Tag Archives: Slavery in Georgia

Ceylon Cemetery, Circa 1820, Darien

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.



Filed under -MCINTOSH COUNTY, Darien GA

Butler Island Plantation, McIntosh County

Heading south out of Darien on US 17, you’ll begin to notice what appear to be large ditches to your left, especially in the winter months. These are the historic canals and dikes engineered for the cultivation of rice on the plantation of Major Pierce Butler and though the industry died with the end of the Civil War, its physical evidence remains.

The Butler family of South Carolina and Philadelphia owned extensive cotton and rice plantations on the Georgia coast. Pierce Butler (1744-1822) was the son of a minor Irish aristocrat and after service as a major in His Majesty’s Twenty-ninth Regiment came to the colonies in 1767 and married Mary Middleton, the daughter of a prominent South Carolina planter. He sided with the colonies during the Revolution and sold his army commission to purchase Hampton Point Plantation on St. Simons Island. In 1787 he was app0inted a South Carolina delegate to the constitutional convention and was integral to securing the protection of slavery as an institution in our nation’s founding document. By 1793 he owned over 500 slaves, who made him a fortune in cotton and rice. He spent most of his time in Philadelphia. He owned this land from at least 1790 until his death in 1822, and after interim management by Roswell King (namesake of Roswell, Georgia), it passed to his grandson, Pierce Mease Butler, in 1838.

Pierce Mease Butler (1806-1867), born Butler Mease, changed his surname to honor his grandfather as the will required and around this time married the famed English actress Fanny Kemble. Kemble was opposed to slavery but upon being told that conditions were “good” at the plantation, coerced her husband into taking her to see it for herself, in 1838-1839. She immediately noted that the conditions were far from good and kept a journal of her time there. Two daughters and a contentious divorce would follow, with Pierce Mease Butler gaining custody of the children.

Years of poor money management and lavish spending left Pierce Mease Butler financially insolvent and his only option was selling off his slaves. At an old racetrack in Savannah between 2-3 March 1859, the largest sale of human beings in the history of the United States saw the liquidation of 429 slaves. Among slaves it came to be known as “The Weeping Time” for its displacement of families, many of whom never saw each other again. A few years later, at the height of the Civil War, Fanny Kemble published her controversial Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839, first in her native England where it was a huge bestseller and then in America, where it was widely popular in the North and nearly as popular, if reviled, in the South. Its firsthand accounts of the horrors of slavery are said to have influenced England to side against the confederacy.

After the war, the plantation failed without the benefit of free labor, and Pierce Mease Butler died of malaria in 1867. His daughter, Frances Kemble Butler Leigh, inherited the lands and tried to keep them profitable but gave up after ten years. She wrote of her experiences in Ten Years on a Georgia Plantation Since the War (1883). The property eventually passed to her nephew Owen Wister (famed author of The Virginian) who sold off the last of the property in 1923.

The area is now publicly accessible and is a popular spot for birding and hiking. Always bring insect repellent, though, even in winter.


Filed under -MCINTOSH COUNTY, Butler Island GA

Horton-duBignon House, Circa 1736, Jekyll Island

Dates on these ruins range from circa 1736 to 1742. Built by Major William Horton, General James Oglethorpe’s second-in-command, the structure employed the preferred building material of Coastal Georgia, tabby. While Oglethorpe was at Fort Frederica, Horton kept a small military outpost on Jekyll. The vast fields around the house were planted with rye, barley and hops for use in Horton’s brewery, and the area around the house was originally known as Rye Patch. Beer was the only alcoholic beverage allowed in the colony at the time and Horton’s brewery supplied the soldiers at Fort Frederica. In 1742, after the Battle of Bloody Marsh on nearby St. Simons, Spanish troops burned the house. Upon Oglethorpe’s return to England in 1743, Horton became commander of military forces in the colony. He died in Savannah in 1748.

Fleeing the French Revolution in 1791, Le Sieur Christophe Poulain de la Houssaye duBignon and family purchased Jekyll Island and restored this house, adding wooden wings. The duBignons raised Sea Island cotton and indigo, but the Civil War brought their economic model to an end. Union soldiers destroyed most of the house, as well.

Upon their purchase of the island in 1888, the Jekyll Island Club reinforced the ruins of the Horton-duBignon House and placed a wall around the old duBignon Cemetery. Taylor Davis notes that a 2004 stabilization has resulted in the “splotchy” appearance of the structure. Like many of Georgia’s tabby ruins, the Horton-duBignon House has had multiple identities over time. As late as the 1940s, tourist postcards were identifying it as the site of an “old Spanish mission”.  This was apparently a widely held belief about most such ruins on the coast until modern scholarship confirmed historic identities in the last half of the 20th century.

