On a chilly, sunny day.

Flat terrain, near the Pamlico Sound.

Just a church and some houses.

My Uncle Guy Swindell helped build the church.

On our way to Lake Mattamuskeet,

were Virginia, Tim and me.

Uncle Guy was my great-uncle,

and Virginia’s stepfather.

I met a Spencer,

surely a relative in this tiny, swampy place,

home to my ancestors.


the wood,

carved, dark, dusty.

narrow, spiral steps.


the steeple.

Church at Fairfield, Hyde Co., NC


I’ve studied my roots, and many of my ancestors are from the swampy county of Hyde, NC.  It’s where Ocracoke Island is, if you’re familiar with that dreamy spot on this planet.  My ancestors were fisherman & farmers from the mainland.  It’s a quiet, beautiful place.  I’ve studied some of the newspaper abstracts over the years.  Some of the stories are comical, and I love the verbiage on many of the obits.  I’ve put all of my possible relatives and acquainted in bold, in bold italics if I knew them personally or I’m pretty sure is a direct ancestor.  Fortunately my parents were born, well raised, in the same area, and Hyde County has an incredible genealogical society.  they have published several informative books, as well as a quarterly, “Hoi Tides”.

These abstracts are found here.  They were painstakingly compliled by my gazillionth cousin in TN, Kay Midgett Shepherd.

I’ve highlighted some of the cuter stories in green.

HYDE – Robert BALLANCE, an estimatable citizen, father of Dr. William Pell BALLANCE and others, has passed away. So also Mrs. Dr. LONG after a trying illness borne with patient resignation. As might be expected from our climate, each was over 70. (The Economist – Tuesday, July 17, 1883 pg. 3)

HYDE – Mrs. Henry COLE of this county gave birth a few days ago to 3 children, all of which exhibit the vitality of healthy babies. (The Economist – Tuesday, August 14, 1883; pg. 3)


    The Board of Magistrates met June 2nd in regular session, W.S. COX, H.S. GIBBS, A.B. TUNNELL, A.L. CREDLE, S.L. SNELL, L.S. ROSS, T.R. JARVIS, R.D. HARRIS, A.T. PAUL, W.R. CARAWAN, J.M. WATSON, N.C. WILLIAMS, S.B. HARRIS, Jas. ADAMS, S.B. SADLER, D.H. CARTER, D.C. BURRUS, J.G. HARRIS, B.F. GARRISH, Justices, and Alex BERRY, Clerk ex ofiscio, present.
    In accordance with section 716 of the Code, the Board proceeded to the election of a Board of Commissioners. The following were put in nomination: O.T. CREDLE, Currituck Township; N.C. WILLIAMS, Swan Quarter Township; J.C. SIMMONS, Fairfield Township; G.I. WATSON, Lake Landing Township; W.H. TOLSON, Ocracoke Township. There being no other nominations made, they were voted for separately and declared elected.
    Ordered, that S.L. SNELL, T.H.B. GIBBS and Israel B. WATSON be appointed and elected Finance Committee for Hyde county. On motion the Board adjourned.

    The Board of Education and Magistrates met in joint session June 2nd, J.M. WATSON acting Chairman.
    The business in order was to elect County Superintendent of Public Instruction. Joseph M. WATSON and Rev. S.S. BARBER were placed in nomination; on taking the vote Joseph M. WATSON received 13 votes and his opponent 7, and Mr. WATSON was declared duly elected for the ensuing two years.

    The Board met in regular session on June 2nd; all present. W.T. ALLEN was exempted from poll tax for the year 1884.
    The Board of Commissioners and Justices of the Peace met in joint session and levied the following tax for the year 1884: On $100 valuation of real and personal property, 41½ cents to be applied to several funds as follows, viz: County General Fund, 29 cents; County Parish Fund, 7½ cents; Bridge Fund, 5 cts; 12½ cents added for schools (levied by State) making in all 54 cents. The Board levies on the poll $1.24½ , and the State $1.12½ , making $2.37 poll tax.
    Ordered that notice be posted at the Court House that a Superintendent of County Poor House will be elected on Monday. Mr. TOOLY, resigned.
    County Claims were audited and allowed to the amount of $281.04. The Board then adjourned.


