Virginia History

Virginia's Legendary Heritage
Long before Secretariat won the Triple Crown and the wild ponies in the factual book, Misty of Chincoteague, became famous, Virginia's horse industry had already established itself as the birthplace of some of America's first horse legends and breeds. In fact, Virginia's partnership with horses began back in the early 1500's with the arrival of the first horses to the Virginia Colonies.
The Legend Goes On
 For over 400 years, horses have contributed to the state's economic success and stability. Providing horse power in the fields and transportation for goods and people, horses were the backbone of the first Virginia Colonies.
In 1995 (October)
Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PHD, in his North American Colonial Spanish Mustang Update writes: One type of southeast horse is the Banker Pony from the Outer Banks of Virginia and the Carolinas. Some of these horses are included in the Spanish Mustang Registry.
With permission from the Island Free Press (Hatteras and Ocracoke Island News) 
we are happy to be able to post their story on our website.
Remembering Dale Burrus, a Hatterasman for all time
By Daniel C. Couch
A somber Hatteras Island community is mourning the untimely passing of William Dale Burrus, 65, of Hatteras village, who died of an apparent heart attack at his home on Sunday morning, Oct. 7.  His passion for his family, his home, his country, and his friends ensure a legacy destined to endure for generations. 

Dale possessed the finest qualities of life that enriched the lives of all who came in contact with him.  He was totally selfless, to the point that he often inconvenienced himself greatly to answer a call of need from a fellow human being. He had no ego, content to let his neighbors bask in the glory of endeavors he initiated.

His character and integrity were unwavering, and he could be counted on to do the right thing.  His sense of duty bound him to often make the unpopular decision for the common good. He was a family man who dearly loved his wife, Lorraine, and his daughters, Denise and Margaret. Dale was especially proud of his grandchildren and nieces and nephews and looked forward to the times he could travel to spend time with them.

His sense of humor manifested itself in the heat of contention. When tempers flared in discussions of civic issues, he was a peacemaker, the solution finder, and he was at his best in a crisis. His considerable leadership skills dictated that he set the example first, and he would never ask anyone to do something he wouldn't do himself.

These skills were honed at a young age by his parents.  He was the oldest child of William Zachariah "Bill" Burrus and Minnie Austin Burrus, who put him to work in the family business in his pre-teens. He attended Chowan College in Murfreesboro where he made a handful of lifelong friends and then did a stint in his early 20s in the U.S. Coast Guard in isolated duty in Alaska and aboard ship.  He came back home to ask for the hand of his true love, the beautiful Lorraine Howard of Ocracoke.

Dale Burrus was a gentleman, a beautiful man in all respects. We will miss him terribly.

His American ancestry was impressive, to say the least. He was a descendant of John Burrus, an Englishman who arrived in Jamestown on Oct. 1, 1608, aboard the Mary Margaret. Burrus' wedding to Bridgett Buck soon after was the first English wedding performed in the New World and is still re-enacted today in Jamestown. John Burrus was murdered on New Year’s Day in 1628, leaving the grandchildren of his son, John Burrus, Jr. to bring the bloodline to Hatteras Banks during the Tuscarora Indian War of 1700-1715 in North Carolina.

His Hatteras "pedigree" is no less compelling. At the onset of the Civil War, family members on two sides struggled with the desire to preserve the Union and still provide for their families. Caleb B. Stowe wrote a compassionate plea on behalf of his neighbors to Cdr. Jonathan Wainwright, USN, of the Harriet Lane and Col. Rush Hawkins of the Ninth New York, leader of "Hawkins' Zouaves," at that time the finest fighting force in the world. That plea today is set in granite on the monument in the yard of East Carolina Bank in Hatteras village.

Great-grandfather John W. Rollinson, collector of the Port of Hatteras and in 1845 the first paid schoolteacher in the village, fled for his life with his wife and children to mainland North Carolina, literally hours before he might have been imprisoned or executed.  Rollinson's son-in-law, Alonzo J. Stowe, ran a blockade runner out of Hatteras Inlet and was one of the first arrests on the island during the Union rout of Aug. 29-30, 1861. A.J. Stowe would spend time in a Union prison in New York before returning to found what is now the Burrus Red & White Supermarket, which, at 141 years, is the longest enduring business on the Outer Banks.   

Among Dale's remarkable contributions to the community he dearly loved is his long tenure as member of the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative board of directors.  He was one the Hatteras villagers who established The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum and served on the board of directors, including terms as chairman and vice-chairman. He was also a founding member of the Hatteras Village Civic Association, where he served as both a director and chairman of the board. Dale also led the organized effort for the continuation of the Hatteras Medical Center. 

