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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

No. 132 "How and When the Island got Bigger - or so it Seemed"

No. 132 "How and When the Island got Bigger - or so it Seemed"
The refugees from the Banks who landed at the Island after the storms of 1896 and again 1899 set up their homes almost entirely along a narrow swath of land on the Island’s south shore. From there they could look towards, and on clear days, even see the glistening sand hills of the places they had left behind. More practically, they could easily work the same marshes and bays that they and their forbearers had harvested from as far back as any of them could remember, or had even heard about. Within a few years the large majority of homes were stacked, sometimes literally, between the shore and the main road that had been cut generations before from Shell Point to Red Hill.
Nestling the newcomers among the Island natives proved fairly simple since most of them had relatives already here, and there soon developed family-centered neighborhoods that stretched from the Yeomans clan at Shell Point at the East’ard all the way to the Brookses at Rush and Harkers Points at the West’ard – with Roses, Gaskills, Lewises, Nelsons, Davises, Fulfords, Styrons, Moores, and Hancocks in between. Beyond that there were several clusters of Guthries and Willises, and especially the later, almost everywhere as well as among themselves.
Aerial view of the Island taken in the 1940s showing that
homes were almost entirely along the south-facing shoreline
These south shore enclaves continued to grow, but mostly by subdividing the land already claimed by each family for three or more generations. Multi-acre plots were divided and carved time after time until by the mid 1960’s most homes sat on plots of a quarter acre or even less - sometimes much less, and with boundaries that resembled randomly shaped patterns much more than the squares or rectangles of more typical land development.
But even with that, the available land along the shoreline was all but gone by the time I came along, and it was obvious that development would have to spread much farther inland for there to be enough room for any new homes and families. Fortunately that was made possible when by the early sixties, two of the Island’s longest-standing and original families came to the rescue with development plans that opened up most of the rest of the Island to new homes and neighborhoods.
The Davises and Fulfords had been living on Harkers Island for almost two centuries by the time the exodus from the Banks and their arrival at the Island began. Their heirs, especially Earl Davis and Owen Fulford, still maintained title and ownership to most of what had remained undeveloped more than half a century after that initial influx. By the sixties both of them began to formally develop that acreage into real subdivisions, with plots and roads that they offered for sale. This was just in time for the baby-boomers of my generation.

By the early seventies they were not only selling, but financing the sale of mostly half-acre plots in developments that soon reached all the way across the Island to the Bay, as most of the north side of the Island was called, and that stretched from the East’ard all the way to the Bridge. Within two decades the number of homes on the Island had more than doubled. Perhaps more important than the increase in available lots, was that it was timed exactly right to allow at least one more generation of Harkers Islanders to remain close to their families and the livelihoods that had sustained them for so many years.