Davis, NC History
Memories of Oyster Creek
by James W. Salter (Born January 22, 1888)
I am thinking back over my life of 85 years, to when I was a kid living up to the head of Oyster Creek, where I was born January 22, 1888. I was born in the house of my grandmother, Sarah (known to everyone as aunt Sallie Salter).
I want to tell you about my grandmother's early life as it was told to me by an old man living at Davis Shore, who passed away many years ago. As he told me about how he lived, it was very hard times. He told me about one Christmas when one of his Dad's old friends ate dinner at their house. They gave him the best that they had—salt fish and potatoes. To begin with, my grandmother lived up the head of Nelson's Bay, just across Highway 70, from where John Weston Smith's fish factory is located. She lived on a 50-acre tract of land, owned by her Dad. It was very good farming land and no doubt she knew all about what "work" was.
Her brother, Tom Lewis, gave her 50 acres of land at the head of Oyster Creek for a wedding present when she married James Salter, and they went there, built a house and started a new life together. They cleared a little farm, about 20 acres, right in the side of a heavy gum swamp. In those days it was all hard work, but it is no secret what God can do for the ones that love him.
My grandmother raised a large family. The children were John, George, James Wallace, Isaiah Stanley, Robert, Kilby and one girl named Mittie. The oldest son, John and his wife Pherbie didn't have any children. George and his wife, Jimmie, had five girls; Mary, Sallie, Hettie, Georgie and Maggie. Hettie was born May 28, 1882, died September 21, 1959. Georgie was born June 12, 1886 and died October 25, 1964. Maggie was born February 6, 1889 and died September 18, 1952.
The third son, James Wallace Salter, and his wife Matilda Ann had three children; Ernest Salter, born March 19, 1883, died July 6, 1974, Nora Salter, who was born May 13, 1884 and died December 12, 1954 and married a Davis, Daisy Salter, born May 12, 1893, and married a Willis.
Isaiah Stanley Salter and wife Eliza Salter (my parents), Isaiah was born June 22, 1850 and died June 4, 1914. Eliza was born August 13, 1860 and died December 18, 1945. They had three children:
There was a man by the name of Hawkins, that stayed up the Oyster Creek
for a long time. He was a soldier, stationed at Fort Macon, and when the
Yankees were shelling the fort a short distance up the beach, Hawkins
ran away. He had no home, but stayed in the swamp during the daytime,
and would come out at night. He dug a ditch in the swamp about one-half
mile long, and it is still called "Hawkins Ditch" today. When
he left from Oyster Creek, no one knows where he went.
When Papa killed the hogs in the fall of the year, Old Mama would salt
the meat, smoke the hams and the shoulders. Back in those days, up to
Oyster Creek was a good place to live. When the weather turned cold in
the fall of the year, a big fire was built in the fireplace. After supper,
when the day's work was done, we would gather around the fireplace (the
kitchen was about 30 feet from the main house). The cotton was put on
the floor in front of the fireplace, and when it got warm, the seed were
easier to pick out. After the seeds were picked, the cotton was carded
into rolls. The wool was carded the same way. I reckon there are a lot
of people that never saw a pair of hand cards. I have got my mother's
but I never did know what became of Old Mama's.
Back in those days, farming was done the hard way, for corn and cotton was planted by hand, and it was all work and no play. After the crops were all harvested in the fall, it was back to carding, spinning, weaving cloth, and repairing the fence around the farm.
It was a Salter town, Aunt Mittie married a sea captain (William Bell) and they went to Harkers Island, N. C. his home to live. They had two girls, Dora and Claudia. Captain Bell died when the two girls were very small, and Aunt Mittie moved back to her home at the head of Oyster Creek. Both girls died very young, so Aunt Mittie had her husband's body moved from Harkers Island, and buried at Davis Shore with the two girls. Uncle Robert was drowned at sea and Uncle Kilby died at home. Neither of them married.
Now to get back to my grandmother Sallie. My grandfather died, and Sallie was left with seven children to raise. Some of them could help a little with the work. Shortly after grandfather died, a waterspout destroyed my grandmother's house, and she built another one. On her little farm, she raised corn and cotton. She had a lot of fruit trees, especially apple trees and she sold a lot of the apples. She also had honey bees that she could handle, a lot of cattle, cows, horses, sheep, hogs, and chickens. The sheep were raised to get wool to make clothes for her family. She had a loom for weaving cloth, and did the weaving herself. She and her family picked the seed out of the cotton, carded it into rolls, spun it on a spinning wheel into thread, and wove it into cloth to make clothes for her family.
