Davis, NC Storms

Davis Ridge

By Grayden Paul

It was the year 1898, the coldest year ever recorded by the weather bureau in Carteret County up to that time. It was also a year of famine and a lot of people were hungry. It was especially hard for people who lived in isolated communities like Davis, which lies on the west side of Core Sound about twenty miles east of Beaufort and completely surrounded by water.

Here lived a very hardy and self-reliant people, among whom were my father and grandfather. They grew their own corn, potatoes, pork, beef, and vegetables. They had access to seafood and wildfowl – that is, in normal times. But this was a long, cold winter and the Depression had been on for years. Their food supply soon ran out and they had to depend entirely on what they could catch from the water. But to add to their dismay, a terrible freeze came and all the sounds and bays were frozen solid so they could get no more food from the water. Many people got sick from starvation and some died; but the cold weather stayed on – until finally Core Sound was frozen all the way to the Banks.

There was a group of colored folk who lived near by at the Ridge. The leader of their clan was “Uncle Mose” Davis. It was he who suggested to the folks on Davis that they’d better have a prayer meeting. So all the able-bodied men and women gathered down on the shore at Oyster Creek and Uncle Mose was the first one to pray. They all bowed their heads and said, “O Lord, we’ve gathered here to ask you to help us out of our troubles. We’ve done everything we can for ourselves and unless you do something to help us, we are all gonna starve to death. Amen.”

Then before anybody else could start praying, somebody said, “Look over to the Banks. What is that I see?” Somebody said, “That’s a cloud.” “No,” said somebody else, “That’s smoke I see. A spiral leading up from the beach. That must be somebody signaling for help.” “How in the world can we help them?” somebody asked. “You can’t get a boat over there and no fool is going to walk out on that ice. Why you would break through and freeze to death.” Uncle Mose broke in and said, “Fellows, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves. We came here to ask God to help US and we’re not willing to help somebody else.”

So they took a 20-foot skiff lying close by and tied three lines to the bow and three men tied the lines around the waists and stepped on the ice, pulling the skiff behind them. If the ice did break, they could pull themselves back into the boat. They soon discovered that the ice was thick enough to hold them, so they made their way slowly there miles across Core Sound to Core Banks, from where the smoke signals were coming. When they reached the top of the sand hills, they saw a group of men sitting around the fire. Then they saw a ship wrecked on the shoals just off shore. Do you know what that ship was loaded with? Molasses and grain, which save the people of Davis Shore from starving to death.

Was this answer to prayer? Those people on Davis Shore thought so. The ship’s name was Pontiac. Some of the furnishings from the captain’s cabin are in the home of the late Elmo Wade of Williston.

Reprinted from the MAILBOAT

Down East Community Tour
Core Sound Waterfowl Museum