Page 1


The Mailboat

age 2

&dr/ there is anv one issue that separates a native coastal resident from a newoomer it is a hurricane. Before 1989's devastati"*on the new generation of coastal visitors and- Ln or?o"rw Uuv"t. uua failed to ippreciate maybe even ignored Ithe meirories of those folk who had lived througb th-â‚Ź-reahty . to have been well-lounded of -r"i "Iluso proved memories -- a "storm. of South Carolina's coastliae 1989 will be tl" "&oie tn" ve-iultii at',"u[ for generations. The destruction and sufferiig that resulted from Hugo's fury was on t-el+i-on:' nagazines and newspapers. We all sorrowed lor Lhelr losses, thi"ir pain and co"fuiion; their helplessness against a force so mudgreater than tley could have imagined. We all reached I-[




"Data onHurricanes for Sea Level, Carteret CountY" by Harrell C. TaYlor Sr. Sea trve! with a PoPulation of about 450, is situated in eastern Carteret Coutrty. Sea lrvel is where elevation begins and therefore is about the lowest comnunity h North Carolina. Frorn the standPoint of water damaqe caued by hurricanes it is estirnated-that on an ivetage 75Vo of the cornmunity is covered bY sea water, including sea water in homes. During one of Ge earliest hurricanes. nro6ablv in the 1870's, Sea Level was compietely covered by sea water. This story was handed down bY the old folk. They also told the story 1fi11 s1 the highs5l point in Sea Level cattle were drowned while watermelons and other citrus fruit drifted by second story windows. In th;s great

hurrica-ne, 1007o of Sea l-evel was covered bv sea water. A geat storm came out of the southeaJt in t879, known as the 'Hur-

ricane of 1879." Considerable damage was done to all the coastal are4 includins Sea Level. A hotel was washed aiay at Beaufort with the loss of two lives.

The huricane of August 1899 was certainlv one of the most destruc-

tive in nrooertv and lives lost. ln this lreat h'urricana, Sea Level lost ten of Ihe best commercial hshermen; eight of them being men with farnilies. The hudcane of 1913 was equally a storm of erra high tides and destruction of property, especially fishins crafts. Boats were carried ashore, wf, e many were driven high uPon the land. lt took many weeks to re-float C-ontinued on Page 4


-There but for out to help, especially those of us- along the coast' the gacc of God are we .'." was lhe conmon Dono' -5outl C-oti"a has not been tle only area to "knou/ a hur' ricane. Our shores have had their sbare' As loog as pâ‚Źople can remember there have begn storms. The following are accounts of hurricanes as they have-affectedeastern Carieret ald Hyde Counties' They ar-e eyewit- most ot ness descriptions by people wbo had lived, tbrough.all or tDe deta that the events they report. These are personal stones I his of half first in tlhe hruricares by rfr"ti;u caused u"r-" t"tJvision and weather stations muld give fair warnins. Their memories are still very real'


dr;;;d-t iiGr:

"The Stormof 1899" from Ocmcol<en


"The Stonnof 1933" by Dollie CarrawaY

Alton Ballaqce

According to rePors from the ob' server at tle Hatteras Weather Bureau'

the 1899 storm was one of the worst in the memory of anyone living at Hatteras at thal dm;. The observer, S. L. Doshoz, also wrote tbat Ocracoke was hit as badly

Hatteras. Effects of the hurricane began on Ausust 16 with easterly gale force winds, whiih eventuallv reached hurricane shensth dudtrg-fte early morning hours of arisust l?. Bv one o'clock that afternoou-the windi had gradually changed to the northeast and reached 93 miles per hour, with occasional gusts up to 1Z) to 1rl0 miles per hour. After a brief lull in the huricane that night, the wind shifted as

to the east-southeast and increased once asfi to 60 and 70 miles Per hour. Gale I6rce winds from the south and eventuallv the southwest blew througbout the day on August 18, and squally weather condnued even on the following daY. The observer also included in his report that tle tide had reached one to four feet in most houses (over land the tide was suoposed to have been from three to tei ieet), and that not oolY homes but also boats alld fishing equipment suffered edensive damage. Though no lives were lost at Hatteras, the obsewer wrote that a Pleasure boat at Ocracoke was destroyed and several people from the boat,who were from Waihineton, North Carolin4 were drowned. Countless chickens, hogs, were also list. sheep, - ald catde Before their deaths, I talked with "Miss" Sara Ellen Geskill, then about 100 vears . and Miss Ijllian Jackson, almost fo years ol4 about the 189 hurricale. To them the "old August storm" was otre Crntinued otr Page 4

Whenever September rolls around. people in South River ... begin talkins a'bout storms. And the one that alwadeets itrto the conversation is the storm o,-f SeDtember 15, 1 933. The storm hit the area before names were given to hurricanes, so it became the 33 stonn. The oooulation of SouO River was small in thl li960's. There were 19 houses from the Big Creek area to Garbacon Creek in Neuse River. There was a church and a school building' There were 1? families, totaling about 95

- Early on the morning of FridaY' 'DeoDle.

