Category Archives: -GLYNN COUNTY

Spring Hill Baptist Church, 1927, Brookman

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Russaw Temple, Circa 1940, Everett

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Sheffield Cemetery, Glynn County

Sheffield Chapel was organized in 1854 with 20 members, including namesake Jack Sheffield, Sr. Three churches of varying construction housed the congregation from just after the Civil War until they merged with Haven United Methodist Church to form Haven Sheffield United Methodist Church in 1998. The last, built in 1969 and abandoned since the merger, was lost to arson in 2009. The cemetery is cited in some sources as Sheffield U. M. C. Cemetery and in others as Clayhole Cemetery, for its location in Clayhole Swamp.

Tile Grave Markers of Sheffield Cemetery

Sheltered by old-growth oaks, Sheffield Cemetery contains some of the most important surviving African-American vernacular grave markers in the region. Otherwise simple  headstones were decorated with commercial tiles of various colors. (There are nine by my count). Some of the sides and bases feature the tile, as well, while the backs are exposed and feature the names of the decedents. They generally date to the 1930s and 1940s and were likely accomplished by a member of the congregation.

Frenchie Taylor Wite (White?) 15 April 1902-7 October 1944)  – This is the most colorful of all the tile markers. The name for Mrs. Wite may be a misspelling of White. Such errors are common with homemade markers, in both black and white cemeteries. The first photo shows the marker in perspective.

Name Indiscernible (1940s) – This is the smallest of the markers.

Name Indiscernible (May 10 1885?-December 19?) – Eroding text on the exposed concrete backs complicates identification.

Sam May (7 September 1867-22 September 1936) – This is the only stone not featuring the predominant mid-century commercial tile.

Lawson Markers

Carther Lawson (22 May 1932-? 1946)

Unknown Lawson

Robert Sheffield (1884-9 June 1947) Tiles have fallen off this marker.

Name Indiscernible (1940s)

There is also a marker for Prince Richardson (1877-27 January 1949), but I somehow overlooked it.

 

Other Headstones of Sheffield Cemetery

Besides the whimsical tile markers, a number of other significant markers and plots are located within Sheffield Cemetery. I’m sharing a small selection here.

John Sheffield (11 November 1825-13 October 1910) – The Sheffield family, who established the congregation in slavery days, are well represented.

Susan (Akin) Sheffield (16 December 1834-9 December 1914) – Susan married John Sheffield in 1852.

Arnold Sheffield (25 February 1859-14 July 1910) – Arnold was the son of John and Susan Sheffield. Chains carved on the grave indicate he was born into slavery, as were all (or nearly all) those buried here who were born before the end of the Civil War. Sometimes, actual chains were placed within the concrete of the graves and some scholars suggest that broken chains indicate that the decedents were freed. This is not employed in all cemeteries but the chains speak for themselves, even for those who lived long after Emancipation.

March Wesley (August 1848-28 January 1931)

H. E. Westley (Wesley) (?-5 November 1957) – Birthdates of African-Americans, even long after the end of slavery, were often unknown.

Ida Roase (Rose) (1882-18 March 1904) – I believe this is a foot stone, placed before a more formal marker was added.

Atkinson Enclosure

Alex Atkinson (13 March 1863-6 December 1945) & Ida Atkinson (10 August 1869-10 September 1938) were successful small farmers, like many members of Sheffield Chapel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Floyd House, St. Simons Island

Located next door to the iconic Hazel’s Cafe, this was the home of Hazel and Thomas Floyd. Thomas was a descendant of Wanderer survivor Tom Floyd, who was brought to America when he was 17. Tom himself may have built this house.

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Sunset Cruise, Jekyll Island

Sunset and dolphin cruises are a great way to see Jekyll Island from a different perspective. They’re affordable and allow you to see more than just the beach. Check with Captain Phillip or other providers for details.

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Beach Creek, Jekyll Island

At the western edge of St. Andrews Beach, just past the wildlife observation tower, Beach Creek meets Jekyll Sound.

It’s one of the most photogenic spots on the island, with abundant oyster beds and a great view of the Sidney Lanier Bridge.

