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The origin of the name Kitty Hawk continues to be a matter of native discussion. Most locals agree that it probably derived from the names "Chickahawk" or "Chickehawk" which originally appeared on English Settlers' maps in the early 1700's. Over the years the name has evolved into the spelling we use today - "Kitty Hawk".
"Kitty Hawk Village" is a village on the sound side of the island. Protected from the harsh winds of the ocean the Village became a settling place. During World War II locals that lived in the more seaside villages such as Duck came to the Village to live on family farms. Even though Kitty Hawk is known for the famous "First Flight" of the "Wright Brothers" their monument is now sitting in the middle of the town known as Kill Devil Hills. Growing up we were always told by our elders that Kitty Hawk was named after Indians that resided in the area.
It was here and not in neighboring Kitty Hawk, that the Wright brothers made their historic first flight off the top of a sand dune on Dec. 17, 1903. You can find the monument as well as a museum in the heart of the town. As folklore tells it the area supposedly came by it's name when a band of Pirates hid a ration of stolen Kill Devil Rum that they had lifted from the Caribbean in the sand hills so no one would take it. Therefore creating the name Kill Devil Hills!As a little girl we used to dig those sand hills and as of yet, unfortunately no rum has been found.
Kill Devil Hills does have great beaches, gift shops, restaurants and an awesome Disc Golf Course! It is also the home of "Nags Head Woods" one of the few Maritime Forest left. Nags Head Woods offers a variety of awesome hiking trails and beautiful scenery.
Back in the day scavengers would tie a lantern around the neck of an old Nag (horse) and walk them up and down the sand hills of the beach. Boats would think that they were seeing the lights of other ships and think that they were a safe distance from shore. Eventually the ships would run aground on the sandbars - their provisions spilling into the sea and floating to shore where the scavengers would help themselves! That is where the name Nags Head derived from. Many shipwrecks scatter our ocean floor, earning the title "Graveyard of the Atlantic". What is considered South Nags Head and Bodie Island is home of the above lighthouse - The Bodie Island Light House which has helped boaters navigate our treacherous shores for many years!
Manteo was the Indian Chief of the tribe which inhabited the area known now as Manteo on Roanoke Island. Even though the town of Manteo itself is a small part of the Island, the whole north end of the Island is referred casually as Manteo. Manteo is the place of the First English Colony in America and the Birthplace of the first English Child- Virginia Dare- hence the origin of our County name - Dare County! There is a nightly show in season about the "Lost Colony" - the first English Colony at Fort Raleigh in Manteo. There is also the Elizabethan Gardens, the North Carolina Aquarium and the waterfront board walk of the downtown itself. The downtown has shops and restaurants and is the home of the Elizabeth II a replica of the first boats to come to America. It was sent here in 1584 and 1587. It is also home of the "Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse" pictured above. Manteo is also a civil war historical site, home of the Dare County Airport and is our county seat, housing our court houses and government offices. The Roanoke Marshes Light is a replica of the square cottage-style lighthouse which stood at the southern entrance to Croatan Sound near Wanchese.
Wanchese is the name of the Indian Chief that led the tribe of Indians that inhabited what is now the Village of Wanchese. Just as locals refer to both the downtown area and north end area as Manteo the South end of Roanoke Island is casually referred to as Wanchese. Wanchese is one of the largest seafood ports on the East Coast and was the home of the famous TV show "Wicked Tuna - Outer Banks". It is also the home of the seafood industrial park and many marinas. Wanchese is known for it's seafood Industry and it's boat building. There are a couple of casual restaurants that's great for lunch. Otherwise after dark the Village turns into a sleepy little town of hard workers!
The name Hatteras is the 6th oldest surviving English place-name in the U.S. Sir Richard Grenville, the admiral leading the Roanoke Colony expedition sent by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1585 named an inlet north of the cape "Hatrask". It was later applied to the island and cape as well and modified to "Hatteras. Hatteras Island refers to the entire barrier island that is in between Oregon Inlet and Hatteras Inlet even though there are several villages in between with different names. The area is also called "The Cape Hatteras National Sea Shore". Even though this whole area is casually called Hatteras, Hatteras Village is the name of the southernmost town on the island and is also sometimes referred to as just "Hatteras". Hatteras Village occupies the end of the Island where you can catch the ferry to Ocracoke and is known for it's casual laid back atmosphere, it's beaches and it's fishing.
