Honoring the Outer Banks Life-Saving Service

By on February 11, 2024

Oregon Inlet Life Saving Station. (Courtesy Jen Carlson)

The History of the Oregon Inlet Station

By Jen Carlson

This year, 2024, marks the 150th Anniversary of the US Life-Saving Service on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The first seven life-saving stations in North Carolina were on a very remote and inaccessible barrier island chain that are today’s easily accessible Dare and Currituck County.

The Chicamacomico Historical Association is providing a weekly series of articles about rescues and other significant events in the Service’s history on the Outer Banks and we will be publishing them on the Voice.

 

What’s in a Name?

The history of the life-saving station known today as Oregon Inlet has a unique beginning. In 1846, a great hurricane created an inlet between Bodie Island and Pea Island. An unsuspecting vessel named Oregon was caught in the storm but escaped to the safety of the ocean by using the newly formed inlet.

Because of the vessel, locals began calling the new inlet, Oregon’s Inlet, in honor of the vessel’s narrow escape. In 1874, when the first station was built near the Oregon Inlet, it was actually misnamed Bodie’s Island Life-Saving Station even though it was built on Pea Island. In 1878, construction of the second round of life-saving stations included one being built just north of the Bodie Island Lighthouse which was first called Tommy’s Hummock. In 1883, Tommy’s Hummock was renamed appropriately as Bodie’s Island Life-Saving Station and the original Bodie’s Island station was then renamed to become the Oregon Inlet Life-Saving Station.

On Sept. 3, 1881, the morning lookout at the Bodie’s Island Station reported seeing a sailboat with only one man onboard drifting with the tide out of the inlet and in danger of capsizing on the breakers. The crew immediately launched the surf boat to go to his assistance. They ended up towing the sailboat back to shore and assisted the man in reaching land safely.

 

All in a Day’s Work

Sometimes it’s all about manual labor: On Oct. 15, 1885, Keeper Daniel B. Austin and one other surfman from the Caffey’s Inlet Station assisted the master of the schooner, Weathercock, after she had grounded on a shell bank about two and a half miles west of the station. The small schooner was carrying a load of lumber in addition to other building supplies. In order to get her afloat again, the men had to first partially unload the schooner to lighten her load so they could maneuver her off the bank.

After successfully refloating her, the cargo was loaded back on board and the Weathercock proceeded down the sound unaffected by her grounding.


SEE ALSO: Honoring the Outer Banks’ Life-Saving Service: Rescuing from the wreck of the Metropolis



Comments are closed.