This well-maintained cottage was built around the time R. J. Reynolds, Jr., acquired the island. The area around the Chocolate Plantation ruins was still being farmed at the time.
It’s presently owned by the Department of Natural Resources.
The Club House was constructed during Philadelphia department store magnate John Wanamaker’s ownership of Ossabaw Island. Some sources state it was originally built for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876 and moved to Ossabaw and reconstructed; other accounts suggest that it was simply a kit house, without the Philadelphia history. Either way, it’s the place where most visitors stay on the island today.
National Register of Historic Places
Modified for residential use in the 20th century and restored in the late 2000s, the three extant tabbies on Ossabaw Island represent the most significant surviving cluster of slave dwellings on the Georgia coast. They were part of the Morel family’s North End Plantation, which was among the most successful such operations in early Georgia. Though exact construction dates for the tabby row can’t be determined, extensive archaeological research has determined they were built between circa 1820-1840s. Various Ossabaw employees lived in these structures into the early 1990s and they were modified to accommodate modern needs. Nearly all traces of those modifications have been removed and restoration work has been done.
Tabby Slave Cabin No. 1 -Like the other two cabins, this was originally a saddlebag though the central chimney has been removed.
Tabby Slave Cabin No. 2 – This cabin retains its central chimney.
Tabby Slave Cabin No. 3- This cabin has been stabilized and will eventually be restored. Past modifications are still visible.
National Register of Historic Places
When the weather on the coast turns cooler an invitation to an oyster roast is the one most coveted by locals. Whether an impromptu affair in one’s backyard or an orchestrated event benefiting a special cause, these gatherings are central to the folklife of the coast and it’s not a recent phenomenon. The Guale people perfected the art of roasting oysters long before Europeans ever arrived.
Oyster etiquette, if such a thing exists, requires no more than an open fire, a sheet of metal (often the inverted hood of an old junk car or truck), and enough wet burlap to cover your bivalves. Beer and other adult beverages also figure mightily into the ritual.
Folks who live along the Gulf of Mexico will argue for their oysters’ superiority but they only have size on their side. It’s true that ours live in complex razor-sharp beds known as clusters and as a result don’t get as large as Gulf oysters, but what we sacrifice in size we more than make up in taste. Georgia’s oysters are more flavorful, hands down, with a sweet saltiness not found in their Gulf counterparts.
The tender at this particular roast (known as Clam Jam) benefiting Altamaha Riverkeeper at Altama Plantation was busy all evening taking shovelfuls of freshly steamed oysters from fire to table in short order.
Newcomers to oyster roasts are often put off by the shucking but there are always folks around who will help the uninitiated. Most locals have their own gloves and oyster knives. Tables with long legs that position the oysters in easy reach of the diner are essential at a large gathering like this one.
Thanks to Jen Hilburn for inviting me to Clam Jam 2017. Mike McCall and I had fun showing guests around the Altama property while waiting for supper.
Built for servants working in the main house of James Hamilton’s Gascoigne Bluff plantation, this slave cabin is one of four surviving on St. Simons. Two more survive on the lands of the former Hamilton Plantation. As evidenced by this authentic restoration, house slaves were generally kept in nicer dwellings than field hands and other laborers. Popularly known as The Tabby House, it was restored by Eugene Lewis in 1931 and again in 1995 by master tabby craftsmen J. Felton Tate, Sr., Renaldo Tate, Sr., and Renaldo Tate, Jr.. After the plantation house burned in the 1890s, a lumber mill was located on the property for many years. The cabin served as a doctor’s office during that era. Today, it is part of the Epworth By The Sea campus of the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church and is used as an event space.
National Register of Historic Places
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.
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 HOUSE IS LOCATED ON PRIVATE PROPERTY & TRESPASSING IS FORBIDDEN.
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.
National Register of Historic Places
Set aside from the old Springfield Plantation lands of the Stiles family in 1850 to meet Savannah’s burgeoning need for new burial grounds, Laurel Grove* was officially dedicated by Henry Rootes Jackson at a ceremony in 1852 and opened for burials in 1853. The cemetery was so popular that it was deemed “full” by the early years of the 20th century and closed to new burials. As a result, it contains one of the largest concentrations of Victorian-era funerary sculpture and ornamentation in the state. It fell into a terrible state of disrepair for decades but preservation efforts, sometimes contentious, have vastly improved its appearance in recent years.
