Tag Archives: Coastal Georgia in the Antebellum Era

Isle of Hope United Methodist Church, Circa 1859

The marker placed by the Georgia Historical Society in 1962 notes, in part:  The Isle of Hope Methodist Church was organized in 1851. The first Trustees were George W. Wylly, Simeon F. Murphy, John B. Hogg, William Waite, Theodore Goodwin, Thomas J. Barnsley and the Rev. William S. Baker. The church building that stands here was erected in 1859 on land given by Dr. Stephen Dupon. Its architecture is similar to that of the early churches at Midway and Ebenezer. The gallery at the rear of the church was built primarily for accommodations of slaves…During the War Between the States a Confederate battery stood on the church lot, mounting two 8-inch columbiads and two 32-pounder cannon. The church was used as a hospital for Confederates stationed in the area, the pews (still in existence) serving as beds. Thirty-three Effingham County soldiers sleep in the adjoining churchyard.

Isle of Hope Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Raised Cottage, Circa 1820, Isle of Hope

Tracking the history of this one is proving to be a challenge. It has traditionally been known as the Noble Glen House, presumably for the first owner, but that name has fallen out of use in recent references, likely due to the fact that Noble Glen died in 1816, before it was built. There is a gap in the history between its construction and its use by the Confederate Army as part of Camp Claghorn during the Civil War. John H. Estill purchased it in 1888 and built a larger house overlooking the Skidaway River, retaining the Noble Glen House as a caretaker/gatekeeper cottage. Judge George W. Tiedman bought the estate in 1909 and renamed it Carsten Hall. The 1888 house burned in 1933 but the caretaker’s cottage survived. I will update as information becomes available.

Isle of Hope Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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The Shadows, Circa 1854, Isle of Hope

Also known as the Wylly-Bee-LeBey House, this raised Plantation Plain is an interesting variant of the popular style of 19th-century Georgia. Local tradition says that construction of the house was started by Wylly and completed by Barnard E. Bee. A later owner, Miss Ella LeBey recounted this story: Mr. Fred Wylly told my mother this…story. When the overseer and slaves were digging deep for the main chimney, an iron box with a ring in the top was discovered by the slaves and also human bones. The slaves thought it was a casket, quickly covering it over and the chimney was built. The Negroes were afraid of the haunting of the dead for disturbing the grave. Nothing was said until the chimney was almost complete and the overseer said the chimney was more valuable than any old pirate’s loot. After that, whenever the house was vacant people dug to find the treasure. Mrs. Chaplin [later owner] said she filled the hole with cement. Later we found reasons to believe she engineered the removal of the treasures because of the old watches and bracelets satin and velvet she showed my mother.

Isle of Hope Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Roland-Ellis-Cope House, 1850s, Isle of Hope

Though tax records indicate a construction date of 1864, that is likely the date of completion. It is thought to have been begun in the late 1850s and delayed by the Civil War.

Isle of Hope Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Sarah Glen Bayard House, Circa 1855, Isle of Hope

The architecture suggests that this house was built in a simpler style, with the veranda porches and other ornamental amendments made later. One source dates it as early as 1847. Local tradition (not confirmed by me) indicates it briefly served as a Confederate hospital during the Civil War. It was also used as a set location in the 1974 movie The Last of the Belles.

Isle of Hope Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Tybee Lighthouse, 1773, 1867 &c.

Georgia’s oldest and tallest [145 feet] lighthouse is the symbol of Tybee Island and one of the most fascinating places to visit on the coast. Climbing the 178 steps to the top is an effort but one which pays off with wonderful views of the island and the Atlantic Ocean.

There are landings every 25 steps in case you need to rest or if you just want to see the island from different perspectives.

Because its complex of supporting structures remain intact, the property around the Tybee Lighthouse is officially referred to as the Tybee Island Light Station.

The lower sixty feet of the iconic structure date to John Mulryne’s construction of 1773, which was a replacement for two previous lighthouses (the first of which was built for James Oglethorpe in 1736). So strategic and important to the future growth of Georgia was the placement of a lighthouse at the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Savannah River that General Oglethorpe threatened to hang the incompetent builder of the first beacon. Numerous modifications and additions have been made over the ensuing two centuries. Notably, Confederates burned the lighthouse in 1861 to prevent its use by Union troops; in 1867, 85 feet were added to the 1773 base to bring the lighthouse to its present height.

