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26 Feb 2023
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History is sometimes found in the most unexpected places and that certainly seems to be the case with what an only be described as the chance discovery of one of the most important members of the Pea Island Lifesaving crew.

That may have been what retired Coast Guard Commander Gavin Wente was thinking when he and his family cleared brush off a hidden grave marker on his Jarvisburg property and found one of the final resting place of Lewis Wescott. Jarvisburg is the location of the Jarvisburg Colored School and Sanctuary Vineyards.

The Pea Island Lifesaving Station on Hatteras Island was an all African-American lifesaving station for the Lifesaving Service. The Lifesaving Service was folded into the US Coast Guard in 1915. 

Pea Island was a bit of an experiment. When Richard Ethridege was appointed Station Keeper in 1880, no what crew would serve with him. An all Black crew was established.

The Coast Guard was the first service to attempt integration during WWII.

The station under Etheridge was one of the best run in the service and gained fame for the 1896 rescue of the ES Newman in a storm so violent that  Etheridge had suspended beach patrols, fearing for the safety of his men. It took 100 years, but the crew was awarded the Coast Guards Gold Lifesaving medal in 1893—the highest honor given to crews.

One of the crewman on that historic night was Lewis Wescott. 

Wescott went on to have a full career in the Lifesaving Service and then the Coast Guard, retiring as Captain Lewis Wescott. He served as the Keeper at Pea Island from 1900 until he retired in 1916.

The article, written by Outer Banks writer Cate Kozak for the Coastal Review is filled with interesting details.

Summer is coming quickly. Be sure to make your Brindley Beach Vacations reservation as soon as possible.