The Gloucester-Straits community is over 300 years old. It is listed by the Carteret County Historical Research Association as being the fourth oldest settlement in the county, but is possibly the oldest in the county. The first settlers moved to unclaimed property along navigable waters. Carteret's stand of long leaf (pitch) pines, the mild weather and excellent farmland attracted families from other colonies as well as migrants from Europe. Land grants are recorded to such names as Williams (1708), Whitehurst (March, 1717), Fulford, Nelson, Bell (1713), Ward (1720) and Shackelford (1714), Smith and Russell. Portions of these grants were sold to the Chadwicks (May, 1725). In the late 1700's and early 1800's, Stewart, Pigott, Gaskill and others became family names in the Gloucester/Straits community. In the beginning, the pine trees provided the bulk of the business activity in this community. In later times, farming and seafaring provided livelihoods for the majority of families. At one time tobacco was cultivated. The advent of motor vehicles spawned extensive truck farming with potatoes, beans, tomatoes, broccoli, as principal crops. Shipbuilding and coastal trade provided the majority of jobs in the 1800's. Captain Joe Pigott sailed his three-mast "Charmer I" and smaller "Charmer II" to the West Indies and New England for years of coast-wise trade early in the 20th century.
People traveled long distances either on horseback or by horse-drawn conveyances, or in small boats to larger ports of embarkation. Short trips were made by horse and cart or private skiff, and later by regularly scheduled mail boats and ferries. Three times weekly a stagecoach connected Beaufort with points west, north and south, staring in 1834. When the railroad reached Morehead City prior to the War Between the States, Straits people then could travel by steam.
In addition to The Straits, the portion of Core Sound which separates Harker’s and Brown's Islands from the mainland, this area has three waterways: Sleepy Creek (the dividing line between Gloucester and Marshallberg), once known as Fulford's Creek and before that Bell's, Davis's, and Daw's Creek -- this is the largest and deepest stream; Whitehurst or Chadwick or Brickyard Creek -- to this day there is no agreement as to the name, though Whitehurst Creek was mentioned in a 1717 Lord Proprietor's land grant. Brickyard was shown as the name in a county map of proposed zoning in the area in the late 1960's. The first bridge built over the head of the creek was called Canal Bridge. The third creek–Dick’s creek, is shorter and shallower than the others, and located between them. Although some people think that it was named for Richard P. Williams, legislator from Craven county and owner of property on the east side, the name Dick’s creek predated Dick Williams. It was named for an old slave of the Pigott family named Dick. The first bridge was a walk bridge and a causeway through the swamp to connect the east and west sides of the Pigott property. The first vehicle bridge over Dick’s Creek had walkways and handrails and was named Hoover’s Bridge, for a highly esteemed minister of Straits Tabernacle church, 1885-89. The bridge was replaced by a culvert in 1979.
Roads began as cart trails and those existing today in the community are two-lane, paved routes which generally follow the courses of the old trails. The four roads in the community are:
Straits Road (county #1335), which extends from Harker's Island Road to the Smyrna-Marshallberg Road. The original road followed what was called the back line of the original land patents. This road connected to what is now the Star Church Road.
Pigott Road (county #1345) loops around from Straits Road in front of the Leonard Davis home, past Gloucester's post office and back to the Straits Road at the east;
Sleepy Point Road (county 1345) runs at right angles to Pigott Road and ends close to the mouth of Sleepy Creek.
The Ferry Dock road (county #1344) begins with a sharp turn near the Gloucester Community Club and ends at The Straits, where worn pilings mark the location of a former dock for the east-west mail boats.
The western part of Pigott Road did not exist before 1876. A road originally extended through woodlands from the Straits Road to the shore at Gloucester, and was called "Miss Nicey's Road." A sandy portion of it still is used as access to the Gloucester Community Club building. This road was on the original patent division line and divided land devised to the sons of Culpepper Pigott, namely Elijah C. Pigott and Chew Parker Pigott. The property along the west side was owned by Elijah C. Pigott. Elijah C. Pigott was born in 1790 and served in the War of 1812. He married his first cousin Sally Pigott in 1811.
