Pea Island Cookhouse
Backstory and Context
Richard Eldridge, a former slave, Union Soldier, and surfman of the Bodie Island Life-Saving Station, became the first-ever African American keeper of a life-saving station in our nation's history on January 24, 1880. Because this man was an African American, those men who were to serve him on his crew had to be African American as well. Thus, Eldridge and his crew became the first all African-American staffed life-saving station in United State's History. Pea Island would continue to be run by African American crews until it was decommissioned in 1947.
Eldridge and his crew are most notably hailed for the rescue of the E.S. Newman during a terrific hurricane on October 11, 1896. According to David Wright and David Zoby in their text, Ignoring Jim Crow: The Turbulent Appointment of Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Lifesavers, "In the following days, the Newman's captain searched for and found the piece of the side that held the vessel's name and donated it to the crew as an offering of his thanks. For a century, this would be the only award the Pea Island crew received for their efforts." This signage is now on display at the Pea Island Cookhouse, to memorialize the courage and bravery of the crew of the Pea-Island Life Saving Station.