Currituck County Tales and Legends

Legends of Willis and Hodges Gallop:
A Cautionary Tale
Submitted by Marty Holland

History is merely gossip.
--Oscar Wilde

          I was new to this family research stuff, not very knowledgeable and not yet addicted, and had run across a published account about a man who I knew to be one of my Currituck County ancestors, Hodges Gallop. Intending to share the excitement, I wrote to a Gallop cousin-several-times-removed and related the highlights of the story. “Our ancestor, Capt. Hodges Gallop,” I said, with an authoritative air, “made his fortune in Philadelphia by stealing the safes from some of the waterfront shops while everyone was distracted during a harbor fire, and then evaded capture by hightailing it down to Currituck in his schooner!” I knew that what I was telling her was the truth, because I had read it in a book.
          My cousin had been about the business of family research far longer than I. She was a long-time school teacher with boundless stores of patience. Her response was kind but pointed: “It was not Hodges Gallop, dear, but his father Willis Gallop who stole the loot,” she informed me. “And he didn't come from Philadelphia, he came from Baltimore.”
          Feeling unjustly chastised, I snatched my book from its shelf, quickly flipped to the appropriate pages and re-read the story. And there he was, pretty as you please, in published print…Hodges Gallop. I was vindicated! Until I noticed that the story did say he sailed from Baltimore, not Philadelphia. So I was half-vindicated. Or so I thought. Years later, my cousin now has two dates beneath her name on the family tree (how I miss her!), and I am still trying, for both of us, to extract a clear pool of Gallop family fact from a murky sea of fiction.
Gallop plantation house at Martin's Point, Currituck County, now Dare County, North Carolina [Photo by Robert Cobb, 1982 ]

        The story I had shared with my cousin was from the book Touring the Backroads of North Carolina's Upper Coast, and here it is as published by Daniel W. Barefoot in 1995:

          Martins Point Creek, better known to locals as Jean Guite Creek, empties into Currituck Sound. Somewhere under the silt and sand of the creek may lie a treasure that was unwittingly buried during the Civil War.
          In the years leading up to the war, Hodges Gallop, a North Carolinian, developed a lucrative enterprise by hauling lumber from Martins Point Creek to the West Indies on his schooner. Much to his consternation, the war disrupted regular shipping, forcing Gallop to seek business where he could. His schooner happened to be in Baltimore during the early part of the war when a serious fire broke out in businesses near the waterfront. Terrified shopkeepers and clerks, attempting to save their money from the conflagration, rolled their safes onto Gallop's ship. The following morning, after the flames had been quenched, the local proprietors returned to the harbor to discover that the schooner had disappeared.
          Captain Gallop made his way to Martins Point Creek, where he planned to enjoy his windfall. Once again, however, the war altered his plans. He looked across the sound and saw Union troops making their way down the Currituck mainland. To avoid possible arrest and the loss of his newfound wealth, Gallop decided to put out to sea, but the weight of the loaded safes made it impossible to sail at low tide. After he dumped the safes, the schooner was able to bear Gallop to safety.
          Gallop returned to Martins Point Creek after the enemy troops left the area. He carried out a laborious but unsuccessful search for the safes. Apparently, they had sunk deep into the mud on the bottom of the creek. Tales of Gallop's treasures brought others to the creek. One treasure hunter reported making contact with the bed of the creek, yet there is no reliable record that the safes have been recovered.

          It seems unlikely that a southern sailor would have been in Baltimore during the beginning of the Civil War, and even less likely that any Yankee shopkeeper would trust a Rebel with the safekeeping of his valuables. But it is true that during the early part of that “War of Northern Aggression,” water trade between Currituck and Baltimore had been going on for quite a long time and was still underway. So we'll concede that point to Mr. Barefoot. For now, at least.
          I hope you haven't already forgotten that within a very short time after having first read this story (less than an hour, I think), I had “disremembered” Baltimore and had made Hodges Gallop sail to Currituck all the way from Philadelphia. If I could make that mistake in a matter of minutes, what other alterations and confabulations, I wonder, might this story have gone through while being told and re-told for a hundred years or more? After all, a good storyteller doesn't spin a yarn for the purpose of conveying accurate historical facts; what makes a story good is it's entertainment value. It is intended to amuse, to surprise, even to shock the listener. So if I tell a story one way and get only a chuckle or an “oh,” at the next telling I might try a little embellishment or exaggeration and aim for a belly laugh or a gasp. As George Banks said in Mary Poppins, “Kindly do not attempt to cloud the issue with facts!” Daniel Barefoot's tale is a good one, well told, complete with a “pirate” and his “buried” treasure. But its issues are definitely not clouded with facts. The story is well-crafted so that all elements lead up to the punch line, which is: There might still be treasure down there!
          To set me straight, my cousin sent me several versions in print of what I have come to call the “Legend of the Baltimore Fire,” and I have since found a couple more. Most were based on interviews with one man, a fellow named Elijah Tate,2 who, as a boy in the early 1900s, actually lived for a time in the old Gallop plantation house at Martins Point, which put him in a position to have heard the tale from the old salts in the area. If there are some elements of truth to the tale, then the version quoted above, the Barefoot version, is probably the farthest removed from those elements. This one, told by Elijah Tate some time before his death in 1985 may be a little closer to the truth:

