Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Yankee Teacher

Margaret “Maggie” Newbold Thorpe, from Philadelphia, and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Pennock, came to Warrenton, Warren County, NC in 1869 to teach in the new public school for Negroes. They rented the Bragg house from a Negro couple, Albert and Anne Burgess. In her book, Sketches of Old Warrenton, North Carolina, Lizzie Wilson Montgomery described the teachers as “educated, well-dressed and modest women. … These teachers were Episcopalians, and attended Emmanuel Church … .”

In 1881, Miss Thorpe copied a number of her letters into a notebook, and it is from that notebook that the following is taken:

September, 1869

Late in the month I went back to my work in the South, this time in North Carolina and with Elizabeth Pennock. When we arrived at Warrenton we found the colored people anxious to enjoy the first free schools which the state for the first time grants them, … . We have passed an examination and have received certificates and nose pose as “Public School Teachers,” and are amongst the very first in the South. …

At the station we were surrounded by black pigs and colored women, the latter carrying little waiters, containing boiled eggs, sweet potatoes and sandwiches made out of members of the former’s family, also apples and grapes and the cars resounded with cries of “snacks missis? Snacks sir? S’mapples s’meggs” and when we saw a face more beaming and important that the others we knew the cry would be “possum, nice fat possum.” …

The house in which we are living is said to be the birthplace of the rebel General [Braxton] Bragg, in whose family it remained until a few years ago, when it was sold to Mr. Faulkner, … . At Mr. F.’s death his son came into possession, and he rents it to “uncle” Albert Burgess, who is now our landlord and our man of all work. His wife is our cook, and his daughter, second girl. We pay to them board and wages. It seems a funny arrangement—but is most satisfactory. It is a rambling big house; rooms dart out from unexpected corners, great old rooms with high ceilings and wide windows, opening nearly to the floor, and from their peculiar Southern construction offer every facility for the entrance of the wintry blasts. …

The condition of the colored people is far different from that of our poor faithful suffering Virginians. Our two hundred pupils are comfortably dressed, some of the families employ servants, have sewing machines and keep horses and carriages. …

Our school grows in size if not in grace. We teach in a room with a single aisle running from end to end, long benches go from the aisle to the wall and are so close together that the children have not room to walk on the floor between them when the seats are occupied; so when the children are called out for recitation they walk over each other, the walkers kicking and the sitters pinching, so that our school appears as if always having recess or as a visitor said, “The children seem to have a very enjoyable time!”

There is not much variety in our work. We teach from 9 to 4 o’clock then come home to dinner, read our mail, generally have some sick person to call upon, see the various callers, go into night school at a quarter before 7 o’clock, out between 9 and 10, take a cup of chocolate, read the daily paper (a week old), write letters, play with the cat and go to bed; the one who is ready first always takes the cat to sleep by her. This is the programme for five days in the week. On the sixth, (which is the Seventh) all the morning is spent in preparing the children for examination, then we iron our collars and cuffs which we both hate to do but it is the only way in which we can have them presentable, then sew or read or take a delightful horseback ride. On First Day we go to church, come home and study the lessons for Sunday School which commences about half past two o’clock and continues for two hours.

We hire our horses from a colored man who owns a small farm; he owns eight good horses and keeps a store; and since he became free had made enough money to live very comfortably, and is giving his children the chance to be well educated. …

We find our good old uncle Albert really a remarkable character. We constantly go to him for information on a variety of subjects, especially the history of this country. He is so correct in his replies that we have dubbed him our Encyclopedia; by his thrift and industry he has already accumulated considerable property … .

One day last week we took dinner at the house one of the leading colored men. The daughter is one of our scholars and has asked us many times if we would “honor” her father by coming to see his place, which is a small farm about a mile from here. John owns thirteen horses which he hires out; he has some “right nice” carriages and he sent a very comfortable one for us to ride out in. We found the farm all under careful care, and looked prosperous everywhere. We sat down for dinner at a small pretty table carefully set with nice glass and china, and … made a good meal off of an immense roast turkey, a whole boiled ham, chicken pie, pickles potatoes, bread custard, four kinds of pie, pound cake and apples. The cooking was fine!

On Friday we arose while it was yet night, ate our breakfast, put up lunch and by half past seven were off for the gold mines. … The mine is twenty two miles from here, the road — well there is a bottom to it, all but in one place over which we walked and the wagon slid. We found much at the mine that was interesting. …

February 1870

O a thousand thanks to you all, Anna, Edward, Charles, aunt Elizabeth, mother, father, all of you who have given such joy to uncle Albert’s noble old care-worn heart, how can I give you any idea of his pride and pleasure.

