I recently had the pleasure of revisiting and photographing the wonderful Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters at the 2020 African-American Festival at Fort Frederica National Monument. Visit this link to learn more about the history of the ring shout and the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters. As I’ve told nearly everyone who will listen, the Shouters are a real treasure and I encourage all to attend one of their performances if they have the opportunity. I’m presenting these photographs as a gallery, without captions, as I think the photographs speak for themselves.
This modern marina on the Hampton River serves the north end of St. Simons Island.
The Hampton River, sometimes referred to as Hampton Creek, is a 12 mile tidal river that forms the channel between St. Simons Island and Little St. Simons Island.
There is a small section of an original tabby wall on the right of the drive into the modern gated community at Hampton Point Plantation. Owners at some point incorporated tabby fencing (the lower section to the right).
On the left of the entrance to the gated community is a much larger section of tabby wall. (Detail below)
Major Pierce Butler (1744-1822) purchased Hampton Point near the northern end of St. Simons Island in 1774. Butler served South Carolina in the American Revolution, was a member of the Continental Congress, a Signer of the Constitution, and the first United States senator elected from South Carolina. Since he divided most of hist time between Charleston and Philadelphia, he hired Roswell King to manage his plantations in Georgia. After the death of Butler’s wife in 1790, his South Carolina plantations were sold and his primary focus shifted to Hampton Point and other Georgia Sea Island plantations. Hampton Point was his largest cotton operation with the largest slave population.
n 1805, Major Butler retired from politics and spent most of his time in Philadelphia. Upon his death his namesake grandson inherited Butler’s vast holdings in Coastal Georgia. The younger Butler did not prove as good a businessman as his grandfather and to remain financially solvent sold off his slaves in 1859. Approximately 436 human beings were auctioned near Savannah in what has come to be known as The Weeping Time, for its separation of numerous families. It is believed to be the largest single sale of human beings in history. The plantation burned in 1871, leaving only traces of the tabby structures built by those enslaved on the property.
Ruins of Slave Dwellings at Hampton Point Plantation
The ruins of four slave dwellings are visible today. While only two retain significant architectural features, all are important to the story of the enslaved people of St. Simons Island. I have no way to date them as I only had brief access and have not located documentation regarding dates of construction. If I were to venture a guess I’d estimate 1800-1830. They appear to have nearly identical floor plans to the slave dwellings at Hamilton Plantation.
The ruins are located on private property and I visited with a resident. Though I photographed all four visible dwelling sites, I’m only sharing the two which retain the most significant architectural features. For identification purposes, I’m calling one North Dwelling and the other South Dwelling.
The North Dwelling retains a small section of its northeastern wall and the scattered remnants of its hearth.
The South Dwelling is the most intact of the four sites, retaining sections of all four walls, a defined window, doorway, and hearth.
It’s been shrouded in mystery and rumor for much of its history and the Pink Chapel (modern name) was actually built as the result of a feud between two families. But it wasn’t pink from the bloodstains of slaves (the coloration was due to lichens that few on the tabby walls) and wasn’t a temple for satanic followers, as some urban legends have indicated.
The original chapel was erected in 1838 on the grounds of Colonel William Wigg Hazzard’s West Point Plantation as a place of private worship. Col. Hazzard’s brother, Dr. Thomas Fuller Hazzard, who owned Pike’s Bluff, had a feud with John Wylly, owner of nearby Village Plantation, over land lines. A duel was called for but never commenced. However, when the two met by chance at the Oglethorpe Hotel in Brunswick, on 3 December 1838, Dr. Hazzard fired at Wylly and Wylly died instantly. Since both the Hazzard and Wylly families worshiped at Christ Church, the Hazzard family did not feel safe attending services there.
The present chapel is a reconstruction of the original, incorporating some of the original material. I have yet to track down the date of the reconstruction. [I’m including it only as an historical reference point, and to clarify to those wondering that it is a replica].
The Pink Chapel is not open to the public and can only be seen from a road and the edge of a driveway.
Shortly after departing the Port of Brunswick in the early hours of 8 September 2019, the 656′ cargo ship Golden Ray capsized in the waters of St. Simons Sound, between Driftwood Beach (Jekyll Island) and St. Simons Island. Loaded with around 4000 new Hyundai and Kia automobile en route to the Port of Baltimore, the ship sent out an emergency call around 2:00 AM and within two hours, 20 crew were rescued. 4 remained unaccounted for and a fire was raging on the unstable vessel. Holes were cut in the hull and they were extracted safely by the Coast Guard on Monday. Sector Charleston Capt. John Reed told reporters it was the best day of his career.
It was initially thought that the ship could be saved, but that proved to be infeasible. A recent report in the Navy Times suggests that it could remain in the sea for the next year. Coast Guard Cmdr. Matt Bear says “…the Golden Ray has been slowly sinking in the sand because of the powerful tides…and…the situation makes it impossible to get the ship upright without breaking it apart and creating an even bigger problem.”
One of the biggest immediate concerns at present is the environmental impact of the wreck. The ship’s 30,000-gallon fuel supply has been removed but contaminants from the 4000 vehicles yet to be extracted from the wreckage continue to pose a threat and oil continues to leak. Altamaha Riverkeeper has been monitoring pollution impact and has discovered oil slicks and tarballs in the marshes and tidal rivers of St. Simons and Jekyll Islands. While any environmental impact is potentially problematic for the area’s tourist and fishing economies, it isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been, according to the Riverkeeper. The incident well illustrates the balance that must be struck between economic and environmental concerns.
Thousands of tourists pass by this sign regularly without giving it much notice. It’s on the southbound side of the Torras Causeway and is inconvenient if you’re heading onto the island. But legions of local fishermen will tell you George’s Bait is the best place to get bait in all of Glynn County.
The late George Bennett began a bait business on the other side of the Torras Causeway in 1953 which quickly earned a reputation as the best in the area. In the 1970s, with the four-laning of the causeway, the business moved here, to this tiny hammock in the marsh between Brunswick and St. Simons Island. Shirley Bennett, her son, daughter, and other relatives have kept the business thriving over the years.
Driving north from the Village, Massengale is the first public beach you will encounter. In recent years its popularity seems to have waned in favor of East Beach (Coast Guard Beach) but it’s still a great spot. The dunes here are nearly gone but are still recognizable as you enter the beach (above).