          “[Willis Gallop] was in Baltimore harbor in about eighteen and four—possibly before that—with a schooner. And there come what they call a Baltimore waterfront fire and they moved his vessel down the wharf…And they put all their strongboxes in his boat to keep the fire from getting them. It was sweeping the waterfront…and when they got his boat loaded, wind was in the northwest and blowing hard. And he just put sail on to her and took off with all those safes. And when daylight come, he was down the Chesapeake out of sight.
          And the first place he came after he come out of Chesapeake Bay the first inlet was what was known as [Caffey's] inlet; he went in that inlet with his schooner and went up [Martin's] Point creek.
          And he got afraid that the revenuers would get ahold of him and he dumped all those safes overboard, in what was known as [Gun] Cove. And, course he stayed there for quite a while till he found out the revenuers were not gonna get him. And he fished up those safes so this is the story I've heard. And I've heard it from good authority that he got gold and silver from that—and he bought property down there. And he owned six thousand acres—tracts of timber down there—and this creek and along [Martin's] Point.
          And he had a hundred slaves at one time. And he farmed and he built three vessels in that creek that sailed to the West Indies and brought back salt or whatever, rum or whatever they had and carried nails down to them, and run a general—general trading with the West Indies and Martinique, Bermuda and those different islands down there.
          And when the war came on with the…he died in eigh…teen…and forty eight. But he had a grown son that took over—his name was…[Hodges]—[Hodges Gallop]…and when the war come on between the states, he got his three boats in Oregon Inlet or Hatteras Inlet and got 'em up this creek—wanted to save 'em. But this old Burnside come up there and cleaned things up, for the Yankees—he took one of these was loaded with nails and tried to run her up—run her up [Hog Quarter] Creek to save her—run her up there and take the masts out of her and cover her over with bushes and maybe save her.
          But they caught him on the way over and burnt him up—came with fire and burnt him up, and that was the end of her...but they say that when the Yankees come there they—to capture the place—they put his gold—he had two boxes, two brass boxes, that he kept his money in—they put 'em down in the bottom of a well and after they were gone, course he fished it up. I imagine they did—I've never heard they did fish it up…”

          It would be hard not to notice that there are some major differences between the Barefoot version and the Tate version of this story, but the punch lines are intriguingly similar. In his last paragraph, Tate first says that Hodges Gallop later retrieved the money from the well, but in the end, he fudges and says, well, he never actually heard that Hodges retrieved the money. Meaning, there might still be treasure down there! Call me crazy, but I'm beginning to suspect that that final element of both versions might have been an embellishment.
          There are other similarities, of course—both tales include Hodges Gallop, both tell of a theft during a fire in Baltimore, both include events which take place during the Civil War, but the differences are stark in contrast. In the Barefoot version, the man who absconded with the safes from Baltimore was Hodges Gallop, while in the Tate version the thief was Willis Gallop. In the Barefoot version, the action took place towards the beginning of the Civil War (early 1860s), while in the Tate version, the Baltimore fire occurred around 1804 or possibly earlier. In the Barefoot version, the lost treasure might still be on the bottom of Gun Cove, while in the Tate version, it might still be at the bottom of a well at Martin's Point. The Barefoot tale belongs solely to Hodges Gallop, while Tate carries the story across two generations and a span of almost sixty years. From the telling of Elijah Tate's story to the publication of Daniel Barefoot's story, a lapse of about ten years, Willis and Hodges Gallop, father and son, the principal characters in two distinct tales, had been distilled into a single character in a single tale with twice the action. Once again, I find myself thinking about the metamorphosis of a factual event into a fanciful legend and wondering whether or not it is ever possible to separate the fact from the fancy.
The old gravestones of Willis and Mary Gallop.
The new monument to Willis and Mary Gallop.

