Updated July 21, 2012.

Wash Woods Community by Melinda Lukei

April 15, 2012. Beulah Frances Grimsted Dixon Collection.

April 13, 2012. From the Beulah Frances Grimstead Collection as researched by the THE OLD COAST GUARD STATION at Virginia Beach.

Between 1874 and 1915 more than 185 shipwrecks occurred along the Virginia coast. The majority were due to rapid and violent changes in weather, which caused ships to run ashore or onto sandbars. During the 1870s Congress authorized the construction of a network of lifesaving stations along the east coast in order to render assistance to ships in peril and to prevent loss of life.

Lifesaving District Six stretched from Cape Henry, Virginia, to Cape Fear, North Carolina. Five stations were built on the coast of Virginia in District Six. These were Cape Henry, Little Island, Dam Neck Mills, False Cape, and Seatack. These stations served as the primary source of help for ships in distress until 1915, when the United States Coast Guard was formed.

The Lifesaving Service erected the original station, known as Deals Island Station #6, just south of the VA border in 1878. The first Officer in Charge was appointed on December 9, 1878 and three weeks later on January 1, 1879 the first crew was engaged. By 1883, the station was renamed Wash Woods for the small village that was located just north of the VA border. In 1917 the United States Coast Guard built a new station to replace the older, outmoded station. It was a few miles south of the state line.

Each lifesaving station consisted of a sturdy, all-weather building with a lookout platform, a boat room, two surfboats, and various pieces of rescue equipment. The most popular lifesaving device was the breeches buoy, a cork life preserver with a pair of heavy canvas breeches attached. After an initial rope was sent to the vessel by a firing device, the breeches buoy was pulled to the ship. The endangered person would sit in the breeches with his legs hanging through and the life preserver at chest level. The lifesaving crew could then haul the buoy to safety by lines reaching from ship to shore.

Each station normally had a crew of six surfmen with a keeper in charge. Members of the crew were qualified men who lived in the vicinity of the station, manning it during the winter season, from December 1 to April 30. Each crew member was paid forty dollars per month. At four designated times during every twenty-four hour period, two surfmen from each station would set off in opposite directions along the beach, looking for any evidence of ships needing assistance. They would carry Coston signal flares and exchange a metal check with patrols from adjoining stations, exchange information, and return to their assigned posts.

The lifesaving stations also served as hospitals for survivors needing medical attention after a shipwreck. The rescued were provided with shelter, clothing, food, and other necessities. Each station had a small library of popular materials to help relieve the boredom of being stranded.

In 1915 the Life-Saving Service was merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to form the United States Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard instructions required that certain drills be conducted weekly, but did not specify dates. According to instructions fire drills were to be held weekly, boat drills twice weekly and five signal drills were to be conducted per week. Resuscitation drills were to be of a half-hour duration and be held each week. Drill with the beach apparatus was to be held once a week. At False Cape it was customary for semaphore practice to be held on Monday and drill with the surfboat to be conducted each Tuesday. Wednesdays were devoted to practice with the International code of signals and the important beach apparatus drill was conducted on Thursdays. Each Friday the crew would practice resuscitation drill and the use of the station medicine chest. Saturday morning was reserved for the cleaning of the station and Sunday was a day of rest.

March 23, 2012. From the Life-Saving Service publication by Ralph Shanks and Wick York on file at The Old Coast Guard Station Museum. Virginia Beach.

July 21, 2012. Malachi Corbell was born July 7, 1842 and died of a heart attack Sep 17,1908. He was the son of Malachi Corbell and Nancy Saunders. He was the Keeper at the Wash Woods (NC) Life saving Station from 1893 until 1907. He married Sarah E. Snow born Sep 1843. They are both buried at Knott's Island. There were four (4) children born, Sarah A, Malissa, Julia and Charles.

February 14, 2012. From the Junior Historian Assoc.

Jerome Cason Jr

Zachariah Fentress

April 11, 2012. Jerome Bonaparte Etheridge US Life-Saving Service.
From the Beulah Frances Grimstead Collection as researched by the THE OLD COAST GUARD STATION at Virginia Beach.

The first record of the service of Jerome Bonaparte Etheridge is as Surfman Number 1 at Wash Woods Life-Saving Station (then called Deals Island Station) in North Carolina in 1880. The Deals Island Station was first activated in 1878 and we can assume that he was a member of that first crew. His pay when he was on duty was $50.00 a month. All members of the crew in 1880 listed their former occupations as “gunning and fishing." The first Keeper was Calvin B. Cason who was dismissed from the service in 1881 and replaced by the veteran Malachi Corbell.

The second entry also places him at Wash Woods Station as Surfman Number 1 in 1882. The following year the Deals Island Station was renamed Wash Woods. Etheridge was still stationed at Wash Woods in 1897 when his house at Deals was badly damaged by a hurricane.
In October 1888, Etheridge was listed as a Trustee for the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.. The congregation met in individual homes until the Wash Woods Methodist Church was erected in 1895.
Records have him still at the station in 1904 and a 1906 postcard below gives his address as Deals, NC. We can assume that he is still a member of the Life-Saving Service.

Extract from Post Card dated 19 November 1906 from Pleasant Ridge. Va.
TO: J. B. Etheridge Currituck County Deals, N.C. Dear Bro. Please give notice that Brother Bill, the new pastor, will preach at Wash Woods, the 5th Sunday at 11 o'clock. I hope you all will be pleased and much good done.
Remember me kindly to Sister Corbell, and all my friends at No. 6.
Hoping to see you sometime.
I am very truley N.B. Four?

The last entry in the available Life-Saving Service records have him still in active service in 1904. He would be 56 years old and have completed 26 years of service. ln the Life-Saving Service age was not a factor. All you had to do was to pass the Annual Physical exam. There is no record of Etheridge being assigned to Wash Woods Station in either 1907 or 1908. So best guess is that he retired from the service in 1905-1906.
The Wash Woods Station Articles of Enlistment roster for the 1914-1915 season does not include Jerome Etheridge. ln this year the Life-Saving Service was redesignated as the US Coast Guard. He would be 67 years old and have 37 years accumulated service. He would not have been allowed to enlist in the Coast Guard.
A birthday card (he would have been 73) addressed to Jerome B. Etheridge lists his address as RD. To Sta. 165, Virginia Beach, Va. He must have been out of the service and be living in Princess Anne County near the False Cape Station (Number 165). He could possibly have moved to Deals Island and up to the village of Wash Woods in Virginia. There would be a small community with a church and friends.