The Golden Isles of Georgia – Part 2
Lysa Allman-Badwin | 6/9/2016, 1:25 p.m.
In our first exploration of the Golden Isles of Georgia, we learned that its history dates back to the early 1600s, it was named after the surrounding golden brown-hued marshland and today it encompasses the mainland port city of Brunswick and the barrier islands of Sea Island, Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island and Little St. Simons Island.
The largest and most popular isle is St. Simons Island. Spanning 18 miles from north to south, it is one of 15 beachfront barrier islands along the 90-mile Georgia coast, one of four that to which you can drive and home to the fifth busiest private airport in the U.S.
Year-round residents number approximately 21,000; many are natives and long-time residents drawn here by the meandering streets, quiet neighborhoods, welcoming people and virtually non-existent crime that makes it a safe, comfortable and charming place to live.
To preserve the island’s character and beautiful architecture, no new buildings can extend higher than the tree oak canopy, and there are no chain stores or restaurants. Almost everything is locally owned.
One of the most famous St. Simons denizens is the late Eugenia Price, author of the St. Simons trilogy books, “Lighthouse,” “New Moon Rising” and “Beloved Invader.” Her writing is credited with creating interest in visiting the area.
Among the places where Price gained inspiration for her stories was Christ Church, Frederica, a stunning Gothic-style structure built by English colonists in 1820 and one of the oldest churches in Georgia.
The property also encompasses numerous, massive Spanish moss-laden oak trees, some estimated to be 400 to 500 years old, as well as a cemetery, the final resting place for many of the island’s early founding families. Many of their descendants are still members of this active, close to 1,000-member church.
RICH IN BLACK HISTORY
African-Americans made and continue to make significant contributions in every area of the economic, social, spiritual, commercial and cultural landscape in the Golden Isles.
Among the important Black history sites in the area is The Wanderer Memorial, named after an 1857 racing schooner that illegally brought 400 Africans from the motherland to Jekyll Island.
Christ Church, Frederica, is significant in that it was the only church on the island at that time, serving as the center of community life for everyone, including the slaves who worked the homes and fields of the more than a dozen plantations in and around the region. It was here that Blacks could gather and create a community, tending to the horses, carriages and so forth while their masters worshipped inside.
Unlike many other places in the South, slaves in the Golden Isles were permitted to organize, own guns, intermarry between plantations and carry on other activities. In fact, when asked about having their own house of worship, they were granted land on which they built the First African Baptist Church. The church, now with close to 500 members, celebrates its 154th anniversary this year.
The Hamilton Plantation Slave Cabins represent the only two remaining tabby (a concrete-like building material made of sand, water, lime and oyster shells) slave cabins. Carefully restored and preserved, they now feature graphical histories and artifacts about the slave populations that picked cotton and collected oak and pine timbers here.