In the tumultuous growth the island experienced  in the '80s and '90s, Dale's innate business sense and the ability to recognize the right person for the job led to the hiring of Jim Sherfey, who brought the Hatteras co-op into the nationally recognized operation it is today in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

His knowledge of Hatteras and Ocracoke history was, in a word, staggering. He could talk for hours -- and often did -- on many aspects of local and regional history and culture.  Dale himself was living history and an invaluable resource to historians. His collection of family and island memorabilia filled boxes, drawers in chests, and file cabinets.

Dale was singularly responsible for bringing Joe Schwarzer, longtime executive director of the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, to the Outer Banks in 1996.  Dale was particularly proud to know that the long struggle to create the facility culminated last month when the museum was accepted into the state Division of History Museums.
Dale was the museum. 

 As the project quickly outgrew the island's capacity to handle it, Dale hung on for the proverbial Nantucket sleigh ride it became and inspired a long list of islanders to do the same, for "just a little while longer."  Dale maintained for more than 20 years that North Carolina should be the repository of shipwreck artifacts, and, by the grace of God, he lived to see the museum become a reality
His horses were another one of Dale’s greatest loves. An endeavor that brought him great satisfaction was his one-man battle to seek recognition of the banker pony as a legitimate American horse breed, culminating with its acceptance by the American Horse Council in the 1980s.
The Banker pony descends from the Spanish mustangs, bred in Hispaniola in the late 1500s.  Although England and Spain were bitter enemies and perpetually at war over rights to the New World, they didn't let business get in the way. After picking up a load of livestock in Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic), the ship Tiger, commanded by Sir Richard Grenville of the Sir Walter Raleigh expeditions to the New World, was grounded in Ocracoke Inlet. Only by forcing the mustangs overboard was the crew able to re-float the ship. Grenville never came back for them, and the rest is history.
By dragging Sailor -- and Lorraine -- all over the American West and through determined efforts by letters and phone calls, Dale eventually swung enough votes from Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Arizona to get the Banker pony into the council.

The consummate Hatterasman, Dale could infuse any situation with his sense of humor. He was a natural storyteller and constantly mixed his metaphors, a source of great amusement to those who knew him -- "He went straight from the frying pan into a black kettle" or "That's a horse of a different saddle" and
on and on. 

On one of the numerous legislative trips to Washington, D.C., a group representing the museum attended a high profile social event hosted by Democratic movers and shakers. Some of the illustrious company in the room included Joseph Kennedy, President Clinton's chief of staff Erskine Bowles, and longtime visitor to the Outer Banks, Dick Gephardt.  Making the news during that time period were the widely-reported contributions to the Republican Party made by the Coors family, brewers of Coors beer.  As a leggy waitress made her way over to our table to take our drink order, Dale, ever the gentleman, waited until all had ordered and said in a loud voice, "I'd like a Coors Light, please."

A collective gasp escaped from every table within earshot, and Dale looked around astonished, with that "What'd I say?" look. In a split second, amidst a spontaneous "Mr. Burrus--Coors is Republican" explanation from a gracious host, Dale said, "And I'm going to go pour it straight down the commode!"

The eruption of laughter from nearby tables saved the day.

Dale was always thinking on his feet that way.

And that quality, as much as anything, underscored who he really was.  He was a visionary, a patriot, a loving husband and doting father, grandfather and uncle. He will take his rightful place among his ancestors at the great table in heaven and regale them with tales of his own.

 We love you, Dale. Thanks for everything you did for us.

(Danny Couch, the current chairman of the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum board, is a Hatteras Island writer and historian who both learned from Dale Burrus and cherished him as a friend.)

** FOR DALE **
There's a special part of heaven, where banker ponies roam.
Just beyond the river, just past the setting sun.
A garden set aside, where the young colts play.
And he who loved these ponies, walks with them today.
The good Lord blessed him greatly, and gave into his care.
The horses of the heavenly host, when he went over there.
Love, the great commandment, has it's own reward.
In heaven, the eternal home, all things are restored.
And for the Father's children, all good dreams come true.
Our heavenly Father, loves more than me or you.
To bring His children joy, He'll do 'most any thing.
And all of us are blessed, our father is the King.
So weep not nor worry, he's happy over there.
Even heaven's horses, need gentle, loving care.
When we see him in heaven, he will beam with pride.
And tell us about the time, him and Jesus took a ride.
 -Johnnie Baum

In Memory of a wonderful man who loved the wild horses (Banker Ponies) that roamed the Outer Banks of North Carolina and Virginia. His one man battle to seek recognition of the banker pony as a legitimate American horse breed, culminating with its acceptance by the American Horse Council in the 1980's. Dale was able to get them into the Spanish Mustang registry. 

We met with Dale in 2005 and spent the day with him and his wild mustangs. His stories were so amazing and we wanted very much to help keep his memory alive by sharing Dale's wonderful history with you.

Thank you for visiting our website!
Copyright © Virginia Wild Horse Rescue, All Rights Reserved 2006