MANTEO, N.C. – Hundreds of lives saved and hardships endured will be recognized with the unveiling of a North Carolina Historical Highway Marker (www.ncmarkers.com) in honor of the Pea Island Lifesavers and the station’s keeper, Richard Etheridge. From 1880-1900, Etheridge managed the station with military discipline and exceptional spirit de corps. It remained the only all-black facility in the U.S. Lifesaving Service.
The highway marker will be unveiled on Oct. 11 at 11 a.m. on S.R.12 at the Pea Island National Refuge Visitor’s Center near Rodanthe. KaeLi Schurr, curator of the Outer Banks History Center, and Frank Hester, Pea Island Lifesaving Station historian, will speak briefly. The public is encouraged to attend.
Following the unveiling, the public is invited for free pizza at noon and a free viewing of the film Rescue Men: The Story of the Pea Island Life Savers at 1 p.m. at the Pea Island Lifesaving Station Museum in Manteo.
The dedication date recalls the most dramatic rescue of the lifesavers on Oct. 11, 1896. A three-masted schooner, E.S. Newman, ran into a hurricane, lost all sails and drifted more than 100 miles before sinking just two miles south of the lifesaving station. Conditions forced Etheridge to send his two strongest swimmers into the surf, each tied to a rope. The surfmen tied survivors of the sunken ship to themselves and dragged the travelers back to shore, thus rescuing nine crew and passengers. After a campaign for recognition, Etheridge and his crew were posthumously awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal in 1966.
A statute of Etheridge was unveiled this summer in front of the Pea Island Museum.
The N.C. Highway Historical Marker program and the Outer Banks History Center are part of the Office of Archives and History in the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities, and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina’s social, cultural and economic future. Information on Cultural Resources is available 24/7 at www.ncculture.com.
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