Georgia's Golden Isles -- St. Marys, Saint Simons Isle, Darien (New Inverness), Midway, Savannah

Once in the hunting area of the Timucuan, Guale and Creek Indians, St. Marys has played a more modern roll. The French saw the area from afar, the Spanish came to stay. Scottish settlers arrived in the area nearly 200 years later to halt Spanish incursions into the north. The year 1767, saw proposals to establish a town at an area known as Buttermilk Bluff on the southeastern tip of Georgia. On November 20, 1787, the twenty founders of St. Marys gathered on Cumberland Island to sign Articles of Agreement. A year later the townsite was surveyed and the city lots laid out. In 1792, the Georgia Legislature approved St. Marys by an act. Not until November of 1802, however, were the articles of incorporation sign sealed and delivered.

A Submarine Museum is located right on the river-front. Why? Because, St Marys sits next to the Kings Island Naval Base, the east coast home to the Trident class warship. This border town has become a retirement area, because of its attractiveness and generally quiet charm -- As has been said, St. Marys can be seen on foot, or one may flag down a local resident in a golf cart. Don't miss the First Presbyterian Church (1807) with its unique Island style. Today the town offers access to Cumberland Island, Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier isle, by ferry. The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is less than an hour away to the west. See Generally

St Marys on the Georgia CoastReported May 19, 2005: At Peter Point near St. Marys, archæologists have found remains of a 200-plus-year-old fort in the coastal marshes of southeastern Georgia. Researchers have retrieved over 67,000 pieces of artifacts. The bulk of the structure still lies beneath the black mud. The fortress saw the last battle in the War of 1812, as well as, last invasion of the United States (1815). This conflict occurred after the (Treaty of Ghent) and after the American victory at Chalmette Plantation (New Orleans). The fort, built in 1776 on orders of General George Washington, was overrun by British troops, slow to get word about the end of the hostilities, and perhaps upset over the poor mardis gras reception they had experienced. The outpost fell to disuse after the Spanish and American governments signed a treaty transferring Florida (1821).

James Nickles WRIGHT and Eve his wife, of Camden Co. conveyed by deed to James Brush OLIVER of Augusta, (dated Nov. 6, 1795), for two acres being part of lot #7 in St. Marys, where the grantors lived. John Oliver (b. 1749 - d. 1807 -- his parents unknown) was an American Revolutionary War Soldier (Rev) from London. He may be the same person as James Brush Oliver of St. Mary's Parish or James' brother or possibly James' son. John, however was the father of Elizabeth Sophia [Oliver] LaRoche (born: 1794 - died: 1859).

Catholic Church at DarienHer mother was Sarah [MacKay] Oliver, daughter of Donald MaCKay, who immigrated to New Inverness when he was young. Donald's father, in turn, was James MacKay who died in attacks instigated by the Spanish. Donald owned several large pieces of property, by royal grant and purchased all of Fredrica (on Saint Simons Island) when it was abandoned. James Spalding, a later arrival to the colony became his partner. It is mentioned in an old book about the Golden Isles and Sea Island, that Donald's daughter Catherine married a Col. William McKintosh, brother of Lachlan -- but that is not correct -- it was Donald's sister who married John Mohr McKintosh's son William. But it was also thought that she was also Lachlan's cousin and related to the Spalding gentleman (James) who married Catherine's daughter. Sarah [MacKay] Oliver did not receive her legacy from Donald after his death, as it was withheld by Donald's brother-in-law (Lachlan McKintosh) who administered the will. This resulted in a large court case, the first of its kind in Georgia. She lost. More HERE.

October 21, 1797: The 44-gun 204-foot U.S. Navy frigate USS Constitution, also known as Old Ironsides, was launched in Boston's harbor. The Constitution was never defeated in 42 battles. A new crew of 216 set sail in 1997 during the vessel's 200th birthday.

