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Brief History of Ocracoke

Enroute to Roanoke Island, Sir Walter Raleigh's 1585 colony in their flagship, "Tiger" ran aground on a sand bar in Ocracoke Inlet and was forced to land on the island for repairs. The name Ocracoke is undoubtedly Indian in origin. It was shown on the earliest maps as "Woccocon". In 1715, the name had become Ococcock and soon after shown on maps as Ocracoke.

Established as a port in 1715, Ocracoke grew in importance until 1787, when 697 vessels reached North Carolina through Ocracoke Inlet. Ships had to be brought over the bar.
Around 1715 the Colonial Assembly set aside over 20 acres of land for the use of pilots. These pilots were greatly hampered in their work by pirates, who made peaceful commerce almost impossible along the North Carolina Coast.

The most notorious was a Captain Drummond, who used the name Edward Teach or Thatch, but those aware of his past knew him as the infamous pirate Blackbeard. He was a tall man with a bushy black beard that inspired his name. Blackbeard roamed from the Caribbean to the Virginia Capes robbing ships. In November 1718, Blackbeard was finally captured near Ocracoke by Lt. Robert Maynard of the British Navy. Commanding a sloop sent by the Governor of Virginia, he killed the pirate in a bloody duel and captured 15 crewmen. Blackbeard's death marked the end of large scale piracy on the Atlantic Coast.

Ocracoke was not recognized as a town until 1753, when 20 or 30 families lived there. It was a favorite place for sports fishermen and hunters who delighted in its isolation. During the revolution, the hazardous waters of the Outer Banks prevented British warships from guarding the inlets. Many supplies for Washington's army were shipped to Ocracoke for "lightening", or transfer to light craft which could ply the shallow waters of the sounds.

The first lighthouse was built in 1798 on Shell Castle rock, abreast of the inlet. It was destroyed by lightning in 1818. The present lighthouse, one of the oldest still in use on the Atlantic Coast, was built in 1823 by Noah Porter for $11,359.35. At seventy-five feet, it is the shortest lighthouse on the North Carolina coast and can only be seen for 14 miles.

During the Civil War, the fourth-order lens was destroyed but the new lens installed in 1864 remains working today. The Ocracoke Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse still in operation on the Eastern Coast of the United States. It has survived numerous storms over the years. While the lighthouse is not open for climbing, you can walk up along the fence, close to the light.

For many years wild ponies, numbering up to a thousand, roamed the Island. Their origin is unknown to us. Many legends exist about how the Banker Ponies came to Ocracoke Island. One story credits Spanish explorers De Soto or Cortez as having brought them as they searched for gold on their way to Mississippi and Mexico. Another story suggests that the ship "Black Squall" was carrying a circus troupe and animals when it went through the area during a storm. All circus workers and all but two horses survived. Historians say the most probable story is that the ponies arrived with Sir Walter Raleigh and were left on Roanoke Island at the time of the mysterious Lost Colony disappearance.

As the Outer Banks became more accessible, many ponies were sold. Cape Hatteras National Seashore was established in 1953 and only 12 ponies were in existence at that time. A pen for the ponies was established where they are now kept on a range about 7 miles north of the village.
In the center of the town of Ocracoke is a beautiful little harbor, originally called "Cockle Creek" known now as "Silver Lake". Many sandy lanes and streets remain throughout the village. The National Park Service has preserved over 5,000 acres on the Island, including 16 miles of beach, for the enjoyment of visitors.


Ocracoke Fun

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