Tag Archives: National Register of Historic Places

Dorchester Presbyterian Church, 1854, Liberty County

Midway Congregational Church, founded in 1754 and a seat of power in the Colonial period, was associated with three satellite congregations known as retreats, because their locations, slightly more inland than Midway, offered a respite from the malarial swamps of the coast. The last of the retreat churches to be established was located at Dorchester. Its origins can be traced to nearby Sunbury, a short-lived boom town founded in 1758 whose trustees were members of Midway Church. Sunbury thrived nearly from its inception, rivaling Savannah in commercial importance, but its proximity to Fort Morris lead to its capture and subsequent burning by British troops during the American Revolution. While many such casualties of the war recuperated, Sunbury never seemed to regain its prominence after the devastating four-year occupation that followed. The hurricane of 1824 and a yellow fever epidemic sent many of its residents scattering into the nearby countryside. Huge plantations with names like Laurel Grove, Arcadia, Melon Bluff, Cedar Point, and Palmyra were emerging in the countryside around old Sunbury. In 1843 upon the suggestion of Reverend Thomas Sumner Winn, a tutor for prominent Presbyterian minister Charles Colcock Jones, a site was chosen for a retreat between Sunbury and Midway. It was originally known simply as “the Village,” but was soon christened Dorchester, in tribute to the heritage of its citizens. Some families built summer homes at Dorchester, though many tore down their dwellings near Sunbury and rebuilt them on the higher and drier ground the retreat afforded. As this new location was only six miles from Midway, the idea of building a church was not initially entertained, though an academy was built in which Sunday school was regularly taught. By 1854, with the continuing decline in membership at Midway, the families of the village built a permanent church, which still stands today. The old town bell from Sunbury, dated 1799, was placed in the steeple. The land was donated by Bartholomew Busby, who owned the nearby Melon Bluff Plantation. At first it was used only in summer, but by the onset of the Civil War was in regular use. The church was officially recognized by the Savannah Presbytery in 1871 and named Dorchester Presbyterian Church. The church holds services on the first Sunday of each month at 5 PM.

National Register of Historic Places


1 Comment

Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Dorchester GA

Glen Echo, Circa 1773, Bryan County

Also known as the Bird-Everett-Morgan House, Glen Echo is the oldest house in Bryan County, and among the oldest in Georgia. The land on which it stands was part of a 400-acre king’s grant made to Abraham & Israel Bird and Hugh Bryan on 1 January 1771. Family lore suggests that construction on the house began in 1773. [While it’s unclear who built the house, an article by descendant and historian Kenneth Dillon Dixon in a 2014 issue of Richmond Hill Reflections notes: …it was likely built by Burgund Bird, as it descended to his son Sylvanus Bird’s family and it was built on land granted to his other son, Abraham Bird]. The Birds were millers and may have selected the land due to its proximity to two creeks. One of the creeks came to be known as Birds Mill Creek (now Mill Creek) and the other was Black Creek. By 1802, Andrew Bird, Sr., was in possession of the house. He had three sons, Andrew, Jackson, and Cyrus, and a daughter, Isabel. Isabel married a Salzburger descendant  named Joshua Smith in 1824.

Captain Albert Glenn Smith – Bryan Independent Riflemen, Tintype, 1861-3. Courtesy Kenneth Dillon Dixon

It was their son, Albert Glenn Smith, who eventually received the house and property from his mother’s bachelor uncles in the 1850s. At the time of his marriage to Elizabeth Van Brackle in 1858, Smith moved into the house and the moniker “Glen Echo” came into use. Twin sons were born to the couple around this time. At the outset of the Civil War, Smith owned 17 slaves and his estate was valued at nearly $10,000. A. G. Smith was a captain of the Bryan Independent Riflemen, 1st Company, 25th Georgia Volunteer Infantry and trained soldiers at nearby Fort McAllister. When Sherman’s troops made their approach to Savannah, breastworks were constructed on the property and though the house was spared, all of the outbuildings were burned and livestock set free. To a student of the Civil War, the survival of the house might seem quite extraordinary, but actually, orders mandated that only unoccupied houses be burned. At any rate, Captain Bird’s military prominence should have made his property a prime target. A. G. & Elizabeth Bird had ten children, the last of whom was born in 1876. Their heirs still own the property and maintain the historic family cemetery adjacent to the house.