The clock was the first to come, and the whole family was in a state of the greatest excitement over it; they had never before owned one; then came the cane, which is beautiful, so appropriate in size and the engraving so handsomely done, and when I handed the money and said, “Mr. Nathaniel sends you with which to buy that cow you want so much,” the tears streamed down his dear old black face and he said, “Tell them oh, oh, Miss Maggie please tell them what’s in my heart.” And when I told him of the interest Charles has taken in the whole matter and he saw his own name on the cane and what a beautiful cane it is, he gave up trying to express his gratitude, he said he “hadn’t any words in his mouth, but his heart is full.” …

We are anything but model school teachers, and I often think of what Gen. Armstrong said that our scholars always “seemed to be enjoying themselves!” and today we both laughed out when our favorite scholar, George Brownlow, upon being “spelled down” by a boy much shorter than himself, stroked the cheek of the little fellow, then passed his hand over his head, and remarked in a stage-whisper, “No whiskers, but a finely developed head.” …

April 1870

On last Wednesday we went to a wedding in high colored life at the house where we dined during Christmas week. The bride and her six bridesmaids were dressed in white. After a fine supper at ten o’clock the dancing commenced, and it was such fun to sit and watch the doings of the young people … the musicians with banjos and violins played with all their might, … John had secured for us good horses and a comfortable carriage, and we did so enjoy our moonlight ride; it was such a rarity … .

January 1871

… You in warm Northern houses can form no conception of how we suffer here. One morning when dressing my hands became so numb, I was obliged to have assistance, by noon my fingers were covered with blisters, and my hands looked as if scalded, my feet are so frosted that the toes are turning black and bursting! The doctor says this will cure them. We have only open fires and water freezes anywhere in our living rooms. L. picked up a key lying on our mantel and it stuck to her fingers; our mustard, pickles and kerosene have frozen solid. We walk every day to keep our blood in circulation. When in the house we make as good a fire as is possible with green pine as fuel, draw our chairs close to the fender, spread newspapers over our laps to keep from scorching our clothes, draw woolen shawls over the back of our heads to keep the cold air of the room off our necks, talk and talk, eat Christmas candies and thoroughly enjoy our friends. Some nights we have not been able to sleep on account of the cold, and the cat is in great demand as a bedfellow. …

[Margaret Newbold Thorpe and Elizabeth Pennock remained at the school in Warrenton until the end of the school term in the spring, 1871.]

[Taken from “A ‘Yankee Teacher’ in North Carolina" edited by Richard L. Morton: The North Casrolina Historical Review, October 1953. This story was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society in the Spring 2005 issue.]

Sunday, February 13, 2011


By James Biddle Shepherd

Away down yonder on the Pasquotank,
Where the bull-frogs jump from bank to bank,
And the tide moves slow mid the cypress knees,
And the pools are dark 'neath the arching trees;
How well I remember when the frogs are jolly,
Their deep bass calls and thunderous volley,
When the water creeps cool 'neath the matted roots.
"Down under the roots, down under the roots,"
And the river moves quiet and happy and deep,
Moves "happy and deep, knee-deep, knee-deep."

Away down yonder on the Pasquotank,
Where the flags are thick and the mosses dank,
When lulls the roar of the bull-frog band
The small frogs pipe on every hand,
And a million shrill throats sing of herrings,
Of "herrings, herrings, herrings, herrings,"
And of bacon, "fry-bacon, fry-bacon, fry-bacon,"
Pray what can they know about herrings and bacon!
And yet as a child I learned for true,
That is what they sing the whole night through!

Ah, wild, plebeian, boisterous frogs,
Your piping all night in the reeking bogs
Was melody sweet to my infant ear;
For softer notes 'twas not tuned to hear,
Like Philomel's on his sprig of holly,
But the bold frogs songs that are hearty and jolly,
Where all join in with a right good will,
And the big frogs roar and the little frogs trill,
And make the night merry along the bank
Of the shimmering, gloomy, old Pasquotank.

