Lighthouse Keepers
Island Farm
[island farm]

Island Farm exterior

photographsPlease click here for recent photographs of Island Farm.
The Island Farm or Etheridge Homeplace traces its beginnings back to January of 1783 when Jesse Etheridge acquired 150-acre tract from Joseph Mann. In 1787, Jesse purchased another 150 acres, which gave him access to Roanoke Sound and early maps indicate that it was on this property that he built a home. But it was Jesse’s grandson, Adam Dough Etheridge, who built the house that is the heart of Island Farm today. An 1820 map (pdf approx. 900k) by Hamilton Fulton, Chief Engineer to the state of North Carolina, shows the Adam Ethridge (sic) farm location on the north-end of Roanoke Island.

The hewn and pit-sawn timbers that frame the two-story side-gable dwelling indicate that the house was built between 1845 and 1850. Restoration, which began in 2000, has removed later “Victorian” additions and replaced missing earlier elements. Reconstructions include the porches and their “porch chambers” or enclosed rooms at the north ends of both porches that could provide extra sleeping space for family or travelers. The restoration team, adding new handmade bricks to the old, also completely rebuilt the two fireplaces and chimney. Because of their typically English size, some of the original bricks came to America as ship’s ballast historians believe.

Remarkably, many of the nail patterns and much early whitewash survived on the timbers downstairs so that missing stairs and partitions could be identified. Whitewash on the inside of the house siding indicates that it was the interior finish; there was no other interior wall, lath, plastering or wainscoting – only in the south room that may have served as the farm office is there a small area of interior sheathing. Upstairs, which would have been a private space, there is no evidence of whitewash. (Whitewash increases the brightness of dark wooden rooms by reflecting more light– especially important by candlelight.)

In the spacious attic, small original windows with rising lower sashes stand at each gable end; the window at the north end is just inches behind the chimney. These windows were most likely intended for ventilation rather than indicating any living space in the attic.

Island Farm InteriorFARM LIFE
In 1850, Adam D. Etheridge reportedly raised 200 bushels of corn, 50 bushels of peas, 20 bushels of Irish potatoes and 100 pounds of sweet potatoes on fifteen acres of his 420-acre farm. The family had two horses and one ox. By 1860, there were two cows, 35 pigs, 12 sheep and 40 heads of cattle, some of which probably foraged in the uncultivated woodlands (or were kept on Etheridge’s property on Bodie Island). In that year, 75 pounds of wool and 25 pounds of butter were reported. The family also had five slaves, one of whom was a four-year old boy.

Family documents and oral history recall the Etheridge Farm was well constructed and lovingly maintained. However, compared to agricultural complexes on the mainland, Roanoke Island farmsteads were simple at best.

Surviving period outbuildings are extremely rare and are mostly found on the mainland. Here, a barn, a corncrib, a kitchen, a dairy, a privy, a smokehouse and a slave house have been reconstructed by referencing deeds, records, historic photographs and regional examples as a guide. The restored livestock barn was moved to this site from Franklin County. A rail fence would have connected many of the outbuildings to form an enclosure for the livestock.

Archeologists, historians, preservation carpenters, and volunteers have already accomplished much of the restoration of the Etheridge Homeplace. Still more lies ahead before Island Farm can fully tell its story. Although still missing is period fencing, livestock, interpreters, historic furnishings and housewares (as well as parking and restrooms), the sheep in the pasture begin to tell the farm’s story to those who pass by. Beth Burns and her looms carry on the legacy of the “weaving Harnis” that was a part of the household in 1869.

One day the Island Farm will welcome both locals and tourists who are interested in glimpsing the life of an 1850s farming-fishing family. An ox will till the sandy soil, sheep will provide wool for weaving and chickens will teach children where eggs come from. Historians are planning interpretive programming that should have the farm open to the public by the summer of 2008. In the meantime, thank you for your interest!

Without the generous contribution of Etheridge descendants, Lee Zenovah Salet, Lou Salet Glad, and Natalie Salet Peterson, Island Farm would no longer exist. They donated the original farm house and one-half acre of land to OBC in the 1980s.

OBC is also grateful to Allen and Lorna Daniels, owners of Roanoke Island's oldest restaurant, Darrell's, the locals favorite, who both donated property as well as made the acquisition of additional Farm property available at less-than-market value. OBC thanks the Daniels Family for their contribution to preserving our island's history and culture.



Member of the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums

This historic site is being restored by the non-profit organization
Outer Banks Conservationists, Inc., P.O. Box 970, Manteo, NC 27954.
info@theislandfarm.com | (252) 473-5440 | www.theislandfarm.com

Copyright © 2002-2008 Outer Banks Conservationists, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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