Given these two stories, one question that might arise in the mind of the reader is, who were these events really about? Willis Gallop, Hodges Gallop, or both? It would be helpful to know when these men actually lived. Miraculously, the original gravestones of Willis Gallop and his wife, Mary, still survive and are located in a little stand of woods at Martins Point. The original stones are nearly unreadable now, but in 1984, some thoughtful cousins planted a new monument which gives us the years of birth and death of Willis and Mary Gallop, and if you look very closely, you can see that the information on the new memorial conforms with the information on the old weathered slabs. Willis Gallop's headstone reads:

In memory of
Willis Gallop
who died
October 2D, 1848
Aged 81 years
and 21 days

Barring the discovery of a long-lost Bible record (and I trust that if you have it, you'll forward a copy to me immediately), this is the best source we'll ever have for the birth and death dates of Willis Gallop. And lucky to have it, too, since few headstones of that era and in that geographic area have withstood the extreme conditions. At any rate, now we know that Willis Gallop lived from 1767 to 1848, which falls right in line with what Elijah Tate told us.
          A few miles to the west of Martins Point and across the Currituck Sound, in an area known as Powells Point, is another little cemetery in which we find the graves of Hodges Gallop, his two wives, and other assorted family members. The headstone of Hodges Gallop reads:

Elder Hodges Gallop
22 Jan. 1807
20 Feb. 1877

          This confirms, at least, that Hodges Gallop was alive during the Civil War.
          Willis Gallop would have been about thirty-seven years old at the time Elijah Tate places him in Baltimore (circa 1804). Hodges Gallop would have been about fifty-five years old at the time Daniel Barefoot places him in Baltimore/Currituck (stealing the safes/tossing them overboard) and Elijah Tate places him in Currituck (having his schooner burned by Union General Ambrose Burnside's men). Since we know that Willis Gallop could not have taken any part in the Civil War, being deceased at the time, the question is actually whether Barefoot was correct in saying that Hodges Gallop was the culprit in the Baltimore fire incident, or whether Elijah Tate was correct that Willis Gallop was the Baltimore culprit and Hodges Gallop was the hapless Civil War victim.
          There do exist some clues to the personalities of these two men, Willis and Hodges Gallop, which might help us to capture the thief (figuratively and posthumously, of course). If you will recall, Hodges Gallop's headstone called him “Elder Hodges Gallop.” There was a reason for this, and it wasn't because he had a son named “Younger Hodges Gallop.”
          A book called Voyage of the Paper Canoe, published by N. H. Bishop in 1878, chronicles Bishop's solo trek by water from Quebec to the Gulf of Mexico during the years 1874-1875. As Bishop paddled south along Currituck Sound, he heard about Hodges Gallop, who would then have been 66 or 67 years old:

On a narrow point of the shore was the comfortable house of Hodges Gallup (sic), the Baptist minister, a generous old gentleman, who seemed to be loved by all the watermen along the sound. He was described as being “full of fun and hospitality.” His domain extended for several miles along the beach, and, with deer quietly browsing in his grand old woods, formed a pretty picture.5

          So, Hodges Gallop was a Baptist preacher. Tip the scales of truth toward Elijah Tate. But if that isn't enough to convince you that Willis was our villain, read on. We are fortunate to have also a biographical sketch of Elder Hodges Gallop which was published in the Biographical History of Primitive or Old School Baptist Ministers of the United States in 1909, thirty-two years after his death:

Gallop, Elder Hodges, son of Willis Gallop, was born Jan. 22, 1807, lived all his life in Currituck County, NC, and died there Feb. 20, 1877 in the seventieth year of his age. His father was one of the wealthiest men of his county, but manifested no interest in religion nor made any effort to bring up his son in a right and proper manner. Thus the subject of our sketch was reared amid a sordid, selfish influence and in love with sin. But God began a work in his heart, and so killed him to the love of sin, that even as a boy, he refused to obey his father's orders to enter into the dance and revelry. He was a staunch friend to the Baptists… In 1845 he was ordained as deacon and licensed to preach in 1850 and ordained to the ministry in 1853 by Elders Samuel Tatem and Caleb T. Sawyer. Elder Gallop was not considered an able expounder of the scripture but was a good, sound practical preacher and perhaps came as near living the truth he preached as any. He was one of nature's noblemen, a man of good judgment, kind disposition, and very charitable to the poor. Before he died he made preparations for his departure and on his death bed selected two hymns to be used at his funeral. 6

          It would be near impossible to believe that “one of nature's noblemen” could have robbed those good folks in Baltimore. Obviously, the “sordid, selfish” Willis Gallop is our man. But before we begin handing out prizes for accuracy, remember that Elijah Tate came perilously close to forgetting to tell us that his tale was about two different men:

          And when the war came on with the…he died in eigh…teen…and forty eight. But he had a grown son that took over…”

          And in fact, in another published tale told by Tate, he says, "Hodges Gallop started this plantation [Martin's Point] in the early 1800's."7 The distillation process had already begun!