Bernice Wade came from Straits community as a companion and tutor for Sally and her handicapped son. After Sally Pigott died, Bernice married Elijah C. Pigott and lived in the home on the Ferry Dock Road. She was 25 years younger that Elijah. She was called Miss Nicey Pigott and it was from her that the dirt road got its name. The home was originally the home of Thomas Bell and it was built before 1700. Ballast stones were used for the home foundation and are seen in the chimney. In time, her stepson, died leaving the property (which, incidentally, he did not own) to Nicey. She and a companion lived in the house until “Aunt” Nicey became so infirm that she was taken to New Bern and cared for by the Williams-Meadows families. “Aunt” Nicey died there, leaving the property to a brother and sister, Richard “Papa Dick” Williams (grandfather of the present owner, Betsy Williams) and Jane Williams Meadows (grandmother of Alex and Sara Meadows who have homes now near the head of Sleepy Creek). The Williams/Meadows were later able to get a quit-claim deed for the property.
Stewart Drive which is at the intersection of Harkers Island Road and Straits Church Rd parallels the western shor of Whitehurst’s Creek. When you follow Stewart drive to the shore you pass the home site of Richard Whitehurst, grandson of the original patentee of the same name. The house was located on what was a mound in an area where everything else is flat. When the developers were excavating the site, they dug up two grave markers about 3 feet below the ground level and found a lot of ballast stones on the site. The two grave markers were of Richard Whitehurst and his daughter in law Sarah Langdon. The markers were transferred to the John B. Whitehurst Cemetery further down Stewart Drive. Captain John B. Whitehurst is the son of Richard and Great grandson of the original Richard. John B. Whitehurst’s home still stands directly at the end of Stewart Drive. This house was built about 1820, but it could have been built earlier. This is presumed to be the home site where Richard's father, Colonel John Whitehurst, lived.
There is another tale about the cart trails. In the late 18th or early 19th century, a feud arose between the Bell and the Chadwick families living along the cart trail. It is remembered that the quarreling clans planted, or allowed a large hedgerow to grow, so one would not have to see the other passing by. The Bells eventually sold their land and it passed through several hands before ending up as Culpepper Pigott's land. Since Culpepper Pigott's wife was Zilphia Chadwick, it is likely that the hedgerow was soon cut down.
Two other cart trails existed in Gloucester proper in other days. One was short and started at Main Street between the Mildred Chadwick and Alex Kaszas houses and extended only a thousand or so yards. It was used primarily by owners of property along it to fetch firewood. The other trail, called "Gun Barrel Road" began between the Murray Pigott and Ken Schlick houses and continued to Straits Road. It got its name because if was both straight and narrow.
Gloucester, N.C. Is Born -- In 1910, the section of Straits Township known as Up Straits was granted a post office and another name had to be chosen to avoid confusion between the two. Captain Joe Pigott, who had visited and admired Gloucester, Massachusetts many times in his sailing days, used his influence to have the community named Gloucester.
Mail arrived by boat for years before there was a ferry to Harkers Island. An early mailboat operator was Matt Marshall (from whom Marshallberg takes its name) and for a period there was twice daily service! The mail boat from Beaufort came in at the end of Gloucester Road, before going on east to Cedar Island and Ocracoke. Afternoons another boat brought mail from Ocracoke and Atlantic and would take on passengers to Beaufort. Mail went from Gloucester to Otway and Bettie by horse and buggy.
Gloucester has had six postmasters in seven post offices over the years. Charlotte Ann Pigott (called "Aunt Shan", a corruption of her given names), a sister of Captain Joe Pigott, first handled the mails in a small building located between the homes presently of Everett Honeycutt and Bert Meares. This was across Pigott Road from the home she occupied with her sister Maggie, and now the Kaszas residence.
Wilbur W. Willis became the second postmaster. He built his home now owned by the heirs of Mildred Chadwick (Mrs. Henry) in 1905. He kept the post office in a building he had used earlier as an ice cream parlor in the corner of his front yard. He and Mr. Jimmy Chadwick transported mail from the boat landing at the end of what is now Gloucester Road to the post office by wheelbarrow.
A Methodist minister, Sam Leffers, who also operated a general store and at times was a potato wholesaler, was Gloucester's third postmaster. His post office was in a section of his general store, located across Pigott Road from his home.
Next was Hugh Whitehurst, whose post office was located directly opposite the sharp Pigott Road curve near the present post office.
Sam Leffers became postmaster a second time. The post office during this tenure was in a small building in his front yard. Years after it was abandoned, it was moved by Giles Willis, Sr. to his property at Dick's Creek to form the nucleus of a retirement home for Giles and Anne Willis.