There's so much to learn about the Outer Banks and it's people! For many years Outer Bankers were pretty much cut off from the rest of the world. Back in the day there were no bridges or airports. Heck we didn't even have roads...Just sand paths and woods! If you visited or left the area then you traveled by water. Because of this isolation Outer Bankers lived as the Natives before them...off of the land and of course off of the sea!!!
These traditions of hunting and fishing have been passed down for years from out ancestors and are still a very important part of our culture today. Of course everyone knows of our fishing, shrimping and crabbing but what a lot of people don't know about, is our equally important hunting traditions. The Outer Banks is well known for it's waterfowl and duck hunting. We also have deer, bear, alligators and wild boar!
Yes there is a whole lot more to learn and see on the Outer Banks then our beautiful beaches! So take a little time and see what I have to share. I'll be adding more and more to this as I go along so visit often to see what I have added. And please feel free to drop me a line - especially if you have some Outer Banks history to share!!!!
Sir Walter Raleigh made two attempts to establish the first permanent English Colony in the new world. Coming to shore at the point that is now known as Roanoke Island, NC, Governor Ralph Lane made his first attempt in 1585. Due to a lack of supplies and poor relations with local Native Americans Lane decided to call it quits and headed back to England with Sir Francis Drake in 1586.
Another attempt was made in 1587. This time led by John White the settlement was established in the same location and is famously known today as "The Lost Colony".
A boat came ashore carrying between 112-125 people all the way from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. These people were looking for a new life...a new beginning... in a new land. That new land was right here on the Outer Banks of North Carolina!
Later John White left the colonist and headed back to England for more supplies. He was supposed to return in 1588 but because of the Anglo-Spanish War was delayed and was not able to return until 1590. Upon his return he found the Fort in tack - no destruction - no sign of conflict - but completely empty. There was no sign of life at all. The only clue was the word "CROATOAN" carved on the side of the fort. White figured that this must mean that the colonists had relocated to nearby Croatoan Island. Before he could check to see if they had indeed moved rough seas and a lost anchor forced the rescue mission to return to England.
No one knows for sure what had happened to the settlers. As early as 1605 there had been speculation that the colonists joined nearby Native American communities. There has never been any evidence of violence or any remains found to indicate that they were massacred or died of disease. There has never been any archaeological evidence anywhere in the nearby area such as pottery or etc. to indicate exactly where they had moved on to.
"Virginia Dare" - the granddaughter of John White was born to those settlers and became The First English Child Born In America!!! It's hard to believe that the first English child born in the New World was born right here...right down the road! Proudly our County is named for her....Dare County!
Orville and Wilbur Wright, known as "The Wright Brothers" came to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to attempt to make their first flight of an airplane. They began studying flight in 1896 at their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. They chose the tall sound side dunes of Kitty Hawk / Kill Devil Hills as the location to finish their studies and to test their new flying machines. They also came here in hopes to fly their first manned glider. The first attempt was unsuccessful but eventually they prevailed.
They selected the dunes of Kitty Hawk because of the constant wind that added lift to their craft. In 1902 they came to the beach with their glider and made more than 700 successful flights.
In 1932 a 60 ft. granite monument was dedicated to commemorate the achievement of the Wright Brothers. It is perched atop a 90-foot-tall Kill Devil Hills sand dune and is a popular Outer Banks tourist destination. You can climb the 90 foot hill to the base of the Monument and there is also a museum and replica outbuildings that visitors can visit to learn the Wright Brothers' story.
North Carolina license plates read, “First in Flight" to celebrate one more part of history that was made right here on the Outer Banks of North Carolina!!!
During World War ll the Outer Banks was a hot spot for enemy subs and at night locals would have to place thick, dark blankets over their windows so that our enemies could not see our shoreline. Some families even moved from their homes that were closer to the ocean to live on family farms in our sound side Villages.
The Outer Banks also played an intricate part in surveillance of our Atlantic shoreline. Many boats and subs were sunk right off of our coast and time has turned them into a diver's paradise of beautiful sea life and sunken knowledge of years gone by.