Historic sign with Blackbeard ties missing from Ocracoke

Published 11:03 am Thursday, August 9, 2018

The old wooden “Howard Street” sign nailed high to an oak tree on Ocracoke Island for the last 100 years has gone missing, and there’s a reward of more than $750 for its return.

The sign, made by Stacy Howard – born in 1885 and died in 1968 — has remained at the Lela Howard house since he put it there. And while it may not seem all that valuable, its roots are deeply entwined in island history – all the way back to Blackbeard the pirate.

Members of Ocracoke’s Howard family are believed to be descendants of Blackbeard’s quartermaster, William Howard, who escaped capture when the infamous Edward Teach was killed there on Nov. 22, 1718.

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Following Blackbeard’s death, there’s no record of Howard’s whereabouts for several decades. Then on July 30, 1759 a William Howard bought Ocracoke Island and the Howard family has lived there continuously ever since, according to a history published by Village Craftsmen.

“Although there is no proof that William Howard the pirate was the same person as William Howard of Ocracoke, family tradition suggests that this is the case,” Village Craftsmen wrote.

Stacy Howard, the sign’s maker, lived at the Lela Howard house with his wife and five children, and it’s during that time that the sign went up. For islanders, it’s been there their entire lives, said Mary Bryant of the Ocracoke Preservation Society.

It’s not quite clear when the sign disappeared, some think the last few weeks and other say the last few days. It’s also not clear whether it was stolen, though thorough searches of Ocracoke Village haven’t turned up any evidence.

Members of Stacy Howard’s family still own the house and one of those owners, Martha Garrish, put up a $250 reward to track down the sign. Her contribution inspired residents, business owners and island visitors to contribute, too.

If anyone has any information, let us know at news@thecoastlandtimes.com