Harkers Island , NC Community Leaders

Memories of My Family

Sandra K. Willis

The Reunion that will be held on August 15, 1999 at Shell Point, Harkers Island, North Carolina, concerning the “Diamond City and Ca’e Bankers;” as a descendant of the Bankers,
I would like to add these memories of my family.

My father Sammie Willis, was born at Shackleford Banks, North Carolina on September 15, 1897. He was the son of Samuel Eastman Willis and Martha Fulcher Willis. Sam E. Willis’s parents were Nathan Willis and Affy Rose Willis. Martha F. Willis’s parents were George and Mary Fulcher. They were residents of Diamond City.

There were six children born to Sam E. and Martha Willis: Kelly, Mary Elizabeth, Luther, Sammie, Millie and Ira. They lived in several places including Diamond City, Shackleford Banks, Cape Lookout, Marshallberg, Hampstead and Promised Land. But Harkers Island became their final home place. Here is where their descendants live today. Some of their old homeplaces are still standing as a reminder of these earlier Bankers. Many of their descendants visit the Banks and Cape Lookout still.

Sammie, his parents, and others also lived at Cape Lookout, NC. They owned land also, and stayed for some years. My Uncle Kelly owned a two-story house, and it still is located at Cape Lookout He also later ran a mailboat (“Pet”) to Beaufort. Then later had a van which he carried mail and passengers to Beaufort.

My father and his parents lived a simple life, but worked hard to support their families. Their faith in God helped them to continue on and endure many hard things.
My family and I were visiting Cape Lookout, a month or so ago (1999). We took a ride on the “Mule Train” with Sonny Williamson. He took us by the old house owned by my Uncle Kelly. The house is owned by someone else now. The house was needing some repairs. I understand the house was the old Coast Guard Station Quarters and was moved to where it is located now. The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is still a light to light the way of many sailors and fisherman.

My father (Sammie) would tell of their fishing and whaling experiences. They would get their living from the sea and sound. Their dories, boats, skiffs, nets and homes, always gave them something to do. They worked hard. You could tell it by their hands and faces. But they always found a way to survive. For many, their faith in God kept them strong.

I remember a story my father would tell. It went something like this: On the beach someone (I don’t remember the name) found a duck. He sent his child up the beach to the village to sell it. The child wanted to know what to charge. The father said, “If you can’t get a dime, take a nickel.” The lesson was, if you couldn’t get the full amount, you learn to take less.

My family added more members after my father married Lina B. Davis (b. August 31, 1905). She was the daughter of Bert S. Davis and Nicy Midgette (Salter) Davis. Line was one of eight children born to Bert and Nicy. Their children are/were: Joe, Lina, Roosevelt, Bethel, Beulah, Gracie, Worth and Georgie. Their grandparents were earlier settlers of Harkers Island. Bert was the son of Israel Sheldon Davis and Bethel Paine Gorde Davis. He had two brothers, Cleveland and Henry Allen Davis who was killed in Norfolk on a tug boat at the age of 19.

Bert was born at Mann’s Harbor in Dare County in 1878. He was born in a “sharpie” - a sailing boat used at that time to transport things from place to place and for making a living. Bert and his family later lived on Harkers Island. The Polly Ann Cemetery is named for his wife. Later Bert and Nicy moved to Beaufort where they ran a fish house. It was owned by William Way & Brothers. Bert died on November 25, 1972 at the age of 94 years old.

I am Sandra K. Willis, daughter of Sammie and Lina Willis. As one of the youngest of 12 children, I am proud to be one of their children. The others are: Duncan, Lina Mae - who died young, Henry, Ruth, Roger, Paul, Lee, Guyon, Lina Mae, Sandra Kaye, Michael and James Harry. I have lived on Harkers Island all my life. I am proud to add some of the memories of my family history to others of the Diamond City and Ca’e Bankers.

I married Joseph C. Willis, Sr. He was born to Joseph K. Willis (“Joe”) and Sadie (Davis) Willis. Joe Willis and family were also descendants of Diamond City, Shackleford Bankers. His parents were Kilby Willis and Emily Ann (Guthrie) Willis of Diamond City. Kilby’s parents were Wallace and Josephine Willis; Emily’s parents were James B. and Margaret Ann (Hancock) Guthrie - all born at Diamond City. Sadie’s parents were Shelly Davis and Mary Frances (Guthrie) Davis. Shelly’s parents were Samuel and Polly Ann (Wade) Davis. Mary’s parents were Alphonzie and Alice (Hancock) Guthrie.

They were all early settlers of the Banks who later moved to Harkers Island. Their family lived at the west end of the Island. We both have Willis fathers and Davis mothers. We were born and reared on Harkers Island. We still live here with many of our family members. God Bless us all is my prayer. Sandra K. Willis - July 31, 1999

From "Our Shared Past" prepared for the Diamond City & Ca'e Bankers Reunion, August 1999 as a collection of writings, research and recollections to tell the story of the Banks communities.
Copyright 1995, Core Sound Waterfowl Museum
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