Tag Archives: Coastal Georgia in the Antebellum Era

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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Silas Fulton House, 1860, Savannah

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark

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Tabby Slave Dwellings, 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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