Return to Hyde County

Time Traveler
Written & contributed by Tom Carmine

People donít throw things away any more. They just put the stuff on eBay, and people like me buy it. Having roots in Hyde County, I will occasionally search for memorabilia from the area and all sorts of things show up.

I have seen a post card of Harryís Tree at Swindell Fork, a Fire Dept. patch and year books galore. I have bought three Mattamuskeet Sportsman shotgun shell boxes and a NC Duck Stamp print featuring the Lodge in the background.  For a while various Hyde County area oyster cans were hot sellers.  Occasionally though you find something of real interest, but seldom do you find something that reaches back into your own family history.  

I found and purchased a postcard one evening simply because it was an old picture of the Swan Quarter, and it was cheap. The post mark dated the mailing to 1914 and the completed Providence Methodist Church in the background placed the picture after 1913. There was nothing notable about the card nor who printed it. Perhaps the car was the real novelty in the picture.  In 1915, there were only 2.3 million cars registered in the US for about 100 million Americans. Surely there was not many of them registered in Hyde County.

Still there was one element of interest that initially eluded me. This card was mailed to my home town of Newport News, VA to a Mr. E. Clay McClaud by Leta Brown from Swan Quarter.

My mom passed away in 2003.  She used to mention someone she called E.C. who I gathered must have been about her age, but my only recollection of him was that he once flew a plane to Hyde County. End of story about him so I needed more information.

I sent an email to the eBay seller who lived in Maryland, and asked him how he had acquired the card. He replied that he had bought the card at a card show in Pennsylvania. Somehow this post card had traveled further in its parcel post after life than it had in its original mailing, but I was still no closer to unraveling the story.

The internet is a wonderful research tool so I Googled up E.C. McClaud, and found that he had attended the funeral of George A. Selby, Jr. his brother-in-law as recorded in Selbyís obituary in the Hyde County Messenger, June 1939 edition.  The Messenger was a monthly newsletter published by Reverend Elliot Rufus Stewart. Selby was married to Minnie McClaud Selby one of E.C.ís two sisters.

E.C. grew up in the Lake Landing area but moved to Newport News to work at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. I understand that he was a financial executive at the Company, and a Company parking lot now stands over the location of his 1914 house. His two sisters Minnie and Mary stayed behind in Hyde County and married locally, but sometime after Minnieís husband George died, Minnie also moved to Newport News where some of her family still lives.

In 1934 my grandmother Lizzie Swindell Bonner died. My grandfather Claude Bonner still had two daughters at home which included my 17 year old mom and my 24 year old aunt who was teaching school. A year later, Claude married Mary McClaud, E.C.ís sister.  Amazingly, I had managed to snag a bit of extended family memorabilia right out of thin air.  

Further research led me to an obituary for E.C. McClaud, Jr., Momís E.C.  He had died in Florida in 2007 at the age of 86, and he had been a test pilot for Pratt & Whitney. I was able to share this postcard story with his widow.  Leta Brown was not family, but apparently just a friend. Her obituary recorded in the Dare County Times on December 7, 1945 states that she was 56 when she died, and she had been a school teacher in the County.

So 95 years later and after having exchanged hands at least four times in four states, a casually sent post card has found its way back home to Swan Quarter.

The postcard reads:
Do you recognize the picture?  Swan Quarter doesn't look so bad.  I am hard at work again, but am enjoying it.  I guess you did not get your trip to New York, did you?  With love, Leta

© 2014 Kay Midgett Sheppard