The Clam King: Elmer Willis

April 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

Elmer Willis. Photo: Nancy Lewis Collection, Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center

Elmer Willis. Photo: Nancy Lewis Collection, Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center

Here’s a story about the clam king, and the effort to preserve Willis’s clam house and the surrounding marsh:

In the end, it will likely take the Marines and a bunch of ding-batters – local parlance for people who ain’t from around here – to make it happen, but so be it.”


Surf Fishing

November 26, 2013 § Leave a comment


Dick Jones, writer and surf fishing enthusiast. This is the photo he ran with an article on surf fishing at Core Banks.

Fishing is the reason my father started going to Core Banks, so that also means it’s the reason we were squatters.  I remember quite a few days spent digging a hole to China with my sisters while my dad fished from the beach.

Here’s an article from the High Point, N.C., newspaper by a man who’s done some surf fishing at Core Banks. Lots of details about the what/when/where.  Also, he happens to look like (and apparently also identify with) Santa–so that’s a bit of extra fun.

Core Banks Club?

July 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

Googling around today, I’ve found a couple of references to the Core Banks Club and a man named John Hagan.

On the Virginia Episcopal School website, an update called “Core Banks Alumni Retreat” from Ron Hood:

This private club, with origins dating to 1902, has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts under the watchful guidance of the “Mayor of Davis,” John Hagan. The Hagan family, along with a small cadre of members, have a wonderful “operation” there, fully equipped to accommodate all manner of hunting and fishing activities.

A man named Henry Hagan writes an entry on his website, dated 7/10:

Beautiful warm sunny skies offset a howling wind at Cape Lookout during our Core Banks Club family vacation week!  All four of our children were with us, along with Brother John and our three labs!  Nancy and Graybo Murray, and Lind and Swanson Graves from Washingon NC joined in the fun. Blair had friends from Baltimore.  Sarah Sims and Dan Thornton had friends from their Elon days. Friends of friends even appeared!

Mr. Hagan includes some nice snapshots from the trip.

Putting this here in the hopes that it will lead me to find out more…..

Core Sound Heritage Center

March 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

Just found this site today, with lots of photos and tidbits.  Would like to visit the museum–Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center.


Here’s an old photo from their site called “Sea Level Oyster Factory”

Here’s a little on the history of Davis, with mention of Alger Willis fishing camps.

Another article, by David Cecelski, references World War II and Cape Lookout. It might help me think about the gun emplacements, which we used to climb around whenever we visited the lighthouse. These are excerpts from the article, “The Lighthouse’s Last Keeper”:

I was especially excited to meet Bonnie Royer and her first cousin, Steve Kenyon. I found them standing next to a collection of old photographs of Cape Lookout that they had brought with them from their homes in New Mexico and Missouri. Their mothers—a pair of sisters from Buzzards Bay, Wisconsin—both lived at Cape Lookout during the Second World War, when German submarines preyed so voraciously on Allied shipping just off our shores. Their fathers had been stationed at the Cape and Bonnie Royer was born there in 1942. She was the last child to have been born on Core Banks.

The stories that Bonnie and Steve told me were not about hurricanes or shipwrecks, but war. Their mothers told them many times how fearful they were on those nights at Cape Lookout. With Allied freighters burning offshore—the victims of German submarines—and rumors of German spies and invaders in the air, they got spooked by the littlest things.

The whole island was scary on those nights, Norma Kenyon always told her children. For one thing, Allied freighters snuck into the Bight after dark like ghost ships, their lights off, not a voice or a radio to be heard on their decks. Norma and her sister Peggy never forgot how eerie it was to see their dark, silent shadows looming just offshore. The freighters anchored there all night, then disappeared before dawn, when naval escorts guided them back through the inlet and out to sea.

By the summer of 1942, Bonnie’s mother always said, the island servicemen and their families already knew where to expect the bodies to wash ashore. As soon as they heard an explosion offshore, military officials restricted access to a long section of the island’s ocean beach. Army patrols found the bodies on the beach alongside driftwood and seaweed. A Coast Guardsman named Odell Guthrie—“a real sweet man, and a real character,” Mrs. Wanda Willis, his niece, told me—had the job of collecting the corpses. He was from an old line of Core Banks fishermen, whalers, and boat builders and knew those shores well.

Merroir? Wonder what Alger Willis would say to that!

March 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

Here’s a longish piece about Core Sound Seafood, its founders, and how it works, from the blog Southern Terroir:

Southern Terroir writes about Core Sound Seafood, local accents, and a younger generation of the Willis family. Are these Willises related to Alger Willis?
Or perhaps I should say how are they related to Alger Willis?

One thing interesting to me–the author talks about the area accent, describing it as “an almost Australian sounding brogue.”  I always associated that accent with the Cornwall region of England, but to be fair, my only knowledge of Cornwall accents comes from the old PBS/Masterpiece Theatre miniseries Poldark.  I should look it up, but makes sense that there might be  a Cornwall-Australia-Core Banks connection.

Core Sound Seafood

December 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

Core Sound Seafood logoExcited to find this blog post about Core Sound Seafood, a sustainable seafood operation that brings together Core Sound area people with chefs and others from the Triangle.  Scroll past the business about “merroir” and you’ll find the article mentions members of the Willis family.  Not sure if it’s the immediate family of Alger Willis.  Will have to do more reading to find out.

Here’s a link to the Core Sound Seafood blog, with some good information about them and the local area.

Houses Around the Lighthouse

June 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

I came across this article about the historic village near the lighthouse. I’ve been to the lighthouse many times but never the village. The article, written almost 10 years ago, recommends taking the Alger Willis ferry from Davis.


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