Travel Blog: West Teaching Scholars Ocracoke Island Leadership Retreat
by Jane Snider, Staff Member
We departed the island on the 6:30 a.m. Swan Quarter ferry for a 2 ½ hour rocky ride across the Pamlico Sound. We have been watching the weather as a storm front moves across North Carolina. We arrive in Swan Quarter and stop for breakfast the Quarter Grill to wait out the rain.
Travelling on, our next stop was Lake Mattamuskeet, the largest natural lake in NC. Eighteen miles long and five to six miles wide, the lake is only five to eight feet at its greatest depth and encompasses approximately 40,000 acres. The lake and an additional 10,000 acres of marshland and woods comprise the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge where 800 different species of wildlife can be found during all or part of the year. Interest in draining the lake to take advantage of the rich farmland dates back to the 1700s. The lake originally measured 120,000 acres but in 1837, a seven-mile long, forty-foot wide canal was built with the use of slave labor from nearby plantations to drain into the Pamlico Sound decreasing the size of the lake to approximately 55,000 acres. In an effort to take advantage of the rich soil in this area, various methods of draining the lake have taken place over the years including a pumping plant built in 1915. However, this endeavor was soon abandoned due to the enormous expense. In 1937, the old pumping station was converted into a lodge by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and operated until the mid-1970s. Since then, the lodge has hosted a number of events but has not been open for public use since November, 2000, when it was closed for safety reasons.
As we explored the area around Lake Mattamuskeet, some spotted muskrat, deer and white egret. We left the area headed for Historic Bath, the oldest town in North Carolina, incorporated in 1705. Although our visit was very brief (only an hour) we learned several interesting facts about this historic town. French Protestants from Virginia were the first to settle in this area in the 1690s. A library consisting of 1050 books and pamphlets sent to St. Thomas Parish in 1701 became the first library in the colony and several of the original books were on display in one of the historic homes. John Lawson, an early inhabitant of Bath, was the first author of a history of North Carolina entitled A New Voyage to Carolina published in 1709. Blackbeard the pirate made Bath his home for a short while before his demise at Ocracoke Island in November, 1718.
With little time, we broke into small groups and walked to several historic buildings including the Palmer-Marsh House (1751), St. Thomas Church (1734), Van Der Veer House (1790), and the Bonner House (1830). From Bath, we made our way towards Greenville (with a slight detour to Sims — home of Dr. Lou Ann Kasias) to experience eastern-style barbeque at Parker’s Restaurant.
After a late lunch, we headed non-stop back to Salisbury and good old Catawba College. Arriving at about 8 p.m., travel weary but armed with a wealth of cultural and historical information, we somewhat reluctantly part from our travelling companions but — ahhh, it surely is good to be home.
PHOTOS: Teaching Scholars Leadership Retreat