What's in a Name: Topsail Island

Reported by Colin Hackman - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

TOPSAIL ISLAND, NC (WECT) - Every place has a name - some named for obvious reasons, some are not.

So what's in a name for Topsail Island?

Topsail is pronounced "top-sull", like Louisville, but where did it come from?

Topsail Island Museum Director Rose Peters said the name comes from a legend.  Rumor has it Edward, who is also known as Black-Beard the pirate, and other notorious criminals used the inlets around the island to lie in and wait for passing merchant ships.

But, according to Peters, the merchant ship crews caught on to their tactics.

"They would see the tops of the sails in the marshes and yell out, 'Top sails!', and try to avert robbery," said Peters.  "So that was the myth."

There is no proof to support this ever actually happened.

The island wasn't developed or named until the late 1940's when it was branded Topsail by Edgar Yow.  The mayor of Wilmington at the time thought the legend would make for a marketable name.

The island wasn't developed until the late 1940's because the US Navy took over the island in 1946 as part of Operation Bumblebee.

Bumblebee tested the first guided missiles.  An assembly building and nine observation and control towers were built across the island to track the flight.

If you'd like to learn more about why a certain place is called what it is, email Colin at whatsinaname@wect.com.

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