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

Dairy Farming on Bogue Banks

Recently, in the process of clearing a lot on Holly Rd. of undergrowth, a Pine Knoll Shores property owner uncovered a remnant of Alice Hoffman’s time on Bogue Banks. To understand the significance of this discovery, we must piece together some background information about Alice Hoffman.

Having lived in Paris since the 1880s, Alice, by 1914, found life in her beloved France becoming less appealing each day. Hostilities in Europe were closing in, the eastern portion of France was overrun and German forces were within 50 miles of Paris. The combatants were employing poison gas. The sound of artillery explosions were felt on the streets of Paris, rationing was in place and travel restrictions were enforced. In July 1914, she closed her home at 29 Avenue du Bois de Boulogne and left for the duration. When the U.S. became involved in WW I, Alice gave the use of this home to her niece Eleanor Butler Alexander Roosevelt since Eleanor’s husband, Ted, the son of President Teddy Roosevelt, was serving with U.S. forces in France.

By 1915, Alice discovered Bogue Banks: “I feel that Bogue Banks is as safe a place to be as any to be found. It is too remote to attract gas bombs....” (Alice Hoffman’s unpublished Autobiography) After acquiring 2,900 acres on Bogue Banks and expanding the small cabin originally built by John Royall, she embarked on making the land productive.

Before the end of World War I, she began a concerted effort to establish a dairy herd on Bogue Banks.
She understood the impact of the war in Europe, particularly the devastation to cattle and dairy herds, so she decided to raise Holstein-Friesian dairy cattle on Bogue Banks and send them to France after the war to help re-establish the French and Belgium dairy industry. The cattle were to be a gift to her second home.

It turns out that Bogue Banks is not particularly suited for raising cattle. She purchased the highest quality breeding stock she could find; hired experienced managers to help run the operation; spent extensively on feed, supplies, equipment, buildings, medical testing and research. She dealt with disputes about the pedigree of some of her breeding stock. Barns and corrals were built, and a large portion of the land was fenced. Acreage was cleared attempting to grow pasture.

Her livestock operations as well as most such operations in North Carolina and the rest of the US were periodically bedeviled with outbreaks of Bovine Tuberculosis. This scourge was a major state and federal government concern. For a period of time, dairy cattle in North Carolina were under quarantine and could not be removed from the state.

To combat an infection from tick-borne Taxes Fever, she had a dipping vat built. The animals were led through the trough while it was filled with an insecticide solution.

It is this dipping trough that was uncovered recently on Holly Rd. The concrete structure is 30 feet long. The inside dimensions are 36” wide at the top, narrowing to 30” at the bottom. At its low point, it is over five feet deep. 

From her unpublished autobiography and material contained in the Alice Green Hoffman collection in the Joyner Library at East Carolina University and other historic documents, it is most probable the dipping vat was constructed in the late teens or early 1920s. This structure is in remarkably good condition given its age and considering that at the time all construction materials had to be brought to the island by boat. A bridge to Bogue Banks was not opened until 1928.

In spite of the many difficulties that presented themselves, she persevered, and in the early 1920s, sent a small group of breeding stock to France. Perhaps the offspring of her animals live on today and find their way back to us in the form of fine French cheeses—"Pine Knoll Shores Camembert".
This 1939 aerial shows the extent of the cleared area. The blue and red lines show the location of today's roads.
1964 Aerial by Piedmount Aviation showing first portion of Oakleaf Dr ending on the west at the remnants of Alice Hoffman's house. The acreage that had been cleared in the 1920s is filling in with new growth. The dipping vat is located at the southern edge of the cleared area west of Holly Rd.
1954 survey by Rivers & Associates identifies the Roosevelt property on Bogue Banks and on the north side o f the Sound. The mainland property was the location of Alice Hoffman's commercial dairy operation.

After her struggles raising cattle on Bogue Banks, in 1923, she began acquiring land on the north shore of Bogue Sound near the town of Mansfield. Eventually owning over 600 acres, land she hoped would be more ameanable to raising and maintaining a herd of dairy cows. On this property, Alice Hoffman established a commercial dairy operation, which included a healthy herd and a bottling plant. The dairy products were delivered to local stores and communities. As with many of her business ventures this too was a financial failure and, by the mid-30s was abandoned.

Post author: Walt Zaenker
To contact the author or the History Committee