By Rebecca Jones, special at the News-Times
HARKERS ISLAND Over a century ago, Portsmouth Village was a bustling maritime village, founded in 1753 as a thriving port town. Portsmouth functioned as a port of lightening, where cargo from ocean-going vessels could be transferred to shallow draft vessels capable of passing through Pamlico and Core Sounds.
In 1860, Portsmouth reached its maximum population of 685 people. Between the hurricanes and the many that did not return after the civil war and especially the gigantic Atlantic hurricane season of 1933, the population of the islands declined. Today, in stark contrast to his days filled with the noises of fishermen and families living on the island, he is silent about the human population.
However, the buildings are still standing and you can explore and imagine the daily struggles they had against this harsh environment. Portsmouth’s history continues as a 250-acre Historic District and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and managed by the Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Friends of Portsmouth Island, in cooperation with Cape Lookout National Seashore, celebrates coming home from Portsmouth every April on even years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 homecoming has been canceled.
Coming Home started as a church and family event as they celebrate Portsmouth’s legacy. Many people who do not have direct family ties to the island also participate. The next return home from Portsmouth is scheduled for April 2022. You can find more information on the Friends of Portsmouth Island website at www.friendsofportsmouthisland.org. If you would like to visit the village of Portsmouth, accessible by ferry from Ocracoke, contact 252-928-4361 for tourist information.
Meanwhile, an exhibit is on display, which began Thursday and ends on the last day of July at the Core Sound Museum at 806 Arendell St. in Morehead City.
An interesting exhibit is China. In 1923, 13-year-old Lionel Gilgo from Portsmouth saved his money to buy a set of this porcelain for his mother, Mattie Gilgo, pictured in the photo above. He ordered the set from a Montgomery Ward catalog. It arrived by courier at Atlantic, then was placed on board the mail boat, Aleta. Lum Gaskill encountered the mail boat in the noise on its way to Ocracoke, and the mail was unloaded for Portsmouth.
Lum carried the mail from the pier to the Portsmouth Post Office with a wheelbarrow. The postmaster, Annie Salter, accepted the mail and sent for Lionel to come and collect his package. It was the usual way of delivering all the goods to Portsmouth, and to everyone, not a single dish was broken.
A collection of photographs of the village of Portsmouth is also on display. Raleigh photographer Jan Eason sees photography as a way to record and document the natural and social environment. He works primarily with black and white films and has won several awards and has been featured in national and local exhibitions.
The exhibition will be presented Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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