Tag Archives: Colonial Georgia

Ruins of Wormsloe, 1740s, Savannah

Noble Jones was one of the original settlers of Georgia, coming to the colony with General James Oglethorpe in 1733. He applied for a land grant on the southern end of the Isle of Hope but the grant wasn’t formally approved by George II until 1756. Construction on the fortified tabby-and-wood house began around 1739 and was completed around 1745. The fortifications were seen as a necessary foil for a potential Spanish invasion.

Jones named the plantation Wormslow. It was originally thought that this was a reference to the silkworms that optimistic early colonists hoped would make Georgia a leading producer of silk, but in fact it was a prominent place name in the English-Welsh borderlands from which the Joneses came to the New World.

Noble’s son, Noble Wimberly Jones (c. 1723-1805) was the next owner and spent little time at the estate, preferring life in the city of Savannah. His sister, Mary Jones Bulloch also had a life estate in the property. The ruins of the first house remain today as material evidence of Georgia’s earliest days.

In contrast to his loyalist father, Noble W. Jones was a Whig, and after service in the provincial and state legislature pursued a career in medicine. He was elected to the Continental Congress but was unable to serve. Still, his dedication to the cause of revolution earned him the moniker “Morning Star of Liberty”.

George Jones, son of Noble Wimberly, was the next owner, and his son, George Frederick Tilghman Jones changed the spelling from Wormslow to Wormsloe. He also changed his own name to George Wymberly Jones and then added the surname De Renne. He was an active builder of improved structures on the property and was a large slave owner. De Renne was also an important collector of early Georgia documents and manuscripts, reprinting many rare items. The family is still involved in these pursuits to this day. A later descendant, Wymberly Wormsloe De Renne fell on financial hard times just before the Great Depression and opened the estate, with the fine gardens he had developed, to the public. Wormsloe Gardens became a prominent tourist attraction. Wormsloe House remains in the family but the surrounding grounds became a state historic site in 1979. One of the best events in Savannah, the annual Colonial Fare & Muster is staged here each year.

National Register of Historic Places



Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Isle of Hope GA, Savannah GA

Hanover Square, 1771, Brunswick

Laid out in 1771 with a modified version of Oglethorpe’s “Savannah Plan”, Brunswick has worked hard in recent  years reclaiming as many of its historic squares as possible. Hanover Square is the jewel in the crown, being the least altered of the original squares. A non-profit preservation group, Signature Squares of Historic Brunswick, actively promotes these public parks and is engaged in ongoing research to restore them.

Of Hanover Square, they note: [It] is one of the two large squares in Old Town Brunswick that retains its original size and shape. It was named to honor Britain’s ruling House of Hanover during the reign of King George II, when the Colony of Georgia was established. Initially, Hanover Square was the hub of official city and county business. The county courthouse, jail and stockyards were located in the square until the late 19th century.

As Brunswick grew and prospered, its citizens began to feel that the muddy, trampled stockyard and shabby wooden buildings did not represent an up-and-coming city properly. In 1882, the Ladies Park Association campaigned for the removal of the courthouse from Hanover Square and raised funds to purchase materials to beautify the area, which was referred to as “Hanover Park.” The city drilled a deep artesian well, topped with an ornate fountain, that yielded water rich with minerals that were thought to be therapeutic for certain diseases. When the projects were completed in 1885, the park’s title was returned to the city.

For decades, Hanover Square was the heart of public gatherings in the city. Church socials and concerts in the bandstand filled the evenings with laughter and music. The gardens were expanded and modified to reflect landscape tastes of each era. Brunswick’s residents stood guard over Hanover Square numerous times when transportation projects threatened the integrity and boundaries of the historic space.

In the mid-20th century, the city’s population growth trended northward and Hanover, like other original squares, fell into decline. As Signature Squares was organized to save the parks and squares within the Historic District of Brunswick, Hanover Square became its first project. The fountain was restored, walkways were replaced and the rose garden was replanted. More work is planned for the future to return the square to its full glory.


