I made these photos in 2009; no one was living here when I was in the neighborhood earlier this summer. As a self-service ice house, it served an important purpose in this community of fishermen. The owners were obviously on the honor system, but to make sure customers were honest, a decorative skeleton kept an eye on things. The “answers” part of the sign always got my attention. I imagined fortune-telling and voodoo, superstitions and practices once associated with African-Americans (if sometimes incorrectly so).
Category Archives: -MCINTOSH COUNTY
William Henry Patterson came to Darien after the Civil War and purchased the land on which he built this house from the Blount family. The neighborhood on the Old Shell Road (Georgia Highway 99), known as The Ridge, was an exclusive retreat for river pilots and timber brokers who worked in Darien, three miles to the south. Captain Patterson was a successful bar pilot who guided timber in and out of Darien.
The house was originally a Georgian cottage with a central hallway, two rooms deep, and featured a detached kitchen and shed veranda porch. Captain Patterson lived here for just two years before building a more formal house across the street.
The Redding family later owned the home and “modernized” it in 1938, adding the bay windows, an attached kitchen, front and rear foyers within the central hallway, and hardwood flooring over the heart pine. Hannah deSoto Brown and Andy Tostensen purchased it in 1973 and restored many of the original features, including the hallway, high ceilings, and rough plaster walls. It’s a very welcoming space and I’m grateful to Hannah for sharing the history.
The Ridge Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
I was recently contacted by some friends in McIntosh County about the opportunity to photograph a slave cabin on their property. Of course, this immediately piqued my interest and when I learned it was of wooden construction, I was even more intrigued. Most slave dwellings on the coast are of tabby construction and nearly all are documented, so to have the opportunity to see an undocumented wooden example was extraordinary. The owners have shared its history, which I will update soon. The property is not publicly accessible.
The structure has been preserved by a couple families for at least 150 years and likely housed black domestics well into the late-19th/early-20th centuries. It’s presently in vulnerable condition, but the owners have expressed an interest in having it properly restored to historical specifications.
Since stories of slave cabins are nearly as abundant as those relating “Sherman’s troops slept in Granddaddy’s barn” and “George Washington slept here”, it’s important to “read” the structure to validate its age and history. There were myriad variations as to style in slave dwellings, so that alone can’t be used to confirm such a structure’s use. Most were very simple single- or double-pen cabins. Some were saddlebags, with a chimney in the middle, while others had the chimney located on one side (as in this example). Nails are a good way to make general assumptions as to age, and this one features Type B cut nails, which were in common use between the 1810s and 1900. The lack of glass windows is also a good indicator, though not definitive.
In 1926, the languishing lands of the Butler Plantation were purchased by Colonel Tillinghast L’Hommedieu (T. L.) Huston. Colonel Huston, a veteran of the Spanish-American War and World War I, had previously been a part owner of the New York Yankees baseball team.
He built this house in 1927 and numerous baseball players were among his many guests here, including Babe Ruth.
The Huston dairy barn can be seen on the east side of US 17. The dairy, anchored by a herd of Friesians, proved a difficult enterprise and Huston transformed the property into one of the largest iceberg lettuce farms on the east coast within a decade. The remaining structures on the property, however, date to the dairy era.
This structure is said to have been the ice cream shop operated as part of the dairy; more likely, it was an equipment shed, but that wouldn’t explain the windows. I hope to learn more.
In front of the house is one of the landmarks of US 17 in McIntosh County, the old chimney from the steam-powered rice mill from the 1850s. The property is operated by the Nature Conservancy today; the house is not open to the public, however.
Lieutenant James Nephew received the property along Cathead Creek that came to be known as Ceylon Plantation as payment for service rendered to Colonel John Baker’s Regiment of the Liberty County Militia during the Revolution. Nephew and his wife, Mary Magdalen Gignilliat (pronounced Gin-lat), owned plantations in Georgia and South Carolina. Ceylon became quite successful from the labor of around 120 slaves by 1859. Nothing remains of the plantation, except for a few rice canals on Cathead Creek and this cemetery, where Ceylon’s slaves and their descendants rest in eternity.
