Mormons of Harkers Island
Strengthened by the Storm: The early Mormons of Harkers Island, NC, by Joel G. Hancock.
Harkers Island is located off the coast of North Carolina. It has always had a small population, first of Native Americans, then of European settlers. Devastating hurricanes brought new residents from the Outer Banks at the very end of the 19th century, especially upon the complete destruction of Diamond City. Active proselytizing by Mormon missionaries was successful, so successful, that the Mormon population of Harkers Island gets coverage in Wikipedia’s treatment of its history:
Elders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) proselyted extensively on Harkers Island after the hurricanes. Many of the refugees from Diamond City, uprooted physically and emotionally by the devastating hurricanes, converted to the Latter-day Saints, and soon outnumbered the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which had been founded on the island in 1875. A national wave of anti-Mormon sentiment was sparked by the Smoot Hearings in 1904, fueling fears that Mormons secretly continued to practice polygamy. The relationship between the Mormons on Harkers Island and their neighbors deteriorated. Residents threw rocks and oyster shells through the windows of the LDS meetinghouse and fired at least one gunshot into the building. In 1906, arsonists burned the meetinghouse to the ground. Organized Mormon religious services did not resume on Harkers Island until 1909. A new LDS meetinghouse was constructed on the island in the 1930s. Despite these difficult beginnings, Harker’s Island has one of the highest percentages of residents as members of the Latter-day Saints of any locality in North Carolina.
The Mormon community there has been buffeted by the violent storms that nature has brought onshore from time to time throughout the decades. But Harkers Island Mormons have also been buffeted by these storms of adversity borne of suspicion and misunderstanding on the part of their neighbors on the island, attitudes that persist to this day. Joel G. Hancock, a descendent of Mormons who lived through these pogroms and a leader in the Mormon community of Harkers Island, has written a detailed and compelling account of Mormon history there. His book, Strengthened by the Storm: The Early Mormons of Harkers Island, published by Cedar Fort, Inc., is here included in its entirety, a welcome contribution to this Mormon history website.