Harkers Island , NC Occupations

Occupations of the People

In the early days of the Island, most of the people had to earn their living from the water. Both the ocean and Island waters were used by the men for fishing. In the early 1900's, a Mr. Dryden from Maryland came to the county to buy crabs, and since then there has always been a few who have earned money this way, along with oystering and shrimping. In the early days in certain seasons of the year, whaling was also a very important means of making money. The Island has always been noted for its boat builders, and one can still find those who have that as an occupation. The Harkers Island style of boat has become well-known all over where boats are built and sold. They evidently have a style that cannot be found any other place. It is common place to see a boat being built in the back yard of any resident on the Island. The Gillikin Boat Works is one of the best and largest in the county today; it is employed to build boats for people all over the nation.

The younger people seem to get away from commercial fishing as a means of making a living. Many are now employed away from the Island by Civil Service, as teachers and in other miscellaneous occupations.

Until the year 1926, when the ferry was used to connect Harkers Island with the mainland, the people were deprived of many advantages and pleasures enjoyed by the rest of Carteret County. However, since the year 1926, there has been a great deal of advancement and improvement made. As stated before, the ferry started in 1926, the road was hard surfaced in 1936, the electric lights were turned on in 1939, the bridge was completed January 1, 1941, and the telephone was granted us in 1948. Barden’s Inlet was also opened in 1938, which has been a great asset to those of our Island still engaged in commercial fishing.

The Island is about one and one-half miles wide and four miles long. There is about 1400 people who live on it the year around. The first tourists to build summer homes on Harkers Island were the O’Neals of Henderson, North Carolina, the Van Wyes of Connecticut and the Leggett’s of Tarboro, North Carolina. Since then, people from all parts of our state, and a few from others states, have chosen the Island as a place to build their summer homes. Now that there is the Harker’s Lodge, Hill’s and Angler Motels, people are coming to the Island by the hundreds to spend their vacations all during the year. The tourist trade seems to be the big business of the future for Harkers Island. One reason for this is because of the nearness of Cape Lookout and the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf Stream. One may leave the Island in his boat, go through Barden’s Inlet, and without danger be in good fishing waters in less than twenty minutes.

In the early days of the ferry, Earl Davis had a big sign erected on the end of the ferry road which said, “A HARD PLACE TO GET TO, BUT A GOOD PLACE TO LIVE.” You can talk to any of our citizens, or the ones who live here for only part of the year, and they all agree that Harkers Island is no longer a hard place to get to, BUT IS STILL A GOOD PLACE TO LIVE.

Source: History of Harkers Island; Mrs. Earl C. Davis; 11/1957 (amended 1/1969), pp. 7-8.

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