The First Inhabitants of Ocean Isle Beach (10,000 BC to 1521 AD)

The first people to live on and near Ocean Isle were American Indians who arrived here about 10,000 BC. There are many Indian arrowheads and pottery pieces in farmers’ fields around Ocean Isle. The primary tribe in the Ocean Isle Beach area was the Cape Fear Indians, but there were also a few settlements of Waccamaw, Iroquois, Catawba, Lumbee, and Choctaw Indians. All of these tribes spoke the Siouan Indian language. The Cape Fear Indians basically hunted in the winter and farmed during the summer. They fished year-round in the Ocean Isle area and gathered oysters and clams. They lived in settlements of dome shaped wigwams. The ground was the floor in a wigwam. A hole in the roof of the wigwam permitted smoke from the fire to escape.


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The Revolutionary War Years at Ocean Isle Beach (1765-1785)

Brunswick County is where the first open armed resistance to the Stamp Act occurred on November 28, 1765 – eight years before the Boston Tea Party in 1773. In 1763, England sent 10,000 new Red Coats to the Colonies and began taxing the Colonies to pay for this expense. The British imposed the Stamp Act in 1765 and this infuriated the colonists. Residents in Brunswick County led the first revolt against British ships. The revolt here led to England repealing the Stamp Act in the Spring of 1766.



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The Explorer Years (1524 to 1699) at Ocean Isle Beach

In March 1524, the Cape Fear Indians watched Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano anchor his ship near Ocean Isle Beach and come ashore. Verrazano spent a few weeks exploring. He found the local Indians to be friendly. He wrote in his diary that “the natives go nude except at the private parts where they wear skins of animals; some natives wear garlands of bird feathers.” Verrazano described the Indians as “russet colored and somewhat larger than Europeans, with well-proportioned bodies clothed in animal skins and feathers.”



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The Prohibition and Great Depression Years (1920 to 1939) at Ocean Isle Beach

The National Prohibition Act passed over Woodrow Wilson’s veto on October 28, 1918 and provided enforcement for the 18th Amendment outlawing liquor. The Act took effect on the Federal level on January 29, 1920 and was not repealed until December 5, 1933. During these Prohibition years in America, it was illegal to produce, transport, or possess liquor. However, sailing vessels routinely used Tubbs Inlet to smuggle rum, whisky, and other liquor into Brunswick County from the Bahamas, Jamaica and Canada. You will find liquor bottles scattered in the woods all around the Ocean Isle Beach area even today as locals back in the 1920’s transferred smuggled liquor into other containers, because if caught with the glass containers they would have been arrested. Residents would quickly unload the contraband cargo at Seaside Landing and discard the glass liquor bottles in the woods all around this landing area. Isolation of this area in the 1900’s made Brunswick County ideal for smuggling liquor during the Prohibition era. Illegally smuggling liquor was big business in the Ocean Isle Beach area throughout the 1920’s.


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The Pirate Years (1690 to 1720) at Ocean Isle Beach

Between 1690 and 1720, pirates operated freely off Ocean Isle Beach – especially three pirates – Sam Bellamy, Stede Bonnet, and Edward Teach. One pirate who looted more than 50 ships from his vessel Whydah was Sam Bellamy who was often called “Black Bellamy.” Bellamy’s pirate career came to an end on April 26, 1717 when a bad storm sunk his ship and nearly all onboard died including Bellamy.


Another notorious pirate who attacked ships off Ocean Isle was Stede Bonnet who was often called “The Gentleman Pirate.” Stede Bonnet however made a big mistake on August 12, 1718. After capturing two large ships, he sailed into the Cape Fear River to divide up his booty with his men and repair his ship. But Colonel Rhett in Charleston heard about this and dispatched two warships – the Henry and the Sea Nympth. A furious battle soon occurred near Southport with twelve of Rhett’s men being killed and eighteen wounded by the pirates. However, nine of the pirates were killed and all of the others were captured and taken to Charleston and hanged for piracy on December 10, 1718.


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The Plantation Years (1721 to 1774) at Ocean Isle Beach

In 1720, both pirates and Indians were virtually eliminated from the Ocean Isle Beach area. Most of the pirates were hanged in 1720 in Charleston and most of the Cape Fear Indians had left the area during the Tuscarora Indian War. Therefore in 1720, Ocean Isle Beach area was ripe and vacant for pioneers to begin settlements and try to make a living. Families such as the Gause family and the Frink family and the Brooks family and the Moore family settled here and started large plantations. Unlike most settlers in the 13 Colonies in the 1700’s who were poor and trying to survive on a small plot of land, the people who settled here in Brunswick County in the 1700’s were from nobility and wealthy families. They brought with them slaves and capital.


By |November 27th, 2013|Articles|1 Comment