By Pat Garber
If you ride or walk down the road that leads to Ocracoke’s Water Plant (officially the Ocracoke Sanitary District office) you’ll pass a small sandy lane with a sign that reads Mary Ann Dr.
If you read a little about Ocracoke’s past history, you might come across the name Mary Ann’s Pond. If you look for the pond itself, however, you’ll see nary a sign of it.
Mary Ann was a Styron who lived here in the early 1800s.
In 1816, she married an Ocracoker named Francis Williams, and they had four children, raising them in a house that overlooked a large body of shallow water and marsh in the area of the island then known as “Up Pond.”
Maurice Ballance, in an interview for Alton Ballance’s book “The Ocracokers,” described Mary Ann’s Pond as follows: “Most of the time it was more of a bay than a pond, but it did look like a pond sometimes when a thin sand ridge would build up at the mouth of it on the soundside.”
According to Ballance, it was located several hundred yards north of the Coast Guard Station (now NCCAT), and was part, along with a second pond, of a depression that ran southeast 200 or 300 yards through the village to the back of the United Methodist Church.
During the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built a mosquito ditch from the pond to the sound to provide more water flow. According to island historian Earl O’Neal Jr., small sailing skiffs could sail into it.
Mary Ann’s Pond had about two feet of black mud at the bottom.
Euphemia Gaskins Ennis, most commonly known as “Femie,” notes that when she lived near the pond as a child she would wade out and then come back, pretending she was wearing black stockings.
Gaynelle Tillett recalls that as a girl she and her late friend Maxine Williams Mason played a game on Sunday afternoons when the tide was low. They would try to walk around one specific bush, holding on to the branches, and see if they could get to Mary Ann’s Pond without getting their feet wet.
As you walk down Mary Ann Drive, you may see two of the houses which used to face Mary Ann’s Pond, but you won’t see any sign of pond or marsh.
In 1942, in response to German torpedo attacks on merchant ships along the Outer Banks in World War II, the U.S. Navy built a section base at Ocracoke.
In order for the ships to get in, they had to dredge channels and what they called the “Creek,” (now Silver Lake Harbor) and they had to have someplace to pile the sand.
They bought up the area that was Mary Ann’s Pond, along with two other areas of the island, and filled it in.
There is no trace of the pond now, but if you stand outside the water plant, face the old National Park Service parking lot, and close your eyes, you might just be able to imagine the lush wetland and large, shallow body of water which was once known as Mary Ann’s Pond.