  • Bugs and worms are damaging corn and rice, and the dry weather has retarded the crops; but a nice rain has improved them very much.
  • It is not generally known that there are alligators in our county, but they are seen occasionally; one was seen at Rose Bay a short while since.
  • Quite a large amount of wheat and oats were sown, and are looking well.
  • Rev. J. HENDERSON lost his wife a few days since; she left eight children.
  • A gentleman, not long ago, had a drove of forty cattle at Fairfield to be shipped to Norfolk. His canal toll was 80 cents per head, besides freight, $4 per head extra, costing $190 for the lot. He drove to Plymouth, and his expenses were $39 only from Fairfield to Norfolk.
  • Picnic at the Wilson CREDLE place on 23rd, ult. Quite an enjoyable time. We might have been “expected.”
  • We were at your town according to promise and, while your lassies are pretty, Hyde’s daughters are hard to surpass.
  • The longest cold spell I remember; frost on one or two nights, 30th, ult; potato sprouts slightly frosted.
  • Mr. Daniel NEAL did his usual amount of work on the 29th, ult. At night he complained of a pain in his breast, which continued to grow worse, until he died about 12 o’clock. The deceased was one of the old men and a consistent member of the Baptist church.
  • Rev. Mr. BEAMAN protracted a meeting at Mount Pleasant. Two or three accessions.
  • H. W. WAHAB and George CREDLE have purchased the DONNELL farm on South Lake, said to be 4,900 acres. They paid $10,000 down and are to pay $25,000 more.
  • The Primitive Baptists held their usual June meeting near Fairfield on Saturday and Sunday, 31st and 1st. Very large and quiet audiences.
  • On June 2nd the Board of Magistrates met and re-elected our very faithful Superintendent of Public Schools, Jos. M. WATSON. A strong effort was made to retire him and elect Rev. S. S. BARBER, which failed by nearly one-half, Mr. WATSON receiving 13 and Mr. BARBER 7 votes. I am opposed to preachers holding office anyhow. The same Commissioners were re-elected.
  • Rt. Rev. Mr. WATSON preached one of his usual able discourses at the Court House on Tuesday night, 3d inst.
  • Mrs. TOOLEY, the keeper of the county alms house for over four years, retires from that place very soon. She has never been excelled by any of her predecessors and I doubt if ever equaled. Commissioners, public and paupers regret her departure. She has been faithful to her trust.
  • Mr. Tilpha JONES died on the 3rd, inst. at the residence of G. H. SATTERTHWAITE, SR., near Leechville, aged 84 years. The deceased for many years has been a member of the Church and faithful in the discharge of her duties. [Note: This item is written just as it was printed in the newspaper and is confusing. I don’t know if it was Mr. or Mrs. Tilpha Jones who died on the 3rd since the beginning says “Mr.” and the end of the item says “her duties”.  If anyone knows anything about Tilpha Jones please e-mail me.]  UPDATE: Art Carawan has kindly pointed out through census records that the above obituary was for Mrs. Zilphia Jones who was the mother-in-law of George Harrison Satterthwaite, Sr.  Her daughter, Sophia Jones, was the 2nd wife of G.H. Satterthwaite.
  • Miss Neppie GAYLORD is teaching in our county, near Sladesville.

(The Washington Gazette (Washington, Beaufort Co. NC) – Thursday, June 12, 1884; pg. 3; column 4) [Kindly submitted by Robert Henderson]


SWAN QUARTER, Hyde Co. N.C. –  Miss Jennie WHITLEY one of the principals of the Misses WHITLEY and BROWN High School, at Washington, now teaching a public school at Otales Chapel, in Hyde county, had one of her pupils bitten by a ground rattlesnake. There being no physician near by and the little boy two or three miles from home, Miss WHITLEY sent to a near neighbor’s house, procured a pint or more of Holland gin and gave her little patient a sufficient quantity, as in her good judgment would have the desired effect, first having bandaged the boy’s leg above the wound remembering the old adage that “the hair of the hound would cure the wound.” But seeking no further friendship for the snakeship, took a toad frog, cut it open and bound the bleeding side to the wound; she then sent her little patient to his home. Dr. William O. WHITFIELD was called at once, but upon examination of the case found that Miss WHITLEY had so treated in the outset that the patient need not fear for the safety of the child. The little boy is well and out again declaring his intentions to bruise the serpent’s head. (The Washington Gazette (Washington, Beaufort Co. N.C.) – Thursday, August 14, 1889; pg. 3; column 2) [Kindly submitted by Robert Henderson]


As peaceful as they look to be there is something about oysters that engender strife. A case, originating in oysters, occurred in New Bern on Wednesday in which an oyster patrolman named J.C. THOMAS whose headquarters were at Coinjock, Currituck County, was shot, but not mortally wounded, by Jones SPENCER of Hyde County who recently published an article in the Washington Gazette reflecting upon the character of THOMAS and charging that he was bribed while at his official business at Coinjock [portion torn] used harsh terms about him, when SPENCER pulled out a pistol and told THOMAS he would shoot him if he came nearer. THOMAS continued to advance when SPENCER fired and a ball struck his abdomen and lodged in his hip. THOMAS was badly wounded and SPENCER was arrested, bought before Mayor WILLIAMS, waived examination and was placed under a bond of $400 with Messrs. SIMMONS and MOORE as sureties. THOMAS was a patrolman at the oyster grounds, SPENCER was also a patrolman appointed by Hyde County and was ordered to Coinjock. SPENCER published the results of his investigations and charged corruption upon THOMAS and bribery by non-resident oyster pirates. This led to the difficulty between the two. (The Economist – Tuesday, May 6, 1890; pg. 3)


