Portsmouth Lifesaving station. Photo by P. Vankevich
Portsmouth Lifesaving station. Photo by P. Vankevich

This is a repost from April 3, 2016 about this weekend.

Families and friends of Portsmouth Island will gather April 30 for the biennial homecoming event to the island that was a thriving seaport across from Ocracoke.

Its last three residents leaft the island in 1971, and while the village is under the purview of the National Park Service, Friends of Portsmouth Island has done much over the years to preserve the remaining structures.

This group of about 250 members, many of whom are relatives of original island residents, work with the Cape Lookout National Seashore to educate and inform the public about the island.

With the theme this year of “The Families of Portsmouth,” two babies will be christened by the Rev. Ivey Belch of Ocracoke at a service in the restored Methodist church.

This year there will be a Descendant Tent, where Portsmouth families will bring their photos, scrapbooks, family trees, etc. to share with everyone.  There will be a special “Roll Call of Families” during the Homecoming program under the big tent.
Children’s activities will include playing a traditional Portsmouth game of croquet led by a Park ranger.

Portsmouth Post Office. Photo by P. Vankevich
Portsmouth Post Office. Photo by P. Vankevich

Buildings scheduled to be open are the Visitor Center (Salter House), Post Office, School, Henry Pigott House, Washington Roberts House, Gilgo House and Lifesaving Station.
The post office, open this one day, will have a special cancellation stamp.  Portsmouth notecards, T-shirts and tote bags will be available. 

The first 500 people who sign in will receive a special Portsmouth pin, which has become a tradition at Homecoming.

A special quilt made by the Ocracoke Needle and Thread Club will be displayed at the Ocracoke Preservation Society museum until the Homecoming when it will be taken to the Portsmouth to be raffled off. 

Since this is a giant pot luck, all are asked to bring food to share for the “Dinner on the Grounds” after the main program.

Boats begin returning to Ocracoke at 2 p.m. and will run as long as needed to get everyone off.

In case of inclement weather, homecoming will be held at the Assembly of God Church on Lighthouse Road.

Schedule of Events include:

Boats leave Ocracoke starting at 8 a.m. from the NCCAT dock. $20 per person

9 a.m. – Buildings/tents open, registration
9:30 – Christening service in church
10- Hymn singing in church / children’s activities begin
10:30- Group picture at the church
11- Homecoming program under the big tent
Noon – Dinner on the grounds
1 p.m. – Buildings reopen and children’s activities resume
2 – Boats begin returning to Ocracoke

Both Cape Lookout and the NPS are celebrating anniversaries this year—the 50th for Cape Lookout and 100th for the NPS.

Established in 1753, Portsmouth was the largest settlement on the Outer Banks by 1770. It remained a major shipping center for nearly a century since Ocracoke Inlet was the major trade route to inland ports then.

By 1860, there were 685 residents on Portsmouth.

The Civil War forced many to leave as the Union Army advanced down the Outer Banks. Many did not return.

After an 1846 storm opened a deeper inlet between Ocracoke and Hatteras, the population steadily declined.

In 1971, one of the last three residents, Henry Pigott, died, and Marion Babb and Elma Dixon then moved to the mainland.

For more information, contact Rosanne Penley at Rosanne.penley@gmail.com.

Portsmouth Village. Photo by P. Vankevich
Portsmouth Village. Photo by P. Vankevich
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  1. My mother in law, Jean O. Burke was the last owner of the school house and I think she lived there after 19 71. The last time I was there, I found her sign in the brush asking 4-wheelers to stay out of the yard.

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