"Down East" is a part of eastern North Carolina. Depending on your point of view, it extends from either Harkers Island or the North River bridge at Bettie, out to Cedar Island. There are roughly fourteen little towns and villages that make up "Down East." I say 'roughly,' because in some definitions of "Down East," you may or may not have Harkers Island included, and in some definitions you'll see Diamond City - an old whaling town which ceased to exist back around 1900, give or take a few years - and Ocracoke and Portsmouth Village, and even some of the towns on Bogue Banks. Portsmouth Village has also ceased to exist, though not with the drama of Diamond City's demise. It is on the National Historical Registry, and can be reached by small boat ferry for a visit.
Here is a website that has some background on these villages:
Down East Tour
There is a great deal of history "Down East," much of it linking as far back as the early English explorers and settlers, and the occasional Spaniard. Down Easters, the people who are native to the area, speak with a distinct accent that carries overtones of the language of those early English pioneers and settlers. A properly tuned ear can even distinguish from which village a speaker comes, just by the dialect. There is even one school of thought that supports that the Lost Colony was really on Cedar Island, not up in the Roanoke area.
They are all fishing villages. As commercial agriculture is a mainstay part of the economy here in southeastern Colorado, commercial fishing is a mainstay Down East. You'll notice I say 'a' mainstay in both cases, rather than 'the' mainstay. Times change, and just as agriculture has faded here, so commercial fishing has faded in importance Down East, and for many of the same reasons. Much of our produce is 'hechoed' in Mexico, while restaurants are getting their seafood from Malaysia, Thailand, and other foreign sources. And like the produce, the imported seafood is not nearly as good as 'the real thing.' This economic 'transition' is one more turd in the economic punchbowl, for there never was, nor will be, a Malaysian farm shrimp that can come anywhere near a wild Core Sound shrimp for color, flavor, texture, and all-round 'eatibility.'
Down Easters are no strangers to hardship. No one is, who wrests a living from the land or from the sea.
The churches of these little villages have for generations served as a foundation for village life. They have suffered their own storms, as we see in Davis, where we have three Baptist churches - there is the First Baptist church, and then there is the Free Will Baptist church, and then there is the Original Free Will Baptist church. - all the result of various theological dustups and melodramas over the years. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? But all that aside, these churches remain a port for souls in the storms of life, and they go far in holding their communities together.
Some of them go back almost beyond memory. The Hunting Quarters Primitive Baptist church, for example, could trace its rolls back to the 1600's. But like most of the primitive churches in this area, that one has closed up and is no longer active. Still, it represents a wonderful bit of history of a wonderful part of these United States.
We have a gallery of many - but not all - of the Down East churches up here:
Mike and Leece's image galleries under the Eastern North Carolina June 2011 heading.
And more from our 2009 visit, here:
North Carolina 2009
We'll post more on the histories of these churches as we find out more about them.