Tag Archives: Ghost Towns of Coastal Georgia
On a Bullock Wagon at Fairhope, Real Photo Postcard, Photographer Unknown, 20 March 1916. Collection of Brian Brown*
A group of businessmen from Akron, Ohio, purchased 7000 acres on the Sapelo River at the site of the old Mallow Plantation in 1911 and planned a community known as Fairhope. According to Buddy Sullivan (Early Days on the Georgia Tidewater), the Fairhope Land Company built a three-story hotel at the site in 1915, though “it never turned a profit and the Fairhope plan struggled to stay afloat.” By early appearances it had a promising future. In addition to the hotel, a few private lots were sold and a post office operated from 1913-1916. A couple of stores were also present. The biggest boost came from a rail spur run by the Georgia Coast and Piedmont Railroad from Eulonia to the town site. But the resort community didn’t materialize as planned and the Land Company was bankrupt by early 1916. After changing hands at least twice, it came into the ownership of the Georgia Land and Livestock Company in late 1916, at which time it came to be known by its present name, Pine Harbor. The name was suggested by surveyor Ravenel Gignilliat. The hotel was dismantled in 1931 and the lumber sold for scrap in Savannah. The old depot was moved to the waterfront and remodeled as a residence. Other than Fairhope Road at Pine Harbor, little evidence of the community can be found today.
*- This antique card from my personal collection was mailed to Cleveland, Ohio, on the date indicated at the caption and sends news to the recipient that an older couple, the Millers, are going to stay on at Fairhope for a short time before returning home. This was mailed from the short-lived Fairhope post office not long before it closed and the women on the bullock wagon were likely investors in the community. The structure depicted is not the hotel, so it was likely one of the few private residences constructed as part of the failed venture.
On the Townsend-Jones road, a sandy washboard that cuts through the middle of nowhere, the only evidence of human presence is a limitless supply of hand-painted signs that mark hunting leases with names like Canal Cut Thru and Rocking Chair. But a few miles in, there’s an unusual brick structure, decidedly out of place. It’s the last tangible evidence of the logging settlement known as Warsaw, so busy at one time that the Seaboard Air Line Railroad ran track through here.
A sawmill and an office were the centerpiece of the community, which was established in 1925. It was essentially a work camp that likely included employee housing. In 1934, a 12-foot flywheel disengaged during operation, ripped the mill apart, and started a fire. The operation continued, on a smaller scale, until 1936. All that remains today is the company vault.
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]
I took a turn off a dirt road at Groveland a few years ago and stumbled onto a fascinating collection of buildings. Though I was unsure of their purpose at the time, Bill Warnell, wrote in January 2012: Both Glory and East of Eden filmed scenes here. The buildings are original structures used in farming. Both movies painted the houses/barns for their purposes. The buildings last served as the town of Darien in the movie Glory. The movie called for the town to be torched by “the 54th” after they pillaged it as part of the War of Northern Aggression! Most of the buildings are still used for storage and can be seen from Hwy 280 but are ALL on private property. The Warnell family has long been associated with Bryan County. They lived in Groveland until moving to Pembroke in 1927. Daniel Brooks Warnell is the namesake of the UGA School of Forestry, one of the best-known in the nation, and the Mary Kahrs Warnell Forest Education Center, named for his wife, is an excellent resource near Guyton.
On 28 August 2014 Joe Driggers wrote to say that his grandmother, Laura Sauls Driggers Bland, used to run a small grocery store out of this building. He also notes that in its earliest days it served as the Groveland Post Office.
In January 2012 Janet F. Dubois of Winston-Salem NC wrote: I remember Groveland when I was a child. My grandfather used to live there and run a little store which I believe at one time was in one side of the joined together building. The store used to be one room on the side of his house. The house no longer stands as many of the other houses are gone too. I still travel through Groveland occasionally and remember so vividly that is where I was when the news of the Meldrim train disaster happened in 1959. I was 11 at that time. There is an old cemetery there behind all the old buildings for the film made there that my Grandmother was buried in…in the mid 20’s. My own mother lost track of the burial plot due to lost grave markers and the moving of the original fences. Oh how I wish we could have found it before she herself passed away. It was her dream to locate her mother’s grave and have it moved. Sad what happens to our cemeteries and landmarks…