Tag Archives: Savannah GA

Carey Hilliard’s, Savannah

If you know anything about Savannah, you’re likely familiar with this sign and the iconic local food chain it represents. The story goes that Carey Hilliard hitchhiked from Jesup to Savannah in the 1950s and failed at his first attempt in the restaurant business. He persevered and made another go at in 1960 and the rest is history. Five locations would follow the original on Skidaway Road and the chain even expanded to Charleston in 1979. Carey and his wife Kathleen died in a plane crash in 1982 but the fare they made famous remains a popular local favorite.

This photo was made at the Waters Avenue location.

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Savannah Powder Magazine, 1898

Designed at the behest of Mayor P. W. Meldrim by Eichberg & Witcover, the architects also responsible for Savannah City Hall, the municipal powder magazine was built by John R. Eason. On average, it provided safe storage for 96,000 pounds of black powder and 8,500 pounds of dynamite. The 15-acre property originally contained a keeper’s cottage, as well.

Abandoned since 1963, it’s the last surviving municipal powder magazine in Georgia. Because of its fortress-like construction, including 3-foot-thick walls, it’s considered the sturdiest structure in Chatham County. This has insured its survival over the years, but today its future is uncertain.

Though concealed in overgrown woods, it is located in a busy and rapidly growing area of the city.

Homeless people have been known to use the facility for shelter and there always seems to be some amount of debris inside.

A Powder Magazine Park Commission was created by Tommy Holland to explore viable alternatives for the preservation of the property, and after years of neglect, it appears serious work is being done to move forward. Mr. Holland notes that the Savannah Powder Magazine Facebook page is the best source for updates on the project.

 

 

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Laurel Grove Cemetery, 1853, Savannah

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, in recent years have vastly improved its apppearnce.

*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 Savanniahans 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 (8 May 1807-5 August 1888)

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 philantrhopic efforts, especially those involving children. Over the years she served on the board of the Savannah Free School and as the director 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.

George W. Martus (31 May 1861-24 June 1940) and Florence M Martus (7 August 1868-8 February 1943)

Florence and brother George Martus were the lighthouse keepers on Elba Island in the Savannah River for 35 years. Florence will forever remembered by Savanniahans 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)

Henry C. Heuisler (10 November 1849-24 July 1901)

This monument depicting a weeping widow was placed by Emma Getz Heuisler (1857-1938) after the loss of her husband.

Elizabeth “Bessie” Brown Fetzer (1868-1896) and Laura Fetzer (1878-1904)

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.

 

Lena Ehrlich (15 May 1820-13 August 1884)

Henry Rothschild

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.

Dr. Samuel A. T. Lawrence (?-11 October 1860) and family.

Gilmer-Minis Family Pavilion

Louisa Frederica Alexander Gilmer  (9 June 1824-19 November 1895)

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.

Margaret Marshall (1841 or 1842-26 May 1866)

Elizabeth Wyman Westberry (13 November 1916-11 January 1918)

Reverend Willard Preston (29 May 1785-26 April 1856)

Enduring examples of all manner of Victorian funerary art are found throughout Laurel Grove.

Selected Mausolea of Laurel Grove

William Clark (1791 or 1792-30 October 1872)

Captain Joseph Samuel Claghorn (22 January 1817-8 April 1879) and family.

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).

William Wright (10 March 1817-4 December 1860)

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.

William Seabrook Lawton (1824-1893) and family.

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.

Richard Farr Williams (1785-1838) and family.

John Henry Haupt (23 August 1780-?) and family

Isaac William Morrell (1794-23 January 1865) and family.

George Anderson (1767-1847) and family.

Dr. William Richard Waring (23 February 1827-26 November 1889) and family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Laurel Grove South Cemetery, 1853, Savannah

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.

Reverend Andrew Bryan (c. 1737-6 October 1812) and Deacon Sampson Bryan (c. 1746-23 January 1799)

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.

Reverend Henry Cunningham (1759-29 March 1842), Betsey Cunningham (1740-14 July 1838) and Reverend Andrew Cox Marshall (1755-7 December 1856)

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.

Captain E. Seabrook (6 November 1868-14 January 1920), obelisk; and Reverend J. F. Quarterman (7 November 1852-5 November 1916)

Thomas James Davis, MD. (1866-1903). Davis was a native of Jamaica and a Mason.

The All-Seeing Eye of God, also known as the Eye of Providence, present on the side of his headstone indicates a Masonic connection.

John H. Davis (8 March 1875-12 June 1916); Clara L. Davis (27 September 1867-27 August 1914) 

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.

Westley Wallace “W.W” Law (1 January 1923-29 July 2002)

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christ Church, 1838, Savannah

Christ Church is known as the “Mother Church of Georgia”, as it was the first church established with the founding of the colony in 1733. John Wesley was the rector from 1736-1737; during that time he published one of the first English hymnals in the colonies and established the first Sunday school. George Whitefield, the next rector, was reponsible for establishing the Bethesda Orphan House & Academy, now known as Bethesda Academy, the oldest home and school for boys in the United States.

The present structure is the third building to occupy the site and was built by James Hamilton Couper in 1838. A bell cast by Revere and Son of Boston in 1819 is still in use in the church today. Famous members include Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low and songrwiter Johnny Mercer.

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark

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The Pirate’s House, Savannah

The history of the so-called Pirate’s House is as colorful as the history of Savannah itself, and like many landmarks in the city, its origins and history are often the subject of debate. I’ll open the proverbial can of worms here and note that though it often appears on superlative lists as the “oldest building in Georgia”, this claim is spurious at best. The Herb House, built in 1734 in General Oglethorpe’s Trustee’s Garden, has been absorbed into the structure you see today. Because its historic integrity has been almost completely lost by centuries of remodeling and expansion, though, the ‘oldest in Georgia’ qualifier is dubious to many, particularly architectural historians. I concur completely. This is not an attack on the present institution housed here but rather an attempt to consolidate disparate histories. Scores of websites, especially ‘ghost’-related sites, are driven by myth and therefore confusing to say the least.

The Pirate’s House Restaurant has been a leading tourist attraction in Savannah for decades, and though their website claims that it was built in 1753, the city’s own tourism website dates it to circa 1794. It’s clear that it had its origins as a tavern, frequented by sailors for its liberal atmosphere and proximity to the Savannah River. Tunnels were actually dug beneath the property in its early days with the purpose of smuggling rum and kidnapped sailors to the riverfront. The site gained literary immortality in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, as the scene of Captain Flint’s death. The character of Long John Silver noted that he was with Captain Flint when he died in Savannah. Of course this is a fiction, based loosely on stories a young Stevenson heard as a guest here in the early 19th century. The stories are harmless as long as they’re not posited as fact. And they are, often.

The house was purchased by the Savannah Gas Company in 1948 and subsequently restored and expanded to accommodate its present-day purpose.

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark

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Humphrey B. Gwathney House, 1823, Savannah

Built between 1822-23 and remodeled in 1883, the Gwathney House is the residential gem of Broughton Street, known as Savannah’s “main street”. It was restored by the Beehive Foundation in 1994-95. The nonprofit Beehive Foundation is one of Savannah’s greatest assets, publishing fine books about the history and culture of Georgia and the South. Founded by Mills Bee Lane IV as the Beehive Press in 1970, Beehive has been at the forefront of historic preservation for nearly five decades. Lane’s monumental 11-volume series, The Architecture of the Old South, has done more to bring attention to Southern architecture than any other source. And Lane wasn’t just a cultural observer, he was actively involved in saving and preserving landmarks throughout his life.

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark

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