Female Lighthouse Keeper

February 11, 2016 § Leave a comment


Charlotte Ann Mason in 1815, from the National Park Service

Wishing my sisters and I had known about Charlotte Ann Mason when we used to visit Cape Lookout lighthouse as girls.  This article at Coastal Review Online tells a little about her.

Mason was just 18 years old when she was made second assistant keeper of the lighthouse. She did the job from 1872 to 1875.  And if I’m reading this correctly, it may be a rare time when a woman was paid as well as (or even better than) her male counterpart.

From the Coastal Review story:

Male or female, uniform or no, a lighthouse keeper’s job was physically demanding. Duggan said Charlotte and the other keepers were expected to stand one watch in three. While on watch, Charlotte devoted her full attention to the light. She was also expected to keep the daily logbook; haul oil up 216 steps, sometimes more than once; clean the lens and other equipment; trim wicks and polish brass; and keep the tower, grounds and support buildings clean and “in shape.”

As compensation for her work, Charlotte received an annual salary of $425. In comparison, her father was paid $700 as head lighthouse keeper. Benjamin P. Davis, first assistant lighthouse keeper, earned $400 annually.

Book worth seeking out: Women Who Kept the Lights: An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers.


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.”

More on WWII and the Outer Banks

November 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

This photo accompanies the article in Our State magazine

“It started on January 18, 1942, when German U-boats torpedoed the Allan Jackson due east of Oregon Inlet. The sky flashed red. The next day, the same scene, just seven miles from the coast, as the City of Atlanta went down.

War was here. Just more than a month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. And every night, looking across that barren landscape and into the water where the ghosts lurked, the people wondered: Are we next?”

From an article, “War in the Water,” in Our State magazine.

WWII and Core Banks

July 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’ve not given much thought to World War II and the proximity of German U-boats to Core Banks, until now.  As it turns out, I’ve been writing about World War II heroes for the last year, part of a series for South Carolina ETV.  Now, here’s this WWII story that played out just miles from where I used to play on the beach.

A couple of links to get the research started.

First an interesting article, apparently submitted by a Tarheel Junior Historian. (I used to be one of those!)

Then, some information on a book about the topic: War Zone: World War II Off the North Carolina Coast by Kevin Duffus

ImageFrom a blurb about the book: “Learn about the intrepid men and women who defended America in little boats and in small planes; the truth behind the famous phrase “Sighted sub, sank same;” and the children who spied on German spies. Discover the real story behind the legends of secret agents, midget-submarine landings, a busload of naked Nazi U-boat POWs at New Bern, and the shelling of a chemical plant on Kure Beach.”

Core Banks Named for Coree?

July 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

Saw this text and photo today on the Cape Lookout National Seashore Facebook page:

Did You Know? Core Banks was named for the Coree (core-ee), a Native American tribe which likely used the islands as seasonal fishing grounds.

Photo of John White’s watercolor “Indians Fishing”

Very little is known of this tribe. This may be due in part to the fact that their numbers were significantly reduced before European contact as a result of war with another tribe. Between the villages Coranine and Raruta (located in coastal Carteret County), John Lawson’s records show that the tribe had 25 fighting men.

It is unclear if the Coree belonged to the Algonquian or Iroquoian language family. The tribe fought alongside the Iroquoian Tuscarora during the Tuscarora War. However, they were assigned to a refuge on Lake Mattamuskeet with other Algonquian tribes.

Although the Coree are extinct as a tribe, they may have descendants among the Tuscarora, Lumbee, and white and black communities near their reservation or native lands.

So this makes me curious about a number of things…including who is John Lawson?  And where are Coranine and Raruta?

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.

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