MIKE WAGONER

MIKE WAGONER

Ebenezer Harker died in 1765, and shortly thereafter, his heirs renamed their Craney Island homeplace as Harkers Island.

The youngest son of Ebenezer and Elizabeth Harker, Zachariah Harker, served as a captain of the Carteret Regiment during the American Revolution.

Colonists astutely moved “certain provisions” out of Beaufort and stored them in warehouses on Harkers Island in order to conceal their valuables from the British troops who would “invade” Beaufort.

“Thirteen men guarding the stores on Harkers Island, probably led by Zachariah Harker, repulsed British troops in a brief battle on April 6, 1782,” reported Dr. Charles L. Paul, a retired university history professor, and a native of Davis, a village in Down East Carteret County.

Between the formation of the United States and the Civil War, Harkers Island remained sparsely populated and basically untouched by progress.

“Vegetation was so dense – tangled thickets of oak, pine, cedar and yaupon – that any movement about the island at that time had to be along the shore” at low tide, said Joel G. Hancock Sr., a local Harkers Island author and historian.

“The lush vegetation was ideal for most livestock, and many sheep, goats and cattle roamed the forest unfettered and unclaimed,” he said.

From Harkers Island, it’s about three miles out to the Atlantic Ocean, on the far side of Shackleford Banks.

“Looking back from Shackleford Banks, no part of Harkers Island was more distinctive or inviting than ‘Red Hill,’ the name given to the island’s southwest corner. Its name came from the high banks of sand that lay at the edge of the water and glowed a glistening red as they reflected the summer sun,” Hancock explained.

Harkers Island appears to have “gotten its religion” first from the Methodists, and one of the early missionaries sent from Boston in 1864 was Jenny Bell, a teacher. Her little schoolhouse became known as “Jenny Bell’s Academy.” The first church on the island was built by Methodists in 1875.

Into the 1880s, more people were living on Shackleford Banks than on Harkers Island. Whaling was the primary industry on the Banks at the time, and that was a process that truly required a “community.”

With everyone pitching in, it took about two weeks to cut up a whale and boil out the oil, commented the late David Stick of Kitty Hawk, a premier Outer Banks historian.

The largest grouping of homes was near the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Because of its distinctive, diamond daymark pattern, Joe Etheridge, superintendent of the Cape Lookout Life-Saving Station, suggested the settlement take the name of “Diamond City” in 1885. It stuck, Stick added.

Diamond City was ravaged by the storm surge associated with the Hurricane of 1896, which came calling on Oct. 11, bringing maximum sustained winds of 100 mph.

It opened conversation among the residents of Diamond City. Do we stay or do we go? The first to choose to go was William Henry Guthrie. He acquired 64.5 acres of land on Harkers Island and moved his family to solid ground.

Most of the Diamond City people, however, opted to stay on Shackleford and hunker down to brace against whatever punch Mother Nature might deliver next. The big one would come less than three years later.

It was labeled the Great Hurricane of 1899. The U.S. Weather Bureau station in Hatteras Village measured 100 mph winds and gusts to 140 mph...before its measuring equipment blew away.

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