Bill Gravely with the old and new headstone for his cousin ‘Little’ Jake Alligood. Photo: C. Leinbach/Ocracoke Observer

By Connie Leinbach

Old time island character “Little” Jake Alligood lived his life in the shadow of his more colorful father, “Old” Jake Alligood.

The two were part of the unique flavor of remote Ocracoke when people started discovering the island and its simple ways in the 1950s.

Dare Wright wrote about the Alligoods in her “Ocracoke in the Fifties” as did Carl Goerch in his famous book “Ocracoke.”

The elder Alligood was known as “Old” Jake, not “Big” Jake, said Bill Gravely in July as he and several cousins, all relatives of the Alligoods, replaced an old wooden headstone at Little Jake’s plot in the Ocracoke Community Cemetery.

Little Jake was his first cousin once removed and his mother’s first cousin, Gravely said. Old Jake was his great uncle.

Gravely was a small boy when he knew Little Jake, who was 30 years older.

So, Gravely didn’t have much in the way of first-hand remembrances of Little Jake during the installation of a new, granite headstone at Little Jake’s grave.

Years ago, Gravely had noticed that Little Jake’s headstone, which is alongside Old Jake and his second wife, Myra, was made of wood and showing signs of deterioration.

So, Bill, who with his wife Jill divide their time between Ocracoke and (little) Washington, got contributions from other family members, and purchased a new headstone.

Since there are few stories about Little Jake, Gravely talked to islanders Jimmy Jackson and Martin Garrish about Little Jake.

They all remember Jake as a man of few words.

‘Little’ Jake and ‘Old’ Jake Alligood outside the Channel Bass Inn.

“If you asked him whether it was gonna be good for fishing the next day, he’d ponder on it for several minutes and then would say, ‘Maybe,’” Gravely related.

But Jake was a member of the beloved Alligood family, whose home was across from the Flying Melon. Old Jake was frequently called upon by the visitors at the nearby Wahab Hotel, now Blackbeard’s Lodge, to drive them over the mile of sand flats to the beach.

He also owned the Channel Bass Club, a Quonset hut across the street from the Wahab and to which islanders and visitors went every night to dance to the jukebox.

They’d be dancing so hard on the wooden floor, making it bounce, that the records would skip, Gravely said.

“So, they came up with the idea to cut a hole in the floor the size of the jukebox,” he said.

They dug out a hole and filled it in with a concrete monolith level with the floor.

“The jukebox sat on it so then the floor could shake like crazy (while the kids danced) and the jukebox could remain stable,” Gravely said.

In 2019, Jimmy Jackson, founder of Jimmy’s Garage, and Ronny Van O’Neal, both of whom were across-the-street neighbors of the Alligoods, tried to do the right thing for Little Jake, Gravely said, and constructed their own concrete tombstone for Little Jake, but never installed it.

Even though Little Jake was 25 years older than they were, the gesture shows the sense of community.

“They wanted to do right for one of their community members,” Gravely said. “It’s not like they did it for a stranger, but (Little Jake wasn’t) family.”

It is undecided what to do about that make-shift headstone, but Gravely will ask the Ocracoke Preservation Society if they want it and the old wooden headstone, which was carved by Little Jake’s stepbrother Willie “Three Fingers” Hunnings, who was a carver and whose decoys are part of the OPS collection.

Little Jake’s new headstone won’t have the character that this wooden headboard had.

“But this granite stone will last a whole lot longer,” Gravely said. “We all won’t be here that much longer to look at it. So, we want it to be right.”

Attendees at the installation of a new headstone for ‘Little ‘ Jake Alligood. From left, Jill Gravely, Bill Gravely, Tommy and Rosemary Harris, Bill and Susan Stuart, Bill Mac and Mary Ann Alligood. Rosemary, Susan, Bill Mac and Bill Gravely are first cousins-once removed of ‘Little’ Jake. Photo: C. Leinbach
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