Ye wee frog-folk of the Pasquotank,
May your race dwell long on its reedy bank,
May you chant always the same old notes,
In the same white vests and bright green coats,
May you always sing "fry-bacon, fry-bacon,"
The song of plenty, of herrings and bacon;
May the tide creep cool 'neath the matted roots,
"Down under the roots, down under the roots,"
And the stream move quiet and happy and deep,
Move "happy and deep, knee-deep, knee-deep."

The Author.—James Biddle Shepard was born on November 14, 1815, in New Bern, [Craven County,]N. C.  He was a son of William Biddle Shepard of that place, and wife, Mary Blount, of "Elmwood," Pasquotank County. He was educated at the University of North Carolina, and graduated with the first honors of his class in 1834. Later he studied law and was admitted to the bar. He was State Senator from Wake County in 1842, and a Representative in 1844.

At one time he was United States District Attorney for North Carolina, but was "too wealthy to undergo the drudgery of the bar." He was a Democrat in politics, and his party nominated him for Governor in 1846, but the Whig nominee, William A. Graham, defeated him in the election which followed.

Mr. Shepard married Frances Donnell, of New Bern, and left an only son, John Robert Donnell Shepard, who has resided in Paris, France, for some years past.

James B. Shepard died in Raleigh on the 17th of June, 1871, and is buried in the eastern end of the old City Cemetery, along with numerous members of his family, the remains of several of whom he had caused to be brought from the eastern part of the State, for re-interment at Raleigh, several months before his death.

[North Carolina Poems, edited by Eugene Clyde Brooks: 1912. This is a Google book.]

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Cure for Piles!





Specification forming part of Letters Patent No. 128,784, dated July 9, 1872.

Specification describing a new and useful Improvement in Pile Remedy, invented by LIZZIE E. BRADY, of Gatesville, in the county of Gates and State of North Carolina.

The object of this invention is to provid a remedy for that painful disease the “piles;” and it consists in a compound composed of the ingredients hereinafter named, combined in about the proportions specified, viz: To three-fourths of an ounce of pure water I add one-fourth of an ounce of tincture of opium and one-half ounce of select gum-arabic.

The mode of preparation is to mix the tincture of opium with the water; then dissolve the gum-arabic therein over a slow heat. When the gum-arabic is dissolved and the ingredients are thoroughly mixed together and cooled the composition is ready for use. The application is made directly to the affected part. A syringe may be used for internal piles.

I do not confine myself to the precise proportions named as they may be varied without departing from my invention.

Having thus described my invention, I claim as new and desire to secure by Letters Patent —

A pile remedy, consisting of the above named ingredients substantially as described.


M. L. Ewer,
J. E. Wood

[Taken from WOMEN INVENTORS INDEX - 1790-1895 found at ]

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Trip Home

Levi Pigott was born in Beaufort, Carteret County, N. C. on April 21, 1831. His father was a shipbuilder and a sailor.
Levi became a preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. He traveled from N.C. to Kentucky and Arkansas, back to North Carolina and to Virginia. The following story is taken from his book about his life and describes a journey from Arkansas to Beaufort, North Carolina about 1870:

"While in Arkansas, I learned of the critical illness of my mother in Beaufort, N. C., and I at once started for home. There were no public conveyances of any kind, and wagons and mules were scarce; but we obtained one to take our beds and baggage, and, there being no room for us to ride, we went in company with others who were carrying their cotton to market, to the town of Camden, Arkansas, twenty miles distant, from which town we were to take a steamer down the Onchita.

"On the road to Camden it began to rain. My son and I had to walk about ten miles over this road, which was undulating and of red clay, making it bad for pedestrians like us; and my wife had to ride lying flat on the top of a cotton bale, which was under cover, the old-time way of traveling, and it was an extremely rough ride.

"My son and I were soaking wet; but on reaching Camden we found a ''Jewel" —the presiding elder of the district, and a Jewel by both name and nature—who received us very cordially and entertained us all night right royally with brotherly love and affection.

"Well, we lodged with Brother Jewel that night, and next day took a steamer down the Onchita river; then into the Black river; then into the Bed river; next into the Mississippi; thence to New Orleans, a distance of eight hundred miles. It took us four days to make the trip, having to stop at many landings to take on cotton, until we had nine hundred bales.

"We arrived at New Orleans about daylight, and remained until five o'clock that evening. As we passed through the city on the train we saw many oranges growing in the yards. At the same time snow was falling fast in large flakes; and the snow falling and the oranges growing seemed to be a contradiction; but so it was.

