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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.

Sir:-

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

Keeper.

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…

Sirs:-

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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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.

Sincerely,
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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From Hatteras to Ocracoke…

Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum ~ Ocracoke Island, NC

There is a connection between Islanders of Hatteras and Ocracoke. No, I don’t mean the ferry that carries tourist across the inlet by the masses. Course, I do love that ride in the Fall of the year…once things have slowed down and it seems that the “island time” clock has been reset to normal.

The connection I am speaking of is one of blood. One of generations of islanders, whose ancestors left Hatteras to go live on Ocracoke, or vise versa. It’s surnames like Oneal, Fulcher, and Burrus, that can be found in census and birth, marriage, and death certificates, that prove our people…our history…are one.

This past Thursday, two friends and I decided it was time to head to Ocracoke, mainly to enjoy the day and soak up some Ocracoke vibes. Course the day was hot and humid. It was August, after all. But we still enjoyed meeting up with friends, making new ones, and visiting historical sites, as I searched for hints of the ancestral past of those who left Hatteras, a long time ago.

Phillip Howard and Dawn Taylor

Our first stop was at the Village Craftsman, which is owned and operated by Phillip Howard. Phillip is also a published author and local historian who takes villagers and visitors alike, on walking tours of the island. Check out his store’s website and internet journal for more info…

http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/index.htm

While at the Village Craftsman, Amy, Lesley, and myself, spotted a cemetery across the sand road from the store. Course I couldn’t resist and headed straight for it.

Howard Cemetery

Now any of you that know me, know that the first question I usually ask even before we leave the house is, “Where are we going to eat ?” Due to a friend’s recommendation, we took our chances on eating at the Flying Melon. Loved it. Especially the roosters ;p

The Flying Melon

After a lunch of Creole Shrimp and grits, we headed on over to the Ocracoke Preservation Society’s Museum. Had the pleasure of meeting DeAnna Locke, who is the OPS Administrator. What a wonderful job they have done with preserving the David Williams House. In 1989, it became their home office after they moved it from just north of the Anchorage Inn, to it’s present location.

Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum

Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum

For information on the Ocracoke Preservation Society and visiting their Museum, please follow the link below.

http://www.ocracokepreservation.org/

In all, it was a wonderful day spent on the island. For anyone that happens upon our blog and would like to share their Hatteras/Ocracoke family info, please check our group’s Facebook page out, or email HIGPS at the following address:hatgensoc@yahoo.com

Hope you enjoyed the journey.

Dawn F. Taylor

 

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