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Thursday, November 27, 2014

No. 126 A "Harker" as well as a "Hancock" - with a little "Franklin" on the side ...

A map of eastern NC in the colonial era

Most of my almost entirely English ancestry must have had at least some wanderlust in their spirits, or else they might never have agreed to make the long and arduous journey across the Atlantic to find a new life in a what they all viewed as a new world. But for much of my direct for-bearers that wanderlust was all but spent by the time they landed on the southeast coast of Virginia in the early 1600s. It would take them another two centuries to make their way just two hundred miles south. Their route was mostly down the barrier islands that lined the North Carolina Coast to Cape Lookout, a nexus point where the outer banks turn from a north-south direction to one that, at least for a stretch of thirty miles, follows a route that is almost entirely east-west. Once they settled near the base of the lighthouse, the first one having been completed in 1812, most of them never moved again unless of course you consider it movement to build a small home on another patch of acreage within easy walking distance of the shacks or huts they had grown-up in.

Sibsey in Yorksire County, England - home of the Harkers
But at least one of my forefathers followed a different course when he arrived in Massachusetts Bay as part of the first great wave of settlers in Puritan New England. Anthony Harker had been born in 1606 in the town of Sibsey in Yorkshire in the northeastern corner of England. But by the time he was thirty years old he was married and living in Boston, where he his wife, Mary would raise a family of two sons and four daughters. Their third child and second son, John Ebenezer, remained in the Boston area and in 1680 married Patience Folger, whose sister Abiah would become the mother of the renowned Benjamin Franklin (my first cousin – nine times removed.) John and Patience were not so fortunate, at least in terms of historical recognition, but their son Ebenezer, born in Boston in 1689, would do something to make the family's name enduring if not famous.

As the second of his father's sons, and barred by the rules of primogeniture from inheriting any of his father's estate, he chose to look farther South to find his fortune. Like several other of his neighbors in the Boston area at around the same time, he decided to come to the vicinity of Beaufort, North Carolina where a fledgling shore-based whaling industry had begun to take hold. The others were named Chadwick, Whitehurst and Pigott and those surnames are still everywhere to be found in eastern Carteret County. Ebenezer and his descendants would spawn far fewer “Y” chromosomes than did those of his friends, such that eventually the lone reminder of him in the place where he settled would be that place’s name.

That came to be because in 1730, when he was forty-one years old, he purchased an entire island from George Pollock of nearby Beaufort for £400 and a twenty foot boat. He soon settled there with his wife, a local girl named Elizabeth Brooks, and their six children. The island had earlier been known as Craney Island, but from that time on it has been known to residents and visitors alike as Harkers Island, and with no apostrophe as the concluding “s” was intended to denote plurality even more than possession. Seven generations and five surnames later I arrived on the scene on an Island named for my intrepid great grandfather and less than two miles from where he had built his large home. And at the same moment, my parents could look from an upstairs window and get a clear view of the towering lighthouse that overlooked Cape Lookout and the remains of a village where the greater part of my other ancestors had made their homes.

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