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Landing of the Wanderer, 1858, Jekyll Island

The Wanderer was built as a pleasure yacht in 1857 for New Orleans sugar merchant John D. Johnson and quickly gained a reputation as one of the fastest and most luxurious private crafts in America. In the spring of 1858 Colonel Johnson sold the ship to Captain William C. Corrie of Charleston. Corrie was hopeful it would gain him entrance into the prestigious New York Yacht Club, which it apparently did. Soon after the purchase, Corrie was approached by Savannah businessman Charles Augustus Lafayette Lamar for the purpose of refitting the Wanderer and transforming it into an illegal* slave ship. The two entered into partnership for this purpose.

On 18 October 1858 the Wanderer departed Angola with a cargo 0f 487 human souls and arrived 42 days later, on 28 November, off the coast of Jekyll Island. Assistant Cumberland Island lightkeeper Horatio Harris procured James Clubb to help the Wanderer maneuver the treacherous sandbars of St. Andrews Sound. Through an arrangement Lamar had made with Jekyll’s owner, Henry DuBignon, Jr., the ship made landfall on the southern shore of the island. According to the Wanderer’s log, 409 Africans survived the voyage. They were attended by Dr. Robert Hazelhurst of Brunswick before being taken to markets in Savannah and Augusta to be dispersed throughout the region. News of their arrival spread quickly via newspapers in New York, Washington, and London and outrage followed. This led President Buchanan to call for further scrutiny of Southern ports. The Wanderer slaves became celebrities of a sort and their fates were followed as closely as possible. They were among the only Africans to be closely identified with the ship upon which they were spirited to servitude.

By the end of the year Assistant U. S. Attorney Joseph Ganahl had the Wanderer impounded and crewmen Nicholas Brown, Juan Rajestam, and Michael Arguirir were arrested. (They were, unsurprisingly, found not guilty in November 1859). Charles Lamar bought back his boat at a government auction in Savannah in May 1859 and sold it to Captain Martin, who stole it before completing payment.

A federal court in Savannah brought three counts of piracy against Lamar, Corrie, DuBignon, and other conspirators, but all were found not guilty in May 1860.

In the meantime, Captain Martin had taken the Wanderer back to West Africa to retrieve more slaves, but the crew mutinied and left him stranded. The ship arrived in Boston on Christmas Eve 1860. Gazaway Bugg Lamar, father of Charles Lamar, took possession of the ship to satisfy Martin’s outstanding debt. On 5 April 1861 it was seized by the U. S. Navy at Key West to prevent its further involvement in the slave trade and served the Union in various capacities throughout the Civil War. After being decommissioned the Wanderer was purchased by a private citizen and sailed commercially until sinking off Cuba on 28 December 1870.

In 2008, an interpretive monument to the African survivors of the Wanderer was erected at St. Andrews Beach Park, consisting of three 12-foot sail-shaped signs. The Jekyll Island Museum features an exhibit, as well, and actively seeks information on the families of the survivors.

Some Survivors of the Wanderer

Clockwise from top left: Zow Uncola [Slave name Tom Johnson]; Manchuella [Slave name Katie Noble]; Lucy Lanham [she was too young to remember her African name]; Mabiala [Slave name Uster Williams]. From Charles J. Montgomery, “Survivors from the Cargo of the Negro Slave Yacht Wanderer”, American Anthropologist, 1908.

(Below) Left to right: Cilucangy [Slave name Ward Lee]; Pucka Geata [Slave name Tucker Henderson]; Tahro [Slave name Romeo Thomas]

From US Slave: Survivors of the Slave Ship Wanderer: Cilucangy grew up in the village of Cowany. He was 12 or 13 when he was transported to America, sold to Sophia Tillman, and renamed Ward Tillman. In 1866, Ward married Rosa Tillman. Rosa was probably African also. If she was aboard the Wanderer, she would have been around 13 during the Wanderer’s crossing. By 1880, Ward and Rosa rejected the name Tillman, adopting the surname Lee. They worked as field hands in Meriwether, Edgefield County, SC, moving to Shaws, Aiken County, SC as their family grew. Ward and Rosa had four children; Andrew, Sam, Amelia, and Dempsey. Rosa passed away sometime after 1900. Losing his wife after around 35 years of marriage, Ward became homesick. He wrote a letter expressing his longing to return to Africa. He lived until 1914, but he never saw Africa again.

*- Congress outlawed the importation of slaves in 1807, but such activity continued clandestinely in the South; it had become much more difficult by the 1850s, with the Royal Navy patrolling the coast of West Africa. Though the Wanderer was long considered the last American slave ship, recent scholarship has discovered that another slave ship, the Clotilda, landed in Mobile a little over a year later, in 1860. 

 

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