Beach Town in a Forest

Beach Town in a Forest
Beach Town in a Forest, Pine Knoll Shores located in Carteret County on North Carolina's Crysal Coast. Photo compliments of Bill Flexman and Dave Prutzman

Saturday, April 9, 2016

"Beach Town in a Forest"

"The Story of Pine Knoll Shores" is on exhibit at the History Museum of Carteret County from  March 15, 2016, through March 15, 2017. This display, produced as a joint effort of the History Committee of Pine Knoll Shores and the Historical Society of Carteret County, occupies the remodeled Rodney Kemp Gallery. The museum intends to use the Rodney Kemp Gallery to showcase the history of Carteret County towns. Pine Knoll Shores was selected to be the first to exhibit, and in coming years, the story of other communities will fill this gallery.

This post provides a look at the exhibit to give a taste for those unable to visit the museum,  encourage those who are able to go, and serve as a reference for those who have alreadty visited.

The History Committee of Pine Knoll Shores DOES NOT operate a brick and mortar museum. In its place, we present our discoveries and research results in this blog—an e-museum. The stories presented in the Rodney Kemp Gallery exhibit are all based on material detailed in this history blog.

In the Rodney Kemp Gallery, the story is framed around five broad historical subject areas, each having important relevance to the formation of Pine Knoll Shores. The subject areas are built around graphic panels, three feet wide and seven feet high. The exhibit is organized for viewing in a clockwise direction and presents the story generally in chronological order.

The theme for this exhibit came about serendipitously as a result of new eyes viewing the town for the first time. In May 2015, when we were first considering the project, we invited personnel from the  museum community to Pine Knoll Shores town hall for discussions and to see some of the historical material we had. This was the first time each of the visitors had driven off of Hwy. 58 onto Municipal Blvd., and each was surprised at the height and density of the tree cover in Pine Knoll Shores. Reflecting on that observation, History Committee members realized that living here we take for granted as everyday and routine what a new set of eyes sees as unique and special. From that, the theme of "Beach Town in a Forest" evolved.

This theme was further re-enforced when a town resident took two members of the History Committee for a photo flight in his Cessna 172. The aerial photo on the panel below and the one on the PKS Today panel were taken on that flight in October 2015.  Most of the homes are under the maritime forest and not visible in these photos.

First Peoples
The sandy barrier islands of North Carolina constantly change in response to the processes of wind and water erosion, tidal action, and changes in sea level. The dynamics and composition of the land present a challenge for researchers. The few bones, ceramics and tools that have been uncovered offer some clues and suggest reasons artifacts are so lacking. We develop the land they farmed, we fish waters they fished, we build roads on paths they trod and homes on the high ground they liked. All this activity disturbs evidence of their existence. In spite of these limitations, a picture of life on these lands over the past few thousand years is beginning to come into focus.

The native inhabitants of the region were a mixture of Iroquois-speaking Tuscarora with members of the Algonquian-speaking Coree tribe, along with the Siouan-speaking Waccamaw tribes to the south. These native people most likely used the Banks on a seasonal or periodic basis for fishing, hunting, summer recreation, or ceremonial activity. The small burial ground discovered in 1968 in what is now the western portion of Indian Beach was carbon dated to be 600-800 years old. To date there has been no discovery of artifacts that would indicate permanent settlement or regular repetitive occupation in that time frame.  Bogue Banks, like many other barrier islands, is essentially a sandbar, which is constantly changing under pressure by forces of wind and sea. The lack of artifacts is not surprising in light of the impermanent, shifting nature of the island.

Giovanni da Verrazano (also spelled Verrazzano and Verazano) may or may not have made landfall in Pine Knoll Shores, but a letter he wrote to King Francis I of France, dated July 8, 1524, indicates that Verrazano did sail along our coast. North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources highway marker ID: C-59, on the corner of Highway 58 and Pine Knoll Boulevard, honors his passage.

By the 1600s, the land we now call North Carolina was a part of the Province of Carolina claimed by England. In 1663, King Charles II, recently “restored” to the English throne, formally granted the Province of Carolina—from present-day Florida north to the Albermarle Sound region and from the Atlantic Ocean west to the Pacific—to eight favored courtiers.  They were titled the Lord's Proprietors. The Lord in this case is the King of England, and the Proprietors are ruling landlords or overseers for the sovereign.[i] Their charge from the King was “With a clear and good intention to make those parts useful and advantageous to his majesty and his people.”[ii] The role of the Lord's Proprietors continued in various forms and degree in parts of the Carolinas until the 1720s when they were replaced by Crown administration with an appointed governor. All Royal governance ended in 1776 with Independence, and the secession of the colonies from England.

