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.
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.”