We noticed a lone, older horse walking down the beach toward us.
As he got closer, it appeared he was headed straight for what was left
of our smoldering cook fire. He was either completely blind or sig-nificantly
visually impaired. My grandfather got up and spoke to him
softly and gently diverted him away from the fire. It made an impres-sion
on me, that we are only visitors on Shackleford, and we have
an obligation to be stewards of that place and the horses that call it
Shackleford Banks was originally owned by John Shackleford,
a Virginia farmer who was granted several tracts of land in North
Carolina in 1713, one of which included the thin strip of barrier
island. The island became known as “Cart Island,” perhaps a nod
to Carteret County where the land resides, and remained in the
Shackleford family until it was sold in 1805.
By the mid-1800s, the island was home to more than 600 people in
several communities who called themselves “Ca’e Bankers” (dialect for
“Cape Bankers”). The largest town ever established on Shackleford was
called Diamond City, named after the diamond pattern on the Cape
Lookout Lighthouse. The town of about 500 residents was situated on
the east end before Barden Inlet divided the island from Core Banks.
A slew of hurricanes hit the island from 1893-1899, convincing
most residents to pack up and relocate to the mainland. By 1902,
Shackleford was deserted except for livestock and a few roaming
horses. In 1933, another storm severed Shackleford permanently from
Core Banks at Barden Inlet.
In 1966, Cape Lookout National Seashore was created, incorporat-ing
all of Core Banks. At one time, developers considered building a
bridge to Shackleford and turning the island into a tourist destination,
but in 1986 Shackleford Banks was added to the national seashore and
all signs of human existence — cottages, fishing shacks, livestock —
Unclaimed equines gained their freedom, and Shackleford Banks
became a sanctuary for wild horses.
WBM october 2018