          Whether the elements of action in the story of the Baltimore fire are true or not, I don't know. I have made a small effort to confirm the incident, but so far have not been successful. I have never found mention of a fire there that occurred in 1804. The nearest I have come is this incident, reported in the Baltimore American on Wednesday, May 29, 1799:

Dreadful Fire!

          Yesterday morning, about two o'clock, it pleased Almighty God to allow a most tremendous fire to brake out at the Bakehouse of Patrick Millian, in South-street, and to rage with the utmost fury, until three fronts of one square of new and valuable buildings were entirely destroyed.
          We could not, although we used the most unremitting exertions for that purpose, obtain any precise information, of the manner in which the fire commenced; some attribute it to the bursting of the Oven; others to the wood taking fire previous to the workmen having awoke.
          Such was the stillness of the morning, that almost the whole pile was enveloped in flames, before a sufficient number of citizens were collected to oppose the progress of the devouring element with any effect.
          By this dreadful catastrophe, a number of our most worthy and enterprising citizens have been deprived, in a few moments, of the accumulated fruits of years industry.

          There follows a list of 14 houses which burned in the fire, and a list of "Incidental Losses," which includes, "Rogers and Owens, 300 bags coffee, besides a large quantity of Flour" and "Woods, Taylor & Co., 19,000 dollars in liquors." But nowhere does the article mention shopkeepers who unwittingly lost their valuables to a wicked stranger in the harbor. Perhaps they were too embarrassed to report it.

          In all fairness, I admit to not having made an exhaustive search of Baltimore fires, mainly because I do not have access to the records of Baltimore. Is there a cousin in Baltimore who would like to follow up on this? If so, I would hope that our cousin would not be searching the records in vain, but it's possible that that would be the case. There seem to be grains of truth to every tale, but we still don't know which grains are true in this particular tale. There is no good reason not to believe the Legend of the Baltimore Fire, but another possibility has occurred to me which could have provided the skeleton over which the flesh of this story was formed.
          It is well documented in the court records of Currituck County that by the early 1800s, Willis Gallop had been appointed a “Commissioner of Wrecks.” A Commissioner's job was to take possession of shipwrecks along the Outer Banks. After securing whatever pieces, parts and contents that were salvageable, if the captain or owner of the vessel was dead or not to be found, the Commissioner was to advertise these items so that they could be claimed. If not claimed, the items were auctioned. I'm sure every precaution was taken to guarantee that this position was not abused, in fact, commissioners were required to post bond of £1,000 to ensure the faithful undertaking of their duties; however, the situation would have been ripe for the picking for a man like Willis Gallop, who was “in love with sin.” Is it possible that the real basis in fact for the Baltimore Fire legend was actually a plundered wreck--a gift from the sea? Willis Gallop did own property on the North Banks (now in the area known as Southern Shores) which bordered on the ocean. His "windfall," as Barefoot called it, could have floated right up to his own back door. Maybe the ship was on fire and it hailed from Baltimore? I'd better stop here before giving birth to yet another fanciful tale. But even if the Baltimore Fire story is true, it's ironic, isn't it, that Willis Gallop would later be appointed Commissioner of Wrecks?

          Let's change course and take a look at the second part of Elija Tate's story, which is a legend in it's own right--the tale of Hodges Gallop and the Burning of the Ship. Here is another Elijah Tate version of that story:

          Well, Burnside come up, from Hatteras, from inside and started to clean up the sounds and clean up the boats and take over this section of country. And when he come up there to [Hodges']—[Hodges] knew he was coming—he had a boatload of nails, bound for the West Indies. But he couldn't get her out.
          So he run her out of the creek and tried to run her into [Hog's Quarter] Creek which is on the other side of the sound, about four miles, and take the masts out of her—with the intention of taking the masts out of her and covering her with trees up that creek to keep the Yankees from burning her up. But they caught him in the middle of the sound and burnt him up.
          Course he weren't aboard if his captains were. Then they went ashore at [Martin's] Point.
          And he had took his gold and silver and supposedly put it down a well, at [Martin's] Point, in brass boxes, he had had it in brass boxes—put it down the well.
          And when the Yankees come there to get him they knew he had gold and they knew he had silver—cause he was a trader and they beat him nearly 'bout to death to try to get him to tell where it was. And he wouldn't. And he didn't. And that was about eighteen and sixty…three, and he…I've never been to look at his tombstone. But I don't think he lived more than four or five years after it. I think they beat him up so bad he didn't live long.