Next, Twyla Pigott (Mrs. Lester) tended the mails in a small building on the site of "Aunt Shah's" first post office.
Sarah Davis (Mrs. Leonard) took over the post office job in the same" building between the Meares and Honeycutt homes and then moved when a new post office was built next door to the former INS grocery. Owned by the late Dan Pigott, that structure boasted an indoor bathroom, air conditioning and hot running water!
Since first a settlement, Gloucester-Straits has had a church. An Anglican congregation met at Straits Chapel, built in 1750 near the head of Sleepy Creek, as part of St. John's Parish. This was taken over by Methodists during the Revolution. Straits Methodist Church was founded there in 1778. As the population grew and the center of population shifted west, a new larger church building was completed in 1809 on land deeded it by Richard and Margaret Whitehurst, just south of the triangle. This was called the Straits Tabernacle. The present Straits Tabernacle Church was completed in 1891 on land across the road and several hundred yards to the east of the first structure, given by members of the Pigott, Chadwick and Stewart families. This site was next to the Straits school. Much material from the old church was used in the new building. The present Tabernacle Church was completed in 1891 on land across the road and several hundred yards to the east of the first structure, given by members of the Pigott, Chadwick and Stewart families. Mr. Brown Chadwick was on the committee for siting the new church and would not let the new church be any farther down Straits than the church that they were replacing. Much material from the old church was used in the new building.
The first parsonage was completed about 1901 on the site of the present minister's home adjacent to the church. Sophronia Stewart was the donor. Fifteen years later the parsonage was sold for $300 and moved across the road, where it stands today. Between the time that the old parsonage was sold and the present parsonage was constructed in 1925-27, the church had no home for its ministers and they were boarded in various residents' homes.
In the period 1950-55, the old school house on the west side of the church was purchased from the county system and moved to the rear of the Tabernacle and converted into a fellowship hall and Sunday school rooms. A church cemetery was established on the former school property, as a substitute, in part, for the family burying grounds, which abound. "I don't know of any place in the country with as many family cemeteries as we have here," a well-traveled Gloucester resident has commented. Unfortunately, many new residents have found ways to overcome the inconvenience of having a cemetery where they wanted homes or gardens.
Children were taught at home, or in schools operated by the church in the earliest days. The average operational time was 60 days per year. The Anglican Parish in 1756 authorized the employment of "a schoolmaster to keep school for two years.. .one year at Straits, the next at Sheppard's Neck" (now Morehead City). Classes were taught at the church, which was at the head of Sleepy Creek. A school called "the academy" was located near the second church building on a tributary of Whitehurst-Chadwick Creek, near a spot called Schoolhouse Landing. This is in the area of Dark Swamp, the triangle between Straits and Harker’s Island Road.
In the mid to late 1800's Straits school opened its doors as a free public school, as authorized by the North Carolina General Assembly. It is thought to have been a log structure of two rooms. At least two ministers of the Tabernacle taught there in 1901-03 and three teachers were employed at the school in 1913. An offer of $50 monthly salary was made to a prospective principal that year. Corinne Hancock and Mary Whitehurst were among the early teachers at the school and Laurie Moore, later a physician in Beaufort, taught there also.
At some time, the school building was enlarged to, or replaced by, a two-story structure having "one big room upstairs and two rooms down". Traveling entrepreneurs sometimes brought picture shows to the upstairs room and projected them with hand-turned machines. Laurie Willis, recollecting, says, "I saw my first movie there and it was really a jumping thing", because it was impossible to maintain a steady turning speed manually. He thinks the admission was 10 to 15 cents. The upstairs room also hosted lecturers and acting companies from Chautauqua, as well as local entertainments.
Straits High School closed its doors after the 1923 graduation, despite valiant efforts of Community residents to raise money for its support. Consolidation of a number of small schools in the eastern section of the county caused Straits Public School to close in 1939, ending 180 years of schooling in the township.
Over the, years, children of families in neighboring communities without schools had been sent to board with Straits people and attend the public school and in similar fashion, Straits youths attended higher grades at St. Paul's School in Beaufort (1858-1939) and Graham Academy (1880-1911) at Marshallberg (near Victoria Cemetery). Both of the latter had dormitories where students of both sexes could live during the school term.