Brunswick Old Town Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -GLYNN COUNTY, Brunswick GA

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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Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Fort Screven GA, Tybee Island GA

Christ Church, 1838, Savannah

Christ Church is known as the “Mother Church of Georgia”, as it was the first church established with the founding of the colony in 1733. John Wesley was the rector from 1736-1737; during that time he published one of the first English hymnals in the colonies and established the first Sunday school. George Whitefield, the next rector, was reponsible for establishing the Bethesda Orphan House & Academy, now known as Bethesda Academy, the oldest home and school for boys in the United States.

The present structure is the third building to occupy the site and was built by James Hamilton Couper in 1838. A bell cast by Revere and Son of Boston in 1819 is still in use in the church today. Famous members include Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low and songrwiter Johnny Mercer.

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark

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Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Savannah GA

Horton Brewery Ruins, 1730s, Jekyll Island

This was identified as Georgia’s first brewery when the property was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, but like many of Georgia’s tabby ruins, it has an ambiguous history. Signage at the Horton House Historic Site identifies it as  the ruins of a warehouse. If it is the brewery ruins, it’s one of Georgia’s first industrial sites. Major Horton’s Brewery fueled the troops at nearby Fort Frederica throughout the late 1730s.

Specific dates for the brewery and/or warehouse are as difficult to pin down as they are for the house, but considering the connection to Fort Frederica and its likely need for alcohol from the outset, it was likely operational before 1740. Taylor Davis, who wrote his masters thesis on tabby in Georgia, also identifies the ruins as the brewery ruins.

National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -GLYNN COUNTY, Jekyll Island GA

Horton-duBignon House, Circa 1736, Jekyll Island

Dates on these ruins range from circa 1736 to 1742. Built by Major William Horton, General James Oglethorpe’s second-in-command, the structure employed the preferred building material of Coastal Georgia, tabby. While Oglethorpe was at Fort Frederica, Horton kept a small military outpost on Jekyll. The vast fields around the house were planted with rye, barley and hops for use in Horton’s brewery, and the area around the house was originally known as Rye Patch. Beer was the only alcoholic beverage allowed in the colony at the time and Horton’s brewery supplied the soldiers at Fort Frederica. In 1742, after the Battle of Bloody Marsh on nearby St. Simons, Spanish troops burned the house. Upon Oglethorpe’s return to England in 1743, Horton became commander of military forces in the colony. He died in Savannah in 1748.

Fleeing the French Revolution in 1791, Le Sieur Christophe Poulain de la Houssaye duBignon and family purchased Jekyll Island and restored this house, adding wooden wings. The duBignons raised Sea Island cotton and indigo, but the Civil War brought their economic model to an end. Union soldiers destroyed most of the house, as well.

Upon their purchase of the island in 1888, the Jekyll Island Club reinforced the ruins of the Horton-duBignon House and placed a wall around the old duBignon Cemetery. Taylor Davis notes that a 2004 stabilization has resulted in the “splotchy” appearance of the structure. Like many of Georgia’s tabby ruins, the Horton-duBignon House has had multiple identities over time. As late as the 1940s, tourist postcards were identifying it as the site of an “old Spanish mission”.  This was apparently a widely held belief about most such ruins on the coast until modern scholarship confirmed historic identities in the last half of the 20th century.

National Register of Historic Places



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Filed under -GLYNN COUNTY, Jekyll Island GA

The Pirate’s House, Savannah


The history of the so-called Pirate’s House is as colorful as the history of Savannah itself, and like many landmarks in the city, its origins and history are often the subject of debate. I’ll open the proverbial can of worms here and note that though it often appears on superlative lists as the “oldest building in Georgia”, this claim is spurious at best. The Herb House, built in 1734 in General Oglethorpe’s Trustee’s Garden, has been absorbed into the structure you see today. Because its historic integrity has been almost completely lost by centuries of remodeling and expansion, though, the ‘oldest in Georgia’ qualifier is dubious to many, particularly architectural historians. I concur completely. This is not an attack on the present institution housed here but rather an attempt to consolidate disparate histories. Scores of websites, especially ‘ghost’-related sites, are driven by myth and therefore confusing to say the least.