National Register of Historic Places



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Filed under -GLYNN COUNTY, Jekyll Island GA

Gould Cemetery, Harris Neck

Plantations growing Sea Island cotton on Harris Neck as early as 1787  (Julianton was the first) ensured the presence of a large population of enslaved Africans, who were also essential to rice, cattle, and timber production. By the early 19th century the Gould family was one of several who owned large tracts of land here. Contemporary maps show Gould’s Landing (today’s Barbour River Landing) and an adjacent Gould’s Cemetery. This was undoubtedly the one we see today, a slave burying ground, though no graves from that time were formally marked nor recorded, to my knowledge.

To me, this is one of the most magical places on the entire coast. It’s a place of quiet refuge and subtle beauty that speaks not only to the sad history of slavery but to the evolution of enslaved people in the years following emancipation. It’s somewhat protected by its location within the boundary of a National Wildlife Refuge but it definitely bears further research and listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Gould Cemetery is significant not only because so many formerly enslaved persons are buried here, but also for the the large number of headstones featuring a star motif. The star is a long-employed Christian icon, somewhat common among African-American burials in the years after slavery. It’s my belief that most of these were done by the same artisan, though the range of dates suggests that perhaps an apprentice to the original carver may have completed some of the later ones. I have no way to confirm it but feel certain the carver was a member of the community.

I’m presenting this as a photographic guide to these headstones (though not yet complete nor in any particular order) including names and dates with the hope that it will be helpful to genealogists and historians. Names are carved in simple block lettering. At first glance the phonetic spellings that characterize these markers can present a bit of a challenge, so I have shown the original spellings and placed what I believe to be the correct names in parentheses.

Unknown Burial (likely an infant child of Martha Thorpe)

Catharine Golds (Gould?)- Wos bon Oct. 17 1889. Died August 25 1927.

W. M. Thorpe- Sacred to the memory of W. M. Thorpe. Born Feb 6 1861. Died Jan 27 1936.

Reverend C. C. Dawley- Was born Feb 11 1855. Died Oct 1 1923.

Nethelea Hages (Hodges?)- Born Aug 8 1905. Died July 13 1923.

Nancy McAntosh (McIntosh)- Died Dec 7 1922. Ag (Age) 66

Mary Jane King- Was born Sept 1889. Died Augest (August) 2 1933. Sleep On.

Margret Procter (Proctor)- Born Feb 12 1862. Died Sept 26 1930. In memory of our loveing (loving) mother. Gone but not forgotten.

Rosa L. Simmons- Born Nov 31 1896. Died Dec 23 1923. Age 27.

Judge E. W. Lowe- Was born 1855. Died Nov 6 1927.

James King- Was bond October 15 1888 Died May 25 1922. Age 33. At Rest.

Eunice Stevens- Was born March 14 1906 Died Nov 6 1921. Asleep in Jesus Peaceful Sleep

Annie Bell Salins (Sallins)- Was born Oct 15 1818. Died March 13 1918.

Thomas Butterfieald (Butterfield)- Born 1879 Diede (Died) Dece 9 1918. Oct 16. This headstone is a bit puzzling at first, but I believe the October 16 is likely an indicator of the the birth date, discovered after the process of carving the headstone had begun.

Elliott Miflin (Mifflin)- Was born March 22 1886. Died May 28 1928.

Rosa Mifflin- Was Born May 23 1884 an Died Jan 6 1930

Elkeno Mifflin- Wos Born Aug 15 1880. Died June 20 1923

Daniel Mifflen (Mifflin)- Born March 16 1856. Died Nov 1 1942. This is one of the newest of the star headstones and the only one to feature a Masonic cypher.

James Miflin (Mifflin)- Born July 17 1901. Died Aug 1 1928. Ocean Breeze Chamber 4541-Townsend Ga. The Ocean Breeze Chamber in Townsend was likely one of the numerous fraternal lodges for African-Americans common on and near the Georgia coast in the last decades of the 19th and first decades of the 20th centuries. Other than churches, these were about the only places blacks could gather in the Jim Crow era and were centers of fellowship and community. They were also practical, as most provided members the opportunity to purchase burial insurance. Townsend is about 20 miles inland in McIntosh County.

Marian Dawley- Born 1823. Died April 27 (?) 1886.

Calvin Stevens- Born May 28th 1903?. Died Feb 25th 1921. At Rest.

Eleza Stevens- Born Oct 24 1875. Died Aug 11 1928. Ocean Breeze Chamber 4541-Townsend, Ga.

Henry Stevens- Farther (Father). Born Mar 10 1840?. Died Dec 1 1919. Asleep.

Morris Jenkins- Born Nov 28 1807. Died May 26 1900. At Rest.

