OCRACOKE — A preservation group plans to add trails at Springer’s Point, a tract of land in Ocracoke where Blackbeard partied with other pirates on rum and roasted pig.
The 124-acre property lies along the Pamlico Sound on the highest part of the island, where gnarled live oaks more than 200 years old grow.
It was once slated for development, but instead is home to the oaks, the Georgia sun rose, a tiny, bright yellow flower rarely seen in these parts and a stand of tidal red cedar, one of only seven like it in the state.
“It is an ecological as well as a cultural gem,” said Lee Leidy, an attorney and northeast regional director for the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust.
The group bought two acres in May along the waterfront between two larger sections, allowing for a new trail to less-accessible areas, including where the tidal red cedar grows.
“It really had an impact on the rest of the preserve,” Leidy said.
As it is now, one half-mile long trail begins off Loop Road, within sight of the Ocracoke Lighthouse and not far from the village. It winds through a thick canopy of trees and past the grave of Samuel Jones, a long-time owner of the tract.
Known to be generous but eccentric, Jones is buried next to Ikey D, his beloved Ocracoke pony that he would bring into his parlor to be part of family singing around the piano.
Ikey D has a gravestone carved into a likeness of himself rearing on his hind legs. Jones was married and had children, but no other family members lie within the small plot surrounded by a weathered picket fence.
The trail ends at a beach overlooking Teach’s Hole, an area of the Pamlico Sound where Edward Teach, or Blackbeard, was killed in a battle with Lt. Robert Maynard in November 1718.
Two months earlier, Blackbeard held a large gathering with other pirates such as Calico Jack Rackham and Charles Vane, according to local historian Philip Howard. For days, the pirates drank rum and ate roasted pig as they partied and parlayed.
A book on pirates written in 1724 first records the event, according to Howard. In later accounts, the carousing is exaggerated into greater debauchery and gained the nickname of the Ocracoke orgy.
The trust originally bought 31 acres at Springer’s Point in 2002 and four years later bought an adjoining 91 acres before opening Springer’s Point Preserve to the public later that year.
The history of the point goes back three centuries.
After Blackbeard died, ship pilots settled here and established a village in the 1730s known as Pilot Town, according to Howard. Some of his ancestors owned the land before it was sold or inherited into other families. Its namesake, E.D. Springer, bought it in the 1880s.
Sam Jones purchased it in the 1940s and kept it until his death in 1977, according to Howard. Heirs sold the property, but it was never developed.
Along parts of the property, the trust has built a living shoreline of natural grasses and oyster shells to defend against damaging storms.
In September, Hurricane Dorian knocked over old trees along the freshwater beach. A well-known live oak some 200 years old at the end of the trail leans a little more than it did before the storm.
The tree stands near a popular area where people fish and swim and is not protected by a breakwater.
Officials are deliberating over how to keep it open to the public and still protect the trees and beach near where Blackbeard held his big party and later died just offshore.