"From New Orleans we went on to Mobile, Alabama, traveling over some long trestles — one was twenty-five or thirty miles, if I recollect rightly — across the bays that made in from the Gulf of Mexico.

"We arrived home safe and found my dear, precious mother in bed; but she was so overjoyed at seeing us that she got up and never was sick after that until her death sickness — about five vears afterwards."

[Taken from Scenes and incidents in the life of a home missionary by Levi Woodbury Pigott: 1901. The entire book can be found at]

Saturday, February 5, 2011


Young Airman From Langley Field
On Way To Wilson [in 1919]

A flying lieutenant from Langley Field, Va., whose name has not been learned, was forced to land in a corn field on the farm of Mr. W. B. Phillips, near Battleboro [Nash/Edgecombe Co., N. C.], Saturday afternoon, because of engine trouble. The airman and a fellow aviator in another plane were on their way from Langley Field to Wilson [Wilson Co., N. C.]. In making the landing the plane was slightly damaged, but the lieutenant escaped injury. The other airman proceeded to Wilson after ascertaining his comrade was not hurt, making the trip to the Wilson county capital safely.

Unknown airplane that crashed into a tree.

The two airmen followed the Norfolk division tracks from Langley Field to Rocky Mount. When they reached the city they took the wrong course, following the northbound tracks of the ACL [Atlantic Coast Line] instead of going south to Wilson. As the two flyers passed over the city headed north they created much excitement, large crowds watching them. When they had proceeded as far as Enfield [Halifax Co., N. C.] they realized they were going in the wrong direction and turned back. When they neared Battleboro engine trouble developed in one plant and the aviator was forced to make the landing. The other airman circled about until he got the signal that all was well, and then proceeded on to Wilson. He passed over the city late Saturday afternoon.

The damaged airplane was packed on a wagon this morning and taken to the station at Battleboro to be shipped to Norfolk and then to Langley Field. The aviator will probably accompany the plane back to the great U.S. army flying base.

Mule and wagon in downtown Battleboro. Date unknown.

Many people from the city went to Mr. Phillips' farm yesterday to see the plane, but because permission for trespassing was refused they were disappointed.

[Rocky Mount Evening Telegram, 7/14/1919. Published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society in the Fall 2006 issue.]

Friday, February 4, 2011

W. A. Parvin
A Steamship Captain

"We are informed that the Steamer Greenville, on her trip on the river, on Friday last, struck what seemed to be a log, but which afterwards proved to be a sturgeon, cutting him in two about three feet from the tail. Capt. [W. A.] Parvin, of the R. L. Myers, which went up behind the Greenville, discovered the fish floating head down and spouting blood from the stump of his tail. With the aid of cotton hooks …, the crew secured the prize and enjoyed fresh sturgeon the remainder of the trip."

The steamship R. L. Myers and her captain, W. A. Parvin, were frequently mentioned in the Eastern Reflector, a Greenville, Pitt Co., N. C. paper. Capt. Parvin sailed on several steamships. On 10/9/1889, the Reflector said: We were glad to shake hands with Capt. Bill Parvin the other day. It sounds like old times to hear the chime of his steamer, the Beaufort on the Tar [River] again. He is a clever captain." Later, on 11/27/1889: "Capt. W. A. Parvin of the Str. Beaufort sent us four cotton blossoms Monday. Very late for blooms, it strikes us, but there is no telling what our eastern section can bring forth."

On May 23, 1894, the following news: "The steamer Myers is on the ways at Washington [Beaufort Co., NC] undergoing her annual overhauling and repainting, and the steamer Greenville is making her trips. Capt. Bill Parvin, the veteran Master, is in charge with his fund of good humor and courteousness as exhaustless as ever."

R. L. Myers

The following story about Capt. Parvin appeared in the Reflector on 6/6/1894.

"Three Weigh 584

Capt. Bill Parvin, master of the steamer Myers, was whiling away some leisure time around the depot the other evening waiting for the train to come in. He had two of his little (?) boys along with him, and just for the fun of the thing, they tried the scales standing on the platform. The youngest, Dave, only reaches up in the neighborhood of 6 feet 2 and had just sufficiently recovered from a spell of sickness to return to work, but all the same he pushed the pointer down to 179 pounds. Young Bill is not so much for height, being hardly more than 5 feet 10, but when he stepped on the scales, the pointer wheeled around to 240 pounds and stayed there until he got off. The captain himself might not be called more than an average man in either height or weight, but he pulled down 165 pounds, which isn't any sorry summer figure. It's not an every day occurrence that you just happen to run up with three members of one family whose combined summer weight is 584 pounds. The Captain says some of the girls are almost as good at weighing as those boys."

