Local News

N.C. Hero Saves 10 Men During Great Hurricane of 1899

Posted August 22, 1999

— North Carolina has taken numerous hurricane hits over the years. Now, we look way back to a time before hurricanes had names and before theCoast Guardeven existed. One man became a hero 100 years ago on Hatteras Island.

"They didn't believe in backing away from a storm, because there's only one enemy anyway, and that's the sea to these men," said Park Ranger John Gilliken.

A re-enactment shows how the brave surfmen of the U.S. Life Saving Service once rescued sea-soaked crews from broken ships.

This month 100 years ago, one hero surfman did not have the luxury of a cannon, ropes or pulleys.

During the Great Hurricane of 1899,Rasmus Midgettdiscovered the Priscilla buckling in the angry surf near Gull Shoals off Hatteras Island.

With no one else to help, he fought alone through 20-foot waves to the battered boat and pulled the crewmen to safety one by one.

"There are huge timbers flipping end over end in this hurricane surf. And Rasmus is dodging barrels and timbers and other debris. He runs out a third time and calls out for another man, and another man jumps over, and he grabs him and drags him in," said Gilliken.

Midgett did not stop until every man was on shore.

"He saved all 10. It was absolutely a super-human physical effort," said one official.

A century later, Midgett's heroics are recognized by his descendants and admirers at a grave site ceremony.

His lifesaving legacy sets the standard for all the rescuers who follow him, ordinary people who do extraordinary things.

"I think they want to be remembered for a standard of humanity. That they reached out a helping hand at a time of great need and put themselves at great personal risk simply because they were reaching out to another person," said Darcey.

That beach drill is re-enacted every Thursday during the summer at the Chicamacomico Life Saving Station in Rodanthe. Reporter: Cullen Browder


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