          But we know that Hodges Gallop lived a full fourteen more years and died at the ripe old age (for that time) of 70. Here is yet another Tate version:

          Willis Gallop died before the Civil War and his son concealed the ships in Martin's Point Creek, but the Federals found out they were there. One of the ships was loaded with nails, slated for the West Indies. Mr. Gallop learned they were coming to confiscate them and started to move them to Hog Quarter Creek which was on the Powells Point side of the Sound. He was caught before arriving at his destination and I do not remember what happened then. This information came through my father from the Captain of the vessel's son, who has been dead for many years.9

          This tale of Hodges Gallop and the Burning of the Ship has an interesting variety of endings. In Barefoot's version, Hodges was never captured by Union Troops, but he had to dump the booty in order to escape, never to find it again. Tate gives us three different endings. In one version, the dumping of the safes was done by Willis Gallop in the Baltimore Fire story, and he managed to retrieve the money and spend it on land and slaves. In the second part of this version, Hodges hid his loot many years later in a well to keep the Yankee invaders from getting it. In a second Tate version, he tells us that Hodges hid the gold and silver in brass boxes down a well, and then he reveals yet another sordid detail—the Yankees beat poor Hodges “'bout to death” to get him to yield up the treasure! And in a third version from Tate, Hodges moves his ship across the sound, and then…and then…well, Tate can't quite remember what happened after that. He's forgotten that a ship was burned by Yankee troops and that Hodges Gallop was beaten to within an inch of his life for not revealing the location of his treasure.
          The gentleman in each of the two photographs below is said to have been Hodges Gallop.10 The photo on the left dates from the early 1860s, and the one on the right from the 1870s. It does look to me as if he might have been through some unfortunate circumstances in the years between those two sittings. Was it harsh treatment in the hands of “the Federals?” Maybe it was just age taking it's toll.

Hodges Gallop c.1860s                               Hodges Gallop c. 1870s

          On March 28, 1982, Richard Cobb, a writer for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot added another dimension to the Gallop legends in a much abbreviated version of the Burning Ship story. In fact, it is so abbreviated that he leaves out the burning of the ship:

          Hodges Gallop, according to local legends, had a fleet of schooners that were in trade between the east coast and the West Indies. He might have been a blockade runner during the Civil War. At least, according to old memories, when Gen. Ambrose Burnside and his federal troops landed on Roanoke Island, Hodges Gallop was captured. He was beaten to try to force him to tell the location of his treasure. They got nothing out of him.11

          Cool! My ancestor, Hodges Gallop, was a blockade runner! I'm sure it's true—I read it in the paper!

          Here is an interesting version of the Baltimore Fire legend from Cobb, which was apparently paraphrased from an interview with Elijah Tate:

          [Willis Gallop] sailed past Norfolk for fear he would be intercepted. Caffey's Inlet (on the Outer Banks) was then open and Gallop sailed through to Currituck Sound. Fearing pursuit, he unloaded the chests in the shallow water of Gun Cove (on the western shore of Southern Shores). Later he recovered the chests, used part of the money to buy his plantation land and hid some of the chests in wells on the property.12

          Did you notice that in this version Willis Gallop dumped the chests in Gun Cove and later stashed the loot in the wells?
          The Virginian-Pilot published two stories on that day in 1982. One, “Homes on Way to rustic area of Outer Banks” contained the first excerpt above. The second excerpt is from “Memories of point as it was.” I think the author of both articles was Richard Cobb, but am not sure because "Memories of Point" did not have a byline. It's obvious that Cobb did his homework—he interviewed Elijah Tate, visited Martin's Point and the graves of Willis and Mary Gallop, and located copies of Willis' and Hodges' wills. But in spite of Cobb's efforts at good research, it's amazing how much misinformation made it into the final drafts of these articles. Unfortunately, some of that misinformation has led many of us Gallop family researchers astray.
          From “Homes on Way to rustic area of Outer Banks:”

          Willis Gallop (1764-1848) came to the point in his own schooner sometime in his early life. It was popularly believed that the ship also bore chests of silver and gold of dubious ownership...12

          And from “Memories of point as it was:”

          “Did you ever hear how Willis Gallop got here?” [Tate] asked…[then Cobb paraphrases Tate]: …Willis Gallop had a schooner in the Baltimore harbor when he was a young man. One night a fire broke out…13 [and you know the rest of the story].

