November 21, 2017
Kinnakeet Home – Windmills along the Sea
By RHONDA ROUGHTON
last article was of memories of my childhood spent along the soundside
of Kinnakeet. These memories came from the fun we had playing in the
water in an area we called “Irene’s Landing.”
I was recently thinking of the connection that “landings” historically
had to village life. There were several places along the soundside of
Avon where boats would come in close to shore to bring supplies and
mail. These areas were called landings. The mail and freight boats had
to anchor offshore in the channel because the water was so shallow.
Villagers picked up the cargo by using a skiff propelled along by
poles. Much excitement and activity was centered around the landings,
and each landing had a sandy road leading to whatever general store was
closest. A horse and cart was used to transport the supplies.
The landings were also locations for church “camp meetings,” which were
held for a week at a time, and were always well attended as social
gatherings. Much excitement and activity was centered around the
landings during these days of isolation from the outside world.
Commercial fishing was the chief occupation. In 1870 the census
recorded that fishermen made up 60% of the residents. The fishermen
would take their boats and cross the sound to the mainland with their
catch - oysters, salted spot, and mullet. They would barter the seafood
for staples: corn, wheat, molasses, salt pork, coffee.
In 1715, the Act to Encourage Windmills was passed by British officials
for the Carolina colony. This act granted one-half acre of public land
to anyone who would build a windmill on it, with the condition that the
windmill be operational within two years. Windmills were built on
Hatteras Island as well in order to grind the corn and wheat that the
fishermen received as barter.
The first windmills on the Outer Banks, according to David Stick’s book The Outer Banks of NC,
were probably built in the late 1700’s, as that is when deeds started
referring to them as landmarks. There were different sizes of windmills
with different capacities. Windmills were used for almost 200
years on the Outer Banks.
The windmills on the Outer Banks were “post mills.” These mills were
mounted on a central post that would allow the structure to be turned
into the wind. The windmills’ vanes could also be set to current wind
conditions. They were reported to have a sail diameter of 40 feet. The
mills had two grindstones, made of sandstone shipped in from Barbados.
By the mid-19th century, there were approximately eight windmills on
Hatteras Island. Fish and oysters were traded for corn and wheat from
farms around Stumpy Point. They would bring their corn or wheat to the
mill owner, who would grind it for them in exchange for a portion of
According to The Kinnakeeter,
by Charles T. Williams, II, Pharaoh Farrow had more than one windmill
in Kinnakeet. Two of his mills were sold to the Miller and Scarborough
The Hurricane of 1899 destroyed most of the windmills along the Outer Banks. According to David Stick’s book, Graveyard of the Atlantic,
this hurricane named San Ciriaco made direct landfall near Hatteras. It
had recorded winds on Hatteras Island as high as 140 mph before the
measuring equipment blew away.
By that time, local windmills had begun to be phased out because large
mills on the mainland were providing a supply of affordable flour and
Avon was the only village with an operational mill by 1904. There were
two windmills in Avon in the early 1900’s, one at Zeb Miller’s landing
(in the southern part of the village), and one at Farrow Scarborough’s
landing (my great-grandfather.)
I am including a map provided to me by Mary Jane Tutzauer, a local
history buff. She used the county GIS map as a base, then added in the
locations of mills in Kinnakeet. These are approximations based on her
research into historical records.
Each village of Hatteras Island was once a community unto itself, with
ties to the mainland only by boat. The villages were somewhat isolated
from each other because the roads were simply trails through the sand.
This made for tightly knit communities that somehow kept its roots and
not only survived, but also experienced times of prosperity. I heard
someone say that you still have to be somewhat “quirky” to enjoy living
here. I agree. Synonyms for quirky are eccentricity, individualism, and
oddity. And yes, the people who lived here historically can be
characterized in that way, and those of us who choose to live here can
be as well. Our cultural heritage is by no means homogenized, but is
richly seasoned by the salt of the sea.
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