Septembei 15, 1933, rain was falling. As the dav wore on" the skies became an smino,ns g?y. There was no otler warnins that this was anything more than a

no-r'easter enpected rhis time o[ year. No one knew how bad it would get. Althoueh there always had been fall stonis. this one wbuld be the worst in the memories of tho folks of South River. I was almost 6 Years old' and t remember we children measured to see how fast the tide was rising by pokhg sticks in the ground as the water rose up the hill on thl road near our housc, which stood on one 6f tfie highsst spsts

in the comnunity. There was little prepalation ... because no one realized what was about to haooen. But at both ends of the com' mriiity, the tide had begun to flood into oeoole's vard. But again, this was not uniouit Uecause tle tand was low and Ge northeast winds pushed water inland many times covering low spots in the

road. This time, the huricane was bringing water from the Atlantic Ocean and Cotrtinued od Page 6

The Mailboat P

age 4


Carol Edna and Hazel (Hazel washed out the North


them. Many hones, stores, sawmills and fish houses were damaged. seatlv --*in" " of September 1933 is one that will long- be ml" was one of the worst known to our people' *as câ&#x201A;Źrtainly the greatest ever recorded' ""foatv covered at least 957o of Sea I-evel' Homes were The sea water hJ u*uy fto- their foundations and stores, also were -hure r"ther and his three sons were lost in this ii"'tutl"t's name was Jim-my Hamilron and for that .i"""". f """i'. by reason the storm is called the 'Timmy Hamilto-n Storm homes Many County') Carteret eastern most residents of resistered a depth of several feet of sea water' Property 4-fiuss was +';il' as storm winds blew and lslling waves swept ocro#m" --ho"ity to meet the incoming lurge of the , ocean waves after the Ouler Balks or beacb became DroKen

UffiLe ."-"-t"."4 ffi-"i"J * ri*liJ

inlets. into several --- - fhe hurricane of


-i"i"A -*i

19'14 was almost as destructive as sea, of the Sea Level comrnunity' Houses and

piu"rilJiJGit"a o* *u.i ."*it-A'"ff"i" i"tni





tt" fal of 1954 d,oirg consid-

aad [66rling Sea Level


danase was-done ts luildings and boats. o"ut Suaigaris v''as ""ed lone (Septemter otier bad 20). This stonni-was equally as destructive as the


away' #".. nirl uo*"., itoies, aod warehouses were washed nets were and Boats community' ofthe i.ost tia" d"" """i*a No loss of life was reported' Kepamg anq qeatlv damaged.

res:ulted in a great loss of time' ieUuil'aine - -noku c"u^ Taylor, Sr' was bom at Sea Level in Catteret County in 1895. He becane a successful businessman as a memand. semed as irustee for a local bank and two terms He commissionm' oI BoNd aunty C"a"ra ii, rni and pateit for an "6vster tuedge" Y^ !'llory "ii"ta histotian for the communiv unfrl hts aean 'n and unoffrcial 19lf,. 'iiata on Hunicanes for Sea Level' Catteret counly- was iaite svaitubte a Mailboai by his dcughter, Lens Tsylor Respess, of Sea Level N' C.




boats were danaged.

of the worst to hit Ocracoke. "It seemed like to me." recalled Miss Sara Ellen, "that the ole Auqlrst storm was the worst one we ever hid, The day before it hit that nieht was a pretty time. The sky was clear

th" .uo o,a. out pretty. We didn't have too much of a;aY to be informed that a storm was about to hit in those ao-d

davs, There was a Coast Guard Station

doivn toward Hatteras Inlet. This was before thev built the one here in the villase. and sometimes some o[ tle men frSm that station would keep us informed' "When it hit that night, we had to leave home because the tide started to

come in our house. I lived with my mother and father at the time in a house not far

from the water tower. Anyway when it hit. we left and went over to this old woman's house called Miss Arcade. Her house set on higb ground and I reckon a lot of DeoDle knew this because the house was pickdd. I believe Lillian was theri."oh ves, " said Miss Lilliaq "I was there. l'll never forget it. That's where we

Momnie' Pbppie a-ndbuddy were below fshing at rhe Eshine camps when it hit, aad we were here bv o-urselvls. About the tine the tide sbrted to come in our house, Uncle Howard. Sara Ellen's daddY, cane and qot us and took us over there with him -and Runt t ot. I believe Sara Ellen was

sDent the niqht, too, me and

there with 'em too.

long 'fore the tide house too, and we in their to come stattâ&#x201A;Źd frnallv had to clear out and go to Uncle Kit's and Aunt Na.nds. Uncle Kit weren't there but Aunt Nancy was. Not long after niqhL the tide even come in their house ani we had to get out of there and go 1o Miss Arcade's.

