Tag Archives: Coastal Georgia in the Antebellum Era

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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Filed under -MCINTOSH COUNTY, Darien GA

Silas Fulton House, 1860, Savannah

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark

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Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Savannah GA

Tabby Slave Cabins, 1820s-1840s, Ossabaw Island

Modified for residential use in the 20th century and restored in the late 2000s, the three extant tabbies on Ossabaw Island represent the most significant surviving cluster of slave dwellings on the Georgia coast. They were part of the Morel family’s North End Plantation, which was among the most successful such operations in early Georgia. Though exact construction dates for the tabby row can’t be determined, extensive archaeological research has determined they were built between circa 1820-1840s. Various Ossabaw employees lived in these structures into the early 1990s and they were modified to accommodate modern needs. Nearly all traces of those modifications have been removed and restoration work has been done.

Tabby Slave Cabin No. 1 -Like the other two cabins, this was originally a saddlebag though the central chimney has been removed.

Tabby Slave Cabin No. 2 – This cabin retains its central chimney.

Tabby Slave Cabin No. 3- This cabin has been stabilized and will eventually be restored. Past modifications are still visible.

National Register of Historic Places

 

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Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Ossabaw Island GA

Slave Cabin, McIntosh County

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.

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Filed under -MCINTOSH COUNTY

Hamilton Plantation Slave Cabin, Circa 1806, St. Simons Island

Built for servants working in the main house of James Hamilton’s Gascoigne Bluff plantation, this slave cabin is one of four surviving on St. Simons. Two more survive on the lands of the former Hamilton Plantation. As evidenced by this authentic restoration, house slaves were generally kept in nicer dwellings than field hands and other laborers. Popularly known as The Tabby House, it was restored by Eugene Lewis in 1931 and again in 1995 by master tabby craftsmen J. Felton Tate, Sr., Renaldo Tate, Sr., and Renaldo Tate, Jr.. After the plantation house burned in the 1890s, a lumber mill was located on the property for many years. The cabin served as a doctor’s office during that era. Today, it is part of the Epworth By The Sea campus of the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church and is used as an event space.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -GLYNN COUNTY, St. Simons Island GA

Dorchester Presbyterian Church, 1854, Liberty County

Midway Congregational Church, founded in 1754 and a seat of power in the Colonial period, was associated with three satellite congregations known as retreats, because their locations, slightly more inland than Midway, offered a respite from the malarial swamps of the coast. The last of the retreat churches to be established was located at Dorchester. Its origins can be traced to nearby Sunbury, a short-lived boom town founded in 1758 whose trustees were members of Midway Church. Sunbury thrived nearly from its inception, rivaling Savannah in commercial importance, but its proximity to Fort Morris lead to its capture and subsequent burning by British troops during the American Revolution. While many such casualties of the war recuperated, Sunbury never seemed to regain its prominence after the devastating four-year occupation that followed. The hurricane of 1824 and a yellow fever epidemic sent many of its residents scattering into the nearby countryside. Huge plantations with names like Laurel Grove, Arcadia, Melon Bluff, Cedar Point, and Palmyra were emerging in the countryside around old Sunbury. In 1843 upon the suggestion of Reverend Thomas Sumner Winn, a tutor for prominent Presbyterian minister Charles Colcock Jones, a site was chosen for a retreat between Sunbury and Midway. It was originally known simply as “the Village,” but was soon christened Dorchester, in tribute to the heritage of its citizens. Some families built summer homes at Dorchester, though many tore down their dwellings near Sunbury and rebuilt them on the higher and drier ground the retreat afforded. As this new location was only six miles from Midway, the idea of building a church was not initially entertained, though an academy was built in which Sunday school was regularly taught. By 1854, with the continuing decline in membership at Midway, the families of the village built a permanent church, which still stands today. The old town bell from Sunbury, dated 1799, was placed in the steeple. The land was donated by Bartholomew Busby, who owned the nearby Melon Bluff Plantation. At first it was used only in summer, but by the onset of the Civil War was in regular use. The church was officially recognized by the Savannah Presbytery in 1871 and named Dorchester Presbyterian Church. The church holds services on the first Sunday of each month at 5 PM.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Dorchester GA

Plantation Plain House, Groveland

Though it’s hard to see due to its overgrown state, this is one of the tallest Plantation Plain houses I’ve ever seen. My guess is that it dates to the mid-1850s. This vernacular style is also known as an I-House.

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Filed under -BRYAN COUNTY, Groveland GA