Tag Archives: Ghost Towns of Coastal Georgia

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).

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Sunbury GA

Lanier, Georgia

Located between Pembroke and Ellabell on US 280, Lanier was established in 1893 and a post office operated here until 1955.

One viewer has identified this as the Stubbs turpentine commissary, but I can’t confirm that at this time.

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Filed under -BRYAN COUNTY, Lanier GA

Film Set, Groveland

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.

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Filed under -BRYAN COUNTY, Groveland GA

Plantation Plain House, Groveland

Though it’s hard to see due to its overgrown state, this is one of the tallest Plantation Plain houses I’ve ever seen. My guess is that it dates to the mid-1850s. This vernacular style is also known as an I-House.

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Filed under -BRYAN COUNTY, Groveland GA

Kwik Chek, Groveland

Though this store has had numerous incarnations over the years, the old Sunbeam Bread sign out front indicates that it was once known as Kwik Chek #1. The sign has rusted since I made the shot below (in 2011), but the place remains a Groveland landmark.

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Filed under -BRYAN COUNTY, Groveland GA

Laura’s Grocery, Groveland

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…

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Filed under -BRYAN COUNTY, Groveland GA

Burnt Fort Chapel & Cemetery, Camden County

At least two different explanations of the origin of Burnt Fort can be found in a general search of available sources. One account suggests that South Carolina built a fort circa 1715-25 along the banks of the Satilla River near this location [Georgia didn’t yet exist]. The most interesting evidence, though, centers on Edmond Gray, who came to Georgia from Virginia bent upon opening the “neutral lands” between the Altamaha and Satilla Rivers. He and a small group of followers settled upon a site near here in 1755 and named it New Hanover. As the land was in dispute between Great Britain and Spain, the English sought to destroy the colony to avoid a confrontation with Spain and further rousing the native Creek Indians. In late January 1759, Major Henry Hymes of South Carolina and James Edward Powell of Georgia were dispatched by Colonial Governor Henry Ellis of Georgia to destroy the town. Gray complied and was given 28 days. He ordered the settlers to vacate but some remained and operated a small trading post/fort for a time. It was burned soon thereafter; whether by the Creeks or other force remains unclear. The name Burnt Fort was firmly established at least by 1793, when Captain James Randolph built Burnt Fort Station for his squadron of dragoons charged with protecting Camden County from the Creeks. Whatever the real story, it’s a fascinating chapter of Georgia history and bears further inquiry. I will update as I learn more.

A multi-denominational congregation at Burnt Fort dates to at least 1872, though burials in the cemetery date to the early 19th century. The first church was in use until 1947, when declining membership led to its closure. The structure was abandoned and had collapsed by 1960. Area residents, including descendants of the founding families, came together in 1976 to rebuild the church, which was dedicated on 4 September 1977.

Of special note in the cemetery are are the six crypts of the Hedleston children, dating to the 1850s. Most notable are their winged death head reliefs, such as the one seen below.

A good variety of typical funerary iconography can be found here.

Considering there are a number of unmarked but documented burials here, it would be interesting to know if there was indeed a congregation in the early 1800s to serve the thriving community of loggers and timber workers in the community.

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Filed under -CAMDEN COUNTY, Burnt Fort GA