Brown’s Island 2- The Camp

Brown's Island, N.C. fish camp

Courtesy, State Archives of North Carolina

A view of the Brown’s Island mullet camp from the ocean dunes facing the sound side of the island. Piles of firewood, a wandering hog and several fishermen, including one tending to his laundry, can be seen around the camp.

The bunkhouses and the cook shop, near left, have doors and windows open to the breeze. With no screens, the fishermen relied on sea winds to keep cool and to discourage the swarms of mosquitoes, flies, and yellow jackets that plagued the island until the first hard frost.

This is the 2nd in a series of Charles A. Farrell’s photographs from Brown’s Island, in Onslow County, in 1938. An earlier version of this story appeared in Southern Cultures, a quarterly journal published by the UNC Center for the Study of the American South.

For other reasons, too, a barrier island was not an easy place to live. Sun-baked, arid, and wind-swept, the long, narrow islands resembled a desert from an ecological point of view. In 1938, when this photograph was taken, most were uninhabited, and only special breeds of plants, animals, or people succeeded in making homes on them.

At least 4 other cabins and a larger dwelling made up the camp as well, but cannot be seen from this angle. In the distance, a maritime forest occupied the south end of the island, then a broad salt marsh, and the mainland on the horizon.

A stretch of open sound water can be seen on the far right, beyond the shed. The straight, narrow passage through the salt marsh is part of the Intracoastal Waterway, the “Big Ditch,” which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged in the 1910s and ‘20s to provide a sheltered path for commercial vessels to transport goods the entire length of the Eastern Seaboard.


Tomorrow– one of the oldest fishermen, Bedford Lawrence, and his home in Otway, N.C.



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