Spanning 5 decades, the Greater Hyde County Chamber of Commerce held its first meeting in 1989. An ad hoc committee of interested residents and business owners were the genesis of the GHCCoC, that today, promotes volunteerism, an entrepreneurial spirit, and offers support to Mainland Hyde County and Ocracoke businesses. Whether it’s through the yearly Veterans Day Celebration, numerous festivals and events, or the annual Awards and Recognition Banquet, the GHCCoC continues to look ahead, identifying and exploring new avenues to support Hyde County’s growing economy.
About Hyde County
In 1585 English explorers first stepped on the shores of what was to become Hyde County. Awaiting those brave men was a land fertile with fish, game and natural resources. Originally named Whickham, the precinct was shaped and deeded in 1705 from Bath County, and become Hyde County in 1712 to honor North Carolina’s first governor, Edward Hyde. The earliest inhabitants of Hyde County were Native Americans. Their influence can still be seen today in the names of our communities and landforms, such as Mattamuskeet, Pungo, Wysocking, Waupoppin, and Ocracoke.
Settlers moved to Hyde from the Albemarle region, Virginia and Maryland to farm the rich black soil of the county. Early farmers carved large plantations from the stands of pine, cypress and hardwoods. The rich soil and temperate climate led to bountiful harvests and Hyde was know as “The Breadbasket of North Carolina.”
Settlers and Native Americans were not the only people to occupy Hyde County. The infamous pirate Blackbeard prowled the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pamlico Sound before his 1718 capture and ultimate death off Ocracoke Island.
Hyde County covers 634 square miles of unspoiled forests, farms, estuaries, beaches and waterways, but with a population of less than 6,000, visitors can always find an uncrowded , unhurried piece of coastal paradise.
Hyde County is home to four National Wildlife Refuges, four State Game Land Areas and a National Seashore. Virtually endless recreational activities abound in Hyde County, with miles of kayaking and canoeing, nature trails, bicycle and horseback riding, parasailing, surfing, diving, bird watching and sightseeing all within a short drive.
Hunting is a major pastime in the county, with abundant water fowl, deer, bear, and small game. Prior to the Canada Goose decline in the mid 70’s, Hyde was known as the Canada Goose Hunting Capital of the World. Waterfowl remains the premier hunting adventure, with tundra swan, Canada and snow geese and more than 15 types of ducks. Hyde County has one of the largest populations of black bear in North Carolina, and rivals many areas of the United States and Canada as a trophy bear destination. Whitetail deer are abundant and popularly hunted in the county along with rabbit, squirrel, and quail.
Hyde County was formed December 3, 1705, as Wickham Precinct, one of three precincts within Bath County. In 1712 it was renamed Hyde Precinct, for Edward Hyde, Governor of North Carolina from 1711 to 1712. In 1739 Bath County was abolished, and Hyde Precinct became Hyde County. Various boundary adjustments followed. In 1745 Lake Mattamuskeet and its adjoining territory were transferred from Currituck County to Hyde County.
In 1819 the part of Hyde County west of the Pungo River was annexed to Beaufort County. In 1823 the part of Currituck County south of New Inlet was annexed to Hyde County. This area included the present day Hatteras Island. In 1845 Ocracoke Island was transferred from Carteret County to Hyde County. In 1870 Hyde County was reduced to its present dimensions, when its northeastern part was combined with parts of Currituck County and Tyrrell County to form Dare County. Since its creation, the boundaries of Hyde County have changed more than those of any other county in North Carolina.
As one of the smallest (by population) counties in NC, there were 5,826 people, 2,185 households, and 1,433 families residing in Hyde County (all figures are as of the census of 2000). The population density was 10 people per square mile, which means Hyde county has the lowest population density in North Carolina! (In contrast, the county with the highest population density in NC is Mecklenburg with a population density of 1,774 people per square mile!)
Of those 2,185 households, 26.40% had children under the age of 18 living in the home, and 48.70% were married couples living together. 30.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. In the county the age of the population was well spread out with 20.40% under the age of 18, 7.90% from 18 to 24, 30.70% from 25 to 44, 24.60% from 45 to 64, and 16.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. The median income for a household in Hyde County was $28,444, and the median income for a family was $35,558. Males had a median income of $25,216 versus $20,482 for females.
Hyde County is home to four National Wildlife Refuges, four State Game Land Areas and a National Seashore. Virtually endless recreational activities abound in Hyde County, with miles of Kayaking and canoeing, nature trails, bicycle and horseback riding, parasailing, surfing, diving, bird watching and sightseeing all with in a short drive.
Mattamuskeet Wildlife Refuge is a popular place for visitors to enjoy a variety of wildlife-dependent recreation. During fall and winter, concentration of swan, geese, and ducks are a delight to both wildlife observers and photographers.
Ocracoke Island is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The island is owned by the US National Park Service, except for the village. There are ramps for beach access along Hwy 12 for 4WD vehicles only. There are also parking areas so that you can walk over to the beach. There is a large Parking Area at the southern end of Hwy 12 between the ferry office and Ocracoke Preservation Museum. The National Park Service also has a Visitors Center with Public Restrooms in this area.
Records from the first European settlers show the area around Lake Mattamuskeet to have “an abundance of fish and fowl”. Native American records also make reference to hunting for fowl using corn and “nightfire.” In the 1700`s, settlers to the Hyde County region were farmers who, in addition to agriculture, quickly became avid waterfowler’s early on for food, and then at the turn of the century for profit as tourism made its first appearance.
According to agricultural experts, in the 1900`s Hyde County Soil was the “richest in the world, and needed no fertilizer”. Productive Farmland, natural vegetation, flooded grain fields, and the proximity to pristine wetlands, and Lake Mattamuskeet made the Hyde County area prime grounds for Migratory Waterfowl. Nature, agriculture and wildlife. It is a delicate balance, and is managed by the state, and Federal Government, as well as local farmers and waterfowlers.
*General info. Taken from Mattamuskeet and Ocracoke Waterfowl heritage by Jack Dudley.
Lake Mattamuskeet, the forefront of Hyde County Waterfowl Heritage, is the largest natural lake in North Carolina. Lake Mattamuskeet is one of a number of lakes of unknown origin. Indian legend attributes its formation to a fire that burned for 13 moons. Originally the lake covered more than 120,000 acres, but as time passed, farmers became more and more interested in the rich soil that lie at the bottom of the lake, hence came the construction of a canal from the lake to the sound, which once finished reduced the size of the lake form 120,000 acres to 50,000 plus acres. Fast forward to early to mid 1900`s, farmers wanted access to the remaining 50,000 acres. After years of setbacks, finally came the construction of the Outfall Canal, which runs from the lake 7 miles to the Pamlico Sound, and later the famous Pumping Station, which became Mattamuskeet Lodge in 1937. For 37 years it operated as a lodge and gained a reputation as one of the favorite hunting lodges in the country. Over time the idea of farming the land where the lake is now was finally abandoned, and was left to its present size, which is nearly 50,000 acres. At one time the lake and nearby area was considered as the Canada Goose Hunting Capitol of the World, and has been referred to as the “land of the huntsman`s delight”. Lake Mattamuskeet now comprises the big portion of the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, which was established in 1934, and now is home to more than 800 species of wildlife and birds, during part or all of each year. Unfortunately, hunting is now only permitted on the lake by state drawn permits.