The History of Bear Island, Pt. 1

The History of Bear Island, Pt. 2

The History of Bear Island, Pt. 3

The History of Bear Island, Pt. 4

The Animals of Bear Island, Pt. 1

The Animals of Bear Island, Pt. 2

The Plants of Bear Island

 

The History of Bear Island, Part 1

Bear Island is a small island of only 892 acres found in southeastern North Carolina. This island is bounded on the northeast by Bogue Inlet, on the southwest by Bear Inlet, and on the northwest by marshes and the intra-coastal waterway. The first settlers, the Woodland Indians, arrived over two thousand years ago on this small plot of land in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This group of people used the dugout canoe for transportation and lived on the plentiful marine life that could be found in the Atlantic Ocean waters. However, they were unable to grow any corn due to the fact that the island soil is lacking in nitrogen. Instead, they ate mostly shell fish, fruits, berries, and game such as wild deer that were present on the island.

However, the Woodland Indians were not the only indigenous group that inhabited this region of the outer banks. The Coree Indians, affiliated with the Iroquois, and the Neusiok or Neuse, affiliated with the Algonquian tribes, both inhabited the area in and around Bear Island. In fact, just across the channel from Bear Island, in the mouth of the White Oak River, there used to be a Neusiok village named Marasanico. Eventually, the Neuse and the Woodland Indians joined together, along with the Tuscarawas, to fight European colonists coming to the region in what is known as the Tuscaroras War. The Tuscaroras Wars took place from 1711 and 1713. The natives suffered heavy casualties throughout the wars, yet they continued to make guerilla attacks against colonists in the area until the 1750's when most natives moved to New York to join the Iroquois League of Five Nations.

In the mid-1700's there were frequent attacks on Bear Island by the Spanish. On January 26, 1748 the Spaniards captured the schooner Sarah just off of the island, but the crew was forced to surrender the ship in Wilmington after running out of supplies. In 1749, in an effort to protect the islands off the Outer Banks from these types of attacks, a fort was built on the side of Bear Island that faces Bear Inlet. During this time, the island was owned by John Starkey, an outspoken patriot during the Revolutionary War. He came to be one of the first members of the House of Representatives, hailing from nearby Swansboro.
It was not until 1813 that this island gained its name from Tobias Knight, the private secretary to the Royal Governor Eden, who came and claimed the island for himself. He noted the lack of vegetation on the island and thus called it "Bare Island." It was not until a mistake was made in a map that named the island "Bear Island," which was the name it ultimately took. Both Tobias and Eden were friends with the legendary pirate Blackbeard, and some think that the pirate may have negotiated deals on the island. Knight and Eden both received booty from Blackbeard in return for their promise to keep him safe while in North Carolina. Most of this booty has since been discovered in Knight's barn; however, it is possible that some of the riches were buried on Bear Island.

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