Finally, 11/7/1889: "The Old Dominion S. S. Co. now requires all the officers in their passenger service to wear uniform. Capt. W. A. Parvin, the clever commander of the steamer Myers, was up town today for the first time in uniform, and his host of friends were greeting him with a regular Admiral's salute. The sleeves of the Captain's coat are ornamented with five gold stripes, each stripe indicating five years' service, showing that he has been in the continuous service of the Old Dominion Co. for a quarter of a century. Mr. Carty, engineer of the Myers also had five stripes on his sleeve, having been at his post twenty-five years."

[These Eastern Reflector articles were collected by Beverly Cole Parvin. The article was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society, in the Fall 2006 issue.The picture of the R.L. Myers was furnished to The Connector by Harry Moore.]

Tyrrell Man Faked Death

James Dillon, a well known citizen of Tyrrell County, North Carolina, insured his life in the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company for $3,000 some months ago, and then afterwards upset a boat a half mile from shore and pretended to be drowned. The company, however, suspected something wrong and refused payment. Suit was brought and shortly after a body was found near the place of the supposed drowning and identified by ten persons as that of Dillon. Subsequently, however, Dillon himself returned safe and sound. He said he swam ashore and hid in the great swamps month after month. Five months later he found a drowned man floating in the Alligator River. He removed the hair from the head so as to make it bald and also the whiskers, and taking his own hair and whiskers, put them in the decomposing flesh of the corpse. He then dressed it in the clothes he had worn the day of his disappearance.

[Taken from The Indicator. A National Journal of Insurance,  Volume IX. January, 1890 to December, 1890. This  is a Google book.]

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Currituck Joe

This description of Currituck Sound and the  story of Currituck Joe was written by Thomas S. Collier and published in 1886 in the Overland Monthly, a magazine "devoted to the development of the country." Collier met Currituck Joe at the market in Norfolk, VA where Joe was selling ducks from the Currituck Sound in North Carolina. Collier was invited to visit Currituck and shoot his own ducks with Joe as his guide. A couple of years later, Collier visited Currituck on business and stayed a week to hunt with Joe. He arranged to return the next December. The following is the story of Collier's second visit to Currituck.

The coast of North Carolina is not an inviting one. From their earliest acquaintance with it, sailors have shunned Cape Hatteras, and many a foreboding shake of the head accompanies the words with which they speak of that stormy point. The loom of its sinister clouds is the signal to put close reefs in the topsails, and the skipper whose vessel has drifted too near its desolate shore paces his deck, with keen eyes scanning the western horizon, all through the long and storm-filled hours of the night.
The winds have a different tone when they surge along the waves that roll foam-crowned and furious against its shifting sand dunes. There is an exaltation, a victorious shouting, in their rush, that seems to tell of a supreme sovereignty.

North of Hatteras, and running southward from the border of Virginia, is Currituck Sound, a respectable sheet of water, separated from the ocean by a narrow belt of sand, such as defends the entire seaboard of North Carolina. This immense sea bar —for it can be called nothing else—is not an inviting place of residence, and when the heavy northeast gales come roaring down the coast, there is a wildness and gloom pervading it that is anything but cheerful. Wrecks are frequent during the winter and early spring, when the great gales are most prevalent, and then the men at the government life-saving stations have wet and stormy work to do. The sullen boom of a gun will bring them forth to meet the rush and sting of chilling sleet, when night's darkness lies so heavy on the earth that sight is impossible.

Then suddenly there will shine out the ghastly glow of a signal light — its red glare showing some fated vessel, washed by the incoming rollers, each of which drives her farther up among the breakers that beat her with such fierce persistence. The treacherous sands part from before her, but close across the way she has come, in a heavy and impassable mass. Then spars give way, and plank after plank is riven from the hull, and long before the gray light of morning dawns, the vessel and her crew have passed away from the busy struggle filling the world.

How slowly the light comes on such mornings, when straining eyes and eager hands are waiting to help those so near by and yet so far away from help! And if the time drags wearily with men who stand ready to succor, how much more slowly must it pass for those who watch, while the night about is full of the triumph songs of wreck and death. The life-saving stations have taken some of the terror from the storm-beaten coast, but this service is a thing of late years. There was a time when it was unknown, and then the vessel that came driving in on the sands, often was broken up before a knowledge of her peril reached friendly souls and hands.

