The quiet life of Island Farm

By Molly Harrison | Tuesday, February 28, 2012

One of my favorite places on Roanoke Island is Island Farm, a living history attraction that shows us what the daily life of a Roanoke Island family was like in the mid-1800s. I love the quiet of Island Farm, the soothing sparseness of the buildings and grounds, the gentle, patient nature of the interpreters, the calming presence of the farm animals, the simplicity of the activities going on there. Island Farm is a little pocket of faraway time.

This is not the big-story Outer Banks history like the first attempted English settlements and the Wright brothers' first flights. This is the small history, the everyday life, the pot stirring over an open fire, the sheep shearing and sock mending, the plowing, hoeing, weeding and picking that kept a family alive. This is the farmhouse where a family slept and sat by the fire and the slave cabin where their workers rested. This is the cookhouse, smokehouse, dairy, barns, chicken coop, corn crib, woodshed, blacksmith shop where they all worked. This is the cemetery where they were laid to rest.

One of the things most impressive about Island Farm is the meticulousness of its restoration. Outer Banks Conservationists, the organization that restored the Currituck Beach Lighthouse and its buildings and grounds to such amazing perfection, is responsible for Island Farm as well. Every single detail that you see on this farm was researched and documented. Archaeologists, historians, architectural historians and experts in period furnishings were brought in to help with this project.

Typically at Island Farm, which is open April through early November, the tours are self-guided, and you can walk in and out of the buildings, stopping along the way for some hands-on activity with the interpreters and pausing to watch the behavior of the sheep, chickens, ox, heifer and ponies. It's a quiet tour, with just the sounds of old-time work, the occasional baa of a sheep or cluck of a chicken, the remarks of interested visitors. But several times a year they have events where you can learn more about the island's history, and this weekend is one of them.

On Saturday, with the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Roanoke Island, Island Farm will be showing us what it was like for the island residents during the Battle of Roanoke Island in February of 1862, when the Union easily gained control of the island.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, there will be a lot more activity at Island Farm, with living history interpreters re-enacting scenes from the Civil War: soldiers marching and camping out; military drills, musket demos and artillery demos; a skirmish re-enactment; a Union camp and hospital; a Confederate camp. A merchant will be on hand selling period goods. A photographer will be there demonstrating old-time wetplate photography. Dr. Patricia Click, a Freedmen's Colony expert, will talk. Author Pat Garber will sign her book about the Civil War.

Later, in the evening from 6 to 8 p.m., there will be another event, a self-guided Civil War Candlelight Tour through the soldiers' camps and hospitals.

These events are just $10 each, with kids ages 5 and younger getting in free. Kids are going to like those cannon explosions and musket firings, I imagine.

Island Farm will be fully open for its third season starting on April 4.

"There's something for everybody," says Danielle Faillor, who runs the site with her husband, Jonathon. "We've got a lot that different ages can connect with. We've had nothing but a positive response since we opened."

By the way, Island Farm has a new website you should check out before you visit. Click here.

Also commemorating Roanoke Island's Civil War history this weekend is the Outer Banks History Center. On Friday they're debuting their new exhibit, "The Civil War Comes to Roanoke Island: Fishers, Fighters and Freedmen." The opening reception is Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and the exhibit will remain on display through December 30...

There are a couple other things you'll want to know about this weekend. Theatre of Dare's version of The Odd Couple opens this weekend. Catch this much-loved comedy about mismatched roommates on Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m., or Sunday at 2 p.m. at the College of the Albemarle campus. It's also playing next weekend...


Children at Play Museum in Kitty Hawk is throwing its fundraising Mardi Gras Gala on Friday night at Jennette's Pier. There will be Cajun food prepared by Bad Bean, live music, drinks and more that add up to a lot of fun! Plus the upstairs ballroom at Jennette's Pier is the most awesome location for an event...

The Friends of Jockey's Ridge and the N.C. Coastal Federation are teaming up on Saturday with their annual Jockey's Ridge Oyster Reef and Roast. If you show up to help bag oyster shells for the oyster reef restoration project in the sound by Jockey's Ridge (the reef is in the sound; you'll be bagging oysters on the porch at Jockey's Ridge), you'll be treated to an oyster roast where you can enjoy all the fresh, local oysters you want...

If you need a good gut-busting laugh, go to the Womanless Beauty Pageant on Saturday night in Nags Head. Brindley Beach Vacations puts on this event as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life. It's a big money maker, and there are some big local names involved. Tickets are available at the door. $40 includes the show, an open bar and hors d'oeuvres. This year's location is under a big tent in the parking lot at Kitty Hawk Kites in Nags Head...

So, there's a lot more going on, but you'll have to check our By Day and By Night listings to see it all. It's going to continue to be a warm week, so get out there an enjoy it! And don't forget to enter our Weekly Giveaway...



Outer Banks This Week Giveaway





This week you have a chance to enter for a chance to win a Free Entry Ticket to the Flying Pirate Half Marathon..

The Flying Pirate Half Marathon, winding its way through the natural beauty that is North Carolina's Outer Banks, is like no other. Come run with us and cover some spectacular ground! After finishing the Flying Pirate, you will have run one of the most beautiful parts of the East Coast - literally! Don't take our word for it - come see for yourself.

Date: Sunday, April 22, 2012

Start Time: 7:00 AM Course time limit is 4.5 hours

For more information about Outer Banks Sporting Events check out their Facebook Page & Website.


Last Week's Winner


Congratulations to Sharon Mobley Flood!!!

You won a free ticket to the Downtown Manteo Throwdown.


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About the Author Molly Harrison
Molly Harrison is managing editor at OneBoat, publisher of She moved to Nags Head in 1994 and since then has made her living writing articles and creating publications about the people, places and culture of the Outer Banks. When not working she practices and teaches yoga and spends as much time as possible outside and in or on the water with her husband and two children.