Gloucester today is a sleepy community when compared with earlier times. There have been an almost unbelievable number of businesses and small-scale industries located in the area, among them, two millinery shops and an ice cream parlor! "Aunt Shan" Pigott, the first postmaster, made hats "from scratch" in a room at the rear of her post office. A niece, Florence Pigott, remembers playing among the ribbons and trimmings when a child. Somewhat later "Miss Kate" Leffers trimmed manufactured hat frames in her millinery shop, an addition to her husband Sam's store on Pigott Road. Miss Georgia Whitehurst recalled working as a teenager for Miss Kate in her hat shop.
The ice cream parlor was opened about 1910 by,Wilbur Willis (Gloucester's second postmaster) in the front yard of his home next door to the present INS Grocery. The building was about 14 by 24 feet and had tables and chairs. People came from Smyrna and Marshallberg, as well as Gloucester-Straits, to indulge themselves in the homemade delicacy. Some brought bowls or other large containers in which to take ice cream home and often the parlor overflowed and patrons sat on the Willis front porch to eat their ice cream.
Four-hundred-pound blocks of ice came by mail boat from Beaufort to freeze the cooked custard. Fresh fruits-peaches and strawberries, mostly available locally, were the flavoring for the 20 to 25 gallons made each weekend when the parlor was open. Mixing with the custard was done in gray enamel dishpans. The freezers were of three different sizes, one of them of five-gallon capacity. Giles and Laurie Willis, sons of the owner of the parlor, turned the freezer cranks until the cream began to harden, then their father would finish the job.
The venture is recalled as one more for fun than profit and when Wilbur Willis became postmaster, the parlor ceased operation and the building was used as a post office. Later it was sold and moved to Leonard Nelson's property, and turned into a general merchandise store. It still stands, and is used as a storage building by the present owner, Ken Schlick.
And what an assortment of manufacturing activities the township has seen over the years. including a natural! Adjacent to Winifred Willis' house on the site of her grandfather John Alfred Whitehurst's residence, is the “salt pond”. Before and after the Revolution, it was allowed to fill with water from The Straits, then would be dammed until the moisture had evaporated. The salt residue was then collected and used. Neither the exact location nor the operator of other salt works in the community is known today, but for many years the Straits salts works supplied township inhabitants with this much-needed commodity.
Excellent clay is said to lie throughout this area. Consequently, there were several brick kilns in Straits. One brick kiln is mentioned in the 1808 deed describing the church property as as “lying across the road from the old brick yard”. Wilson Davis has found bricks in his back field indicating that it once was connected with the brick business. Another brick yard was near the head of Sleepy Creek. And another was at the "old brick hole" on Eugene Chadwick's property near the head of Whitehurst-Chadwick Creek. A portion of the bricks in Fort Macon on Bogue Banks were manufactured at brick kilns at Straits. Jeconias Pigott was an earlier brick supplier. In addition, two suppliers of bricks for the fort were Otway Burns and Elijah Whitehurst. Otway Burns bricks likely were from kilns on Fulford land near the head of Sleepy creek. The family of Elijah Whitehurst owned land at the head of Whitehurst’s Creek. Nathaniel Smith, boat builder, said that some years ago he went to set a channel net near the point of land at Vance Chadwick's property on the north side of Harker’s Island Bridge. He let down his sounding line and it hit something hard. He proceeded a few feet and again it struck a solid bottom. He continued to sound out the entire hard bottom and found it to be in the shape of a barge. He is convinced it is a sunken brick barge with bricks bound for Fort Macon and is the reason that point of land has not eroded over the years.
Many wind-powered grist mills are known to have existed along the Straits. One of the earliest is believed to have been built by Samuel Chadwick, a New Englander, who acquired many acres in Straits beginning in 1725 just before the closing of the whaling season that year, and twelve months before the date of his fishing license granted by a royal governor. Samuel's estate inventory lists "l pr millstones." Samuel's grandson Barnabus had a grist mill near the east side of the mouth of Whitehurst's creek. A bulldozer in 1959 unearthed two mill stones seven feet deep when preparing for a house for James Murphy at that location. There was no identification on the stones, but they now are a doorstep and flagpole base at the Murphy house. These are certainly the stones of Barnabus Chadwick mill and are perhaps the same stones owned by his grandfather Samuel. Jim Stewart later had a mill on Stewart's Point, directly across Whitehurst’s creek from the Thaddeus Chadwick mill. Its two stones were visible until recently, but now have fallen down the creek bank, and are buried. Elijah Pigott had a mill on his property and Josiah Willis also had a mill. Another grist-.mill was built and operated by Jim and Alfred Hatch Chadwick in the area of Straits Haven - a later day real estate development named by Olive Whitehurst (Mrs. Richard). Their charge, a customary one, was a peck of meal to the miller for each bushel of corn ground.
