A Brief History of Nags Head on the Outer Banks of North Carolina
By now you have probably heard the story about the enterprising Outer Banker who hung a lantern from the neck of a horse and paraded it across Jockey's Ridge. The idea was to trick unsupecting ship captains into thinking that the light dangling from the "Old Nag" was actually a safe harbor. Believing that the light bobbing up and down was actually a ship anchored in the harbor, a freight loaded ship would sail onto the shore and become grounded. After the local Bankers dispatched the crew they would make off with the cargo.
On a clear night you could you might be able tosee the light from an oil lamp at the distance that the ships would sail along the coast of the United Sates. But, on a clear night, a captain would have no need to find a safe harbor. It is only when a ship has reached it's destination or inclement weather force's the captains hand, that the thought of slowing down the delivery of the cargo would even enter the captain's mind. Usually, they were under a great deal of pressure to make the trip as fast as possible, just like today, and safe harbor was not even considered in bad waether because harbors are more dangerous to enter in a storm than it is to ride the storm out at sea.
More than likely, Nags Head got it's name just like most of the other towns in America that are not named by Native Americans, from the English home town of the immigrants. This is where the similarity to the rest of America ends.
Situated on a thin strip of sand that protrudes into the Atalntic Ocean further than any other east coast location, Nags Head has managed to hold on to the Outer Banks flavor. Nags Head became popular in the early 1800's with the plantation owners trying to escape the oppresive inland heat. A steam ship would unload their families at a soundside dock behind Jockey's Ridge where they would spend the summer.
It wasn't until the bridge was built in Kitty Hawk that developement could take off.