Tag Archives: Georgia Pioneers

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

 

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

First African Baptist Church, Riceboro

The First African Baptist Church of Riceboro is considered the “Mother Church of all Black Churches in Liberty County”; the present structure was built in the 1960s to replace the original church. The community, just west of Riceboro, is locally known as Crossroads.

A marker placed by the Liberty County Historical Society notes: The First African Baptist Church, the oldest black church in Liberty County, had its origins in the North Newport Baptist Church, founded in 1809. In 1818 the North Newport Church, composed of both white and black members, purchased this site and erected a church building here [circa 1849] which had a gallery for the slave members. In 1854 the North Newport Church moved to Walthourville, but the black members in this area continued to use the old building. In 1861 the black members formed their own church organization and the first black pastor was the Reverend Charles Thin. On July 20, 1878 the North Newport Church sold the building to A. M. McIver for $225 for use by the First African Baptist Church.

One of the early white pastors of this church was the Reverend Josiah Spry Law to whom a cenotaph was erected here in 1854 by both blacks and whites.

Three other neighboring churches have been formed from the membership of this church: First Zion Baptist Church in 1870, First African Baptist Church of Jones in 1896, and Baconton Baptist Church in 1897.

 

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Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Riceboro GA

Walthourville Baptist Church, 1923

A marker placed by the Liberty County Historical Society in 2003 notes: Founded in 1809, the North Newport Baptist Church has had several homes over the years. In 1923, the Church moved to this location and in 1952 the Church voted and renamed the church Walthourville Baptist Church. The original Church did not have a building of its own, so it shared facilities with the Sunbury Baptist Church. In 1864 the church building was burnt by General Sherman’s army as a signal for gunboats anchored in the channel. Before the building was burnt, the original Bible of the North Newport church was saved by members of the church.The present sanctuary was built in 1923. This building has two unique features; solid brick walls and a theater style floor made of heart pine. In 2000 the original tray ceiling and pine floor were restored.

 

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Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Walthourville GA

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

Old City Cemetery, 1736-1806, Darien

One of the earliest documented European cemeteries in Georgia, Darien’s Old City Cemetery is all but gone today. The Highland Scots who first settled Darien’s predecessor, New Inverness, were buried here. The only preserved section of the cemetery contains the crypts of two Loyalists, enclosed in a brick and stone fence. Other earlier known burials were: Hugh Clark, John Cunningham, Donald Fraser, John Grant, Major Elisha B. Hopkins, James MacKay, Archibald McBean, Alexander McDonald, Lt. Colonel William McIntosh, Thomas McKenzie, Angus McLean, Donald McLeod, Hugh Morrison, Alexander Munro, Alexander Murray, David Stewart, Robert Sutherland, Colonel Abitha Thomas.

The two visible crypts contain the remains of John Cunningham [1767-22 June 1806] and his sister, Margaret Cunningham Pearis [1775-18 April 1805]. Margaret was the wife of South Carolina Loyalist Richard Pearis. John and Margaret’s father, Brigadier General Robert Cunningham, was exiled to Nassau, Bahamas and received a land grant from the King for his loyalty. He was well-known in the Bahamas and died there in 1813.

 

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Filed under -MCINTOSH COUNTY, Darien GA

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

Sunbury Cemetery, 1758, Liberty County

Laid out in St. John’s Parish in 1758 on land originally owned by Mark Carr, Sunbury soon drew comparisons to Savannah as one of Georgia’s great seaports. Nearly 500 lots (not all occupied) were situated around three squares: King’s, Church, and Meeting.

St. John’s Parish fervently supported opposition to British rule and urged the rest of Georgia to revolt. Savannah was hesitant, so the parish sent Dr. Lyman Hall, a citizen of Sunbury, to the 2nd Continental Congress as a non-voting delegate. When Georgia at last joined the revolution, Dr. Hall, Button Gwinnett, and George Walton were chosen as the official delegates and signed the Declaration of Independence. Fort Morris was constructed for the defense of Sunbury but fell to the British during the Revolutionary War. Many of the pioneer families left during the occupation.

In 1777 St. John’s Parish and the neighboring St. Andrew’s and St. James were combined to form Liberty County. On 18 November 1783 the first session of the Superior Court of Liberty County was held in Sunbury and it remained the county seat until removal to Riceboro in 1797.

Sunbury Academy, established in 1788, was one of the most prominent schools in early Georgia. A Baptist church was organized in 1810 and held services into the 1830s. But the community was already in decline. The Hurricane of 1804 and the Hurricane of 1824 did major damage to the area, dispersing the remaining population. It was a ghost town by the 1840s and nothing remains today except the cemetery. Many stones have been lost or destroyed over time, some due to storms and others to residential development.

Tomb of Reverend William McWhir, D. D. [9 September 1759-31 January 1851] & Mary McWhir [27 September 1757-16 December 1819]

Dr. McWhir, a devout Presbyterian who migrated to Georgia from Belfast, Ireland, was one of the founders and the Principal of Sunbury Academy for 30 years. He died at the home of Roswell King.

Tomb of Josiah Powell [?-21 July 1788]

The exquisite ironwork surrounding the Dunham family plot is a work of art in itself. Family genealogy suggests headstones are replacements for earlier markers, dating to around 1900. The fence was likely installed at that time, as well.

The Dunhams were prominent citizens of the area and many remained even after Sunbury’s decline. Reverend Jacob Dunham, who died in 1832, spent ten years as a missionary for the Sunbury Baptist Association, ministering mostly to slaves.

Thomas H. Dunham [1840-12 October 1870] Though Dunham was a later burial, his willow and headstone tympanum was likely a nod to the earlier settlers, whose stones were commonly marked in this fashion.

Eliza Ann Richardson [1820-23 October 1831] Eliza Ann was the daughter of Edmond & Elizabeth Richardson. Her slate headstone features a willow and urn tympanum.

This plot is the final resting place of the Law & Fleming families and their relatives.

Reverend Josiah S. Law [1808-4 October 1853]

Reverend Samuel Spry Law [1774-4 February 1837] Spry’s mother, whose maiden name was also Spry, successfully defended her home from the British during the Revolutionary War. Law received his most formal education while living with the family of a French Marquis on Sapelo Island. He was married three times, first to Mary Anderson, then to Rebecca G.  Hughes, and finally to Temperance Wood.

In 1811, Reverend Law was a captain of the local militia. He became a Baptist in 1815. In his final years, he preached to poor whites and slaves in rural sections of Liberty County.

Mrs. Temperance  Wood Law [1780-16 October 1857] Last consort of Reverend S. S. Law. (Per genealogy, her name is apparently misspelled on her headstone).

Lieutenant Charles H. Law [?-1887]

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Sunbury GA