Did you know that the World Atlas states that there are more than 3 million shipwrecks under the ocean waters around the world, many of which haven't even been located yet? The "Graveyard of the Atlantic" off our North Carolina Outer Banks coast certainly has its share of them! While you are visiting this area please check out the gift shops and pick up one of the many great books written about these fascinating stories of the many Outer Banks shipwrecks through our history.
This area of Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo were originally three distinct early settlements once referred to simply as the Chicamacomico Banks. Believe it or not, this area was heavily wooded and these three small settlements were separated by creeks and bridges only. However, even though these settlements were friendly and tight knit, their separation in topography and varied interests caused them to grow individually.
As of 1850 the census reported the area with 37 families with a total of only 205 people living in the area. The villages of Rodanthe and Waves were the more closely knit of the trio. The original name for Rodanthe was actually North Chicamacomico and then Waves was simply called South Chicamacomico. At that time Salvo was originally referred to as Clarks or sometimes Clarksville. Although the three villages were closely located geographically, Clarks functioned more independently then its two northern neighbors.
As might be expected, the Chicamacomico Banks had many historical ties to the Manteo and Wanchese areas. Also, despite the reputation of being people from a very isolated area, the locals from the area were actually well traveled because of the area's close connections with the US Coast Guard and family relocations all up and down the east coast. For a few decades of the mid-twentieth century, Rodanthe was the northernmost stop of the Manteo-Hatteras Bus Line which used sand roads. This bus line helped familiarize the southern Hatteras Island villagers with their northern neighbors.
Rodanthe also had the distinction of having the area's only man made refuge for boats in the region. In 1936 the US Coast Guard built a channel and T-shaped harbor which was named the Blackmar Gut. They used the location for the US Chicamacomico Coast Guard Station. Today, nearly all remnants of the earlier villages have all but disappeared along with much of the original natural landscape. Visitors will be interested that there was once a natural wetland area called Aunt Phoebe's Marsh located in the current area now covered with an abandoned theme park, waterslide, go-cart tracks and campgrounds.
In 1874 the US Post Office refused to use many of the long Indian names that were common for Outer Banks villages. No one is sure why North Rodanthe was chosen but it is theorized that it is named after a non-native flower Rodantha. Some of the other names that Rodanthe has gone by in the earlier years have been Big Kinnakeet, Chichinock-Cominock, Chicky, Midgett Town, Northern Woods and even Northard Woods.
First named South Chicamacomico and then South Rodanthe, villagers accepted the name (Waves P.O.) which was proposed by local postmaster Anna Midgette with an eye toward tourism in 1939. Villagers wanted to keep P.O. in the name to show their strong reluctance of changing the name and giving up the original Chicamacomico designation. Soundside mariners often referred to Waves simply as (the hump in the middle) referring to the fact that when sitting in a boat in the Pamlico Sound and looking east Waves appeared as a hump.
Salvo was originally named Clarks or Clarksville. It eventually received its official village name very strangely indeed. A Union ship commander passing the Island asked his navigation officer what was the name of the village that he was seeing as they passed close by. While looking at his nautical charts, the crewman said that he could not see any name listed. The commander ordered, "OK, give it a salvo anyway." (salvo = a simultaneous cannon firing). The crewman then logged the word "salvo" on the chart with an arrow towards the area. Future charts were written with the word Salvo and that name actually stuck as the official Union name for the area and was designated by the US Postal Service.