*To distinguish the white and black sections, divided by the I-16 connector, the terms North and South are used today. The white section is referred to as Laurel Grove North Cemetery.
Many famous Savannahians rest here, including: Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girls Scouts; James Lord Pierpont, author of Jingle Bells; and famed Jewish Confederate nurse Phoebe Pember. Also present are an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court (James Moore Wayne), cabinet members, United States Senators and Representatives, at least two dozen Savannah mayors, eight Confederate generals, a Union General, namesakes of numerous Georgia counties and towns, and a Bishhop of the Episcopal Church (Stephen Elliott) who was also the only Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America. Most of these are not included in the post at the present time but will be added soon.
Perhaps the most-visited memorial in Laurel Grove is not of any celebrity but rather this Cararra marble angel marking the final resting place of Louisa Porter. This work by Italian sculptor A. Caniparoli has drawn admirers since it was installed and continues to wow to this day.
Louisa Porter’s father, Dr. Adam Alexander emigrated from Inverness, Scotland, to the United States in 1776. He served the Colonial Army as a surgeon during the Revolutionary War. Her mother, Louisa Frederika Schmidt, was German. Louisa was born in Liberty County in 1807, following an older brother, Adam. In 1824, she married Anthony Porter, president of the Bank of Georgia. Though she had no children, Louisa was quite dedicated to philanthropic efforts, especially those involving children. Over the years she served on the board of the Savannah Free School and as director of the Savannah Female Society. Her greatest contribution, perhaps, was her role in the creation of the Industrial Relief Society and Home for the Friendless. Upon her death, much of her wealth went to the society and its name was changed to the Louisa Porter Home for Girls.
Florence and brother George Martus were the lighthouse keepers on Elba Island in the Savannah River for 35 years. Florence will forever remembered by Savannahians as “The Waving Girl” and has been memorialized by a popular statue on the downtown riverfront. A Georgia Historical Commission marker (at another location) reads: For 44 years, Florence Martus lived on…Elba Island with her brother, the lighthouse keeper, and no ship arrived for Savannah or departed from 1887 to 1931 without her waving a handkerchief by day or a lantern by night. Throughout the years, the vessels in return watched for and saluted this quiet little woman. Few people ever met her yet she became the source of romantic legends when the story of her faithful greetings was told in ports all over the world. After her retirement, the Propeller Club of Savannah, in honor of her seventieth birthday, sponsored a celebration on Cockspur Island. A Liberty ship, built in Savannah in 1943, was named for her.
Othelia Strasser Forrest (15 November 1875-11 December 1905)
This monument depicting a weeping widow was placed by Emma Getz Heuisler (1857-1938) after the loss of her husband.
Robert Clifford Fetzer (?-20 February 1920) placed this memorial to honor both of his wives.
The Jewish section is quite large, reflecting a prosperous community with roots reaching back as far as the founding of Georgia. The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life notes: By the time of Oglethorpe’s landing, the Jews were already on the way. Apparently, the Jewish community of London seemed just as eager to dispose themselves of their own dependent citizenry, and in 1732 a committee of prominent Jewish Londoners organized a ship to transport their financially strapped brethren across the Atlantic, out of sight and off the community dole.
The William and Sarah, chock full of 42 Hebrews, left London the following January, a month before Oglethorpe had even set foot in the New World. After a perilous journey, the ship finally reached Savannah on July 11, 1733. Upon their disembarking, Savannah instantly became the site of the largest Jewish settlement in the New World. Although the colony’s trustees were unhappy with the appearance of Jews in Savannah, James Oglethorpe welcomed them with equanimity and optimism. He defended his decision by pointing out that the Georgia charter only excluded Catholics and slaves, and made no reference to Jewish settlers.
The passengers aboard the William and Sarah were largely of Sephardic descent, with a smaller population of German Jews. The eight German Jews consisted of Benjamin and Perla Sheftall, a man named Jacob Yowel, and the brothers Abraham and Simon Minis and their families. The Sephardic immigrants included Dr. Samuel Nunes Ribiero, a prominent physician who arrived with his family. Dr. Ribiero was not fleeing poverty, but persecution. When the Portuguese Inquisition returned with a vengeance in 1720, Dr. Ribiero and others who secretly preserved their Jewish identity fled the country in large numbers. Dr. Ribiero and his family left for London, and from there secured passage to Savannah.