[i] Natives & Newcomers – The Way We Lived in North Carolina before 1770, by Elizabeth A. Fenn and Peter H. Wood. 1983, The University of North Carolina Press
[ii] LEARN NC, North Carolina Digital History, The Lords Proprietors

Early Settlements
Prior to the Roosaevelt development of the land that is now Pine Knoll Shores, there were several settlements that existed for a time then passed on. James “Cap’n Jim” N. Willis III, a long-time Atlantic Beach resident and a good source of historical information about this area, discovered that the 1800 Census listed “Jones Meginnis” as living on Bogue Banks. In 1820, a “Dorcas Maginnis” is listed. By 1830, the name disappears from census books.  Today a residential development called McGinnis Point occupies the "point" that the 1820 Meginnis family occupied, .

John Royall, a successful businessman from Maine, began buying land on Bogue Banks around 1910. Eventually, he acquired 4/5ths of the island, approximately 8,000 acres. In today’s measurements, he bought from Highway 58 mile marker 5 west to the end of the island. This land was purchased in several parcels from a number of owners, including the families Taylor, Midyette, Lewis, Garner, Smith, Colburn and Styron as well as from the Eastern Carolina Land & Lumber Co. He built his family a lodge and some smaller cabins on the sound shore. For a period of years, perhaps a dozen, he and his family lived there part time. In 1917, he sold 2,000 acres to Alice Hoffman, and by 1923, he sold the remainder of his holdings on the western end of Bogue Banks.

During the time John Royall was assembling his 8,000 acres, Oscar Kissam, an entrepreneur from Huntington Long Island, NY, purchased 82 acres fronting Bogue Sound. On this 80 acres, Oscar Kissam layed out roads and lots, selling some to acquaintances from Long Island. These adventurous buyers built small fishing cabins and came down during the winter. After an initial burst of interest, Oscar’s scheme to sell lots, sight unseen, to northern buyers was essentially a failure. He only managed to sell about a quarter of the acreage, and by 1915, he moved on to endeavors elsewhere.

Although the size of Royall's and Kissam's holdings were vastly different, Oscar Kissam’s 80 acres had a greater impact on the ultimate development of Pine Knoll Shores than did Royall's 8,000 acres. The Kissam acreage was in what would become the central portion of Pine Knoll Shores and exists there today more or less intact.

Alice Hoffman
Alice Green, the first child of a successful business family, was born in the four-story townhouse of her grandparents, located in New York City on Fifth Avenue and 39th Street. At the time of her birth in 1862, the home was occupied by her parents, maternal grandparents and three live-in servants. She received a proper education for a young woman of her social standing, attending Miss Porter's School for Girls, a finishing school in Farmington Connecticut, studying math, science, English, music, and several foreign languages.

At the age of 20, she sailed to Europe for the first time, thus beginning a 50-year period of maintaining residences in Paris, each one at a prestigious address. Her life in Paris revolved around the continental social scene—parties, travel, gambling, and horse racing. She is courted by several suitors, marries one, John Ellis Hoffman, and divorces him five years later. As hostilities of World War One approached Paris and as wartime rationing and travel restrictions grew, she closed her Paris home and returned to the U.S. An advertisement in a New York newspaper in 1915 attracted her to Carteret County. As far as can be determined, she had no friends, relatives, or acquaintances here nor had she ever been here before. But, within two years, she owned 2,000 acres on Bogue Banks and was living in a house on an island, at the end of a dirt path, with no utilities, requiring a boat to travel to the mainland. A dramatic change from her life and times in Paris and Manhattan. She did, however, maintain her staff and servants. And, at the end of WWI, she returned to Paris for long periods of time. She permanently left Paris for Bogue Banks at the start of WWII.

World War II on Bogue Banks
Starting in 1939, German submarines were attacking ships moving supplies from the U.S. to England. Within weeks of the U.S. declaring war, Germany expanded its focus to include the east and gulf coast of the U.S. In the first eight months of 1942, more than 50 merchant ships were lost to U-boats patrolling off the North Carolina coast[ii]. Much of the detailed information concerning the U.S. merchant shipping losses was withheld from the public as a military secret.