The Pirate’s House Restaurant has been a leading tourist attraction in Savannah for decades, and though their website claims that it was built in 1753, the city’s own tourism website dates it to circa 1794. It’s clear that it had its origins as a tavern, frequented by sailors for its liberal atmosphere and proximity to the Savannah River. Tunnels were actually dug beneath the property in its early days with the purpose of smuggling rum and kidnapped sailors to the riverfront. The site gained literary immortality in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, as the scene of Captain Flint’s death. The character of Long John Silver noted that he was with Captain Flint when he died in Savannah. Of course this is a fiction, based loosely on stories a young Stevenson heard as a guest here in the early 19th century. The stories are harmless as long as they’re not posited as fact. And they are, often.

The house was purchased by the Savannah Gas Company in 1948 and subsequently restored and expanded to accommodate its present-day purpose.

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark

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Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Savannah GA

Major Charles Oddingsells House, 1797, Savannah

Revolutionary War veteran Major Charles Oddingsells (1754-1810) came to Savannah as a young man, and he soon became a prominent planter and state legislator. He owned land all around Savannah but spent most of his time on Skidaway Island, where he died at the age of 56. He and wife Sarah Livingston Oddingsells had two children, neither of whom lived to adulthood.

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark


Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Savannah GA

Colonial Park Cemetery, Savannah

colonial park cemetery savannah ga photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

One of the most beautiful and serene public spaces in Savannah, Colonial Park is a veritable museum of the history of early Georgia. While just over 600 graves are marked, the cemetery is reputed to have been the site of as many as 10,000 burials. It’s the second oldest cemetery in Savannah, established circa 1750 as the burying ground for Christ Church parish. It was enlarged in 1789 to allow burials of people from all faiths and it was closed to burials in 1853.

colonial park cemetery savannah ga dar monumental arch photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

This monumental arch was erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution to memorialize the Revolutionary War veterans buried in Colonial Park Cemetery.

colonial park cemetery savannah ga avenue of palmettoes photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

This scene is near the modern entrance to the cemetery. Early 20th century postcards identify this lane of trees as the Avenue of Palmettos. They were apparently planted in the late 19th century, as they appear quite small in those images.

colonial park cemetery savannah ga great yellow fever epidemic marker photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

Though its pathology was unknown at the time, the Great Yellow Fever Epidemic which plagued Savannah throughout 1820 claimed over 700 lives, including two physicians who attempted to treat the afflicted. Several similar epidemics would follow.

colonial park cemetery savannah ga general samuel elbert photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

Samuel Elbert (1740–1 November 1788) , who migrated to Georgia from South Carolina, served on the Council of Safety and the first Provincial Congress of Georgia in 1775.  He was Lieutenant Colonel of the first Continental regiment raised in Georgia, commanded the Georgia Line at the fall of Savannah in 1778, was captured by the British at Briar Creek in 1779, and later took part in the Battle of Yorktown. After his promotion to Brigadier General in the Continental Army in 1783, he served as Governor of Georgia, Sheriff of Chatham County, and Grand Master of Georgia Masons.

colonial park cemetery savannah ga shellman crypt photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

John Shellman (January 1757–12 May 1838) and John Shellman, Jr. (1799–9 November 1821)

colonial park cemetery savannah ga habersham crypt photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

James Habersham (1712?–28 August 1775) was one of the most prominent merchants and public servants of the Colonial Era in Georgia. Soon after his arrival in the colony in 1738, he helped establish, with Reverend George Whitefield, the Bethesda Orphanage. By the 1740s he had established the most successful commercial enterprise in Savannah; his many posts included Provincial Secretary, President of His Majesty’s Council for Georgia, and Acting Provincial Governor from 1771 until 1773. Though he was opposed to the oppressive acts of Parliament, he remained a fierce Loyalist. His loyalties, though, did not tarnish the universal respect held for him by his fellow Georgians. He died visiting New Jersey.

James Habersham, Jr. (1745-2 July 1799) was a founding Trustee of the University of Georgia.

Joseph Habersham (28 July 1751-17 November 1815) was an ardent Son of Liberty and member of the Council of Safety. In 1775 he took part in the raid on the King’s powder magazine and in 1776 personally affected the arrest of Sir James Wright, the Royal Governor. He later served as Mayor of Savannah, and Postmaster General of the United States, from 1793 until 1801.