The Plantation Plain appearance of the Glen Echo is generally advanced as evidence of the house being later than 1773, but 18th-century examples of this style do exist in the Carolinas. Numerous changes have been made to the house in its nearly 250-year history and most of the original structure has been obscured by additions and alterations. This is often the case with properties of such an age and it doesn’t deter from their historical significance and local importance. Interior details on the first floor are said to confirm the 18th-century construction date, especially the presence of iron HL hinges on some doors. “Shed rooms” were located at the rear of the house in its early incarnation, but as seen in the image above, an elongated attached kitchen replaced them at some point.

The boxed cornice and returns, seen above, likely date to the early 19th century, and the brick chimney, replacing a stick-and-mud example, is thought to have been added around the turn of the last century. Outlines of earlier shutters indicate that different windows were in use, and the front porch is definitely a later addition.

Today, this property is endangered by neglect and isolation. After speaking with the legal representative for the property owner, I’m confident that restoration is in its future. Theft and vandalism have plagued the house in recent years, I’m told, and this is a real tragedy. To say that a house connected to one family in Georgia for nearly 250 years is of utmost importance is an understatement. The subjects of the following photos, also shared by Kenneth Dillon Dixon, are unidentified descendants of the Bird family, probably made between 1910-1930; he notes they’re definitely Mingledorfs, Morgans, or Smiths.

Bird Descendants at Glen Echo, 1920s-30s? – Courtesty Kenneth Dillon Dixon

Old Oak at Glen Echo, 1930s? – Courtesty Kenneth Dillon Dixon

National Register of Historic Places



1 Comment

Filed under -BRYAN COUNTY

Bryan County Courthouse, 1938, Pembroke

Pembroke is one of the newest county seats in Georgia, having been chosen for this distinction when the construction of Fort Stewart cut off the previous county seat, Clyde, from public access. Though it has not been formally documented, the courthouse, designed by Savannah architect Walter P. Marshall, was likely funded by the Department of Defense.

National Register of Historic Places

Leave a comment

Filed under -BRYAN COUNTY, Pembroke GA

Flemington Presbyterian Church, 1852

Flemington Presbyterian was the second of the Midway retreat churches. It remains the most active of all the congregations associated with Midway Congregational Church. In 1815, Midway member William Fleming established Gravel Hill, a retreat in the pinelands of Liberty County. Like the settlers of Walthourville before them, the people who came to Gravel Hill established a more permanent presence as time passed. For many summers, worship services were held in homes and then in a log structure which also housed a magistrate court. The first permanent church was built in 1832 on land given by Simon Fraser and was used for twenty years. The church followed the organization of Midway and was seen as a branch, not a mission, of Midway. In 1850 the name of the retreat was changed to Flemington in honor of William Fleming. A new home for the old Gravel Hill church was constructed between 1851 and 1852, and one of the selectmen of the congregation, T. Q. Cassels, was the architect. Though an amateur, he was well read in classical civilization and its monuments. The impressive steeple, to this day the pride of the congregation, was built by member Irwin Rahn. By the end of the Civil War, those who had settled in Flemington found the ten-mile trip to Midway nearly impossible, sought and were granted independence. In the spring of 1866, they officially adopted Presbyterianism. Upholding Puritan values of good education, a school was established, known by the 1830s as the Tranquill Institute. Confederate, then Union soldiers, used the old school as a hospital in 1864, and three of the Union casualties are buried in the Flemington cemetery. By the Victorian era, the Flemington Musical Society’s influence on popular entertainment in the area illustrates the shift away from Puritan roots toward a more secular society.

National Register of Historic Places

Leave a comment

Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Flemington GA

Liberty County Courthouse, 1926, Hinesville

Designed by architect J. J. Baldwin, Liberty County’s courthouse was expanded in 1964 and has been replaced by a modern facility as of 2014. The old courthouse still houses government offices.

