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The mail boat from Manteo delivered the new school principal to Avon in 1930.  Fresh out of college, Stanley E. Green was a Boiling Springs native who knew little about the Outer Banks other than what he had read in stories about pirates and hurricanes but was thankful to have landed a job during the rough years of the Great Depression. 

To get to Avon, Green boarded a train in Raleigh and went to Elizabeth City where he caught the steamer Trenton to Manteo.  The following morning, he rode on the mail boat from Manteo to Hatteras Island.  A small dory carrying “Uncle” Tom Meekins and two young girls rowed out to meet the boat when it approached Avon.

“Our baggage was put into the boat, then the mail bags, and several boxes of goods.  Surely this was more than the small boat could manage, but Uncle Tom kept rearranging things until he even got a trunk belonging to one of the teachers aboard.  When we were some fifty feet from shore, a horse drawn cart splashed into the water.  The boy driving the cart, and the little girls transferred the small packages from dory to cart,” Green wrote in a book about the years he lived in the village.

Zach Owens worked on the mail boat called the Virginia Dare from 1930 until 1935.  The 32.4 foot long boat was built in Manteo in 1920 and owned by M.L. Daniels, according to the Annual List of Merchant Vessels of the United States. 

“In good weather conditions she would push along about six miles an hour, taking ten hours to make the trip from Manteo to Hatteras Village,” Owens recalled. 

The Virginia Dare made stops in Rodanthe, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras where it docked overnight.  The next morning the boat headed north, stopping at the same villages to pick up outgoing mail and passengers. 

The post office in Salvo was a small wood-frame building, measuring only eight by twelve feet, built around 1910.  Its small size lent itself to development of the unusual tradition of new postmasters buying the building and moving it to their property.  The Salvo post office is thought to have been the first portable post office in the nation and was recognized as the second smallest post office building by the U.S. Postal Service.

In the 1933 storm, the Virginia Dare was caught in Pamlico Sound about one mile off Rodanthe.

“The Coast Guard down at Rodanthe said that they tried to get out to us to help us out but couldn’t.  They said the wind was so bad that they couldn’t even get out to us. Plenty of times the water was knee deep in the mail boat, and I kept bailing with a ten quart bucket,” Owens said. 

The Virginia Dare was hauled ashore after trucks began carrying mail to Hatteras Island and eventually disintegrated, according to Owens.  

 

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Learn More 

Gray, Belton.  “The Pony Express of the Outer Banks: Mr. Zack Owens tells of his days on the mail boat.”  Sea Chestvol 5 spring 1979number 2. 

Green, Stanley E.  Kinnakeet Adventure.  Vantage Press, Inc.  New York, NY.  1971.


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