'We[ weren't


ricane hit. mv gandfather and seven other Eshinie--n had to take shelter in s,mall vallevs of a nearby sand dune. After beine s$a;ded without'food or drirk for i"u"iul duy*, th"y *ere finally able to walk back to th; village on Friday, August 18' As tbey waded through water sometimes four feet deep, they counted approximatelv one hundrid catile and horses that had


An article that apPeared in the Ausust 21 edition of t\e Washington Ga7)ine reported that the "whole island of Ocracoke is a complete wreck as a result of th" fi"t"" atot which swept the entire coast of North Carolina-" The article also stated that waves twenty and thirty feet hioh nounded the beach, and tle tide was fo-ur io five feet all over the island. Thirty-

"Ole Jones hadjust stafled to build his house near tlere, and the lumber was strewed everywbere. When we started to wade over th'ere, Uncle Kit put me down and I eot straddled on a piece of that

boardlThe tide was

3_5s,futing around

and they had to grab me, for I reckon if thev hadr't the tide would have swept me "Miss Arcade's house was on high land" vou see, and when we got there' vouneerns, the house was packed. Let's i.e. tlere was Miss Mid and all them' Miss Missouri and all then' and I don t k-now how rnany more. There was so many there that the boys and men had to get down on the llooi and under the beds to sive the womenfolk a place to sit down "And durins the hardest ofit I'll neier forget it - Miss vouneerns -aoniE Gasfins statted praying. Weren't no tine after she had prayed that somebody went out and said that weren't a drop of water to the step. It had gone out


tlat quick. '"It

was a mess when we got back to The tide had gone clear past house. the the weatherboarding on the house and the inside was the biggelt mess anybod/d ever seon, Youngerns, that was a bad


then had to travel up. and trees the tie their boats'to Thev had to wade up to their waists in mosi places along the ole tracks they used to so'back ald folth on. In some places Po-opie would have to carry Buddy back on'his back it was so deeP.' Mv erandfather, Elisha Ballance, was with Miss Lillian';s father and brother when thev were trapped at the Eshing camos tocated ten miles north of the village. When the full strength of the hur-

"Net dan

PoPPie ard


three homes were also demsged' nany boats were sunk or destroyed and there was "much sufferin$' due io a lack of food and drinking water. There-are many stories associated with the 1899 hurricane. My gandfather told me that two porpoises swam out of the ocean and onlo the flooded island' After getting lodged in t-he fork of a-n oak tree. thev finally broke loose and swam inlo'Pe;lico Sound. Another man, Isaac 'Bis Ike" O'Neal, reported that when it apoeied tleir house was going to wash off ihe foundation his father told hin to chop a hole in the floor to relieve the pressurd of the rising water. After the hole was chopped tbLiougb, the water rushed uo toward the ceili"S carrying with it a dirck that had been trapped under the house by the rising tide... Alton Ballance b a n*tive "Ocmcokr" and a teacher at Ooacoke school. He also senes on the Board of Commissionen for HYdc CountY.

The Mailboat

Page 6

Souih River

Pamlico Sound, forcing it up the mouth of Neuse River and flooding the whole arel. Accompanying that were snall tornadoes.

Late on Friday afternoon the wind seemed to shift to thenorth. sonetimes sieming to come from all directions' Aroutrd .ia"inlt to r o'clock in t[e morning Saturday, the wind carne arounZ to the northwest and pushed oceatr and sound water ioto the Neuse River. From, Gere a deluge of water hi! Soutlt River. Lukens. and all of Merrimom Township. The winds were fierce. marked ofEcially at Cape l,ookout at 105 mph' itamilies in rne area becarne isolated in their own homes"' When the water came orer the lower floors, they retreated to the upoer floors. Sone had only attics. At our house, owned by mv fat-Ler. William Lindsey Cannon' my mother sent us younger children upstairs. The watLr rose eight inches iq our house before it biga.n to subside sometime belore daybreak'

"The family was plunged into the water. James was ciinging to h* father's neck The rnother had the babv and iuIr. Oilhouse hnd Hazel by the hand. lithen they surfaced, the baby and youngest girl were gone. " The hiehest location in the area was the road at our soon as people realized their homes were being house. aud washed away or destoye{ families got into small boats and left. It was dark, atrd water was everywhere. When these folks frnally reached our homes, they would knock on the side of the house wanting to come iq. They came all mornine" wet, Lhed, scared aad hungry. Papa and Mama took themL and save them dry clothes, somelhitrg to eat and a place lo rest. Mori than 50 people were sheltered in this one Louse by noon on Safurday. So;e stayed for a tine afterward until thev could return to their homes.


