When I was visiting my son in Washington, DC recently, I went to a breathtakingly beautiful exhibit of Katsushika Hokusai's paintings that is currently at the National Museum of Asian Art's Freer Gallery.
An anthropologist named Frank Speck took this photograph of an American Indian woman and child on Roanoke Island, N.C., in 1915. He referred to them as "Machapunga Indians" (though I will not), a tribe whose homeland had historically been the area around the Pungo River and Lake Mattamuskeet.
This is my tenth and last photo essay dedicated to Charles Farrell's photographs of fishing communities on the North Carolina coast in the 1930s and '40s. I think it's time to talk about what happened to him, and why he and his photographs were forgotten for so long.
When Charles Farrell took these photographs, Salter Path was the only settlement of any kind on the western two-thirds of Bogue Banks. Lights were few and far between and on clear nights you felt as if you could see every star in the heavens.
This is a photograph of Charles P. Dey and his brother John Wesley Dey’s menhaden oil and scrap mill at Lennoxville, a mile and half east of Beaufort, in Carteret County, N.C., circa 1890.
In the autumn of 1938, the photographer Charles Farrell visited a gang of mullet fishermen from Varnamtown while they hauled their nets on Bald Head Island, down in the far southeast corner of the North Carolina coast.
Through the eyes of Sneads Ferry's oldest residents, I came to see Charles Farrell's photographs as a window into a time when most of the village's people still made their livings from the sea.
When I was in Southport several years ago, I carried Charles Farrell's photographs to an old menhaden fisherman named Charles “Pete” Joyner. At the time, Mr. Joyner was 93 years old.
A few years ago, I carried a box of Charles Farrell's old photographs of the state's great herring fisheries back to one of the communities on the Chowan River where he took them. They are poignant and beautiful, and the herring workers in them are unforgettable, but I also find them a little haunting because they remind me of all that can be lost.
I love this photograph of fishermen at the Barney Slough Fish Camp back in the winter of 1905. They were shad fishermen and you can see them standing with their pound net stakes, just off Hatteras Island.
Far more than I usually do, I am noticing the beauty in even the smallest, most everyday parts of my world.
Another lesson that I learned from Mike Alford and Earl Wynn Jr.'s research is this: fishermen used their shad boats for a great deal more than catching shad. In the words of Roanoke Island's old timers, they also did a whole lot of “proggin.”
In this photograph we see the Dough family’s boatyard on the north end of Roanoke Island, ca. 1930. A shad boat is being “framed up.” One of master boat builder Otis Dough’s sons, probably Worden Dough, is working on a spar. All three of his sons—Worden, Horace and Lee—built shad boats.
In this 5th part of my series "The Story of Shad Boats," I am looking at one of the most groundbreaking parts of Earl Willis’s and Mike Alford's research on shad boats—Earl's compilation of a detailed registry of shad boats and shad boat builders-- and exploring what it says about where shad boats were built and used.
This is the 3rd part of my special series "The Story of Shad Boats." The series features Earl Willis, Jr. and Mike Alford's extraordinary journey to document the history of North Carolina's "state boat"-- a boat that is a remarkable window into a time, a place and a people.
This is the 2nd part of my special series "The Story of Shad Boats." The series features Earl Willis, Jr. and Mike Alford's extraordinary journey to document the history of North Carolina's "state boat"-- a boat that is a remarkable window into a time, a place and a people.
The other day Ed Pond in Davis Shore got in touch with me. Ed grew up there in the 1940s and ‘50s and my recent series on the history of Southport’s shrimping industry had set him to remembering.
Today-- the conclusion to my special series '`The Shrimp Capital of the World'-- Charles Farrell's Photographs of Southport, N.C., 1938" Charles Farrell’s photographs chronicled Southport’s shrimp industry in its heyday, but those days did not last forever. In fact, they came to an end suddenly, on the 15th of October 1954. On that autumn day, … Continue reading Hurricane Hazel: “Nothing left but piling”
A shrimp house in the 1930s was its own world. When the toil wasn't too wearing, some were almost festive. On some nights, in some shrimp houses, the women sang gospel hymns and popular songs to pass the time and to find the strength to keep going.
In those days many a shrimper led an itinerant life. When the season ended in Southport, they headed south to shrimp out of Fernandina Beach, St. Augustine, Key West, Everglades City, Punta Gorda and half a dozen other Florida fishing communities, often coming home on Christmas Eve with their arms full of gifts for their wives and sweethearts and children.
More than two decades ago, I interviewed Capt. Leslie Day’s brother, Gordon Day, for a research project on the Second World War. We mostly talked about the war, but he also had a great story about how the family earned enough money to build their shrimp boat, the Empress, in 1930.
This is Benjamin Howard Day, Capt. Leslie Day’s father, with his hand on the wheel of the shrimp trawler Empress in the fall of 1938. You can't see them in Charles Farrell's photograph, but his son and the mate are wrestling the trawl aboard on the other side of the boat. The three men made up the crew of the Empress while she was shrimping in Southport.
In the 1930s, coming to Southport was an autumn ritual for many of Carteret County’s shrimp crews: Capt. Leslie Day's drop-netter Empress was one of perhaps 50 or 60 boats that stayed in Southport for the fall shrimping season.
While documenting Southport's shrimp industry in 1938, Charles Farrell also visited Crattie Arnold. Crippled by spinal meningitis, Arnold had both of his legs amputated when he was 7 years old but still became a legendary fisherman and boat builder.
Part 4 of my series "The Shrimp Capital of the World"-- Today, the rise of Southport’s shrimp industry, Italian shrimpers and the days when most coastal North Carolinians were more likely to fertilize their gardens with shrimp than to sell or eat them!