Ornamental ironwork abounds in Laurel Grove. Oaks and acorns are among the most common themes.
This section of Laurel Grove contains the remains of over one hundred men who died in battle at Gettysburg in 1863. Their bodies were brought to Savannah after a ladies’ memorial society raised money for proper burials.
The dead are watched over by “Silence”, a statue originally placed in a gazebo beside the Confederate monument in Forsyth Park, but removed to Laurel Grove to placate ladies who felt she looked as if she were in a cage.
The old Confederate Veterans Association of Savannah likely placed this memorial around the turn of the last century. A carronade cannon said to have seen service during the 1864 Siege of Savannah rested here for many years. The cannon was removed to Fort Jackson by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1990.
Louisa Gilmer was the wife of Confederate Major General Jeremy Francis Gilmer (1818-1883), Chief of the Confederate Corps of Engineers, and was the sister of Confederate Brigadier General Edward Porter Alexander.
Enduring examples of all manner of Victorian funerary art are found throughout Laurel Grove.
Selected Mausolea of Laurel Grove
Captain Claghorn was born in Norwich, Connecticut, and came with his family to Savannah in 1827. In 1846 he married Sarah Campbell Hunter. Claghorn was elected Captain of the Chatham Artillery in 1856, a post he held until 1862.
Francis Sorrel (4 May 1793-5 May 1870) and family, including Confederate Brigadier General Gilbert Moxley Sorrel (23 February 1838-10 August 1901).
Thanks to Bill Harrison, 3rd great nephew of William Wright for the information. He notes that originally the crypt had a glass door through which my mother viewed his body many time, especially the large gold watch & chain across his midsection; however, grave robbers broke the glass door and looted the graves. The wooden door was the replacement.
Lawton was the brother of Confederate Brigadier General Alexander Robert Lawton, and Captain Edward Payson Lawton, who died from wounds received at the Battle of Fredericksburg.
The tall Gothic spires on the Lawton mausoleum are being restored.
Laurel Grove South Cemetery is the final resting place of numerous African-American pioneers associated with the history of Savannah. It was created on the site of the former Springfield Plantation to address the fact that by the early 1850s, nearly all of the city’s burying grounds were nearing capacity. Originally just four acres, the cemetery now sprawls over ninety and is still in use.
Among the most prominent memorials are those to the early leaders of African-American churches in Savannah.
Andrew Bryan, his wife Hannah, Kate Hogg, and Hagar Simpson, were among the first converts of George Liele, a slave who had converted to Christianity in the church of his master, Henry Sharp. Liele organized the First Colored Baptist Church of Savannah (later First African Baptist) in December 1777, was the first African-American to be ordained and the first Baptist missionary of any race to go to a foreign country. In 1782 he fled with his Loyalist master to Jamaica; Andrew Bryan assumed leadership of his growing First Colored Baptist congregation. Bryan and his brother Sampson were beaten and imprisoned for their preaching, but the intervention of their owner allowed them a degree of religious freedom. Bryan was ordained a Baptist minister in 1788. Soon thereafter, he purchased his and his family members’ freedom. Ironically, he grew relatively wealthy from a hauling business made successful by his ownership of slaves during the 1790s. He preached until his death in 1812 and is consider the father of the First Bryan Baptist Church by that congregation. The early overlapping histories of these congregations is somewhat conflicting.
There is some debate as to whether their remains were actually moved from the Old Negro Burial Ground near Whitefield Square and reinterred here, but their graves serve as a memorial to their integral part in the rich history of Savannah’s African-American community.
Henry Cunningham was a free man of color, slaveowner and a prominent entrepreneur in early Savannah. He was a founder and the first pastor of the Second African Baptist Church.
Samuel Carey (November 1814-25 December 1842); Samuel L. Carey, Jr. (February 1841-2 March 1861); John Henry Carey (January 1842-2 July 1843); Clemon Sabatty, Sr. (1784-6 October 1856); Infant son of Samuel (Jr.) & Lucy Carey (20 July-25 July 1861). [H. E. Carey is noted as the wife of Samuel Carey, but is not interred here; Lucy Carey is noted as the wife of Samuel, Jr., but is also not interred here].