Another business was the net lead factory of Clyde Whitehurst, son of Gloucester's fourth postmaster. It was located in a small building close to the east side of the headwaters of Whitehurst-Chadwick Creek. Because of the founder's poor health, his wife, Thelma-Stewart Whitehurst, now operates the business. She makes crab-pot weights in addition to net leads, both items very necessary to down east fishermen. At one time Clyde also made lead toy whistles for an upstate company and earned himself the nickname of "Toot".
Over the years, area residents dealt with the sea, some for a livelihood and others simply for food. All had knowledge of the waters and its life and devised means of survival and triumph. There were many who made their living as boat builders, and there were many, many more who constructed craft part-time. In the early days Sleepy Creek Dicks Creek and Whitehurst’s Creek were all much deeper that they are today. Ambrose Jones built a vessel on Sleepy Creek in 1833 called the Panama that berthed 200 tons. John Fulford and Josiah Willis had boat works in the Sleepy Creek area.
Most of the Pigott brothers (sons of the original Elijah) were boat builders. Jeconias and Machijah had a boat works near Beaufort. Elijah Pigott (known a Colonel Elijah) and Culpepper had a boat works on the Giles Willis, Sr. property, near the head of Dick's Creek. Privateer Otway Burns' ship, "Snapdragon" was outfitted and berthed at the Straits, presumably at this site.
George W. Gaskill (grandfather of Nat Smith) was a full-time builder of boats. Nat Smith, owner of Carteret Boat Works, is a third generation creator of wooden hand-crafted boats and has been at it some 25 years. The Fisheries Division of North Carolina has been one of his best customers. The "Cape Fear" and the "Raleigh Bay" (a 62-footer) are among the ships he has constructed for the state. All have been launched in Whitehurst-Chadwick Creek opposite his plant. It is said that there is nothing Nat cannot do, or repair, and he has worked wonders with mechanical things all his life. He was engineer on the ferry which plied The Straits between Gloucester and Harker’s Island for more than a decade.
Giles Willis, Sr’s father, Wilbur Willis learned the trade of ship carpenter from his father, Josheph Willis, and grandfather, Edgar Willis. Captain Joe Pigott's "Charmer II" was built on The Straits by William Stewart where Roland Lewis now has his home. Another part-time builder, whose name is now forgotten, worked on "Mr. Ed" Pigott's property on The Straits. Today, Heber Guthrie turns out boats part-time in his backyard on Pigott Road.
Oliver Chadwick, known as “Ob”, owned and captained the ferry between Gloucester and Harker’s Island. That service continued until the Harker’s Island Bridge was completed in 1940, although the state took over the ferry service long before the bridge was started and even had a new ferry built and put into use. The original ferry was small, about 20 feet wide and 40" long. "It ran so regularly that when our clock stopped, we set it by the ferry," recalls Erma Hansen. She also remembers the day some forty to forty-five years ago when a circus was ferried from Gloucester to Harker’s Island to play. Her father, David Jarvis, had leased the Jim Stewart place, which provided a vantage point for viewing many ferry-dock activities. The dock itself was one-car wide and the circus reached it-in trucks too large or heavy to be ferried. "It took forever to get the elephants out, one at a time," she says. "Each elephant tested every board on the dock before crossing it."
In 1926 the ferry operator won a contract from the county board of education to haul the school bus from Harkers Island to Straits school.
So far as is known, Gloucester has had only one marine railway. When Lloyd Pigott retired from Civil Service in 1965 (he had taught at Smyrna High School before entering government work), he opened Straits Marine Railway on a canal east of the Ed and Bill Blair homes. "It was just something for him to do," his son Mack says. Mack has operated the railway since his father's death and has worked there since it first opened. Captain John Fulford once had a boat works near this location.