The first day of the next December found me in Norfolk, on my way to Currituck, and I reached Joe's hut one evening, just as the sun sunk in a glory of amber and pink that made the Sound look like a vast sheet of dormant flame. Joe was away, but the door was open, and having stowed my traps, and some boxes I had brought for him, I threw a lot of driftwood on the smoldering embers, and soon had a glowing fire lighting the rudely furnished room, in whose corners the gathering twilight had made deep shadows.

Joe came in shortly after the fire had got well underway, and gave me a cordial greeting and a very favorable report as to the prospects for a good two weeks' sport. We were out early the next morning, and for five days had excellent weather and fine shooting; but the morning of the sixth day brought a change. The sky was covered with a thin gray vapor, and the sun shone in this like a great red ball. Gradually the grayness grew deeper, and the vapor thickened to vast masses of cloud. Then the sun changed its hue to a dull yellow, and slowly faded out from sight, and as it disappeared, the low moaning in the air grew wonderfully intense.

"Ther'll be a hard blow," Joe had said in the early morning; and after eating our breakfast, we strolled over toward the seaward beach.

Joe's hut was sheltered by a collection of sand dunes, among which its low roof rose like a sharper point. It stood midway between the ocean and the Sound, and a short walk was all that was needed to reach either. When we came to the beach, the waves were rolling up its changing sands, with a regular monotony that seemed utterly devoid of fierceness; but soon a wild, sobbing murmur sounded across the wide eastern expanse, and they grew more restless, and began to toss little foam-crowned crests against each other. The day during its first part was a changing dreariness. The somber hue of the sky, and the storm-sounds in the air, deepened, and the great waves darkened, as the gloom above them assumed a density that soon was sadly oppressive. Occasional puffs ruffled the waters, and these quickly grew heavier and more frequent.

Then Joe, who had clambered to the top of a sand dune, cried, "There she comes," and hastening to his side, I saw what seemed a huge wall of white foam rushing shoreward.

Then some sharply driven rain-drops struck hard on our faces, and with a roar, the first great gust of the gale surged past us, and the loam-crowned waves rolled thundering up the beach.

We found shelter in a low shed made of wreck drift, and there watched the sea. It was a grand and a wild sight, that tumult of water with the wind surging over it, and there was a fascination in it that must be felt to be known. As we stood watching this tempest-painted picture, a man came swiftly down the beach, the wind driving him before it. He made for our shelter, and as soon as he could regain the speech that the gale had deprived him of, said:

"There's a schooner trying to draw off shore above us, but I don't think she can weather the point yonder."

Joe sprang toward the beach.

"We must have the boat ready," he said.

There were several men in the shed, and one asked: "Do you know the vessel?"

"Yes, it is Mark Ward's schooner. I know her by the yellow square on her quarter."

I noticed that the men turned their glances toward Joe, and that his face grew peculiarly hard and white; but it was only for a moment, and then it assumed the old look, only a strength and firmness came to the eyes that made them burn with a strange brilliancy. He seemed more erect, too, as he grasped a line that hung against the wall of the shed, and there was a tone of command in his voice, as he said: "Come boys, we have no time to lose," and went out, and down the beach, battling with the wind that almost took him off his feet.

We followed, and soon reached a low building, in which the men who were Joe's companions, and he, kept a small but serviceable life-boat. It was where a short point jutted out just inside of a larger headland, and formed a shallow, partially protected bay. The wind was from the northeast, and as this point reached out toward the southward, it had a narrow belt of comparatively smooth water bordering its leeward face. The boat was run close to this, and the men, lying down under the lee of the sand dunes, watched the vessel to the northward, as she made desperate fight for an offing.

"She can't reach out beyond the point," said one, "for she can't carry sail enough."

The schooner was under short canvas, having close reefs in all her sails; and still the wind seemed to bury her in spray, as it drove her down toward the sand. To spread more sail was impossible, as that already set was strained to its utmost capacity, and a larger surface would bring upon it more power than it could bear.

"No, sir, she can't reach out beyond the point," said the eldest man of the group, "and it shoals fearfully there. I don't think there is much chance for either vessel or crew."

Again the men turned toward Joe, with the strange look I had before noticed, but he made no sign.

All this time the schooner had been drawing nearer, driven on by the cruel gale, and signals for help were now flung out, showing that her crew had given up all hope of reaching the open water beyond the point.