John Habersham (23 December 1754-17 December 1799) was twice taken prisoner during the Revolutionary War. A member of the Continental Congress in 1785, he later served as a Commissioner of the convention that established the Georgia-South Carolina Border, and first Collector of Customs at Savannah.

colonial park cemetery savannah ga lachlan james mcintosh photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

General Lachlan McIntosh (17 March 1725–20 February 1826)  , whose father John Mor Mackintosh founded the seaport town of Darien, was Georgia’s most illustrious officer in the American Revolution. Commissioned Colonel of the first Continental regiment raised in Georgia, General McIntosh was transferred to General Washington’s headquarters after his duel with Button Gwinnett. Washington later gave him command of the Western Department at Fort Pitt. Returning to Georgia in 1779, General McIntosh took part in the Siege of Savannah. His war service culminated in his capture during the fall of Charlestown (Charleston) in 1780.

Colonel James S. McIntosh (1784–1847) was a great-nephew of General Lachlan McIntosh. He was a hero of the War of 1812 and later in life provided gallant service during the Mexican War. He died from wounds suffered at the storming of El Molina del Rey on 8 September 1847.

colonial park cemetery savannah ga hugh mccall photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

Hugh McCall (17 February 1767–10 June 1824) McCall published the first installment in his History of Georgia at Savannah in 1811. It was the first comprehensive history of Georgia published in America.

colonial park cemetery savannah ga james johnston photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

James Johnston (1738-1808)  Johnston, a native of Scotland, came to Savannah in 1761, and was appointed Public Printer of the Province the following year. The first issue of Georgia’s first newspaper, The Georgia Gazette, was brought out by Johnston on 7 April 1763. Johnston was a Loyalist, and after briefly Savannah, he returned when British rule was restored in 1779, resuming publication of the newspaper under the title Royal Georgia Gazette. Interestingly, the Patriots allowed his return to Savannah after the war, and the paper was published from 1783 until 1802 as Gazette of the State of Georgia.

colonial park cemetery savannah ga graham vault general nathanael greene photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

The Graham Vault For 114 years, the remains of the Revolutionary War hero Major General Nathanael Greene (7 August 1742 – 19 June 1786) and his eldest son, George Washington Greene, were interred here. They were exhumed and re-interred at Johnson Square in 1901. Also entombed here was the British Loyalist Lieutenant Colonel John Maitland of the 71st Regiment of Scotch Foot. After helping defend Savannah from the French and American forces in 1779, Maitland suddenly died. The Royalist Lieutenant Governor of Georgia at this time, John Graham, who owned the plot, allowed Maitland’s entombment here. His remains have also apparently been removed. This is likely the only tomb to have ever held the remains of a hero of the American Revolution, alongside a British Loyalist.

colonial park cemetery savannah ga edward greene malbone photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

Edward Greene Malbone (August 1777 7 May 1807) Malbone is considered by most art historians to be the greatest of all American miniaturists, and among the best of all time.  He died in Savannah while visiting his cousin, Robert Mackay.

colonial park cemetery savannah ga millen crypt photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

Rosannah Millen(1751?–24 February 1810) and  John Millen(1757?–28 October 1811)

colonial park cemetery savannah ga major john berrien photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

Major John Berrien (1759-6 November 1815) Berrien came to Georgia from New Jersey in 1775, and soon thereafter, at the age of 17, was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in Georgia’s first Continental Brigade. Within a year, he was promoted to Captain. Berrien was a strong supporter of Lachlan McIntosh and followed him to Valley Forge in 1777, where he served as brigade major of the North Carolina troops stationed there. After the war, he returned to Georgia and was active in the early bureaucracy. His father’s home in Rock Hill, New Jersey, was the scene of General Washington’s farewell address to the army. His son, John McPherson Berrien (1781 – 1856) served Georgia in the United States Senate and was Andrew Jackson’s Attorney General.

colonial park cemetery savannah ga john kreeger slate headstone photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

John Kreeger (July 1754–26 April 1800) This is one of the few slate headstones in Colonial Park Cemetery.

colonial park cemetery savannah ga father lemoine crypt photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