          Aside from Willis Gallop's birth year being off by three years, a critical element of these two excerpts is the suggestion that Willis Gallop made his very first landfall in Currituck County right after having made off with the ill-gotten booty from Baltimore. In fact, there are Gallop cousins with whom I have corresponded who are convinced that this is so, and they have concentrated their research efforts toward finding Willis' parents in the Northeastern states. If Willis Gallop did come solo from Baltimore in about 1804, then it is a very odd coincidence that he escaped to the North Carolina coast and landed in the midst of a whole bunch of other folks by that same last name.
          In neighboring Camden County (which before 1777 was a part of Pasquotank County), the name “Gallop” actually appears on the 1770 John Collet map. Some early Gallop settlers in that area were Mark (by 1748), Abel (by 1751), Jonas (by 1752) and John (by 1754). On a 1779 list of married men who paid taxes in Currituck County, a Jonah (same as Jonas?) Gallop is listed. By 1790, Jonas, John, James, Demsey and Shadrick Gallop are heads of household in Currituck. Willis Gallop makes his first appearance in Currituck as head of household on the 1800 census, in the same vicinity as Jonas, Shadrick, Peter and Anthony Gallop. The fact that Willis was already thirty-three years old by 1800 may explain in part why it was tempting to believe that he had arrived on his own—why was he not on the 1790 census? The explanation lies in the fact that not every adult was listed by name on the census; only heads of household were listed by name. On the 1790 Currituck census, there are two Gallop men, John and James, whose households contain an additional male adult, either one of whom could have been our Willis of about age twenty-three. And if we dig a little deeper into the records, we find proof that Willis Gallop was in Currituck by 1794--a full ten years before he is supposed to have slipped down from Baltimore. On January 14, 1794, Willis Gallop purchased land from George Caffee (also spelled "Caffey"). The land was 25 acres on the Banks, beginning at John Gallop's line and running to the sea (Currituck Co. DB7, p. 22).

          You may have heard it said that “the devil is in the details.” Well, here is a case in point, also from “Homes on way to rustic Outer Banks”:

          Willis Gallop died at 84. He and his first wife, Mary, who died at 25 in 1808, are buried in adjacent graves in woods near their home. Willis acquired a second wife, Polly. …Willis had four children. …He wrote his will in 1884 and died four years later.14

          Where do we start with this one? Of course, if the writer thought Willis Gallop was born in 1764 (instead of 1767) and died in 1848, then he would have thought Willis was 84 when he died, but he was actually 81. And having him write his will in 1884 was obviously a misprint. The correct date was 1844. But the most unfortunate elements of this excerpt for Gallop family researchers are that the writer gave Willis Gallop an extra wife and not enough children. This bit really started the rumor mills working, and it is now widely circulated that Willis had one wife, Mary, who was the mother of his first two children (Britainia and Hodges), and a second wife, Polly, who was the mother of two additional children (Mavey and Golden). It is known that Willis had a fifth child, Zadock Gallop, who is referred to in Willis' will as “my legitimate son.” Additionally, in a lawsuit brought against the executors of Willis Gallop's will, several of the plaintiffs were not people who were named as children or grandchildren in Willis Gallop's will. But you can bet that they were Willis' descendants, because only those who stood to gain more from an intestate division were permitted by law to contest a will. And by law, only those who were direct, legitimate descendants could receive a portion of the estate. Since these plaintiffs did not bear the Gallop surname, they may have been grandchildren. This implies that Willis Gallop had an additional child or children, not yet identified, who likely predeceased him. And, of course, there could have been other descendants, not named in the will, who simply chose not to contest it. It was beyond the scope of Cobb's article to mention the fact that Willis Gallop also fathered a number of illegitmate children.
          The question of Willis Gallop's two wives is a ticklish one, but I think I can explain how this mistake was made. I think Cobb misread Mary Gallop's headstone. Cobb visited the gravesite in 1982, so he would have had only the very old, worn headstone to go on—the new monument was erected two years later. Mary Gallop's memorial reads:

In memory of
Mary Gallop
who died
Oct. 12, 1848
Aged 73 years

          I have inspected the old, eroded stone, and it is easy to see how 1848 might have been mistaken for 1808 and 73 might have looked like 25. As for the two names, Mary and Polly, the headstone says Mary, but in his will, Willis calls his wife Polly. Cobb may not have known that at that time, Polly was a common nickname for Mary.

