Our History

We maintain our sites every day, using our own resources, expertise, and staff. What’s just as important as keeping these places in tip-top condition? Our ability to share their stories with you.

Stories From Our Staff

  • May 2023 Programs at Island Farm

    May 2023 Programs at Island Farm

    Island Farm’s May programs are listed below! Island Farm is open Tuesday – Friday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. All programs are weather dependent, and are ongoing throughout the designated time slot listed below. Please call Island Farm with any questions: 252-473-6500 Corn Husk Doll Crafting – Tuesdays, 9 until 11 a.m. – In … Read more

  • A Brief History of Currituck Beach Light Station’s Smaller Keeper’s Dwelling

    A Brief History of Currituck Beach Light Station’s Smaller Keeper’s Dwelling

    On the grounds of the Currituck Beach Light Station are two homes: a white, two-and-a-half story, 1876 duplex built from plans for a “First Order Dwelling” to house three keepers west of the newly constructed ocean-wise tower with a first-order lens; and a smaller, white, story-and-a-half dwelling built in 1881, much like the original Keepers’ … Read more

  • What’s in a Photograph? A Second Look at the Oldest Image of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse

    What’s in a Photograph? A Second Look at the Oldest Image of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse

    What’s in a Photograph? A Second Look at the Oldest Image of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse By: Meghan Agresto, Currituck Beach Lighthouse Site Manager & Historian   Prefer to learn about this with a video? Click here if so. In June 1893, a “government surveyor,” as the lighthouse keeper called him in his journal notes that month , … Read more

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

The story of our tower begins in 1873. Congress appropriates funding for a Lighthouse into the far reaches of coastal northeastern North Carolina; the beacon was to be an illuminator of a dark stretch of coast, between Cape Henry, Virginia and Bodie Island Light in North Carolina. And just as significantly, ours was the last large lighthouse tower constructed on the Outer Banks. By its completion in December 1875, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse was alive and shining – its beams stretching 15 miles, its maintenance stewarded by loyal keepers. 

Over two dozen families stayed in the Currituck Beach Lighthouse duplex Keepers’ Dwelling since its completion, fighting the elements of an isolated barrier island system, protecting the Lighthouse compound, and ensuring the light was always on, always rotating. The history is rich, dynamic, and still alive today.

Want to learn everything about the Keepers that were stationed at the Currituck Beach Lighthouse since the beginning? We have a book about it – free to you, and full of incredible stories.

History of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse


Island Farm

The Etheridge Family traces its beginnings on Roanoke Island back to 1757 when Adam Etheridge leased 1,500 acres of land on the North End to farm and range livestock. Today, a small, yet remaining tract of the Etheridge Farm is a now-living example of 19th-century life on Roanoke Island. 

In January of 1757, Jesse Etheridge acquired a 150-acre tract from Joseph Mann. In 1787, Jesse purchased another 150 acres, which gave him access to Roanoke Sound; early maps indicate that it was on this property that he built a home. But it was Jesse’s grandson, Adam Dough Etheridge, who built the house that is the heart of Island Farm today.

A map of the Croatan and Roanoke sounds. Dated 1820.
The Etheridge family tree

In 2001, Outer Banks Conservationists (OBC) hosted a gathering of Etheridge descendants at their Homeplace, brought together to share stories, history, and photographs of their ancestral property. To commemorate the occasion, OBC distributed compiled research by Penne Smith. The research is an extensive examination into the Etheridge family’s heritage on the North End of Roanoke Island, along with the contextual issues of the time. What was grown on the Farm? How large was it? Who lived there?

 The answers are fascinating, and always available for you.

History of Island Farm

  • Etheridge Family Crest


    The earliest known citation of the Etheridge family on Roanoke Island. In 1757, a fourteen-year tenancy agreement is made between William Cathcart of Northhampton County, North Carolina, and “Adam Everage [sic.], Currituck County… Planter” for 1500 acres. This property stretched from Dough’s Creek (formerly known as Gibson’s Creek), westward to the Croatan Sound. Years later, in an 1852 interview with Adam Etheridge, III a government surveyor discovers that “Adam Everage” is indeed the grandfather of Adam III.

