The History of the OBX Life-Saving Service

By on April 13, 2024

Beach Apparatus Cart.

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.

A Thankful Heart

Near midnight on Nov. 30, 1885, a patrolman from the Caffey’s Inlet station discovered a vessel stranded about a quarter of a mile northeast of the station. The night was so dark and stormy that her lights were barely visible, and the fog made it difficult to discern what type of vessel was in distress.

Keeper Daniel B. Austin decided to not launch the surf boat due to the dangerous surf and ordered the beach apparatus be taken instead. Once arriving on scene, the crew saw the vessel was too far out to effectively use a line of communication, but experience led them to believe because the tide was rising, the probability was strong that she would be soon driven closer over the outer sand bar. They resolved to wait until that time before doing anything.

During the wait, signals were made, and a beach fire was built to let the vessel’s crew know help was nearby. A couple hours later, the vessel was indeed driven into the inner sand bar and now lay about 200 yards from shore. The gun was placed into position and the first shot landed on board. The whip line was then sent out but when the hawser was attached, the whip line was found to have entangled with some of the wreckage in the undertow making it practically useless. No matter how they tugged and tried to maneuver it through the block, it was not coming loose.

This challenge proved impossible to overcome in the darkness, so another delay was forced on them as they now had to wait for daylight. By now, the tide was starting to fall so there was no immediate danger to the bark breaking up for some time. During their prolonged wait, patrols from the Poyner’s Hill and Paul Gamiel’s Hill stations joined the surfman on the beach.

Shortly before daybreak, one of the men returned to the station to telephone the adjacent stations to request assistance but due to the weather, only the Poyner’s Hill station could be reached. In the meantime, Keeper Austin had the surfboat and other tools gathered at the beach to meet any emergency that may arise once the rescue was in motion. Daylight finally broke and a second shot was made. The strong current made the task difficult and tedious but at long last, the gear was rigged and ready for the rescue. The Poyner’s Hill crew arrived just after the second trip of the breeches buoy and along with local fishermen kept the lines from fouling while being drawn through the surf. Nearly two hours after the first sailor was hauled to shore, the last man reached safety just as the bark fell over almost on her beam ends.

While the sailors were taken to the station to be made comfortable, the rescuing party recovered property that washed ashore from the wreckage. The bark, Harkaway, and her cargo of salt were deemed a total loss. While the captain of the vessel left for Norfolk without delay, the remaining 13 sailors remained at the station for at least four days. At his departure, the chief mate, W. Eichler, expressed his gratitude for the judgment and great skill exhibited by the Caffey’s Inlet station keeper and crew because in his opinion, all hands of the Harkaway would have perished in the heavy surf without them.

All in a Day’s Work

Sometimes it’s a balancing act: Early in the morning of Jan. 4, 1884, the south patrol from the Oregon Inlet station discovered a vessel aground within a short distance of the beach. He burned his Coston signal, which was answered by torchlight from the vessel. He alerted the station and a very short time later, Keeper Marcus L. Midgett and the rest of the crew pulled to the side of the stricken schooner, the Mary A. Trainer. Assisted by the Pea Island crew who arrived in their own surf boat, the surfmen ran out an anchor in an effort to get the vessel afloat.

To learn more visit Chicamacomico Historical Association.

SEE MORE FROM THIS SERIES: The History of the Outer Banks Life-Saving Service

The History of the OBX Life-Saving Service

Honoring the Outer Banks Life-Saving Service

Honoring the Outer Banks’ Life-Saving Service



Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


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