National Register of Historic Places

Leave a comment

Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Hinesville GA

Liberty County Jail, 1892, Hinesville

This was used as the jail until 1969. When groundbreaking for the new jail was done in 1970, Governor Lester Maddox condemned this structure as “a rotten, filthy rathole”. Harsh words, but they came at a time when jails of this era were being demolished and replaced all over Georgia. It also contained the residence of the jailer, who was often the county sheriff. The architect is unknown, but the builder was a Mr. Parkhill. Today, the jail is a free museum owned by the City of Hinesville. It’s open from 10-12 on Tuesdays and Fridays.

National Register of Historic Places


Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Hinesville GA

Savannah-Ogeechee Canal, 1830

The sign pictured above, in the parking area, illustrates the method of towing a barge in the canal.

The Savannah-Ogeechee Canal is a national landmark of early engineering located on the edge of Savannah. The 16.5-mile canal, conceived by turnpike owner Ebenezer Jenckes, was constructed by slave laborers and Irish immigrants between 1826-1830 to expedite transportation of cotton, lumber, and other valuable market products from the Ogeechee River to port at Savannah. It also served as a means of moving consumer items from Savannah to the state’s interior. DeWitt Clinton, Jr., son of the New York governor associated with the Erie Canal, was the first chief engineer. In 1827, he abruptly left the project, likely due to investors’ refusal to incorporate a feeder canal. His assistant, Edward Hall Gill, briefly assumed engineering duties, but was replaced in 1828 by Loring Olmstead Reynolds.

The Savannah-Ogeechee Canal (originally known as the Savannah-Ogeechee-Altamaha Canal) was the first and most ambitious of three built in Georgia during the Canal Era and is the only one retaining significant structural components today. Plans to connect it to the Altamaha and eventually the Flint and Chattahoochee were never realized.It was beset with problems from the beginning and at least three local newspapers dubbed it “the Folly”. In 1826, Peter McIntyre, a local subcontractor, paid the passage for one hundred Irish laborers to work on the project. They worked for about a month but by December began to riot. McIntyre and another subcontractor, Eze Baldwin, absconded with their payroll, leaving the workers “in deep distress” and a “state approaching starvation.” They were aided by members of the local Hibernian Society before returning to Ireland or dispersing elsewhere. Such unexpected labor disputes lead to cost overruns and heavy debt. Nonetheles, work on the canal was completed by December 1830.

By 1836, the canal was bankrupt, and sold at a sherrif’s sale. Investor iterest in canals had been replaced by the promise of railroads. The new owners set out to improve it, replacing wooden locks with more substantial brick locks, and the canal began to turn a profit, albeit not the margin expected. Portions of all the locks survive, some nearly in their entirety. Five of the locks also featured a keeper’s house.

In the days leading up to the capture of Savannah in 1864, Union and Confederate troops were encamped near the canal and were involved in several skirmishes. Damage was done to the canal but by 1866, it was operational once again. In 1876, Captain Charles Sheftall lead weekly excursions along the canal that included music, dancing, dining, and other reccreational activities. Heavy rains in June 1876 did serious damage to the canal. A yellow fever epidemic that followed claimed over a thousand lives and officials blamed the canal’s stagnant waters, overflowing banks, and inadequate drainage.

After years of losing business to the railroads, the canal was purchased by the Central of Georgia in 1888 and officially ceased operation.

The walking trail begins at Lock No. 5 (Young’s Lock).

Much of the 1.6-mile trail follows the historic towpath.

A heavy stone bearing associated hardware bears the date of 1830, the year the canal was officially opened.

Lock No. 6 is located at the point where the canal meets the Ogeechee River.

Details of the architecture are visible from the south side.

The bricks were made on site.

This important resource is an amazing survivor and its accessibility as a public recreation area is the result of the work of the Savannah-Ogeechee Canal Society, who oversee the property and offer interpretive background.

The boardwalk follows the shoreline of the Ogeechee and offers great views of this historic river.


National Register of Historic Places