Corporal Jack Thompson was an African-American with ties to the Gould plantation. He served with Company E, 33rd U. S. Colored Infantry. This regiment was organized 31 January 1863 or 8 February 1864, as 1st South Carolina Volunteers Colored Infantry attached to U. S. Forces, Port Royal Island, South Carolina, 10th Corps, Department of the South, to April 1864. They were mustered out on 31 January 1866. I’ve been unable to find any other information on Corporal Thompson.

Private Edward Stevens- June 5 1896-September 4 1947. 567th Service Battalion Quartermaster’s Corps, World War I

Private Jasper Hillery- d. 29 May 1940. Florida. Private Hillery served in the 151st Depot Brigade.

Jesus Statue near Dawley gravesite.

Reverend B. H. Renear- Died Lacey Ga. Mar 20 1904. Age 40 yrs. Lacey was the name of the post office at Gould’s Landing. It operated near the cemetery from 1896-1914, replacing the Bahama post office which operated from 1891-1895.

Palm trees and old-growth oaks characterize this space.

The Barbour River passes near the perimeter of the cemetery.



Filed under -MCINTOSH COUNTY, Harris Neck GA

Hopeton-Altama Plantation, Glynn County

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Main House Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Altama Plantation House

George III of England granted 2,000 acres along the south bank of the Altamaha River to William Hopeton in 1763 and Hopeton soon set about creating the rice plantation which bore his name. So began the long modern history of this property, first known as Hopeton and now more widely known as Altama. In 1805, the property was sold to two Scottish immigrants, John Couper and James Hamilton, who grew Sea Island cotton with hundreds of slave laborers.   Couper’s son, James Hamilton Couper, vastly improved the property after he acquired it in 1827. He built the original Altama plantation house in the Georgian style circa 1858 (its ruins may remain, per a Glynn County historic resources survey). After visiting Holland he introduced a system of dikes, canals and rails to move his rice and sugar efficiently to the river for transport into nearby Darien. Couper was perhaps Georgia’s greatest “Renaisance Man” and it’s unfortunate that he isn’t better known today outside a small group of historians. He led the survey party which mapped the Georgia-Florida border, built Christ Church in Savannah, and was the first to describe the Indigo Snake to science. He is honored eternally in its Latin name, Drymarchon couperi.

The Civil War was the death knell for Hopeton-Altama as a working plantation. In 1898 a small colony of Shakers attempted to tame the property, which was long neglected and dotted with ruins of its former glory. Their efforts to grow rice and raise cattle were unsuccessful and they abandoned the project in 1902. William Dupont bought the  adjacent Hopeton and Altama properties in 1914 and renamed the expanse Altama. Dupont wintered and trained racehorses here and built the main house (pictured in this post) based on the original plantation house. Cator Woolford bought the plantation in 1930 and built the swimming pool and “Play House”. In 1944, Alfred W. Jones scion of the Sea Island Company, acquired Altama, primarily for use as a hunting reserve. Cabins and structures supporting the sporting life were constructed in the ensuing years. With the Sea Island bankruptcy in 2010, Altama was bought by a private equity firm who planned to develop the property as homes and shops. With the help of the Nature Conservancy, the Marine Corps and private donors, the property was acquired by the state of Georgia in 2015 for future protection and management and will now serve as a publicly accessible Wildlife Management Area, part of a 120-mile corridor of protected lands stretching from Florida through the Okefenokee Swamp to Fort Stewart. It’s a real conservation success story and the cooperation of state and private entities is commendable.

The photos that follow are placed in relative order to where you will see them walking over the property from the main entrance, at Highway 99 just off Interstate 95. Though not particularly historic in terms of age, most of the outbuildings have a cultural value as part of a grand 20th-century hunting plantation. The Playhouse and swimming pool, built by Cator Willford, are important in their own right, as earlier examples in the evolution of Altama.

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Hunting Cabin Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Hunting Cabin, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Hunting Cabin Interior Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Hunting Cabin Interior, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Work Barn Arched Door Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Barn, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Work Barn Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Barn, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Storage Barn Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Barn, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Ancient Live Oak Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Ancient Oak, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Barn Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Barn, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Hunting Lodge Fanlight Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016The Playhouse (Side view showing fanlight), Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Lodge Swimming Pool Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vansihing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Swimming Pool, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Backyard of Lodge Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Behind the Playhouse, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA White Camellia Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastall Georgia USA 2016Camellias beside the Playhouse, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Shed Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016DNR Check Station, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Hunting Cabin Near Main House Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Guest House, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Garage Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Garage behind Main House, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Big House Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Main House, Altama Plantation

Altama Plantation Glynn County GA Palm Lined Drive Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanshing Coastal Georgia USA 2016Palm Lane, Altama Plantation


Filed under -GLYNN COUNTY

Kilkenny, Circa 1845, Bryan County

Killkenny Plantation Antebellum Landmark Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Overlooking Kilkenny Creek (sometimes referred to as the Kilkenny River), Kilkenny (pronounced “Kill-Cainey”) was the 662-arcre property of Thomas Young (1733-1808) beginning around 1765. Young was the son-in-law of the property’s original owner, James Maxwell, Jr. As Thomas Young was a Loyalist, Kilkenny was confiscated from him through the 1778 Acts of Attainder and sold to George Cubbedge. Intervention by Young’s friends returned the property to him, though he was prohibited from voting or holding office for 17 years.