Robert Verdier (4 January 1812-25 March 1864); Ceasar Verdier (1820-3 March 1864)- Ceasar was a deacon of the First African Baptist Church.; Elizabeth Verdier (12 May 1810-15 June 1866); William Verdier (30 October 1831-14 June 1855)
[Various spellings can of the surname, including Verdire, and Verdere, are present on the memorials, but Verdier seems to be the correct spelling, via genealogical records].
Andrew Martelle Monroe (Barely discernible dates on the slab inside the tomb appear to be 1906 and 1907, indicating this was possibly built to memorialize a very young child; another headstone is visible inside the tomb but I was unable to read it).
Reverend William J. Campbell (1 January 1814, though records state 1812-11 October 1880). Maxwell was born a slave in Savannah, baptised by Reverend Andrew C. Marshall in 1830, and was freed by his mistress, Mrs. Mary Maxwell, in 1849. He was licensced to preach in 1855 and served as an assitant to Reverend Marshall until the former’s death in 1857. Subsequently, Campbell became the fourth pastor of the First African Baptist Church. Reverend Marshall was quite progressive, replacing the wooden church building with the brick one which stand to this day. He was also on of 20 black clergymen invited to meet with General William T. Sherman on 12 January 1865.The meeting was an effort on Sherman’s part to address the needs and concerns of African-Americans after the end of the war. As a result of the meeting, Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15, which came to be known as “40 Acres and a Mule”.
Samuel Gordon Morse (25 July 1832-24 November 1875); Patience Mary Morse (1830-30 November 1903); Samuel Benjamin Morse (6 December 1852-30 May 1909). The Morses came to Savannah from McIntosh County during the Civil War after liberation by Union soldiers. Samuel Gordon Morse served as First Sergeant in the 1st South Carolina Infantry, United States Colored Troops.
The All-Seeing Eye of God, also known as the Eye of Providence, present on the side of his headstone indicates a Masonic connection.
The Davis memorial is one of the most accomplished in Laurel Grove South and includes the statue and winged death heads, enclosed in formal coping.
W. W. Law was a giant of the Civil Rights Movement in Savannah, known locally as “Mr. Civil Rights”. The history that follows was written by Charles J. Elmore for the New Georgia Encyclopedia.
Westley Wallace Law was the only son and the oldest of the three children born to Geneva Wallace and Westley Law. He came from a poor family and began working at the age of ten to help his mother after his father died. He never married. Later on he credited his success in life to his mother and to Lillie Belle Wallace, his grandmother, who instilled in him a love for reading and social justice. He was also inspired by his mentor, Ralph Mark Gilbert, pastor of the First African Baptist Church, who revived the local branch of the Savannah NAACP; and he admired John S. Delaware, his boyhood scoutmaster, who was a Savannah NAACP official. In high school, as a member of the NAACP Youth Council, Law protested segregation at Savannah’s Grayson Stadium and worked for the hiring of a black disc jockey at a white-owned local radio station. Later in college he served as president of the NAACP Youth Council. Law often stated that he would not have received a college degree if Georgia State College (now Savannah State University), where he enrolled in 1942, were not in Savannah.His mother did washing and ironing for white families for very low wages, and there was no money to send Law to college. He worked at the white YMCA in Savannah to finance his education. After completing his freshman year Law was drafted into the army to serve in World War II (1941-45). Upon his discharge the GI Bill paid for the rest of his education at Georgia State College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology.
For many years Law served as the scoutmaster of Troop 49, First Bryan Baptist Church, where he also taught Sunday school. He worked for the U.S. Postal Service as a mail carrier for more than forty years before retiring in the 1990s. In 1950 Law became president of the Savannah NAACP. In 1962, with the Reverend L. Scott Stell, chair of the NAACP Education Committee, and others, he brought a lawsuit against the segregation of Savannah–Chatham County public schools before the U.S. District Court. U.S. district judge Frank Scarlett held the petition so long that the student plaintiffs graduated from high school. The NAACP then had to refile the case, citing a new group of black children. Law and the NAACP refiled, and in 1964 the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered public schools in Savannah to be desegregated.
