Folk Victorian House, 1904, Groveland

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Central Hallway House Ruins, 1894, Groveland

This house is of a form very common in late-19th-century Georgia.

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Santa Statue, Freedmen’s Grove

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Hall’s Knoll, Liberty County

Dr. Lyman Hall was one of three signers of the Declaration of Independence from Georgia. He was also a delegate to the Continental Congress and governor of Georgia.

Born on 12 April 1724 in Wallingford, Connecticut, Hall graduated from Yale University in 1747 and was soon ordained a Congregational minister. In 1753 he began practicing medicine and in 1757 moved to the Puritan Colony at Dorchester, South Carolina. He was among the members of the colony who migrated to St. John’s Parish, Georgia, and the newly established Midway Colony, and was granted land here in 1760. The Midway colonists became such stalwarts for liberty that St. John’s Parish was renamed Liberty County in their honor. In this spirit, the colonists chose Dr. Hall to represent their concerns in the Continental Congress in 1775, before Georgia had even joined the federation. As an official representative a year later, Dr. Hall signed the Declaration of Independence, along with Button Gwinnett and George Walton. After the Revolution, he served as governor and helped establish the University of Georgia. In 1785 he sold Hall’s Knoll and in 1790 moved to Shell Bluff Plantation in Burke County, where he died on 19 October of the same year. He was buried on a bluff overlooking the Savannah River but his remains were re-interred in Augusta, with those of George Walton, beneath the Signers Monument.

 

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Gable Front House, Liberty County

This is a typical house style of early-20th-century Coastal Georgia. This example is located near Midway.

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Ruins of the Union Brotherhood Society, Liberty County

The Liberty County Historical Society recently noted on its website that William McKinley Walthour’s Union Brotherhood Society meeting hall near Midway was in eminent danger of collapsing. While doing some re-shoots in coastal Liberty County yesterday, I drove by the site and can now report that it has indeed collapsed.

This relic of the Jim Crow era was a great example of the strong fraternal bonds of the African-American community, required at the time for the common benefits white society often took for granted, such as burial insurance. Its loss is most unfortunate.

The Historical Society made an impassioned plea for saving the structure, but its loss illustrates the limitations faced by such organizations. Donations are often slow to materialize and in an extraordinarily challenging year like 2020, even more so.

 

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Thomas Landing, McIntosh County

Thomas Landing, on the South Newport River, has been occupied since the early days of Colonial Georgia and its history is indelibly linked to the hundreds of African-Americans who resided here. They first landed here against their will but after Emancipation chose to remain, only to have their land taken from them by the United States government in the 1930s.

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge

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Lorillard Fountain & Pool, Harris Neck

Fountain at Lorillard Estate

The following history of the site is taken from the interpretive panel at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge: Various plantations occupied this site from the 1740s through the 1870s. One of the earliest Harris Neck landowners was a man named Dickinson, and his property was known as Dickinson’s Neck. John Rutledge owned fifty acres on neighboring Bethany Plantation. He sold the tract to Ann Harris, who married Daniel Demetre in 1752. Her son, William Thomas Harris (Demetre’s stepson), acquired 350 acres on Dickinson’s Neck in 1758, and in 1759 he inherited an additional 750 acres on the “Neck” from his stepfather. Demetre’s will identified Williams’s residence as Bethany. This reference is the first documentation of a white landowner’s dwelling on the “Neck”.

Ruins of wading pool at Lorillard Estate

Early in the 1830s, another family gained prominence on Harris Neck. Jonathan Thomas acquired most of the Demetre-Harris holdings. Thomas’s 3000-acre Peru Plantation covered the eastern half of the present Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge. The plantation produced sizeable cotton crops.

Ruins of wading pool at Lorillard Estate

The Civil War ended the plantation era on Harris Neck. The Thomas family subdivided Peru Plantation. Many small tracts were sold to former slaves or their descendants. From the 1870s through the 1930s, a community of primarily African-American developed on and near the current refuge land. By the 1940s, 171 tracts existed in the area now managed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Details of a painting of the Lorillard Lodge: Courtesy Leftwich D. Kimbrough

 

During the 1880s, several large tracts bordering the South Newport River (the site of one Peru Plantation home) were acquired by Pierre Lorillard, the tobacco magnate, Eleanor Van Brunt Clapp, and Lily Livingston. Lorillard’s estate featured a lavish lodge, an indoor swimming pool filled from an artesian well, and formal gardens with reflecting pools and fountains.

Fountain at Lorillard Estate

The lodge was used during World War II as the officers’ club for Harris Neck Army Airfield. The deteriorated building was sold at auction, when Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1962.

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge

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Harris Neck Army Airfield Bunker, 1942

This structure served as the munitions bunker for Harris Neck Army Airfield. Earthworks surround three sides. A review of contemporary U. S. Geological Survey maps indicates that this was likely the only one ever built on site. It’s a fascinating relic of World War II.

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge

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Back River & Hammock, Glynn County

This is the Back River marsh [at high tide] on the north side of the F. J. Torras Causeway heading to St. Simons Island from Brunswick. I tried to find a name for the hammock, but couldn’t locate one. At this location, the Back River flows into Terry Creek and some of the residential marshlands of Brunswick.

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