          Since we have so far focused nearly all our attention on two of our male ancestors, I can't resist going off on a tangent about the identity of Willis Gallop's wife, Polly. Some of you will be surprised at her true identity because it has been rumored for years, and in fact has been published in many places, that she was Polly Perry, daughter of Josiah Perry, Sr. This was based largely on two documents: the 1844;1848 will of Willis Gallop in which he names his wife Polly, and the 1838;1839 will of Josiah Perry, Sr. in which he names his daughter Polly Gallop. Since we are attempting to reveal the traces of truth hidden behind the veil of legend, let us unveil her now.
          Her name was…drum roll, please…


          Surprised? I was. A Dare County cousin, who collects Outer Banks people with the same passion that some of us collect seashells, recently brought to my attention a document located in Currituck County Deed Book 19, pp. 136-138. The document's significance wasn't apparent until put into context. It's a power of attorney from the heirs-at-law of a man named Hodges “Bencham” to Spence Hall, requesting that Hall reclaim and sell property to which the heirs were entitled from Bencham's estate. Hodges Binsham, Bencham or Benson (the name has all manner of variations), it turns out, was a sergeant who served in the Revolutionary War and died in 1778 at Valley Forge. For his ultimate sacrifice to our fledgling country, his children were entitled to 640 acres of land located in Sumner County, Tennessee. Among the heirs listed in the power of attorney is one Polly Gallop, wife of Willis Gallop. Please make a note that in future we should turn our attention to finding Polly Perry Gallop's real husband so that we can return her and her father, Josiah Perry, Sr., to their rightful descendants. So as not to stray too far from our principal characters, Willis and Hodges Gallop, I've outlined the evidence relating to Polly Binsham and placed it here: Polly Binsham Gallop evidence page.

          There are just a few more devilish details to consider before we conclude. A Currituck Cousin from Powells Point recently shared this version of yet another Gallop legend. The story was conveyed to him by John Lloyd Gallop and Zuliem Snow Wright, who were both fifth generation descendants of Willis Gallop, and who told the story as they all stood by the Gallop gravesite at Martin's Point in the spring of 1972:

          Willis Gallop is buried in a standing or upright position facing east so that he can keep his eye on his girlfriend, who lived across Jean Guite Creek. …Also Willis Gallop was supposedly buried with his walking stick or cane in his hand so that he could beat his unruly slaves if necessary.

          Interesting…an allusion to the mother of Willis' supposed illegitimate children. And remember, Elijah Tate told us that Willis Gallop had about a hundred slaves, so the cruel master had his work cut out for him in the afterlife. Compare the tale above with the following, published by David Stick in 1958:

          All of what is now Martins Point and Southern Shores, plus considerable land adjoining, was owned then [1850s] by a man named Hodges Gallop…Gallop is the subject of numerous local legends. At one time a preacher, he was a hard man on family and slaves, and it is said he was buried standing up in order that he might keep an eye on his property.15

          And this from a current Outer Banks Real Estate internet site:

          In the 1850s, all of what is now Southern Shores and Martin's Point was owned by a man named Hodges Gallop. Gallop is the subject of a multitude of local legends. A one-time preacher turned farmer, he cultivated a portion of the Martin's Point area. He was a hard man on the family and slaves, and it is said that he was buried standing up in order to keep an eye on his property.16

