Edited excerpt of oral histories recorded by B. Garrity-Blake for Cape Hatteras National Seashore’s “Ethnohistorical Description of the Eight Villages Adjoining Cape Hatteras National Seashore,” 2005, IAI Inc. Map drawn by B. Garrity-Blake.
Salvo resident Leslie Hooper, now deceased, said that the tiny creeks along the sound side of Chicamacomico, where Salvo, Waves, and Rodanthe are located on the northern end of Hatteras Island, were special to him.
“I spent a lot of happy hours up there in them creeks, hunting and fishing,” he said. He sailed a sixteen-foot skiff, catching fish and crabs. His favorite area was called Jenkins Island and No Ache Island.
“That’s where I practically lived! Everyday I went down there fishing or hunting.”
He knew all the names of the creeks.
“The first creek on this end is Brick Creek. The next creek up is Opening Creek. Then Horse Wading Creek. Crooked Creek is next. After that is Ben Peters Creek.”
Leslie Hooper lamented that the younger generation might not bother to learn the old names.
“I’m the last generation that’s going to know what the creeks are called. The generation that is growing up now, they don’t hunt, they don’t fish. They could care less what the name of a creek is.”
His cousin Burt Hooper, also deceased, shared Les’ concern about the loss of local creek names. He pointed out that visitors are surprised to find so many creeks on the sound side of Hatteras Island. He could not recall the stories behind some of the names, but did recall a few. One landing was called Percy’s Net Rack:
“He was a man that lived to Avon. He cut everybody’s hair years ago for a dollar a head. But he used to fish up around Gull Shoal and he had a net rack that he put there, and that’s why they called it Percy’s Net Rack.
He mentioned Kannigy’s Pond, drained so that “they could get the terrapin turtles out of it,” and a point called “A Man’s Grave” where somebody was buried. Another interesting name is “Hen Turd’s Creek.” “Cross Shoal” where Coast Guardsmen used to meet and “clock in” with one another on patrol.
“The Coast Guard used to have a little house here on the beach that was called the Cross House. That’s where they met from Avon and Gull Shoal, to check their clocks, and the guy from Gull Shoal had a key for the clock that was in Little Kinnakeet, and the guy from Little Kinnakeet had a key for the clock for Gull Shoal. Gull Shoal men had the key to Rodanthe clock, and Rodanthe had the key to Gull Shoal clock, and that’s how they would strike ‘em, and that’s they way they knew that they met.”
Burt Hooper attributed his knowledge of the old creek names from “growing up in the sailing days” and his adventurous spirit as a boy.
“There was no engines here. They were all sailboats. Later on as I got up to 15, 16, 17 year old, they started getting’ these little Briggs and Stratton engines in their boats, and then when I got in my 20’s they started buying outboards. But when I grew up it was all sailboats.
He said that many of the skiffs of Salvo were about eighteen feet long and four and a half foot wide, with home-sewn canvas sails and a jib.
“They’d build ‘em theirself. They’d just set up a place and buy the juniper and build ‘em a boat. They pulled ‘em up every Saturday morning, cleaned ‘em off, and put ‘em back overboard on Monday morning and they’re setting their nets again.”
Villagers of Chicamacomico sailed the skiffs to Avon for fellowship meetings. They sailed up and down the sound side Hatteras for fishing, waterfowl hunting, trading, and social visits. With its myriad of creeks, points, and islands, it’s no wonder place names were important.