Hog Hammock is the last intact Geechee/Gullah community in Georgia. Most of the remaining residents are descendants of African slaves brought to Sapelo Island to work on the plantation of Thomas Spalding. Historically known as Hogg Hummock, it was named for a resident, Sampson Hogg. At one time, there were several communities on the island: Raccoon Bluff, Hanging Bull, Behavior, Chocolate, and Shell Hummock, but when Richard Reynolds acquired the bulk of the island in the 1930s, he consolidated all the residents into Hog Hammock.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of resident and unofficial ambassador Cornelia Walker Bailey, the community has become nationally known. Her bestselling book, God, Dr. Buzzard and the Bolito Man: A Saltwater Geechee Talks About Life on Sapelo Island, Georgia (Anchor Press, 2001-available through the Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society (SICARS) or on Amazon) is a fascinating blend of autobiography and cultural history that is a must-read if you plan on visiting the island.
Today, largely through the efforts of Mrs. Bailey and SICARS, the vanishing cultural traditions and folkways are being preserved, but there is the constant threat of encroachment by outsiders. Hog Hammock is one of those places where, rightfully so, visitors are welcome but invaders are not. It is sad to think that as the population of the island dwindles due to death and old age, many properties in Hog Hammock will be sold to outside interests with no concern for this unique history. I applaud Hog Hammock’s citizens for attempting to maintain their social and cultural heritage in a world often interested in nothing more than commercial and material gain and I hope that Hog Hammock survives far into the future.
If you ever visit you will be amazed at this magical place. It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you come back to the mainland on the Katie Underwood…let me just say that there’s something about Sapelo time that just doesn’t synch up with the rest of the world!
Hog Hammock Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
Sapelo Island can only be reached by ferry or plane. And I’m not sure about the second option. The ferry leaves the Meridian dock at least twice every day except major holidays and advance reservations are suggested, if not required. Access to the island is quite limited, but it’s worth the trouble! But if you go, please be mindful that while the residents are welcoming of tourists who appreciate their culture, they’re not a sideshow or a museum exhibit. This is their home and way of life, so please be respectful of that fact.