          Once again, we find Willis and Hodges Gallop blended together to form a composite man who led a double life as an evil slavemaster and a preacher/farmer. But we now know that these stories were about two separate men and it is more likely that Willis rather than his son Hodges was the tyrant. But the question remains, what are the elements of truth in these legends? Are we any closer to knowing?
          Do we know for sure that Willis Gallop was the true protaganist in the Baltimore Fire story? If our storytellers, all of whom lived in the twentieth century, blended elements of Willis and Hodges Gallop, is it possible that there were elements of still earlier ancestors, whose names are lost to us now, who were blended in by the storytellers of the nineteenth or even the eighteenth century? If the waterfront fire incident actually happened, could the real thief have been Willis' father or grandfather?
          Did Willis or Hodges Gallop really have a hundred slaves? It can be verified that they did own slaves, but not a hundred. In 1840, Willis Gallop had twenty-six slaves and Hodges had fifteen.17
          Did Willis Gallop have a mistress and some illegitimate children? There is a hint of this in his will, when he leaves land to several youngsters whose names are explicit, but whose relationships aren't.18 But there is still not enough evidence to plug them into the family tree. Update: A Currituck friend has recently shared with me the fact that there is at least one marriage record, c. 1870, which gives the bride's parents as Willis Gallop and Elizabeth Rodgers. Since the youngsters mentioned in the will were all named Rodgers, we can now conclude that this part of the tales is true, and put the Rodgers children in their rightful places on the Gallop Tree.
          Were there really brass chests which contained treasure? There was at least one chest, but not brass. In Willis Gallop's will of 1844 he says, “I also Give my son Hodges Gallop [my] Iron chest to him and his heirs forever.” And in 1875, Hodges Gallop writes, “I give to my son Clarence D. Gallop…my iron chest with one half of what it contains to school him and the other half of what it contains to my son Marshall P. Gallop.”19 Make of that what you will. Unfortunately, yours truly descends from neither of these lines.
          Was Willis Gallop buried standing up and with a stick in his hand? Would we really want to exhume him to find out?
          For a span of over seventy years, Willis and Hodges Gallop were two of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Currituck County. Hodges Gallop had a reputation for kindness and generosity, while his father apparently abused his power. It is unfortunate that the characters of two so different men would have been interwoven over time. It is not surprising that a man like Willis Gallop, who lorded over his subordinates with a harsh hand, would be rumored to have arrived at his station in life through ill-gotten means. And surely, a man like that, who was feared by many, would not have been laid to rest in an ineffectual horizontal position. He'd have been buried standing tall, larger than life, to carry on the legends.

          And each of these stories had a virtue: as narratives, they seemed plausible, more than everyday or historical reality, which is far more complex and less credible. The stories seemed to explain something that was otherwise hard to understand.
--Umberto Eco, “The Force of Falsity”

          In other words, the truth never stands in the way of a good story.


1Daniel W. Barefoot. Touring the Backroads of North Carolina's Upper Coast (Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1995). pp. 22-22.

2Elijah Tate (1902-1985) appears on the 1910 census of Atlantic Township, Currituck Co., NC as an eight-year-old boy. His family was at that time living at the old Gallop plantation at Martin's Point. Elijah's father, W. J. Tate, was listed on the census as "Club House Keeper." Known as a wonderful storyteller, the tales of Elijah Tate are worthy of their own book.

3, 8John Forest. Lord I'm Coming Home: Everyday Aesthetics in Tidewater North Carolina (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988). The first version cited in this paper is found on pp. 247-250. The second is found on pp. 175-180. In his book, Forest substituted ficticious names for real people and places mentioned in the tale; Willis Gallop is Wallace Tyler, Hodges Gallop is Hyram Tyler, Martin's Point is Tate's Point, etc. The names that were substituted in the book have been changed back to their factual equivalents and appear in brackets in this paper.

4The Albemarle Genealogical Society. Currituck County, North Carolina Cemetery Records (Baltimore: Gateway Press, 1995), p. 269.

5Nathaniel H. Bishop. Voyage of the Paper Canoe (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1878), Chapter IX., "From Norfolk to Cape Hatteras."

6R. H. Pittman, ed. Biographical History of Primitive or Old School Baptist Ministers of the United States (Anderson, Ind.: Herald, 1909), pp. 108-109.

7, 9Albemarle Genealogical Society. The Heritage of Currituck County, North Carolina (Winston-Salem, NC: Hunter Publishing Co., 1985), p. 27.

10Photos of Hodges Gallop from the collection of Thomas J. Tillett, Chapel Hill, NC. Copies of these photographs were given to Mr. Tillett by John Lloyd Gallop.

11, 12, 13, 14Richard Cobb. "Homes on way to rustic area of Outer Banks" and "Memories of point as it was," The Virginian-Pilot and the Ledger-Star. Sunday, March 28, 1982, Real Estate, Sec. F.

15David Stick. The Outer Banks of North Carolina (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1958), p. 262.

16Re/Max Ocean Realty website:

171840 Currituck County, NC Federal Census.

18Will of Willis Gallop, Currituck County Will Book 4, pp. 132-135.

19Will of Hodges Gallop, Currituck County Will Book 5, pp. 39-41.