Reverend Jean Baptiste Le Moine (d. 1794) A refugee of the French Revolution, Reverend Le Moine was formerly the Cure of Morley Le Roi. He was the first Catholic priest in Savannah.

colonial park cemetery savannah ga screven crypt photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

John Screven ( 1767?–November 1820) and Sarah Ann Screven (1788?-June 1823)

colonial park cemetery savannah ga button gwinnett memorial photograph copyright brian brown vanishing coastal georgia usa 2016

Button Gwinnett (1732-35?-19 May 1777), one of Georgia’s Signers of the Declaration of Independence, was also elected to the Continental Congress and President of the Georgia Council of Safety. Though chosen to head the Continental Battalion for Georgia in the Revolutionary War, he was forced to decline the position due to a political rift with his rival, Lachlan McIntosh. Their animosities reached a fever pitch on 16 May 1777 when Gwinnett challenged McIntosh to duel outside Savannah. Though McIntosh survived, Gwinnett died three days later, on 19 May 1777.

In 1964, the Savannah-Chatham County Historic Site and Monument Commission chose this spot to memorialize Gwinnett. There is great debate among historians of Colonial Georgia as to whether Gwinnett is even buried in this cemetery, though the erection of this memorial was a grand gesture considering Gwinnett’s long controversial reputation.

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark


Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Savannah GA

Kilkenny, Circa 1845, Bryan County

Killkenny Plantation Antebellum Landmark Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Overlooking Kilkenny Creek (sometimes referred to as the Kilkenny River), Kilkenny was the 662-arcre property of Thomas Young (1733-1808) beginning around 1765. Young was the son-in-law of the property’s original owner, James Maxwell, Jr. As Thomas Young was a Loyalist, Kilkenny was confiscated from him through the 1778 Acts of Attainder and sold to George Cubbedge. Intervention by Young’s friends returned the property to him, though he was prohibited from voting or holding office for 17 years.

Kilkenny Plantation Clubhouse Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Young’s executors sold Kilkenny to Charles W. Rogers in 1836; Rogers then conveyed the property to his son, the Reverend Charles W. Rogers, Jr., and secured a nearby plantation, Cottenham, for his other son, William M. Rogers. It was used primarily for the production of Sea Island cotton. Little is known of the Rogers family today, though it is thought that Reverend Rogers spent very little time here. In 1850, Rogers’s 125 slaves were enumerated in the census, though he himself did not appear as a citizen of Bryan County. His plantation primarily produced food crops for the slaves. By 1860, Kilkenny was producing more cotton than any other property in the county and the value had increased five-fold, to $30,000. 153 slaves were enumerated in the 1860 census, but Rogers was still not listed as a citizen of Bryan County. By 1874, it had grown to 3,500 acres and was sold to James M. Butler. From this date onward, the property changed hands five times. When acquired by James H. Furber in 1890 the Kilkenny Club was established. (Locally, and on some maps, the area is still known as Kilkenny Club or Kilkenny Fishing Camp). A prominent later owner was Tennessee governor John I. Cox, who sold it to Henry Ford in 1931. Ford restored the property around this time, and it was apparently one of his favorites.

Kilkenny Plantation Henry Ford Restoration Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

The house is unusual in this area because it’s neither Plantation Plain nor Sandhill Cottage style. Built with a four- over-four central hall plan, it’s weatherboarded on three sides and features vertical boards on the front. The main gable features a small widow’s walk. The most unusual feature is the placement of ten small horizotal (eyebrow) windows between the roof eaves and the porch roof.

Kilkenny Plantation Kitchen Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

The kitchen (above photo) is among the most important remaining antebellum outbuildings on the Georgia coast. Though the exterior has been weatherboarded to match the house, the interior remains virtually untouched. Pegged beams are visible and a sleeping loft reachable by a crude stair-ladder is present.

Kilkenny Plantation Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

An oak driveway, or alley,  is one of the most impressive features of Kilkenny.

Kilkenny GA Plantation Oak Drive Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

This is the view of Kilkenny Creek looking south from Kilkenny Bluff, in front of the house.

Kilkenny River Looking South Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015




Filed under -BRYAN COUNTY