U.S. Coast Guard Awards
Awarded 5 March 1996
Pea Island crew
The three-masted schooner E.S. Newman, sailing from Providence, RI to Norfolk, VA ran into a hurricane. Pushed before the storm, the ship lost all sails and drifted almost 100 miles before it ran aground about two miles south of the Pea Island Life-Saving Station (NC) on 11 October 1896. The station keeper, Richard Etheridge, had discontinued the routine patrols due to the high water that had inundated the island. Surfman Theodore Meekins, however, saw what he thought was a distress signal and lit a Coston flare. He then called to Etheridge to look for a return signal. Both strained to look through the storm. Moments later, they saw a faint signal of a vessel in distress.
Etheridge, a veteran of nearly twenty years, readied the crew. They hitched mules to the beach cart and hurried toward the vessel. Arriving on the scene, they found Captain S.A. Gardiner and eight others clinging to the wreckage. Unable to fire a line because the high water prevented the Lyle Gun’s deployment, Etheridge directed two surfmen to bind themselves together with a line. Grasping another line, the pair moved into the breakers while the remaining surfmen secured the shore end. The two surfmen reached the wreck and, using a heaving stick, got a line on board. Once a line was tied around one of the crewmen, all three were then pulled back through the surf by the crew on the beach. The remaining eight persons were carried to shore in similar fashion. After each trip two different surfmen replaced those who had just returned.
For their efforts the crew of the Pea Island Life-Saving Station, Richard Etheridge, Benjamin Bowser, Dorman Pugh, Theodore Meekins, Lewis Wescott, Stanley Wise, and William Irving were awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal on 5 March 1996.