Present-day residents recall five stores in the area. In alphabetical rather than chronological order, they are:
The grist mill brothers, Jim and Alfred Chadwick, had a store adjoining their mill and it was described as "a nice, big store." Later it was run by Alfred's son, Guy. More recently the family home near the mill and store was moved to the junction of Harker’s Island and Straits Haven Roads, as well as a portion of the store. The house still stands, but the store has burned.
Where George Harvey Chadwick now lives, Anson Davis had a store. He is known primarily as Gloucester's ice man because several times a week he would drive into Beaufort and return with 100-pound blocks of ice which he delivered to iceboxes in area homes. A Beaufort resident, Walter Moore, also delivered ice to Gloucester-Straits. And before the days of ice, wells were used for cooling foods such as watermelons. Anson Davis lived around the bend in Main Street about where Gene Kamplain has built a residence.
Sam Harker sold boat supplies, principally, at his store on east Pigott Road near where Julian M. Brown now resides.
Captain Leonard Nelson, who built and lived in the house now owned by Ken Schlick, operated a general merchandise business in his side yard. His building was the one used originally by Wilbur Willis as an ice cream parlor and post office.
A general merchandise store was run by Sam Leffers, minister and post-master, across from his home on Pigott Road. There he ladled lard with a wooden paddle from big tubs into gray cardboard trays and dispensed all sorts of other culinary and household necessities to the public.
Captain Joe Pigott was the biggest storekeeper of them all. In 1912 he had a general store near his home on The Straits, and a second one in Marshallberg. He also bought clams and salt-water terrapins for shipment to large markets. After his home was destroyed by a water spout, he built a larger store on Main Street in front of the Ferry Dock Road and it became the gathering place of the community. The ladies would visit there in the afternoons, sometimes sitting on the benches under the front stoop. The men sat and exchanged news of the day and tall tales in the evenings. A pot-bellied stove was quite the craving card on winter nights. That building burned in 1963 and was replaced with a cement block super-market. Captain Joe's children, Florence and "Bill" (Osborne Griffin Pigott) operated the store from 1946 until they retired in 1976. Frank and Peggy Waters bought the store at that time and added a butcher shop and several new lines of merchandise for area shoppers. Business was brisk after the Red and White market in Beaufort burned. When the Waters retired the store was briefly owned by Art and Pat Lasik. The store is now closed.
Inns and Taverns also existed from the earliest days. The Fulfords had such an establishment near the head of Sleepy Creek. Gayer Chadwick, youngest son of whaling master Samuel, sold groceries and whiskey at a store on his property on Whitehurst’s Creek. In recent memory, Leo’s (On Tap) was located on the Harker’s Island road.
The oldest known organization in Straits township was Jerusalem Lodge No. 35. It also was the first Masonic lodge in Carteret County, instituted in 1798. Money for its charter was paid in English pounds and the building was located near where Gary Block's home now stands on Straits Road. The old foundation of bricks, long visible, disappeared only in very recent years.
Gloucester Community Club was organized in November, 1955, at the home of Richard and Olive Whitehurst, with about 25 members, all residents of the Gloucester-Straits area. Originally, there were no dues, but each member paid fifty cents when present. Area beautification was a primary goal, initially. Hundreds of crepe myrtles were planted, rubbish dumps cleared and signs reading "This is Gloucester - Please help us keep it clean" were erected at each end of the community.
Three residents, Elizabeth G. Williams, Josie Pigott and Lillian Pigott Willis, gave land at the triangle junction of Pigott Road and Ferry Dock Road for a permanent clubhouse. Chicken barbecue suppers were, and continue to be, the chief source of income for the club, paying for the clubhouse and major repairs to it, plus its operating expenses. A covered barbecue pit was built on the grounds and the first supper was served in a potato grading shed owned by the Pigott family and located in the club triangle. The potato house also served as a meeting place and for dances sometimes, given by the club. Originally, members gathered at various homes for the business and social sessions.
Now there are more than 85 members on the club roll and dues are $5 annually. About half the members are classed as inactive because they own weekend homes in the area and usually are not in Gloucester on monthly "second Tuesday" meeting days.
The club continues to focus its attention on community needs and concerns.
Its programs vary from speakers on assorted subjects to square dance teams and documentary movies. Covered dish suppers are held several times a year.
