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Outer Banks Communities: Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo

Native Americans settled Hatteras Island thousands of years ago. The Spanish explored the area first and marked the island as Cape St. John. English sailors called it Croatan Island (Croatan Indians are members of the Algonquin Tribe.) John White, of the original English colonists to settle the Outer Banks, mapped the island as Hattorask. From John White's name, believed to be the English pronunciation of a Native American name, the island became known as Hatteras.

Today, Hatteras Island is 75% owned by the National Park Service, including the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which leaves little room for development. Seven unincorporated villages now occupy the island, running north to south along North Carolina Highway 12. The first three of these villages, from north to south, are Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo.

Located just south of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on the northern end of Hatteras Island, these towns have developed so closely to each other that at first glance they look like one large village. Dubbed the "Trio Village", these towns are quite distinct from each other, each with a style and charm of its own. In fact, NC 12 didn't link these villages until 1953, so until that time they were rivals in fishing, hunting, lifesaving, and other island trades.

The northernmost village of the "Trio" and on Hatteras Island is Rodanthe (row DANTH ee). This village began life as part of Chicamacomico. The name was given to the northern end of the island and was derived from a Croatan Native American word for "place of sinking down".

In 1861, during the Civil War, Confederate troops landed on the part of the island to recapture Fort Clark and Fort Hatteras which had fallen upon the first invasion of the South by Union forces. The Confederates pushed the members of the 20th Indiana back to near present-day Buxton, but their victory was short-lived. Federals reinforced the 20th Indiana from the south and chased the Confederates north in a skirmish called "The Chicamacomico Races."

In 1874, in an effort to assist survivors of the many shipwrecks off the coast of the barrier islands, Congress established the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station. This was the first station of its kind established on the coast of North Carolina, and was part of the United States Lifesaving Service. The U. S. Lifesaving Service eventually became the modern U. S. Coast Guard, giving Rodanthe the historical title of founder of that service.

Also in 1874, the post office changed the name of the area from Chicamacomico to Rodanthe. By the early 1900s, three distinct villages had developed: North Rodanthe, South Rodanthe and Clarksville (Also known as Clark or Clarks). Eventually post offices were established in the other two villages, and the village names were changed yet again.

In 1918, the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station made its own history. That year, six brave lifesavers made international headlines when they rescued the 42 men of the English tanker, the Mirlo from the Atlantic Ocean. The ship had been hit by German torpedoes and was engulfed in flames.

In 1953, NC 12 connected the three villages of the Trio. In 1954, the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station was decommissioned. The buildings have been restored and now serve as a historical attraction for the community, including lifesaving rescue re-enactments.

In addition to fishing and beaches, Rodanthe is known for celebrating Christmas twice. The first is held on December 25th. The second is held on "Old Christmas" in the first week of January. During Old Christmas, Rodanthe follows a custom that dates back to Medieval England and welcomes "Old Buck," a stuffed bull.

Of the three towns of Trio Village today, Rodanthe contains the most commercial offerings, such as restaurants, gas stations, tackle shops, a shopping center, and an amusement park. That being said, however, the town is still mainly a residential and vacation village.

The next village to the south in the Trio Village is the sleepy village of Waves. Like Rodanthe, this town began life as part of Chicamacomico. When the area was renamed and the distinct villages sprang up in the 1900s, the town was renamed South Rodanthe. In 1939, the post office gave South Rodanthe its own post office and changed its name to Waves, reflecting the influence of the Atlantic Ocean on the tiny town.

Today, it's hard for a visitor to know when he or she has entered Waves, because the town has no welcoming signs. It's not the town's fault. Surfers kept stealing the signs, so the villagers finally gave up replacing them. Waves is a vacation town, and like the rest of Hatteras Island, is a haven for fishing, water sports, and beaches.

The third and southernmost of the Trio Village is Salvo. It also began life as Chicamacomico, and when the area was renamed it received the moniker of Clarks (also known as Clarksville). The origin of its current name is rather interesting. According to the legend, a Union sailor during the Civil War was aboard ship off the coast of Hatteras Island. He saw the town of Clarks, but couldn't find the town on the map. He informed his captain, who replied "Give it a salvo (simultaneous firing of the cannon) anyway." The crew fired the cannons, and the sailor wrote "Salvo" on his map to mark the spot. In 1901, when the town got its own post office, it took the name of Salvo.

In the early 1900s, an allure of Salvo and its neighboring communities was its location. Pea Island, which attracted an incredible amount of waterfowl to feed on the wild peas, was just minutes north. Both hunt clubs and commercial fowlers traveled to Salvo to hunt these waterfowl. In the 1940s, however, that all ceased when Pea Island was added to the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Today, Salvo is a beach destination with incredible views. Because the island is rather narrow at this point, visitors can have views of both the Atlantic Ocean and of the Pamlico Sound from their vacation rentals.

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