BRIEF CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY OF|
HYDE COUNTY, NC
During this period, several European explorers visited from the Cape Fear River at Wilmington and northward along what is now the North Carolina coast and to Virginia. The French explorer Giovanni da Verrazano visited in 1524 and made the first historical reference to the Indians living here. He supposedly kidnapped an Indian child who was then taken back to France.
In July 1584, English explorers arrived at Roanoke Island. Historians disagree on which inlet they passed through, with Ocracoke or Trinity Inlets or even one closer to Hatteras being a possibility. The exploration party became friendly with the Indians, and even convinced two of them, Manteo and Wanchese, to return to England with them.
The area was described as a paradise filled with grapes, birds, animals and the waters filled with fish. The Indians were said to have been gentle, loving people. With this news, England made plans to establish a colony in America.
The first English colony in American was established in 1585-1586 when Manteo and Wanchese returned with 108 men. Arriving in late June 1585 at Wococon, now known as Ocracoke Island a party set out to explore the Pamlico Sound and River. In July 1585, they landed in Pomeioc Village known today as the Middletown area of Mainland Hyde County. Today, John White's drawings of the village and its inhabitants are recognized as invaluable documentation of that era. The colony was eventually established on nearby Roanoke Island.
Settlers from Europe continued to find their way to our area during this period. Some were colonists seeking relief for their religious beliefs, others were trappers and traders seeking the riches of a new land. Some tried to establish a peaceful coexistence with the Indians, others sought to eradicate them entirely.
In the late 1600s, the profession of piracy was endorsed by the ruler of one country against another. Privateers were rewarded by their government for capturing the goods of another country. One such pirate named Edward Teach sailed the waters in and around the Pamlico Sound and made his sailing name, Blackbeard, one to be feared. Blackbeard made his home in Bath from 1716 to 1718. Just as renowned for his sailing ability as for his deadly raids, Blackbeard was at ease in coastal North Carolina's sometime treacherous waters.
Hyde county was known by several names. Originally a part of Bath County, it became Wickham precinct in 1705-1706. In 1712-1713, it was renamed Hyde precinct in honor of colonial Governor Edward Hyde. Courts for the county continued to be held in Bath until 1729. It became a county around 1728 when Bath county was abolished.
The first official county seat was at Woodstock Point on the west side of the Pungo River and remained so until 1790. After a fire destroyed the courthouse in 1789, a second county seat was established at Jaspers Creek. The name was changed to Germantown in 1792 and it remained the county seat until 1821 until it was again moved to Lake Landing. Finally, in 1836, Swan Quarter became the county seat. The courthouse which was built around 1853 has had numerous additions to its present size.
The Civil War appears to have divided Hyde County as it did the country. The county had rich, fertile soil and many land owners had slaves. The road-system within the county was maintained by the people of each community, but much difficulty was encountered trying to get grain out to the Confederacy. In March of 1863, Union troops landed in the county. The discovered that bridges and roads had been destroyed and some villages deserted. They burned or destroyed everything they could find. Coming onshore at Rose Bay, they went to Fairfield and came around Lake Mattamuskeet to Lake Landing. Enroute to Swan Quarter they met a fierce battle with local townspeople.
Ocracoke Island was a part of Carteret County until 1845 when it was annexed to Hyde County. It too, has known many variations in its name. Ocracokers, as they refer to themselves, have played a vital role in history throughout the years. The island, along with its neighbor, Portsmouth Island was valuable during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Isolated from the world and accessible only by water, it remained a poor, small fishing village until World War II.
The late 1800s gave rise to a timber boom on mainland Hyde County. Saw mills and lumber companies sprang up throughout the county and for a time the area prospered. By the 1930s, this economic upturn began to level off.
A huge land reclamation and drainage project began to take place in and around Lake Mattamuskeet in the early 1900s. In 1909, the State of North Carolina passed a law authorizing formation of the Mattamuskeet Drainage District. This district consisted of the 50,000 acre Lake Mattamuskeet and 50,000 acres around it. Engineers patterned the design of the drainage system after one for Haarlem Lake in Holland. The state sold its interests in the lake to a group of private investors who incorporated as the Southern Land Reclamation Company. Lake property was deeded to them in 1911.
Public funds financed construction of the drainage system and paid for the pumping plant and dredging. A network of 83 miles of canals was dredged in the lakebed. What is now known as The Lodge at Lake Mattamuskeet was built as a pumping plant and housed the worlds largest centrifugal pumps. The system was designed to push the fresh water from the lakebed seven miles into the Pamlico Sound.
Grand scale plans called for real estate development as well as farming. A town called "New Holland" which included a school, a motel and other businesses were eventually built in the lakebed. However, three different investors - each with varied ideas and actual accomplishments - eventually abandoned their plans.
August Heckscher, the third investor sold the lake to the U. S. Government in 1934 and the Lake Mattamuskeet Migratory Bird Refuge was established. The Civilian Conservation Corps worked on setting up the refuge and converting the old pumping plant into a rustic hunting and fishing lodge. The Lodge was closed in 1972 after a decline in the wintering of the Canada goose on the lake. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981, The Lodge is currently undergoing renovations.
In 1923, President Theodore Roosevelts idea of The Intracoastal Waterway began to take shape in Hyde County. Dredges dug out the portion of the canal from the Alligator River in -Fairfield southward to the Pungo River.
Ocracoke Island was home to a Navy base built there during World War II. Nearby waters became known as Torpedo Junction as German U-boats sunk merchant ships carrying vital war supplies. On the mainland, old fire towers built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s served as observation points for spotting planes and submarines.
The quiet, isolated days on Ocracoke changed in 1937 when the National Park Service established a National Seashore Recreational Area on the island. After the ferry system was established in the 1950s, Ocracoke began to see an influx of travelers. The mail and freight boats eventually gave way and today's modern state ferry system makes the tourist industry the main source of the island's economy.
Mainland Hyde County experienced a boycott of its public schools in 1968-1969. The outcome of this event was to influence integration decisions not only in the county, but throughout the south.
HYDE YESTERDAYS, A HISTORY OF HYDE COUNTY
written by: MORGAN H. HARRIS
published by: NEW HANOVER PRINTING & PUBLISHING, INC.
HYDE COUNTY HISTORY
written by: THE HYDE COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
published by: HERB EATON, INC. & WALSWORTH PUBLISHING CO.
ALONG FREEDOM ROAD
written by: DAVID CECELSKI
published by: CHAPEL HILL PRESS
THE LODGE AT LAKE MATTAMUSKEET
a brochure written by: DR. LEWIS C. FORREST, JR.
THE MATTAMUSKEET FOUNDATION