Tag Archives: Famous Georgians

Strangers Cemetery, St. Simons Island

Also known as Union Memorial Cemetery, Strangers Cemetery gets its unusual name from those interred here. Former slaves (and their descendants) who toiled on the island’s plantations prior to Emancipation were buried on those properties. The original “strangers” were freedmen who came to the island after the Civil War and worked primarily in sawmills along the Frederica River. Many remained for generations in three thriving black communities: Harrington, Jewtown, and South End, and some were interred here as they weren’t allowed to bury on the former plantation lands. While most marked graves are in very good condition, a large number of unmarked graves exist, as well.

Among later “strangers” is Mary Elizabeth “Bessie” Sampson Jones (8 February 1902-4 September 1984). She was born in Smithville and never knew her biological father. Her mother moved to an uncle’s farm in nearby Dawson when Bessie was a baby and while there married James Sampson, who was a father figure to Bessie. Of her childhood, she wrote: “I never has went to school a whole term and I didn’t get past the fifth grade; every school day I had to keep other people’s babies and sometimes I had to work in the fields.” Music was always present in Bessie Jones’s childhood. Her mother Julia played the autoharp and James Sampson played numerous instruments by ear. Her grandfather, Jet Sampson, was an accordionist. He was enslaved, along with five brothers, around 1843 and died in 1941 at the age of 105. Listening to his stories and songs, Bessie gained many insights that would inform her later work.

In 1914 a very young Jones gave birth to her first child, Rosalie. The child’s father, Cassius Davis, was a native of the Georgia Sea Islands and had come to the Dawson area seeking farm work. After World War I Bessie lived briefly in Milan and Fitzgerald. Cassius died in Brunswick in 1926. For the next seven years she lived in Florida. In Okeechobee she married George Jones and in 1933 they moved to St. Simons Island. They had two sons: George L. Jones (1935) and Joseph (1937). George died in 1945. After his death Bessie got involved with the Spiritual Singers of Coastal Georgia, perhaps the first group to formally attempt to preserve and perform the slave songs and spirituals of the Sea Island Gullah and Geechee people. It was a great honor for Bessie to have been invited to join the group, as she was not a native of the islands.

Bessie met folkorist Alan Lomax in 1959 and a couple of years later he recorded a series of songs, stories, and interviews with her at his apartment in New York City. In 1963, the Georgia Sea Island Singers were established. Lomax arranged a tour that took the group to colleges around the country and a decade of travel followed. They participated in the Poor People’s March in 1968 and appeared at Carnegie Hall, the Newport Folk Festival, Montréal World’s Fair, Central Park, and numerous Smithsonian Folk Life Festivals. In 1976, the Sea Island Singers performed at the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter. In 1982, Mrs. Jones received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, but died of leukemia later that year.

Peter Stone and Ellen Harold’s profile of Bessie Jones at the Association for Cultural Equity, from which this was condensed, is an excellent source for further reading.

 

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Filed under -GLYNN COUNTY, St. Simons Island 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

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Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Savannah GA

Martha-Mary Chapel, 1937, Richmond Hill

Richmond Hill GA Bryan County Martha Mary Chapel Henry Ford St. Anne's Catholic Church Savannah Diocese Picture Image Photo © Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2013

Acquired by the Diocese of Savannah in 1955 and renamed St. Anne’s Catholic Church, this chapel was built by Henry & Clara Ford and named for their mothers (Mary was Henry’s mother and Martha was Clara’s mother). Most of the church furnishings were built on Ford’s nearby plantation. Students from the Ways Station School (Richmond Hill was known as Ways Station until 1941) and their teachers regularly attended services here.

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Filed under -BRYAN COUNTY, Richmond Hill GA

George Washington Carver School, 1939, Keller

Bryan Neck GA Bryan County George Washington Carver School Funded by Henry Ford Historic Marker African Americans Picture Image Photo © Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2013

On these grounds in 1939, Henry Ford built a school to serve the educational needs of the African-American children of lower Bryan County. Professor Herman Cooper was appointed as the Principal when the school opened later that year, originally with grades one through six. Ford named the school in honor of the prominent African-American educator and agriculturist from Tuskegee Institute, Dr. George Washington Carver. In March 1940 Dr. Carver attended the dedication ceremonies here for the new school named in his honor.

The shell of a gymnasium is located at the back of the property, but I’m unsure if it was a later addition to the school, or part of the Bryan Neck Missionary Baptist Church, located next door.

 

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Filed under -BRYAN COUNTY, Keller GA