Joe, seeing this, removed his waterproof suit, and stepped into the boat. A coil of small line lay in the stern, its end run through a fair-leader. This end he passed to the men on shore, and then sat down and grasped an oar. As he did so, his companions seized the boat, and gave her a shove clear into the water, three of them springing in with Joe. Then, with strong, steady strokes, they bent to their work, and the boat shot forward, just as a loud, despairing hail came sounding in on the wind.

We looked seaward, and saw that the schooner had grounded, and was lying broadside to the waves, which were rolling on board of her in huge masses. Their force was terrific, and they soon drove her stern around, each blow making her masts tremble like reeds. This new position was an easier one for the vessel, but the men said that she would not last long, as the seas were growing, and the wind still kept rising. We saw her men clinging to the rigging, but our main interest was centered in the boat, which was making slow progress out toward her. It was a hard battle, and a desperate one, for the waves came rolling in, heavy and foam-crowned, and the wind roared along, tossing their curling crests far up the sand.

But Joe and his companions were stout and fearless, and had often been in similar positions, and slowly they neared the grounded craft. Often, however, it looked as though they would be flung back, and at other times we lost sight of the boat, and thought her swamped. Then she would appear once more, and keep on toward her goal. The schooner made a lee of smooth water, and after a half hour of work that seemed more than human, the boat ran into this, and we sent her a cheer of hope; but it was too soon, for the next instant a huge wave swept around the vessel's bow, and coming over her side, caught the life-boat and flung it in on the deck.

We saw some struggling forms, but could distinguish nothing, for the sprays were driving between the masts, enveloping the men as in a mist; we also saw that they were getting the small line clear, and soon a signal told us to haul it ashore. We did so, bringing a stout tow-line, which we could see the men make fast to the schooner's mainmast as soon as we had the end secured to a heavy spike sunk in the sand. Then we saw them working at the life-boat, and in a little time she was launched, and a limp form passed carefully into her.

The men then pulled slowly toward the shore by the line, a dangerous undertaking, as the wind made the now heavily loaded boat surge fearfully, and the waves bore down on her as though they would sweep her from sight. But she battled on, and in a short time, though it seemed ages to us, reached the smoother water under the lee of the smaller point, and was soon drawn well up on the beach.

We gathered round the boat, and I was shocked to see, lying in the stern sheets, the pale, still face of Currituck Joe. A ghastly cut on his head was oozing blood, and there was the unmistakable sign of death's nearness about him, which sent a chill to my heart. The presence of life even now was only discernible by a slight twitching of the lips, the evidence, as I knew, of intense suffering.

"Flung against her mast," said one of the boat's crew, in answer to an inquiry. "I knew he would give his life away for some one, but didn't think it would be for Mark Ward."

A stout man was standing near by, looking at Joe's white face with tear-wet eyes. His breast was heaving, showing that his heart was throbbing fiercely, and when he heard the words, he said, "I'm sorry, boys; I wish it was me lying there, instead of Joe."

Though curious to know the meaning of these, to me, strange words, I felt that Joe should be attended to, and had him carried to his home.

"Can you get a doctor?" I questioned.

"There's none on the Bar, and no one on the mainland would cross the Sound today," was the answer.

But Joe was already passing beyond the need of any man's care. As I bent over him, where he lay in his rude bunk, his eyes unclosed, and a look of intelligence came into them.

"Is he safe?" he whispered.

"Yes," I answered.

"Then it's all right. Tell him I say it's all right."

His hand tightened its clasp on mine, as I said I would attend to his wish. Then a bright smile lit up the brown face, and gleamed in the eyes, driving from them the sorrow I had seen there, and the next moment this sorrow had faded in the glory of a grander life.

The storm was raging fearfully, the wind shaking the rude hut with a force that seemed equal to its destruction; but it stood firm, and I watched by the dead, sorrowing for the loss of a true friend.

The men had returned to the beach, to gather the wreckage that might drift ashore, and it was late when the man who seemed to take the lead, now that Joe was gone, looked in.

I told him that his comrade was at rest, and asked him to send for a coffin.

"That can't be done till the morning," he said, "and I might as well help you watch. I'll tell the boys, for they're mighty anxious. It's a sad day for us, sir, for Joe was the best man on the beach. I'll be back soon," and he went away.

