It's Tuesday September 23, 2014
Oriental. (n) Village on the shores of the Neuse River and Pamlico Sound, home to 875 people, no stoplights and a lot of boats.
By some counts, 2700 boats are docked in and around Oriental at any one time, which works out to more than three boats per resident. Most of them are sailboats, which, along with the steady breezes nearby makes Oriental the Sailing Capital of NC.
Other pleasure craft call Oriental home, as do the distinctive fishing trawlers.
And at Mile Marker 182 of the Intracoastal Waterway, Oriental is a welcoming harbor for cruisers whether they are heading north or south on the ICW or making a stop on a circumnavigation. More than a few of Oriental’s current residents first came to town by sea…and decided to stay a while.
The S.S. ORIENTAL – by Oriental artist Ashton Whipple
So, how did Oriental get its name? The connection, like much in town, is nautical.
Initially, the town was known as Smith’s Creek (the name still carries on with body of water under the Hwy 55 bridge). But the name seemed lacking in the mid 1880’s, when a post office came to town. The search was on for something well, snappier.
That’s where Rebecca Midyette came through. She was the wife of postmaster Lou Midyette and among her possessions was a piece of shipwreck from a Union boat that had gone down near the Outer Banks during the Civil War. It was the ship’s nameplate that Rebecca Midyette had saved and that ship was the “Oriental”.
Factoids:– Just outside of town, where the Neuse River meets the Pamlico Sound, it is the widest river in America. – The first motorized school bus in NC rolled down the streets of Oriental in 1917. – Just a few miles out of town is the original Dawson’s Creek which was the inspiration for the WB TV show. The show’s creator, screenwriter (“Scream”) Kevin Williamson, is a native of Oriental.