Within weeks of the United States formal declaration of war against Germany on December 8, 1941, two Army artillery units were in place and operational on Bogue Banks. The First Battalion, 244th Coast Artillery from Virginia, established Headquarters Battery at Fort Macon, with Battery B in the sand dunes southwest of the fort and Battery A in the dunes 2 ½ miles west of the town limits of Atlantic Beach This installation was all accomplished by December 27, 1941. The War Department was making preparations for direct U.S. involvement in the conflict in Europe and the Pacific long before December 7th. The purpose of the North Carolina coastal operation was to protect the Beaufort/Morehead City Harbor and military installations being built and expanded on the mainland—specifically, the U.S. Army Base at Camp Glenn and the Navy Section Base further west. 
By early 1944, confidence grew that a coastal attack of the U.S. mainland was no longer a threat, and accordingly, many defense activities were scaled back, withdrawn or redeployed.

For Bogue Banks, World War II was a mixture of tragedy, change and blessings. Some local boys who went to war did not return. However, businesses prospered, employment opportunities grew, jobs were available to all who needed work, roads were widened, housing expanded, electric service extended and buildings constructed. Large numbers of troops, civilians and families from around the nation came to live in Carteret County, bringing new ideas and viewpoints. From this influx, some stayed on or came back later, and a few local girls found husbands from across the nation. New blood added to the melting pot.

The Roosevelt Legacy
The history of Pine Knoll Shores is deeply intertwined with the Roosevelt family. The first Roosevelts immigrated to America from the Netherlands in 1649. The family established two main branches referred to by location: the Oyster Bay branch and the Hyde Park branch. The Hyde Park branch gave the nation the 32nd President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the Oyster Bay branch, gave the nation its 26th President, Teddy Roosevelt, whose grandchildren developed Pine Knoll Shores.

Alice Green Hoffman was related to the Roosevelts through her niece Eleanor's marriage. Eleanor married Ted Roosevelt, Jr., eldest son of President Teddy Roosevelt. That union produced four children, Alice's grand niece and nephews, who developed this town.

Family Portrait provided by Sagamore Hill National Historic SiteSeated, Left to right: Cornelius Van Schaack Roosevelt, Eleanor Butler Roosevelt with black poodle, Grace Roosevelt McMillan holding Baby William McMillan Jr., Edith Roosevelt, wife of President Teddy Rooseveolt, and Quentin Roosevelt II with a german shepherd mix dog. Standing, Left to right: William McMillan, Theodore Roosevelt III, and Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. — also called Ted.

The Roosevelts hired locals, who in turn hired other locals, to represent their Bogue Banks development interests—George McNeill, to serve as their North Carolina attorney, A.C. Hall to design central Pine Knoll Shores, Don Brock to function as development project manager. Brock, in turn, hired other locals to clear land and dig canals; put in streets and water lines; sell property and build new subdivisions. Investors and developers bought some of this property from the Roosevelts and developed it. A complex system of homeowner associations emerged, each following covenants specified by the Roosevelts and drawn up by George McNeill and his partner Ken Kirkman.

Pine Knoll Shores Today
Native peoples, early settlers, including John Royall, Oscar Kissam and Alice Hoffman, all occupied this land and left only a soft footprint, essentially leaving the wilderness intact. The Roosevelt family, starting in 1953, worked for the next 30 years building a community that today still follows the concern for the natural world that was a driving part of President Teddy Roosevelt's and Alice Hoffman's lives.

The town, incorporated in 1974, has from its foundation inspired a spirit of volunteerism. In the beginning, volunteers ran the town and provided fire and rescue services. As the town grew, a more formal governmental structure emerged that included a mayor, a Board of Commissioners, town clerks and, eventually, a town manager. With the help of volunteers, the town organized a professional Public Safety Department. That department still has CERT and VIPS volunteers. A variety of town boards, commissions and committees rely on volunteers. Volunteers are responsible for Pine Knoll Shores being a Tree City, a Bird Sanctuary, and a Sea Turtle Sanctuary. Volunteers produce The Shoreline newspaper, which began in 1973 as a newsletter. They work on beautifying the town through the Garden Club. They support a variety of causes through the Women's Club. They work at the Trinity Center and the aquarium and are Friends of the Library. One of their major philanthropic achievements is the annual Kayak for the Warriors, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for wounded veterans and their families through Hope for the Warriors. Volunteers also contribute to community efforts outside of Pine Knoll Shores, working at Martha's Mission, Project Christmas Cheer, Carteret County Historical Society, Beaufort Historical Society, etc. The History Committee, which has produced this blog and, with the Carteret County Historical Society, is responsible for the current Rodney Kemp Gallery Exhibit consists entirely of volunteers.

Post Author: The Pine Knoll Shores History Committee