Tag Archives: Plantations of Coastal Georgia

Hall’s Knoll, Liberty County

Dr. Lyman Hall was one of three signers of the Declaration of Independence from Georgia. He was also a delegate to the Continental Congress and governor of Georgia.

Born on 12 April 1724 in Wallingford, Connecticut, Hall graduated from Yale University in 1747 and was soon ordained a Congregational minister. In 1753 he began practicing medicine and in 1757 moved to the Puritan Colony at Dorchester, South Carolina. He was among the members of the colony who migrated to St. John’s Parish, Georgia, and the newly established Midway Colony, and was granted land here in 1760. The Midway colonists became such stalwarts for liberty that St. John’s Parish was renamed Liberty County in their honor. In this spirit, the colonists chose Dr. Hall to represent their concerns in the Continental Congress in 1775, before Georgia had even joined the federation. As an official representative a year later, Dr. Hall signed the Declaration of Independence, along with Button Gwinnett and George Walton. After the Revolution, he served as governor and helped establish the University of Georgia. In 1785 he sold Hall’s Knoll and in 1790 moved to Shell Bluff Plantation in Burke County, where he died on 19 October of the same year. He was buried on a bluff overlooking the Savannah River but his remains were re-interred in Augusta, with those of George Walton, beneath the Signers Monument.

 

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Thomas Landing, McIntosh County

Thomas Landing, on the South Newport River, has been occupied since the early days of Colonial Georgia and its history is indelibly linked to the hundreds of African-Americans who resided here. They first landed here against their will but after Emancipation chose to remain, only to have their land taken from them by the United States government in the 1930s.

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge

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Lorillard Fountain & Pool, Harris Neck

Fountain at Lorillard Estate

The following history of the site is taken from the interpretive panel at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge: Various plantations occupied this site from the 1740s through the 1870s. One of the earliest Harris Neck landowners was a man named Dickinson, and his property was known as Dickinson’s Neck. John Rutledge owned fifty acres on neighboring Bethany Plantation. He sold the tract to Ann Harris, who married Daniel Demetre in 1752. Her son, William Thomas Harris (Demetre’s stepson), acquired 350 acres on Dickinson’s Neck in 1758, and in 1759 he inherited an additional 750 acres on the “Neck” from his stepfather. Demetre’s will identified Williams’s residence as Bethany. This reference is the first documentation of a white landowner’s dwelling on the “Neck”.

Ruins of wading pool at Lorillard Estate

Early in the 1830s, another family gained prominence on Harris Neck. Jonathan Thomas acquired most of the Demetre-Harris holdings. Thomas’s 3000-acre Peru Plantation covered the eastern half of the present Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge. The plantation produced sizeable cotton crops.

Ruins of wading pool at Lorillard Estate

The Civil War ended the plantation era on Harris Neck. The Thomas family subdivided Peru Plantation. Many small tracts were sold to former slaves or their descendants. From the 1870s through the 1930s, a community of primarily African-American developed on and near the current refuge land. By the 1940s, 171 tracts existed in the area now managed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Details of a painting of the Lorillard Lodge: Courtesy Leftwich D. Kimbrough

 

During the 1880s, several large tracts bordering the South Newport River (the site of one Peru Plantation home) were acquired by Pierre Lorillard, the tobacco magnate, Eleanor Van Brunt Clapp, and Lily Livingston. Lorillard’s estate featured a lavish lodge, an indoor swimming pool filled from an artesian well, and formal gardens with reflecting pools and fountains.

Fountain at Lorillard Estate

The lodge was used during World War II as the officers’ club for Harris Neck Army Airfield. The deteriorated building was sold at auction, when Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1962.

Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge

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Manager’s House, 1935, Chocolate Plantation

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.

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Filed under --MCINTOSH COUNTY GA--, Sapelo Island GA

Club House, Circa 1886, Ossabaw Island

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

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Filed under --CHATHAM COUNTY GA--, Ossabaw Island GA

Tabby Smoke House, Circa 1820, Ossabaw Island

Besides the tabby slave cabins, this is the only surviving structure from North End Plantation. It has been expanded with brick veneer.

These days, it’s popular with the Sicilian Donkeys.

National Register of Historic Places

 

 

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Filed under --CHATHAM COUNTY GA--, Ossabaw Island GA

Tabby Slave Dwellings, 1820s-1840s, Ossabaw Island

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

 

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Oyster Roast, Altama Plantation

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.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under --GLYNN COUNTY GA--

Hamilton Plantation Slave Dwelling, Circa 1806, St. Simons Island

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

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Glen Echo, Circa 1773, Bryan County

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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 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.

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

 

 

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Filed under --BRYAN COUNTY GA--