He returned in a short time, and after getting the fire in order, he prepared some supper, of which we partook, and then sat down by the glowing blaze, for the wind was raw and chill, and sent its currents through every crack and crevice.

"What is it that links Joe's past to the life of the schooner's skipper?" I asked.

"They were neighbors and schoolmates over beyond the Sound," answered the man, "and both likely young fellows when the war came. Joe had begun studying law, and Ward went to sea with his father, the captain of a coaster. Well, they both enlisted, and Joe was taken prisoner. Ward knew of this, and came home wounded. It is said that Joe and he were both after the same girl, but the story is that she favored Joe. Well, when Ward reached home, he gave out that Joe was dead, and then made up to the girl. She mourned for Joe six months or more, but you know a young nature will throw off grief, and Ward was very attentive, and sympathetic, and consoling, and the result was that she promised to have him.

"He hurried up the wedding, saying that he wanted to get back to his regiment, for his wound was about well, and so they were married. The next week Joe got back, having been exchanged; and when he found that he had lost the girl, he give right up, and come over here, and he has lived on the Bar ever since.

"Ward said that he truly thought Joe was dead, but the folks all think that he trumped up the yarn just to get the girl; in fact, they know it, but they keep still for the woman's sake, as she is nice and a good neighbor.

"As for Joe, he had set his heart on her so that the loss just broke him all up, and he never went back to his old home again. He has lived on the Bar ever since, carrying his fish and game across to a landin' to sell, and now and then running up to Norfolk. He never met Ward, who went coasting again as soon as the war was over, until he saw him today.

"We didn't think he would go off to help, but Joe was true grit. He has saved lots of people, and it does seem too bad that he should meet his death while rescuing the man who blasted his life."

But so it was; and two days after that we buried him in a grave made among the sand dunes, in whose company he had passed so many lonely years. It was his wish that no stone nor sign should mark the place, and we held his wish sacred.

"Let the winds sing free above me, and the sun shine across the place," he had said, when talking of this time, in the days when we had thought it a long way off; and there, with the surf-roar sounding over his unmarked grave, Currituck Joe sleeps in peace; the sorrow that wrecked his life and love forgotten.

[Taken from The Overland Monthly. Devoted To The Development Of The Country. July 1886.This publication can be gound in Google Books.]

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Rocking Chair for Sarah

Elbert Alfred Moye, 5th child of Alfred and Orpah Tyson Moye, was born in 1844. He farmed in Pitt Co., NC until he joined the Confederate forces at the age of 17. On Sept. 3, 1861, he enlisted as a private in Company G, Gen. Bragg's Guards, 8th Reg. of the NC Infantry. … On an oath of allegiance he was described as being 6 feet with a ruddy complexion, light hair and grey eyes.

Elbert was promoted to corporal in 1862, and on Jan. 3, 1863, he was promoted to 1st sergeant, Clerk to General Court Martial at Wilmington, NC. He was promoted to 2nd Lt. on Nov. 23, 1863.

On May 31, 1864, at the Battle of Cold Harbor, Elbert Moye was taken prisoner by the Union forces. He was taken to Ft. Delaware, Del. on June 25, 1864, and remained there until June 16, 1864, when all prisoners were released.

While a POW, Elbert made a rocking chair. He carried it the long distance home and gave it to his niece, Sarah Elizabeth Lang, daughter of Ann Priscilla Moye Lang. Lizzie Lang treasured the chair, and after many years gave it to her eldest daughter, Annie Elberta Joyner, namesake of Elbert Moye. Elberta Joyner Foster, her only daughter died and Elberta Foster gave the chair to her eldest granddaughter, Laura Foster Renard.

After the war, Elbert returned home to NC and farming. He was a member of the State House of Representatives in 1877 and in the Senate in 1879. From 1885 to 1898, he was a Clerk of Superior Court.

Elbert Moye married Mary Edwards, daughter of Newit Edwards, farmer, of Green Co., NC. They had 3 children: Elbert Alfred Moye, Jr. who married Hortense Forbes; Robert M. K. Moye, who married Lillian Barnhill; and Mary A. Moye, who married John L. Carper.

Elbert Moye married 2nd, Delphia King and they had no children. He married 3rd Lucy Johnston and they had a son, Robert Sweeney Moye.

[Taken from The May, Lang, Joyner, Williams Families of N. C. (Pitt Co. Area), by Laura Foster Renard, 1974. The book is available at ECU library. The story was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society, in the Fall 2007 issue.]