I think she was a grand old lady. She was loved by all who knew her, for she was always helping someone. She had a grist mill, and ground corn for herself and for other people too, for she was very helpful. She had a two-masted boat, which she used to take her cotton to New Bern, NC, the nearest market. Her boat was named "Sidney," but someone didn't like that name, so she changed it to the "Sow-Bug." My grandmother was born in 1805, and died in 1903, at the age of 98 years.
When my uncles grew up and started out on their own, Uncle John built his house right across the run. He had about 10 acres, and bought the Gideon Smith farm. Uncle Jim Wallace Salter had a farm joining my grandmother's farm. Uncle George Salter built his house on the farm next to Uncle Jim Wallace. Millie Davis had her home and farm next to Uncle George. As I remember, they were all life-long friends.
I will try to name the families that lived up the Oyster Creek, that
is, besides the Salters. There was Millie Davis, one family of Fishers,
one family of Willis, one family of Brinson, and two colored families.
There was a little schoolhouse, and Miss Nettie Davis was the teacher.
Later she became Alva Davis's wife. Nettie Davis was born at Davis, NC,
on August 29, 1871, and died at Sea Level Hospital, Sea Level, NC on April
The Murphy Home
Proctor Davis (a colored man), worked for Old Mama for a long time. He lived in a rush camp on Quinine Point, and if you don't know where that is, I will tell you. It is the northwest point of the ridge on the north of Davis Island. Old Mama helped him to get five acres of land near our place, and he moved there and built another rush camp, and lived in it for a long time.
One Christmas Eve night, during a snow storm, his rush camp burned flat
to the ground. The Mozells family moved to Morehead city, so Proctor got
their home. The men folks on Davis Shore helped to move the house on Proctor's
land. That was his first and last home on this earth, but I believe he
went to a better home. Proctor had a large family. He called his wife
"Myrtle Bird". They had three sons; Barney, Bill and Eli, and
five girls; May, Lucy, Kill, Penny and Bettie. They were colored people,
but very honest and nice people.
Mr. Warren Gilgo, from Portsmouth Island, and his wife Sophronia, had two girls of their own, and they raised another girl. Mr. James Warren Gilgo was born November 27, 1866 and died December 7, 1953. His wife Sophronia Gilgo was born July 13, 1862 and died August 26, 1942. Their children were:
A family of Candy, moved up the Oyster Creek, and they had four girls, but after a few years, they moved back to Beaufort County.
When Uncle Jim Salter and the Gilgo's all moved to Davis Shore, and the colored people moved away, it was very lonely. Papa and Mama didn't want to give up the home place, so we stayed on for a long time, just our one family. In 1905, I bought a piece of land down on Davis shore, and built a home for Papa, Mama, and myself. Brother Tommie was married and lived in a home close by. There were Salters living on both sides of me now, five families in a row. Some of the Salters moved to other communities, but we seem to hang together. The best I can remember, there are only four people living now in 1974, that were born up the Oyster Creek , and they are Ernest Salter, his sister Daisy Salter Willis, Kilby Salter, my brother and myself.
Getting back to the old days, when Old Mama was active, she was always going around the place to see what was going on. She knew how to live off the land, and farming was her life and she knew how to do it. They didn't have much money in those days, in fact they didn't have any. She looked to the Lord for the harvest. About all they had to buy was coffee. They bought the green coffee beans, parched them, and ground them in a little hand mill. It was after I was born before they bought flour—196 pounds in a barrel, for $3.00. We had lightening bread on Sunday morning, with stiff cow's cream, smoked ham and brown gravy. Most of the time it was corn bread with cracklins in it.
After Old Mama died, things didn't seem like they did before. As far back as I can remember, there was never a cuss word spoken in her house. There weren't too many changes in Old Mama's day, but I have seen a lot of changes in my lifetime.
We gave up the place to the bears after Old Mama and Papa left us. Up
the creek, in the winter time when it got cold, the fish went into a deep
hole. When anyone wanted fresh fish, they would take the net, and haul
the deep hole right at the old landing place. They would catch all the
fish they wanted, and turn the rest loose. There were always plenty of
oysters, too, as well as clams, and scallops. It was really a good place
After the Gilgo family from Portsmouth and Uncle Jim's family moved up
the Oyster Creek, they farmed a little, but the salt tide had ruined most
of our land, and we had to look for other things to do, like working in
the water. The Gilgo brothers, Warren, George and Tom, built a fish factory
on the north side of the creek, just above where the bridge is now. They
made fish scrap and oil, but they only ran the place for a few years.
Joe Dixon had his fish factory on the south side, just out of the creek.
I was just a kid, but I worked with Joe for $10.00 a month and all of
the tobacco I wanted.
Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
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