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Kill Devil Hills received its municipal charter in 1953. Situated in the near geographic middle of the Northern Beaches, it is the largest municipality in Dare County with a year-round population of about 6,800 people. We are proud to be the site of the first heavier-than-air powered flight. A 12 second, 120 foot flight that launched the Age of Aviation on Thursday, December 17, 1903. Wilbur and Orville Wright were successful in making four flights at the base of the big hill that is now a part of the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
One of the most popular questions visitors ask is how the name Kill Devil Hills came about. Several versions of the story circulate on the Outer Banks. One legend suggests the pirates who once called these shores home are to blame. Apparently, one night while taking a “shore leave”, a surly lot of buccaneers were sitting amongst the sand dunes that towered over the landscape, drinking moonshine that was “strong enough to kill the devil.” Another version holds that in the 1700’s William Byrd of Virginia, apparently no admirer of the Carolinas, wrote that “most of the rum they get in the country comes from New England, and is so bad and unwholesome that it is not improperly called “Kill Devil.” Other lore suggests the town received its moniker from an old brand of rum that washed ashore at the dunes here, the only surviving cargo from a nameless shipwreck.
The Wright Brothers Memorial Shaft now sits atop the 90 foot tall “Big Kill Devil Hill” where the aforementioned legendary indulgences took place. Much of the Outer Banks was dominated by a chain of giant sand dunes, much like Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head to the south. The dune where the Wrights made history was once one of these slowly migrating giants, until the federal government acted to memorialize Orville and Wilburs achievement here with a national park. By the time grass was planted to stabilize the dune in the 1920’s, and the 60 foot granite monument erected way up top, “Big Kill Devil Hill” had moved several hundred feet south over time, a natural process of the prevailing winds.