The United States Lifesaving Service (USLSS) was created by the United States Government in 1872 in order to protect lives and shipping interests along the coast. In 1874, the first lifesaving stations were built along the North Carolina coast. These stations housed a staff that consisted of a keeper and crew of six, manning the stations during the active storm season from December to March. After the wrecks of the Huron, with 103 lives lost, and the Metropolis, with 85 lives lost, both off the Outer Banks, the Lifesaving Service added an additional eleven stations to the North Carolina coast. They also extended the station's season to September 1-May 1 and then from August 1-May 31. By the ... (more below)
U. S. Lifesaving Service Wreck Reports and Payroll Records
The United States Lifesaving Service (USLSS) was created by the United States Government in 1872 in order to protect lives and shipping interests along the coast. In 1874, the first lifesaving stations were built along the North Carolina coast. These stations housed a staff that consisted of a keeper and crew of six, manning the stations during the active storm season from December to March. After the wrecks of the Huron, with 103 lives lost, and the Metropolis, with 85 lives lost, both off the Outer Banks, the Lifesaving Service added an additional eleven stations to the North Carolina coast. They also extended the station's season to September 1-May 1 and then from August 1-May 31. By the time the U.S. Lifesaving Service merged with the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service to form the U. S. Coast Guard in January 1915, North Carolina was home to 29 stations. Among these was the Pea Island Lifesaving Station, which housed the nation's only all black crew.This collection contains wreck reports, payroll records, abstracts of disbursements, books, journals, leases, letters of application and recommendations, livestock forage bills, contracts, requisitions for repairs, telegrams, and correspondence of the United States Lifesaving Service. The majority of these papers relate to the stations along the North Carolina coast, however, there are wreck reports for selected stations in Virginia, South Carolina, and Florida.
United States. Life-Saving Service
Outer Banks History Center
This collection is divided into five series: Saved Ships, Lost Ships, Undesignated Outcome of Ships, Correspondence, and Payroll Records.
Available for research.
Copyright is retained by the authors of these materials, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law (Title 17 US Code). Individual researchers are responsible for using these materials in conformance with copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials.
Processed by Outer Banks History Center Staff prior to 2001.
Encoded by Kelly Grimm, August, 2009
The foundation for the United States Lifesaving Service was laid as far back as 1785, when the Massachusetts Humane Society was founded, with the goal of saving human lives in peril from the sea. The society constructed small huts as "houses of refuge" to provide shelter for shipwrecked mariners along Massachusetts shore. In 1807, the Humane Society also launched the first lifeboat and established the first lifeboat station at Cohasset, Massachusetts. Soon, additional lifeboat stations began popping up along the Massachussetts coast. In 1848, the government allocated $10,000 for the purchase of surfboats and other lifesaving equipment, to be used along the New Jersey coast. Throughout the 1850s, the government continued to provided funds and more stations were set up along the New Jersey and New England coast lines.
These early stations all depended on volunteer crews, often poorly trained and undependable. Many of the stations fell into disrepair. Through the years, efforts were made to improve discipline and operations. Though some progress was made, it was obvious that direct government involvement was needed. It came in 1871, when Sumner I. Kimball was appointed Chief of the Treasury Department's Revenue Marine Division. Kimball was able to convince Congress to allot $200,000 to operate stations and employ full time crews. Kimball instituted a six man crew, built new stations, and drew up formal regulations with standards of performance.
North Carolina's first seven stations were built in 1874 at Jones Hill (later re-named Whaleshead, then Currituck Beach), Caffey's Inlet, Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, Bodie's Island, Chicamacomico, and Little Kinnakeet. These stations were only manned during the active season, December-March. The Lifesaving Service was not without its problems in these early years. The stations were spread too far apart and though many of the early surfmen went on to have distinguished careers, the stations also had their fair share of men not suited to the rigors of lifesaving. It would take several years to weed them all out.
It took two major maritime disasters off the coast of the Outer Banks before the Lifesaving Service would receive an overhaul. The first was the disaster of the Huron, which wrecked on November 24, 1877, a mere three miles from the Nags Head Lifesaving Station. Since the station's season hadn't started, it was closed and locked up. A total of 103 lives were lost in this disaster. The second was the wreck of the Metropolis on January 31, 1878. Though surfmen from the lifesaving stations responded, the distance between the stations, as well as errors made by the surfmen, resulted in the loss of 85 lives. As a result of these disasters, an act was passed by Congress on June 18, 1878, authorizing an additional 30 stations to be built around the country. Eleven of these stations were designated for the North Carolina. The active season was extended to September 1-May 1. It was later extended again to August 1-May 31. In hopes of attracting more qualified people, the keeper's salary was increased and they were given the power of inspectors of customs. Despite these early growing pains, the Lifesaving Service became an honored way of life on the Outer Banks, and it is an important part of the local heritage.
By the time the U. S. Lifesaving Service merged with the U. S. Revenue Cutter Service to form the U. S. Coast Guard in January 1915, North Carolina was home to a total of 29 stations. Among these stations was the Pea Island Lifesaving Station, which housed the nation's only all black crew.
Formerly classified as 33MSS-8
[Identification of item], ORG.5008, U. S. Lifesaving Service Wreck Reports and Payroll Records, Outer Banks History Center, Manteo, N.C., U.S.A.
Donated by David Stick.
These papers contain valuable information pertaining to activities and operations of the U. S. Lifesaving Service/U. S. Coast Guard, from 1892-1929. The wreck reports document shipwrecks and rescue efforts along the North Carolina coast, as well as Virginia and South Carolina coasts. Payroll records, bills, and leases document the administrative activities of the stations. This collection also has letters of application and recommendation for the position of keeper. There are also some wreck reports for several stations and houses of refuge in Florida. Material is processed and foldered as organized by the donor, David Stick, who used the material to write his book, Graveyard of the Atlantic.
The wreck reports were indexed and cross referenced in 2007 by Kelly R. Grimm. It searchable by the name of the ship, name of the attending station, date, or box and folder. It is divided into five categories: Wreck Reports for Ships, Boats, and Seaplanes; Assistance Rendered to Individuals; All Other Reports (i.e. extinguished fire, towed cars, animal rescues, etc.); Letters of Recommendation and Application: and Maintenance, Repairs, and Additions.
Name changed to Virginia Beach in 1902
Includes Penney's Hill, 1914
Includes estate papers and materials related to the death of Richard Etheridge