The Stick Style Head Keeper’s Cottage was built in 1881.

The house was built with an attached kitchen, known as a “summer kitchen”. Its location at the rear of the dwelling helped keep heat out of the house during the summer.

The master bedroom is located downstairs.

Guest and children’s bedrooms are located upstairs.

The 2nd Assistant Keeper’s Cottage (below) was built circa 1861 from remains of the old Confederate barracks. The 2nd Assistant Keeper first occupied the cottagee in 1867.

The oldest structure on the property is the original summer kitchen, dating to 1812. It was used until 1910 and now houses archaeological treasures found on site over the years.

The fuel storage shed was built in 1890.

Fort Screven Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Upper Mill-Presbyterian Cemetery, Circa 1806, Darien

Located in the historic Mentionville community near Cathead Creek, the Upper Mill Cemetery was originally known as the Presbyterian Cemetery. As well as prominent early white settlers of Darien, including William Carnochan and Henry Todd, many of the community’s most important African-Americans are buried here. It has come to be known as the Upper Mill Cemetery for the neighborhood’s association with the Upper Mill Sawmill, owned by the Mention family in the 19th century.

The memorial to George is quite interesting. [As was often the case with early African-Americans, no surname is known; being a free person he did not assume the name of his employer as did slaves]. The man who placed it, Dr. John Champneys Tunno, once owned Champneys Island [then known as Tunno or Tunno’s Island]. It reads: This stone is here placed by J. C. Tunno as a grateful appreciation of his attachment to George, a free person of color who died in his service in Darien, June 26, 1822 aged 25 years. Having possessed the advantages of decent competence and a good education. His humble, unassuming and correct deportment gained him the approbation and secured him the good will of every liberal person under whose notice he chanced to fall. And in no heart perhaps was gratitude ever so strong. It’s a bit confusing as to why a “free person of color” died in “service” to someone.

This brick enclosure contains the remains of Armand LeFils, Sr. (1790-?) and family. A native of Paris, LeFils married Sarah Fox (1796-1856) and served on the county board, presumably as Secretary and Tax Collector.

The LeFils plot is one of the most historic in the cemetery, but is beginning to need preservation.

Several large Chestunut Oaks (Quercus prinus) can be found throughout the cemetery and are very colorful in autumn.

The mausoleum of Henry Todd (10 August 1813-1 May 1886) and Mary Ann Cardone Todd (20 January 1826-27 May 1887) is the most significant monument in Upper Mill Cemetery, befitting the wealth of Mr. Todd. Henry Todd was a leading citizen of Darien during the port’s prosperous timber era.

Born in Fernandina, he came to Darien as a “free man of color” and established the San Savilla Union Steam Saw Mill. Some confusion as to Todd’s race has arisen over the years. He’s thought to have been of Minorcan ancestry, which was a common thread among early fishing families in Fernandina. Today, he wouldn’t be considered “black” but in the racial structure of that era, he was. He was a member of the white Presbyterian Church and was apparently embraced by both the white and black communities. He left money to white and black churches upon his death, as well as for the establishment of a black school. His obituary in the Atlanta Constitution noted: At the funeral of Henry Todd, a negro and ex-slave of Darien, Ga., some of the wealthiest white men of the place acted as pall-bearers. He died worth $125,000. He left much of it to local schools and churches.

Reverend William H. Rogers, about whom I can locate very little information, was obviously another Darienite respected by both the white and black communities. He was African-American but elected to the Georgia legislature. To say that this was highly unusual in post-Reconstruction Jim Crow Georgia is an understatement.

Robert G. Cuthbert (3 September 1936-7 Feruary 1969). This is one of several headstones decorated with commercial bathroom tile, a folk embellishment somewhat common in African-American headstones in the mid-20th century.

Pfeffer Headstone (1860s). I presume the Pfeffers were German or Austro-Hungarian immigrants, as the headstone is in German.

Unknown Confederate Veteran

Sadie McGuinley (1872-10 April 1885)

Ann Jones (?-19 October 1822). This is one of just a handful of typical early-19th-century headstones in the cemetery. Considering the age of the cemetery, and the fact that the Presbyterians were among the most prominent early Darienites, one could assume that many have been lost over time.

William Bradley (20 July 1811-30 November 1832)

Huntington Family Plot, Victorian fence detail, 1870s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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