Few places illustrate the dark shadow of slavery more than slave cemeteries. Many have been permanently lost and the few which do survive are often in poor condition.
Ceylon Cemetery is no exception in its lack of known burials and marked graves. Walking these historic grounds, one struggles to locate any old headstones. It’s thought that most burials were commemorated with wooden markers and shells, hence their absence today.
The cemetery is slightly more than an acre in size, and though the exact number can’t be known, surveys have indicated that about 76 souls are interred here.
Bailey, Blige, Butler, Carter, Cooper, Gibbs, Harris, Mansson, Mungin, Sheffield, Wilson, and Young, are among the family names represented here.
As the headstone of Corporal Andrew Bailey indicates, at least some of the former slaves of Ceylon served in the Union effort in the war. Bailey joined Company E, 33rd Regiment, United States Colored Troops, at Beaufort, South Carolina, on 12 January 1863. Though rosters list his age at 21 years old at the time, the birthdate on his headstone suggests he was actually 17; his corporal commission came in October 1865, after the war ended. He died on 17 November 1885.
Joseph Gibbs (5 June 1864-14 December 1918) is one of just a few visible older headstones.
Recent burials here, though infrequent, illustrate an ongoing connection between Ceylon’s slaves and their descendants.
Heading south out of Darien on US 17, you’ll begin to notice what appear to be large ditches to your left, especially in the winter months. These are the historic canals and dikes engineered for the cultivation of rice on the plantation of Major Pierce Butler and though the industry died with the end of the Civil War, its physical evidence remains.
The Butler family of South Carolina and Philadelphia owned extensive cotton and rice plantations on the Georgia coast. Pierce Butler (1744-1822) was the son of a minor Irish aristocrat and after service as a major in His Majesty’s Twenty-ninth Regiment came to the colonies in 1767 and married Mary Middleton, the daughter of a prominent South Carolina planter. He sided with the colonies during the Revolution and sold his army commission to purchase Hampton Point Plantation on St. Simons Island. In 1787 he was app0inted a South Carolina delegate to the constitutional convention and was integral to securing the protection of slavery as an institution in our nation’s founding document. By 1793 he owned over 500 slaves, who made him a fortune in cotton and rice. He spent most of his time in Philadelphia. He owned this land from at least 1790 until his death in 1822, and after interim management by Roswell King (namesake of Roswell, Georgia), it passed to his grandson, Pierce Mease Butler, in 1838.
Pierce Mease Butler (1806-1867), born Butler Mease, changed his surname to honor his grandfather as the will required and around this time married the famed English actress Fanny Kemble. Kemble was opposed to slavery but upon being told that conditions were “good” at the plantation, coerced her husband into taking her to see it for herself, in 1838-1839. She immediately noted that the conditions were far from good and kept a journal of her time there. Two daughters and a contentious divorce would follow, with Pierce Mease Butler gaining custody of the children.
Years of poor money management and lavish spending left Pierce Mease Butler financially insolvent and his only option was selling off his slaves. At an old racetrack in Savannah between 2-3 March 1859, the largest sale of human beings in the history of the United States saw the liquidation of 429 slaves. Among slaves it came to be known as “The Weeping Time” for its displacement of families, many of whom never saw each other again. A few years later, at the height of the Civil War, Fanny Kemble published her controversial Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839, first in her native England where it was a huge bestseller and then in America, where it was widely popular in the North and nearly as popular, if reviled, in the South. Its firsthand accounts of the horrors of slavery are said to have influenced England to side against the confederacy.
After the war, the plantation failed without the benefit of free labor, and Pierce Mease Butler died of malaria in 1867. His daughter, Frances Kemble Butler Leigh, inherited the lands and tried to keep them profitable but gave up after ten years. She wrote of her experiences in Ten Years on a Georgia Plantation Since the War (1883). The property eventually passed to her nephew Owen Wister (famed author of The Virginian) who sold off the last of the property in 1923.
The area is now publicly accessible and is a popular spot for birding and hiking. Always bring insect repellent, though, even in winter.