  • 1783 – 1787

    1783 – 1787

    The beginning of deeded and official land ownership by the Etheridge family on Roanoke Island. During this time, Jesse Etheridge and his brothers (Tart and Adam II) acquired land that formed the basis of what is now known as the Etheridge Homeplace (or as we now call it, Island Farm). The brothers acquired waterfront access to the east, greatly increasing the viability and opportunity for their farm through fishing and livestock transport. This map delineates Etheridge ownership in the 1820s.

  • Island Farm Team


    Adam Etheridge III purchases a fifty-acre tract on Bodie Island for fishing and livestock grazing.

  • 1850


    Adam Etheridge III appears in Roanoke Island’s 1850 census as a 75-year old farmer, tilling ten acres of his 450-acre property. Twenty acres of this land is deeded to his son, Adam Etheridge IV.

    Adam Etheridge IV is able to raise enough crops on 15 acres to feed his family, his slaves, and his livestock. He harvests Irish potatoes, peas, sweet potatoes, and corn, using horse and oxen power. His farm eventually included an additional 400 untilled acres on Roanoke Island plus 176 acres on Bodie Island – where his livestock foraged.

  • 1845-1852


    During this timeframe, Adam Etheridge IV marries Fannie Baum and builds the present Etheridge farmhouse. The farmhouse is now restored and standing on Island Farm today.

  • 1868


    Adam Etheridge IV dies.

  • 1880


    Richard Etheridge, son of John B. Etheridge and brother of Adam Etheridge IV, becomes the keeper of the first all African-American life-saving station.

  • 1903


    The first flight takes place in Kill Devil Hills with Wilbur and Orville Wright. Adam Etheridge VI is there to witness the event.

  • 1920s


    Adam Etheridge VI lives at the Etheridge Homeplace. Crissy Bowser, pictured here, works for Augustus Etheridge as a cook from 1900-1910. After that, she lives quietly on the Etheridge farm until her death years later. She was believed to be nearly 100 years old, and is reportedly buried at the foot of a large oak tree, adjacent to the present-day Island Farm.

  • 1940s


    Photographs of the Etheridge Homeplace site from this time period show a number of outbuildings and structures on site; according to family members, these included a mule barn, a small dairy house, a privy, a smokehouse, a packhouse, and fencing.

  • 1947


    This aerial photo shows the Etheridge Homeplace site, surrounded by agriculture. The allee of cedars lining the drive from the highway to the house can be seen here. Cedar trees were transplanted by Augustus Holly Etheridge to the homeplace; the trees were noticed throughout the community.

  • 1986


    Etheridge Homeplace is sold to a developer who planned to build a large condominium project. This is the first time that the homeplace was owned by someone other than an Etheridge in more than a century.

  • 1988


    Etheridge descendants convince the developer, who now owns the homeplace, to sell the historic farmhouse and surrounding ½ acre to them.

  • 1994


    The Etheridge Cemetery adjoining the Etheridge Homeplace property is deeded to OBC.

  • 1997


    The Etheridge Homeplace is officially donated to Outer Banks Conservationists by descendants.

  • 1998


    OBC begins the process of assessing and identifying the original portions of the farmhouse.

  • 1999


    A researcher is hired to document the timeline of the Etheridge Homeplace and family history.

  • 2001


    Restoration work begins on the Etheridge farmhouse

  • 2001


    An Etheridge family reunion is held at the homeplace.

  • 2003


    Reconstruction work begins on outbuildings at the Etheridge Homeplace.

  • 2004


    Major restoration and reconstruction is completed on the Etheridge site.

  • 2009-2010


    Livestock arrives, including sheep, chickens, and a cow.

  • 2010


    Island Farm opens to the public.

  • 2011


    A period-appropriate windmill is delivered to Island Farm. It had been meticulously crafted in the late 1970s by a mill enthusiast in Nags Head. At least two windmills are documented on Roanoke Island in the 19th century. Known as a postmill for the huge central post on which the mill rotates to face the wind, one windmill was located on or near the Etheridge farm.

  • 2013


    Roxie Christine Etheridge, one of the last Etheridges to be raised at the homeplace, dies in March. In accordance with her wishes, OBC purchases her property adjacent to Island Farm. On it stands a massive live oak tree, a tree that stood when the first colonists arrived on the island in 1587.