ENGELHARD – There was a terrific battle fought on Capt. S.H. SPENCER‘s wharf on Monday between some Far Creek fishermen. Rinaldo MYDGETT had one of his fingers nearly severed by the teeth of DeRosett SELBY and a piece of ear cut off by a blow from a tiller in the hands of Josh V. SWINDELLMIDGETT had to hold SELBY‘s head under the water to make him relax his clinched teeth so that he, MIDGETT, could extricate his finger.  MIDGETT says that by holding a crab under water he will release his hold, and it occurred to him to treat Selby along that line and it worked like a charm. Strange to say there was no whiskey in this fight but it was the outgrowth of an old feud which is as mean as good whiskey.

Mr. Robt. J. THOMPSON, who had his arm amputated some weeks ago, says that he can feel the arm as plainly as he ever could before the arm was cut off; and the other day he had the buried arm exhumed and turned over and reinterred so as to give his arm rest.

Mr. Edward SADLER and Miss Lillian Wells ROPER were married on the 4th inst. (The Economist & Falcon – Tuesday, March 18, 1891)


    Since I last wrote, this community has lost one of its best citizens.  Mr. Willie COHOON, a young man widely esteemed, departed this life at his home near here.  He leaves a young wife and two infant children to mourn the loss.  He was a good citizen and his death is a loss to this community in which he had begun to exert an influence for good.
    Mr. AMBROSE, an aged and highly respected citizen of Swan Quarter township, departed this life.  He was a Confederate soldier and as brave a man as ever breasted federal bullets.
    Another death occurred recently in the Engelhard section.  This time the messenger claimed Mr. John PEDRICK, a highly respected citizen, ripe with more than 75 years experience.
    This is by no means a sickly county.  On the other hand, we have never had a case of typhoid fever.  Most of our people are of old age.  We have more citizens over 60 years of age than any county in North Carolina in proportion to our population.  (The Tar Heel (Elizabeth City) – Friday, September 11, 1903; pg. 11)


    My host, Greely BRINN, is the authority for a singular incident which occurred here several years ago.  It was in the year 1876.  The Methodist folk were about to build a house of worship.  There was division in the membership on the question of locating the edifice.  The ladies were a unit in favor of locating it on Pamlico Avenue, while the male members were united in their determination to have it on a site about 400 yards from the one desired by the ladies.  The men won out and the building was in course of erection when the memorable storm of ’76 swept this vicinity.  The singular feature of the story is that the unfinished church structure was floated and carried by the storm to a point within twenty feet of where the ladies had desired that it be erected.  The men believed this to be the work of a divine hand and it is needless to say that this house of worship remained where the storm had driven it.  And to this day the men of this community let the women have their way in church matters as well as in many other respects.


DEATH OF MRS. SIMMONS – Mrs. Lizena SIMMONS, wife of Dr. P.H. SIMMONS and mother of Capt. Benjamin SIMMONS of the U.S. Army, died Saturday, the 28th, after a short illness.  She leaves a husband and three children and a host of friends to mourn her loss.  She was a most estimable woman in who were embodied the finest attributes of a Christian character.

Mr. Preston CARTER had the misfortune to get a finger badly damaged by the explosion of a shell while trying to load his gun a few days ago.  He had the same hand ruined a few years ago by a similar accident.  (The Tar Heel (Elizabeth City) – Friday, December 4, 1903; pg. 1)


     Mrs. Willie CREDLE of Fairfield is the owner of a large silver watch said to have belonged to the pirate Edward TEACH, better know as BLACKBEARD.  It is a double case watch with a very think convex crystal.  It can be taken entirely out of its outer case.  The makers were a London firm, and most people insist they can see a pirate face on the inside of the watch where the trade mark is.  A small piece of white silk printed with a wreath of flowers is between the outer case and the inner one.  Possible forty-five years ago an old man in Bath gave the time piece to the late Poley SPENCER of Raleigh and Hyde County and Mrs. CREDLE is Mr. SPENCER’s sister.  No more of its history than this is known.

The people of Piney Oak section are sympathizing with the relatives of Mr. Heber JARVIS who has become insane.  It became necessary to put him under restraint owing to his very serious condition.  He drove his whole family from the home and struck terror in the hearts of the neighbors by his violence.  At present he is in the county jail until the authorities can obtain admission for him into the State Asylum.  Mr. JARVIS is known as a man of good report, served his country overseas during the war and came back apparently the same kind of young man, only a little more sober-minded.  It is thought that he was affected by the experience of army life.  (The Independent – Friday, January 11, 1924; pg. 6)

So that’s a little bit of the abstracts from 1820-1940.  I know both of my grandaddies are mentioned in some of the later ones, as well as my step-grandfather.

Anywho, hope this isn’t too boring for you.  I find  the vernacular of print media of the time in this rural area very interesting.