At one time, the northern Outer Banks was covered by a series of sand mountains over 100 feet high! These dunes stretched from the sound to the ocean. Kill Devil Hill was one of the largest and stories of how it got its name are quite varied. The most popular and generally accepted one is that it is named for “Kill Devil”, a brand of rum found washed ashore during the colonial period. This dune was the site of the Wright Brothers first flight in 1903. This singular event placed Kill Devil Hills forever in our history books.
But prior to the Wright Brothers, Kill Devil Hills had “resident” other than fisherman and salvagers. The Kill Devil Hills Life Saving Station was built in 1878, one of eleven stations erected along the Outer Banks. Life Saving Stations were facilities set up along the coast to house special rescue workers trained to help with shipwrecks and maritime disasters. The employees were called surfmen because they retrieved shipwreck victims in lifeboats launched and beached through the surf, usually during fierce storms. In Orville Wright’s account of the flight in Kitty Hawk, he credits the help surfman provided and cites their names. These same Life Saving Station employees were the eyewitnesses and helpmates for the greatest flight of all time!
Today, Kill Devil Hills is the oldest township in the entire Outer Banks region, yet it was formally incorporated in just 1953. The town is located in the geographic middle of the northern Dare County beaches between Nags Head and Kitty Hawk. Kill Devil Hills is also the largest municipality in Dare County with a year-round population of 7,000 people yet tens of thousands visit this lovely vacation spot each week of summer.
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