Ocean Isle Beach History
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By Nicole Puccinelli-Ortega
News & Record, Travel Section, July 28, 2002

The discovery of Ocean Isle may have been fate.  When Odell Williamson returned from World War II in 1945, he moved to Shallotte, a nearby community with his wife, Virginia.  While flying over the area in his small plane, he spotted the tiny, then-uninhabited island.  Odell investigated the island and discovered an old fishing shack, the only structure there.

“Everyone told him he was crazy to want the island,” says Marnie Waterford, the Williamsons’ granddaughter, who grew up on the island.  “They said, ‘You can’t grow tobacco in the sand.’”

Still, the Williamsons purchased the land in 1953 and later named it Ocean Isle Beach .  Oceanfront lots sold for about $900.  Hurricane Hazel hit the island the following year and destroyed all but one of the 15 houses already built.

But that didn’t discourage Odell Williamson.  He began developing the island once again and built his family a home there in 1964.  A two-car ferry was the first transportation out to the island before a small drawbridge was built.

Odell Williamson served 12 years as a representative in the North Carolina state legislature and served on the board of the Department of Transportation.  Today, the island has a modern elevated bridge named for him.  More than 700 residents call the island home, and oceanfront lots cost $550,000.

Lined with quaint beach houses and oceanfront inns, the island welcomes visitors from all over the United States and some from Canada and Europe .  Sea gulls’ calls are the only alarm clocks here, and morning walks are routine.  As the gentle waves wash over bare feet, stress and worries are carried out to sea.