where she stayed for two and one-half years.”
Marilyn recalled the trip when her Dad was taking Julian nine, Marilyn six, and Verna barely one-year old away from Frisco and her mother to stay with Grandmother Dobson in Maryland. “We took the Little Creek Ferry and Momma said, “Now, don’t cry–big girls don’t cry.” Momma was down there on the dock waving and waving–I chewed my lip to pieces trying not to cry. And while we were on the way to Gran’ma’s, Verna needed her milk. Gran’dad went into a farmhouse and explained to the family there that he needed to warm the bottle up. And they let him and after that they became friends.”
When the family arrived in Oxford, Katherine’s mother, suffering from scarlet fever, greeted them. Grandmother Dobson struggled to care for her three grandchildren.
Julian Sr. returned to Bodie Island alone to handle his keeper’s duties professionally in spite of his great concern for his wife, three children, and mother-in-law.
Those lonely hours standing solitary vigil at the Bodie Island Lighthouse were filled with the solace of reading. All three Austin children agreed that their father loved history. “He had his own fine collection of books; he could have taught history, he knew so much,” an admiring Verna remembered.
Keeper Austin decided that Grandmother Dobson couldn’t keep all three children. Marilyn and Julian Jr. had to make their own transfer in 1934, to Bodie Island to stay with him. Julian’s first memories at Bodie Island are of the…”MOSQUITOS!” he said with emphasis.
Julian did what he could to help his father such as keeping the firewood boxes filled. Marilyn washed dishes, cleaned for the family, and learned to cook from the time she could reach the wood stove. She also chopped a lot of wood. They attended school in Manteo.
While her family tended the light station, Katherine kept her own watch from her hospital room. Separation was required for tuberculosis patients prior to the advent of antibiotics. One day, she thought she recognized a group of people approaching. Excitedly, she went into the hall by her room and waited. Echoes of her children reached her long before signed confirmed their presence. Katherine waited.
“I was trembling as I walked down the long hall,“ Marilyn said in her soft voice. The woman called to her, “Marilyn!” Marilyn spun about and saw the open arms of her mother. She ran to her and her mother’s embrace held all the warmth she had dreamed of for nearly two years.
“Momma came home to Bodie Island sometime in 1938. We were so glad to see her!” Marilyn said with a smile. “Mr. Vernon Gaskill, furnished a pheasant for our celebration dinner. Verna came down later after Momma came home and got settled in. For nearly five years, we were along–but, we were happy.”
For his family’s health, Keeper Austin had labored to raise a garden. Judging by the tentative hold that any life has on the windblown island, it is hard to imagine anyone could coax a garden to yield fresh produce. But Julian Sr. had worked magic with plants.
Marilyn noted, “We left Bodie Island Lighthouse in June of 1940, and after taking our furniture to Frisco to our family home, we moved to Tilghmans Island, because Dad had been transferred to the Sharps Island Lighthouse. Julian Jr. went to war.”
For the next decade, Keeper Austin received various transfers. “1950 was the year my Dad retired from the U.S. Lighthouse Service, with 32 years of faithful service. The Korean War had broken out and Julian Jr. was sent there right away. He was captured in February of 1951, and became a prisoner of war for two and one-half years.”
Marilyn added, “Momma received some letters from Korea verifying that her son was deceased, but she would not give up hope. She never believed he was dead. Something kept her going. And he came back from Korea, but he was legally blind and 100% disabled.”
“Mom and ad retired at the family home in Frisco, where she was able to love and keep her grandchildren as much as we’d let her,” Verna smiled.
The Austin children cherish memories of their family. From sixty years ago, Marilyn opened her tight grip on two small pieces of paper she had been holding for hours and waiting to share. She took them from an autograph book that her Mother had given her when they were preparing to move from Bodie Island. Katherine and Julian Sr. also signed the book on Marilyn’s eleventh birthday.
“May 11, 1940.
Dear Daughter, I think your freckles are cute although I tease you a lot about them. My time here at our Bodie Island Lighthouse Station is short, our happy days here past. I couldn’t picture what the future will be. But let us hope we will be located at some station together. I will never forget our Bodie Island. Love Dad.”
The second note reads, “Darling, Marilyn, this is April 14, 1940. Sometime when you’re grown and look over this little book you’ll remember the night I wrote this. Bodie Island has been taken over by the Coast Guard and we’re soon to leave here.
It’s farewell to this lighthouse and it makes us all sad. I love my little freckled-face girls so much and I hope you’ll have a long, happy life. Give to the world the best that you have and the best will come back to you. Your ever-loving Mother. Happy Birthday, sweetheart. Katherine Austin.”

