Savannah, GA Thursday April 3
We said good-bye to Folkston, GA and the Okefenokee Swamp and began our drive to Savannah. The drive to Savannah is only about 125 miles so we made an intermediate stop in St. Simons Island and took a trolley tour of the island.
St. Simons is one of the many barrier reef islands in GA which act to protect the mainland shoreline from tropical storms and high surf. Despite its relatively short ocean shoreline, Georgia has the most tidal salt marshes of any state.
James Oglethorpe was given a charter in the 1730s by King George II to establish a colony in America to act as a buffer against Spanish expansion from Florida and to provide a place where debtors in prison could go to discharge their debts. The colony was also supposed to only offer 50 acre lots to owners and to ban slavery to encourage self reliance. Catholicism was also banned due to Georgia’s closeness to Spanish Florida. Oglethorpe was able to develop positive relations with the American Indians in the area.
Like many endeavors, not all initial goals were achieved. Slavery was soon adopted and plantation owners became extremely wealthy. Most immigrants were skilled artisans and farmers, not debtors. A hundred years after Oglethorpe’s arrival, the Creek Indians had been forced to give up their lands and were forcibly moved to Oklahoma like other southeastern U.S. American Indians.
Oglethorpe’s colony of Georgia grew. St. Simons Island became the site of Fort Frederica, built to defend the fledgling colony from the Spanish. A thriving town called Frederica developed at the site of the fort. There were attacks between the English and the Spanish, as we had previously learned last year when we visited St. Augustine. The soldiers at Fort Frederica repulsed Spanish efforts to capture it and effectively stopped Spanish efforts to move up the coast. As the Spanish threat eased, the fort became useless, abandoned, and the town of Frederica died along with it. It was not until the early 1900s that efforts were made to recognize the significance of Fort Frederica.
The island itself became the site of cotton and rice plantations. Sea Island cotton was grown here and is a specific type of cotton with very high quality. Timber production was a crop until over harvested. The live oak tree provided wood for ships, the hardness helped protect ships from shelling. Old Ironsides was built from live oak harvested from St. Simons. We continue to marvel at the size and various shapes the live oak trees take; their large branches curving in various artistic forms.
Several of the barrier islands, including St. Simons, became the site of wealthy Northeasterner’s winter homes. St. Simons continues to be an upscale resort and tourist area.
Our tour took us past several interesting areas. John Wesley, the Anglican minister who is credited with founding the Methodists, was a missionary here along with his brother Charles. The last slave ship to arrive on the island had a cargo of African slaves who walked off the ship in their chains and drowned themselves rather than be slaves. St. Simons Island is across from the port of Brunswick. The port here is the third largest port in the U.S. for the importation of automobiles.
We arrived in Savannah in the late afternoon. Our hotel is downtown and we will begin our touring Friday. For dinner we walked down the street to Churchill’s Pub for dinner and to watch the Gopher’s win the NIT championship. Unbeknownst to us, the chef here had been chosen as one of the participants in “Hell’s Kitchen”, a reality TV show. The show was airing this evening and the local gang was all gathered to watch it. He did get bounced on this episode but was a good sport about it.
Ed and Chris April 4 7:20 AM