The Free Will Baptist Church ... became a true sanctuary for neoole. althoush it iad been wasbed from its blocks' Some tanitied tived therE while their homes were repaired or rebuilt' The storm left some houses torn from tleir block or foundations and destroved others. Many lost all &gir [sleng'ngs' Tbree houses survived without e;deosive damage, the homes of William L. Cannon, John Mason and Sam Gaskins' Those were two story houses. During the night' two huge oak trees in the front yard of our house were blown over. They came to rest against the house, and some thought they may have sheltered tle dweling from fiutler danage Tbe Louis Cannon family narrowly escaped beilg killedwhen their home was destroyed. Mr. Cannon was my half- - rlcle and lived about a mile awayhom our house at the mouth of Hardv Creek (formerly Martin's Creek). Paoa was worried about his brother a.nd his fanily, but there was no way we could get to hin during the helght- of the storm. When he-thought the water was low enough fo- r hin to so outside atrd check on them, he pl""ged in up to his neck' ilrere was nothing to do but wait until the water subsided' Finally, my fatber saw Uncle lrwis' older son' Pete, comins uo the hiit. fhe water was up to his neck at times, but by srfimming a-nd wading he finaliy reached our house and told of his familt's


ThL rrind and tide had torn their house apart while the family was inside. I-ouis, his wife and daughter and five sons

moved hto the attic" And when the house came apart, they were carried some distance before tbe upper part ol $e house snared iq tree tops. Tbe family stayed there until the water level lowered and Pete could go for help. Luckily, they all were

brousht - - --At to safety.

Su- Ci"li^' farm ... the family was sheltered to waitSam's sister, Ella Delamer, lived across the road storm. the out ftom hin and refused to leave her small, one-story home atrd go to the bisser bouse. shfiold her brother that she would be safe as long as she could see the lieht from an oil lanp she placed on a table near ttr" 6o6oo,. 4i[night long the light shone, but when Sam went her the netr morning-inshe was dead. to see-The -- -the house, liftiag the table with the water had risen lisht without ounirs it out or turning it over' She had drowned airins"but the "iqht. Ll6rs was t.he only death in the immediate ttuiedv tttuck also in Merrinom and Back Creek' "t"u-' At Badi< Creeb my uncle Elijah and Aunt Ellen Dixon. lost two of their cb drei. The tides are usually higher in Back Creek then anywhere else, and they went to 16 feet abovs normal durins the '33 storm. The-house where the Dixon's were staldng was on- one . side of the bridee at Back Creek' and lhere was no gettmg back io the Merrimoi side once the tide came in during tl'e storm' It's still that wav today. The area is completely cut off once storm tides move in. It was there that Elijah and his wite ani their cbildren, Hazel, 8; James, 3; and Elva Marie, 9 montbs; alone with Albert Oilhouse, began waiting out the storm' -Thev were in the kitchen ... when the winds becane st oog"t ;od pluok 6"ean coming off one side of the house' Tbev-moved to the main part of the house, but when the tsde bee;n to rush ir, they climbed into the upper floor' Then the housi was blown into Back Creek and broke into oieces. The farnily was plunged into the water' James was c[ndne to his father'i neck. The mother had the baby ant IvIr' oilf,oGe had nazel by the hard. When they surfaced, the baby and youngest girl were gone. ' Elii-ah fo:urd a Diece of the wrecked house, and they held onto thai. Thev were carried into the woods and stopped asainst a Eee.'Eliiah pFabbed tle tree so the family wouldn-t be siept futthet away. fhey clinbed onto a limt and stayed there for them to leave. untii the water was low enough -the others until they were finally Eliiah tried to care for rescued 6v Deputv Sheriff R. E. Chaplain and George Norcum late on Siturdiy afternoon. The bodies of the children were later some miles awaY. found Devastation was everywhere, but ttrose who had anlthing left shared with those who dida't' The Red Cross helped some, too. Evervone nade out the best they could" ald hoped and oraved thire would never be another storm such as this' Four lives were lost. Homes boats and crops were destroved. There were maly mosquitoes, and there was disease. Iiut t have been told that there was a sign that things would be better. The trees put out buds and leafed out iust as if it were spring.




' -

Dollie Carroway. a South Nver native, is active in the

Cane6 County Hisnical Researth Association, a colleaor of area Indialr artfacts, and has written seversl atticles on local history. This storyias oiginalty published in the Cafterct County News-Times and is used wilh permission.

The Mailboat | The Storm of 1899 & 1933  
The Mailboat | The Storm of 1899 & 1933