Indeed, these are “keepers.”

© Cheryl Shelton-Roberts. Cheryl is a lighthouse historian and author of several books on lighthouses. She and her husband Bruce Roberts, are cofounders of the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society since 1994, which earned it’s 501 c3 status in 1995.

P.O. Box 1005
Morehead City, NC


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A lighthouse, an actor, and a proposal…

Junius Brutus Booth

Written by Ray Midgett of Washington, NC.

In 1822, a renowned actor, while making passage between Norfolk and Charleston, had a chance encounter with a fellow passenger. Perhaps while viewing the Cape Hatteras Light, the young thespian tells of his desire “to retire from public life and keep a lighthouse”.(1) By chance, the stranger happens to be one Thomas H. Blount, the Collector of Customs for the port of Washington, N.C. As Collector of Customs, he is responsible for the administration of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Mr. Blount must have been impressed with the young actor because Blount eventually offers him the position of light keeper. The actor is Junius Brutus Booth, the Father of the yet to be born, John Wilkes Booth.

On May 1, 1796, Junius Booth, was born in London, England. He was the son of a lawyer. Early on he showed tremendous talent on the stage and became a celebrated performer throughout England. But by 1821, Booth had run away to the United States with a young woman, abandoning his wife and son and settled in a farmhouse near Bel Air, Maryland. Booth quickly became one of the most renown actors in America. Critic William Winter said, “He was followed as a marvel. Mention of his name stirred an enthusiasm no other could awaken.”(2)

Booth soon tired of the fame and pressure of acting, thus his desire for the simpler life. Quoting from his own memorandum describing his conversation with Mr. Blount, on board ship:

“Spoke to Mr. Blount, Collector of Customs, and one of the passengers, about Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. He offered it to me with the dwelling house, and twenty acres of land attached; and a salary of $300 per annum, for keeping the light, government providing oil and cotton, a quart of oil per diem. Grapes, watermelons, cabbages, potatoes, carrots, and onions grow in abundance there. Rain water the only drink; a cistern on the premises for that purpose. Abundance of fish and wild fowl; pigs, cows, and horses find good pasture. Soil too light for wheat or corn. Flour bought for four or five dollars a barrel. The office is for life, and only taken away through misbehavior. Lighthouse seventy-five feet high; light requires trimming every night at twelve o’clock. No taxes whatever. Firewood is procured from the pieces of wreck found on the shoals. One dollar per day is the charge for men who assist in cases of wreck. Strawberries, currant bushes, and apple trees should be taken there; also a plough, spades, and chest of carpenter tools. Pine tables the best. Mr. Blount is to write me word if the office can be given me in April next, from his seat in Washington, North Carolina.” (3)

History tells us Booth was not granted the position. His managers, not wanting to suffer the loss of revenue from their superstar client, managed to prevent his appointment. Thus Booth settled down for good in Maryland, where he raised his family. One can only image how different history might be if Junius had fulfilled his aspiration to be a Hatteras Lighthouse Keeper, and John Wilkes had been raised at the Cape.

1. The Elder and the Younger Booth, by Asia Frigga Clarke. Junius Brutus Booth pp. 63-64.
2. Wikipedia – Article on Junius Brutus Booth
3. The Elder and the Younger Booth, by Asia Frigga Clarke. Junius Brutus Booth pp. 63-64.