Two physicians are remembered to have lived and practiced in Gloucester-Straits-Dr. Richard Leffers, father of Sam, the minister and postmaster, and a Dr. Bead, who resided in the vicinity of the Smith homes and Carteret Boat Works. Dr. William Chadwick was born where Bert Meares now lives, but his main practice was based in Beaufort. A Dr. George practiced in Marshallberg and Dr. Josh Davis at Smyrna. Dr. Davis also was the school doctor at St. Paul's in Beaufort, where he was nicknamed "Dr. Billy Goat" because of his goatee. Other patients down east called him "Dr. Shake-it" because of directions he put on every prescription. More recently, Dr. Laurie Moore, a Shackelford Banks and Marshallberg native, practiced in Beaufort and had a rural following.
Church-going has been both soul satisfying and a setting where neighbors met regularly to visit. The Crow Hill plantation home of Thomas Chadwick’s son Oliver and his heirs long was a place of considerable gaiety, and in more modern times many a square dance was held at Charles and Addie Gaskill Nelson's home on The Straits. Marv Fulford frequently was fiddler and caller. Other entertainments were candy pullings, box suppers, and chicken stews (for which the fowl were "borrowed" from many neighborhood pens.)
Young men and boys for a time played baseball on a diamond in the field in front of the Williams home. "The most memorable game I saw on that baseball field," Giles Willis, Sr. recalls, "was on a Fourth of July. A Morehead team came to play the local team. There was a beautiful, grove of trees near the field and we had a picnic. Then there was a no-fence law and animals ran wild. Kids were appointed to keep the animals out of the lemonade. During the game a fight erupted and a local boy got hit with a whiskey bottle and his head was cut wide open. I'll never forget it."
The Williams place that had been Elijah C. and Nicey Pigott's home was earlier the home of Absolom Fulford and before that the home of Thomas and Mary Bell. The Bell-Pigott house, where Betsy Williams last lived, was renovated and used as a hunting lodge by the Williams family in 1910. They named it “Saltaire.” It was fenced in against the many animals kept to graze the large enclosed meadow and fields. Members of the Williams-Meadows families came by boat to spend the summer and were joined by their New Bern friends’ families for weeks at a time. In winter, the men used “Saltaire” as a hunting lodge and the late Julian Brown of Marshallberg was a huntmaster. Most Christmases saw a gala party in the house. In the six months a year the “Papa Dick” Williams was away, Bob and Monroe Willis of Gloucester and Adrian Davis of Williston were caretakers.
With hundreds of acres of good farmlands and several shipyards and other enterprises, Straits district families used many slaves. The land on the east side of Ferry Dock Road, about where Margaret Wilkman (Mrs. Tom) lives, was once slave quarters when the land was owned by Absolom Fulford and it contained a cemetery for slaves. Graves were marked with wooden slabs, which disintegrated soon. Most of the graves and home sites are thought to have been washed or eroded away into The Straits years ago. After the War Between the States, the slaves were freed to set up households of their own. Some moved to Beaufort, lured by work as laborers and domestics. Others remained in Gloucester and Straits and continued their life. The last Negro to live in Straits was "Aunt'" Dinah Gaskill, whose home was in Dark Swamp, near the Herbert Watson home (still standing) and not too far from Richard Whitehurst's 1700's home (also still standing and being renovated). As age and infirmity overtook her, Aunt Dinah was cared for by the white families in whose homes she had worked. She was buried in the Gaskill cemetery east of Straits Tabernacle Church.
The fifth Indian burial ground to be discovered in Carteret County was found by Mack and Barbara Pigott in 1973-74 on their property on The Straits. The human bones were dated by East Carolina University archaeologists at between 1200 and 1400 A.D. This was thought to have been the burial ground for some 50 Indians. Many early deeds described locations of “Indian old fields”. Arrowheads, shards and other Indian artifacts still are being found all along The Straits shoreline and in the creeks.
The main disasters in the area are from hurricanes, water spouts, and fire. Gloucester's "father", Captain Joe Pigott, who named the post office, twice lost-his homes on the Straits. The first house and all belongings were consumed by fire. Many years later, on August 11, 1918, a waterspout dipped down in early morning and destroyed the second home, scattering possessions as far away as Harker’s Island and spreading feathers from pillows and mattresses like a snowstorm. The parents and seven children escaped without great harm, though one child was lifted from the house and set down in the garden, and another into a fig bush by the freak storm. The family then moved to a new home on Pigott Road. In the side yard there is a sizable mound called the "tar Kettle hill". Time has erased its history. It was most likely used in the production of tar and pitch for local boat builders.