In the 1960s Law began to lead weekly mass meetings at two Savannah churches, Bolton Street Baptist and St. Philip A.M.E., where he advocated passive resistance to segregation. On March 16, 1960, Carolyn Quilloin, a NAACP Youth Council member, was arrested for asking to be served at the Azalea Room lunch counter at Levy’s department store in downtown Savannah. This protest led to others. Law led wade-ins at Tybee Beach and sit-ins at Kress and Woolworth’s lunch counters with NAACP youth workers. He also led an eighteen-month boycott of Broughton Street merchants that forced Savannah’s white leaders to compromise on civil rights.
Law believed that nonviolent means were the best way to open the city for blacks. He strongly opposed night marches favored by Hosea Williams and his Chatham County Crusade for Voters, believing the night marches allowed people with violent agendas to take to the city’s streets. The Crusade for Voters, headed by Williams, was a separate civil rights organization that was allied with the NAACP. This difference in strategic approach caused a rift between Law’s NAACP and Williams’s Chatham County Crusade for Voters. The rift between Law and Williams prompted Williams and others to leave the NAACP and join forces with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
In 1960 Malcolm Maclean became Savannah’s mayor. Maclean worked with Law and Eugene Gadsden, then the NAACP’s legal counsel, and credited them for keeping violence out of Savannah’s civil rights struggle. Under Maclean, public libraries and store lunch counters were integrated. Signs designating racially separate facilities at city– and county-owned buildings came down. These triumphs came at considerable personal cost for Law, who was fired from his job at the U.S. Post Office in 1961 because of his civil rights activities. National NAACP leaders and President John F. Kennedy came to his defense, however, and a three-member appeals board reinstated him.
Law retired as Savannah NAACP president in 1976, after serving for twenty-six years. He then turned his attention to the preservation of African American history and historic buildings. He established the Savannah-Yamacraw Branch of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH). Law founded the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum in honor of his boyhood mentor and pastor, Ralph Mark Gilbert, who revived the Savannah chapter of the NAACP and is considered to be the father of the civil rights movement in that city. As president of ASALH, he established the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, Negro Heritage Trail Tour, King-Tisdell Cottage Museum, and the Beach Institute of African American Culture.
Law received honorary doctorates from Savannah College of Art and Design (1997) and Savannah State University (2000), the Distinguished Georgian Award (1998) from the Center for the Study of Georgia History at Augusta State University, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Preservation Award (2001), and the Governor’s Award in the Humanities (1992).
Law died on 28 July 2002, at his Savannah home.
National Register of Historic Places
Lieutenant James Nephew received the property along Cathead Creek that came to be known as Ceylon Plantation as payment for service rendered to Colonel John Baker’s Regiment of the Liberty County Militia during the Revolution. Nephew and his wife, Mary Magdalen Gignilliat (pronounced Gin-lat), owned plantations in Georgia and South Carolina. Ceylon became quite successful from the labor of around 120 slaves by 1859. Nothing remains of the plantation, except for a few rice canals on Cathead Creek and this cemetery, where Ceylon’s slaves and their descendants rest in eternity.
Few places illustrate the dark shadow of slavery more than slave cemeteries. Many have been permanently lost and the few which do survive are often in poor condition.
Ceylon Cemetery is no exception in its lack of known burials and marked graves. Walking these historic grounds, one struggles to locate any old headstones. It’s thought that most burials were commemorated with wooden markers and shells, hence their absence today.
The cemetery is slightly more than an acre in size, and though the exact number can’t be known, surveys have indicated that about 76 souls are interred here.
Bailey, Blige, Butler, Carter, Cooper, Gibbs, Harris, Mansson, Mungin, Sheffield, Wilson, and Young, are among the family names represented here.
As the headstone of Corporal Andrew Bailey indicates, at least some of the former slaves of Ceylon served in the Union effort in the war. Bailey joined Company E, 33rd Regiment, United States Colored Troops, at Beaufort, South Carolina, on 12 January 1863. Though rosters list his age at 21 years old at the time, the birthdate on his headstone suggests he was actually 17; his corporal commission came in October 1865, after the war ended. He died on 17 November 1885.
Joseph Gibbs (5 June 1864-14 December 1918) is one of just a few visible older headstones.
Recent burials here, though infrequent, illustrate an ongoing connection between Ceylon’s slaves and their descendants.