This is one of numerous support structures transformed into private residences after 1945, when Fort Screven was declared surplus by the War Department.
Fort Screven Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
Battery Brumby [completed 1899] was the largest of Fort Screven’s complex of gun emplacements. Constructed between 1897-1900. the batteries [Brumby, Garland, Fenwick, Backus, Gant, and Habersham] served as coastal fortifications during the Spanish-American War. Between the world wars, the artillery was removed and melted for further use.
Battery Garland [completed 1899] now houses the Tybee Island Museum, operated by the Tybee Island Historical Society.
Fort Screven Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
Built as the winter residence of Dr. Henry Norton Torrey, Ossabaw’s Spanish Revival “Main House” was designed by Swedish-born Savannah architect Henrik Wallin [1873-1936]. Its pink stucco walls, whose tones vary widely with the changing light of the day, are a defining feature. Red clay roof tiles and wrought iron ornamentation complete the Mediterranean character of the house. [There is no public access to the house, which the Ossabaw Island Foundation hopes to eventually stabilize and restore].
The Torrey family had owned a 40-room winter residence, Greenwich, in Savannah. They bought Ossabaw Island after Greenwich burned, and built the house between 1924-1926. Dr. Torrey was a prominent Detroit physician whose wife Nell Ford Torrey was the granddaughter of John Baptiste Ford, the founder of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company (PPG). Dr. Ford died in 1945 and upon his wife’s death in 1959, the island was inherited by their daughter Eleanor “Sandy” Torrey West and her late brother’s heirs. But Sandy was the only one interested in living there full-time and it became her domain.
In 1961, Sandy and husband Clifford West established the Ossabaw Island Foundation, which served as an artist’s colony from October until June each year. Sandy sold the island to the State of Georgia (via the Nature Conservancy) in 1978, retaining a life estate. She lived in the Main House until 2016, at which time she moved to Savannah to an assisted living facility.
At 105, Sandy West remains a beloved symbol of independence for her tireless efforts to protect Ossabaw from development. Jane Fishman profiled her in a fascinating book, The Woman Who Saved an Island: The Story of Sandy West and Ossabaw Island, (Real People Publishing, Savannah, 2014).
The rear of the house features a loggia opening onto a patio. A tennis court and formal gardens have long since been reclaimed by nature.
Outbuildings, like the house, are in a bad state of repair today.
National Register of Historic Places
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.
The old dock here is no longer used due to disrepair but the dock house is a survivor. [As the sign clearly states, don’t trespass]. Beth Walters-Parker notes that this was Captain Hunter’s place. The Valona Shrimp Company, which operates in this area, is perhaps the oldest shrimping businesses in Georgia.
Due to the success of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the book Savannah loves to hate, the Mercer House is perhaps the most famous in town. T0day, it’s officially the Mercer-Williams House Museum. [I added the hyphen; I don’t know why they don’t use one]. It is owned by the sister of Jim Williams, the antiques dealer who shot and killed one of his lovers, a hustler named Danny Hansford, in the house. Everyone knows the story. Wiliams’s eclectic collections are highlighted throughout.
The house was designed by John Norris [architect of the Savannah Custom House and the Andrew Low House, among many others] for General Hugh Mercer, great-grandfather of Johnny Mercer, though the general nor the songwriter ever lived here. Construction began in 1860 but was interrupted by the Civil War. It was completed about 1868 by its new owner, John Wilder. In the 20th century it was used for a time as the Savannah Shriners Alee Temple and was purchased and restored by Jim Williams in 1969.
Two other tragic deaths are associated with the Mercer House. An owner tripped over a banister and eventually died from a concussion in 1913 and a boy chasing pigeons on the roof fell off and impaled himself on one of the iron fence posts in 1969.
Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark