The Pea Island Preservation Society, Inc., (PIPSI) is pleased to announce two events being held on Saturday, October 9, 2021, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the rescue of the E.S. Newman by Keeper Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Lifesavers. Both are to encourage people who are visiting or who live on the Outer Banks to remember the October 11, 1896, heroic rescue of the shipwrecked vessel during hurricane conditions, a rescue known as one of the most daring in the history of the United States Life-Saving Service (USLSS). Keeper Etheridge, who was once enslaved on Roanoke Island, was the nation’s first black Keeper and USLSS station Pea Island, the only station in the service with an all-black crew.
The first event will be held on Saturday morning at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. At 11:00 am PIPSI will present the live program, Freedmen, Surfmen, Heroes in Neptune’s Theater at the aquarium. Using vivid imagery and historical interpretation of events, Darrell Collins, Joan Collins, and Coquetta Brooks, each connected to station Pea Island through family members who served there, will tell the unique story of Keeper Etheridge and the Pea Island Lifesavers. This popular program has been presented during the summer months at the aquarium on Roanoke Island for the past few years. The special performance on October 9th, will be included as part of the regular admission fee to the aquarium. All persons visiting the aquarium are required to wear face masks while inside the building. Immediately following the live program, a wreath will be placed at the Etheridge’s gravesite which is located outside the front entrance to the aquarium.
The second event will be held on Saturday afternoon at the Pea Island Cookhouse Museum at Collins Park in Manteo. The Cookhouse Museum contains artifacts, photographs, and paintings honoring history of Keeper Etheridge and others who served at Station Pea Island. At 3:00 pm, a free outdoor program will be held with the porch of the Cookhouse Museum being used as the stage. Mr. David Wright Falade, who co-authored the book, Fire on the Beach: Recovering the Lost Story of Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Lifesavers will be the keynote speaker. Wright Falade is currently a professor of English at the University of Illinois. His novel, Black Cloud Rising, a historical novel that takes readers back to an extraordinary moment when enslaved men and women were shedding their bonds and embracing their freedom, will be available on February 8, 2022, and has already been excerpted in the New Yorker. One of the main characters in the book is Sergeant Richard Etheridge, a character created based on Etheridge’s real-life service in the US Colored Troops during the Civil War. Wright Falade has written for the New Yorker, the Village Voice, the Southern Review and more.
Captain Matthew J. Baer, the US Coast Guard Commander of Sector North Carolina, will also speak at the 3:00 pm event. Daniel Gardiner, the great grandson of the captain of the shipwrecked E.S. Newman, and several descendants of the Pea Island Lifesavers are also expected to attend. Following the program, people attending are encouraged to socialize and a light refreshment will be served. The inside of the Cookhouse Museum will also be opened to visitors. However, those who wish to visit the inside of the museum will be required to wear face masks and the number of people allowed inside at one time will be monitored.
Outside seating for the 3:00 pm event will be available, but on a first come first serve basis. People are also encouraged to bring their own outdoor chairs or blankets, as there is plenty of outdoor space on the grounds of the Cookhouse Museum. There are also several outdoor Wayside Exhibits at the site that tell the history of Keeper Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Lifesavers. In addition, a life-sized bronze statue of Keeper Richard Etheridge is at the roundabout right across the street and the Herbert M. Collins Boathouse is next to the museum. Collins served at the station the duration of World War II and helped to decommission the
station in March 1947.
Although the focus of both events is to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the E.S. Newman rescue, it is also a day to remember the many men who lived on Roanoke Island or other areas on the Outer Banks who served in the USLSS. Their service resulted in hundreds and hundreds of shipwrecked victims being saved in the treacherous Graveyard of the Atlantic waters. Many families, black and white, who live on Roanoke Island or other areas on the Outer Banks are connected to this remarkable history through the brave service of their descendants.
Remembering the October 11, 1896, rescue of the E.S. Newman also is especially important given that Etheridge and his crew never lived to know of or receive any special recognition for their daring rescue. Unlike men at other lifesaving stations who received special awards, the men at station Pea Island never had an opportunity to proudly wear medals on their chests. In March 1996, Keeper Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Lifesavers were posthumously awarded a Gold Lifesaving Medal by the US Coast Guard for the E.S. Newman rescue. But by then, each had long died. The 125th Anniversary Celebration is the perfect time to remember these forgotten heroes. So please plan to attend both or at least one of these special events.
The mission of PIPSI is to make the inspiring story of Keeper Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Lifesavers broadly known and recognized as an important and compelling part of the history of Roanoke Island and the Outer Banks. PIPSI manages and operates the Pea Island Cookhouse Museum and promotes the history of Etheridge and the Pea Island station through its Freedmen, Surfmen, Heroes education initiative. The Cookhouse Museum at Collins Park is located at 622 Sir Walter Raleigh Street in Manteo. For more information see
www.peaislandpreservationsociety.com or call 252-573-8332.
The North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island is in Manteo at 274 Airport Road. The aquarium is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is dedicated to the mission of “Inspiring appreciation and conservation of our aquatic environments.” For more information see ncaquariums.com/roanoke-island or call 252-475-2300.