Kilkenny Plantation Clubhouse Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

Young’s executors sold Kilkenny to Charles W. Rogers in 1836; Rogers then conveyed the property to his son, the Reverend Charles W. Rogers, Jr., and secured a nearby plantation, Cottenham, for his other son, William M. Rogers. It was used primarily for the production of Sea Island cotton. Little is known of the Rogers family today, though it is thought that Reverend Rogers spent very little time here. In 1850, Rogers’s 125 slaves were enumerated in the census, though he himself did not appear as a citizen of Bryan County. His plantation primarily produced food crops for the slaves. By 1860, Kilkenny was producing more cotton than any other property in the county and the value had increased five-fold, to $30,000. 153 slaves were enumerated in the 1860 census, but Rogers was still not listed as a citizen of Bryan County. By 1874, it had grown to 3,500 acres and was sold to James M. Butler. From this date onward, the property changed hands five times. When acquired by James H. Furber in 1890 the Kilkenny Club was established. (Locally, and on some maps, the area is still known as Kilkenny Club or Kilkenny Fishing Camp). A prominent later owner was Tennessee governor John I. Cox, who sold it to Henry Ford in 1931. Ford restored the property around this time, and it was apparently one of his favorites.

Kilkenny Plantation Henry Ford Restoration Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

The house is unusual in this area because it’s neither Plantation Plain nor Sandhill Cottage style. Built with a four- over-four central hall plan, it’s weatherboarded on three sides and features vertical boards on the front. The main gable features a small widow’s walk. The most unusual feature is the placement of ten small vertical (eyebrow) windows between the roof eaves and the porch roof.

Kilkenny Plantation Kitchen Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

The kitchen (above photo) is among the most important remaining antebellum outbuildings on the Georgia coast. Though the exterior has been weatherboarded to match the house, the interior remains virtually untouched. Pegged beams are visible and a sleeping loft reachable by a crude stair-ladder is present.

Kilkenny Plantation Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015

An oak driveway, or alley,  is one of the most impressive features of Kilkenny.

Kilkenny GA Plantation Oak Drive Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

This is the view of Kilkenny Creek looking south from Kilkenny Bluff, in front of the house.

Kilkenny River Looking South Bryan County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2015




Filed under -BRYAN COUNTY

Gravesite of General Francis Hopkins, Crescent

General Francis Hopkins Headstone Hopkins Belleville Cemetery Crescent GA McIntosh County Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2014

In Memoriam – General Francis Hopkins – Obit MDCCCXXI – Aged 49 Years

General Francis Hopkins (10 November 1770 – 5 May 1821) gave the land for this cemetery, known as the Hopkins-Belleville Cemetery. It’s located behind Crescent Baptist Church. Born an only child to South Carolina parents in Bluffton with Loyalist ties, Hopkins and his wife Rebecca Sayre (March 1776 – 3 August 1850) moved to Georgia at the urging of Thomas Spalding, who sold the family several plantations along the coast. They first resided at Chatelet Plantation on Sapelo Island, better known today as Chocolate. He would eventually own five plantations and over 150 slaves.

Hopkins entered the Georgia Militia as a Lieutenant in McIntosh County. He was commissioned a Captain, then a Major of the McIntosh County Battalion during the War of 1812. In 1817 he was commissioned Brigadier-General, 1st Brigade of the 1st Division, in command of the militia in the counties of Wayne, Camden, Glynn, Liberty, McIntosh, Bryan, Chatham and Effingham.

General Hopkins served eight terms as McIntosh County’s representative in the state legislature and spent two years as a state senator. He was a justice of the McIntosh Inferior Court from 1813 until his death.

Crescent GA McIntosh County Hopkins Belleville Cemetery General Hopkins Family Plot Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2014

The enclosed burial plot of his family is the most interesting feature of the cemetery. To access the site, you walk up a set of steps and then down a set of steps to get inside the enclosure.

Crescent GA McIntosh County General Francis Hopkins Family Burial Enclosure Plantation Owner Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2014

Crescent GA McIntosh County General Francis Hopkins Family Burial Enclosure Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2014

The smaller enclosure within the walls is likely the earliest feature; the bricks are beginning to collapse.



Filed under -MCINTOSH COUNTY, Crescent GA