On the eastern outskirts of Gloucester between the Star Church and Sleepy Point Roads is a tract known as “Sallie Gears”. Gayer Chadwick owned property on the east side of Whitehurst’s creek which he inherited from his father, Samuel Chadwick, the whaler. Gayer and his wife, Elizabeth, reared six children there and had a store. His wife died just after the turn of the century and a year later he married a much younger woman, Sarah Piner and she soon was known as "Sallie Gayer". She was said to be of vigorous mind, character and build and could hold her own with any customers who came to Gayer's store for groceries, spirituous liquors, or to vote in elections. After Gayer's death in 1815, Sallie still kept store, sold whiskey and tolerated election brawls until her untimely death sometime after 1820. Stories persist and many Gloucester-Straits people still are uncomfortable when they pass “Sallie Gears” after dark. Popular myth has it that Sallie wanders there alone to this day. Sometimes she sits in the crook of a certain pine tree and sometimes her hair is streaming out behind her and sometimes she has no head at all! [Editor’s note: Gayer Chadwick’s land and store were on Whitehurst’s Creek, not Sleepy Creek. “Sallie Gears” is at the head of Sleepy Creek. It is true that there were reported sightings of an apparition in the spot now known as “Sallie Gears”. This story of “Sally Gears” is a familiar one told often by Mary Whitehurst. In her version, the tavern is set in early colonial times and a girl by the name of Sallie was a tavern-keeper. Sallie’s untimely demise occurred.
On the eastern outskirts of Gloucester near the beginning of the Star Church Road is an area of forest and swamp. The events of the story actually occurred about three hundred years ago when the head of Sleepy Creek was the site of early colonial inns and taverns. A tavern aat Sleepy Creek would be located at the entrance to the Straits so that ships making their way through Core Sound to Beaufort Inlet could put in and wait for a favorable wind to traverse the Straits. The rest of the tale is folk lore handed down for many generations. A tavern owner took a young wife named Sallie in his old age. She was said to be of vigorous mind, character and build and could hold her own with any customers who came to the tavern for rum and a good time. This was an era when the likes of Blackbeard and other pirates and notorious individuals plied the waters of the Straits. Numerous stories of theft, mayhem, and murder in this area, which was then known as “Core Sound”, are documented in the early colonial records of North Carolina. Sallie was also quite a bit younger than her step-sons. After her husband’s death before 1720, she still ran the tavern as usual. This was a profitable business and the sons were anxious to get their rightful legacy. One morning Salle was found dead, a possible victim of an axe. Since then, many people over the years have seen the apparition of a girl in the woods.
In the 1800’s Gayer Chadwick had a successful business and like the legend, Gayer’s store was left to a young wife also named Sallie. Because her husband was named Gayer, She was called Sallie Gayer. When the young widow died, someone saw the apparition and declared that it looked like Sally “Gayer”. As a result, since then the apparition became “Sallie Gear”. Stories persist and many Gloucester-Straits people still are uncomfortable when they pass Sally’s woods after dark. Popular myth has it that Sallie wanders there alone to this day, There was a certain tree that she would be seen sitting in, sometimes her hair is streaming out behind and sometimes she has no head at all!
Conversations with Harvey B. and Thelma Whitehurst Chadwick, Erma J. Hansen, Florence Pigott, Mack Pigott, Eloise N. Pigott, Osborne G. Pigott, Nathaniel Smith, Nat Lee Smith, Jr., Elizabeth G. Williams, Giles Willis, Sr. and Ann L. Willis and Laurie T. Willis.
Historic Carteret County, Mrs. Fred Hill, editor;
Richard Whitehurst, Rebecca W. Sanders;
Grandpa Was A Whaler, Amy Muse;
Lest We Forget, Eloise Blair, editor;
Carteret County News Times, December 11, 1975;
Raleigh, News & Observer, January 4, 1976; Raleigh Times_, July25, 1975.
Prepared for the Gloucester Extension Homemakers Club, September, 1979, by Mae W. Willis, Olive S. Whitehurst and Mary Dudley P. Price.
Edited by Giles W. Willis, Jr., October 2009.