The planks for the Constitution's hull come from a species of live oaks that grew along the Georgia Coast in the 18th Century. Overlooking the Frederica River, on Saint Simons Island, Gascoigne Bluff was a favorite Native American campground. During the American colonial era, the landing at the bluff became Georgia's first naval base and bears the name of the man, Gascoigne, who first surveyed the local coast for England. When the Spanish fleet sailed up from the settlement of St. Augustine to attack Oglethorpe's settlement at Fort Frederica, they landed first at Gascoigne.

When the Spanish first arrived on St. Simons in the 1500s, they found a Mocama Native village named Guadalquini, the original name of St. Simons Island, on its south end near today's lighthouse, also located near Gascoigne Bluff. There, the Spanish established a mission called San Buenaventura de Guadalquini, which operated from 1605–1684. At the northern end of the island near Cannon's Point from 1661–1684 was the Spanish mission Santo Domingo de Asao/Talaje, which had been relocated from Darien. The island gets its name from a short-lived Yamassee Indian village known as San Simon, which was established near Fort Frederica by refugees during the late 1660s to 1684. English settlers anglicized the name to St. Simons.

A native uprising resulted in the deaths of five Franciscan missionaries, known by the name Georgia Martyrs. A relief of the martyrs hangs in the Catholic church dedicated to Saint William (2300 Frederica Road) which may be found on St. Simons Island near Bloody Marsh (no connection). One priest, Father Veráscola, was executed on the Island. Only the missionaries at San Pedro, thanks to a barking dog and the arrival of a Spanish ship, did not experience the gruesome and nightmarish fates of their fellow Franciscans. Interest in the five Georgia martyrs stirred in the 1970's, when the memory of them rose wraith-like following an archaeological excavation that unearthed remains of Santa Catalina Mission on Saint Catherines Island. Directed by Dr. David Hurst Thomas the dig yielded medals, rosaries, crosses and other artifacts. The archaeologists discovered a large cemetery beneath the floor of the former mission chapel. from

The church structure on Saint Simons Isle today is dedicated to William (Guillaume de Dangeon) born in Nevers, France in the mid-12th century. Educated by his uncle Peter, Archdeacon of Soissons, he eventually became the Archbishop of Bourges, dying in 1209AD. “William rejected the vanities of the world and devoted himself to exercises of piety and the acquisition of knowledge.”

October 18, 1735: Some 135 Scottish settlers (Highlanders) sailed from Inverness, Scotland aboard the Prince of Wales bound for the proprietary colony in Georgia. They disembarked on the northern bank of the Altamaha River, where they founded New Inverness, later named Darien (the name which they desired). The hardships of which they endured included Spanish inspired native American raids just a few years later. More about this expedition is HERE. Don't miss the map showing the location of olde Inverness in the North of Scotland, found at the bottom of this new Page.

Darien Georgia is in McIntosh County. When the Scottish arrived they set up a fort in the area named New Inverness. The Blessing of the Fleet is held at coastal fishing communities throughout much of the world. The two bible verses most used in Blessing of the Fleet are: Psalm 104, verses 24-41 & Psalm 107, verses 23-32. In Darien, the blessing is held in April at a low tide that coincides (Festival: April 16-18, 2010 -- 105 Ft. KIng George Drive).

Church at MidwayNorth of Darien and inland from Ossabaw Island is the town of Midway in Liberty County. Today's oak-shaded community embodies the colonial spirit of coastal Georgia with its National Historic District. This town settled in 1752, was home to two signers of the Declaration of Independence. In May of 1775, Lyman Hall (a Midway Church member) was sent to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia as a delegate from the parish of St. John. A year later Hall and St. John's Parish resident Button Gwinnett (along with George Walton of Augusta) signed the Declaration of Independence. Another Midway resident, Nathan Brownson, served in the Continental Congress from 1776 to 1778, but was absent from the Signing. The present church, erected in 1792 is the State's second oldest.

New England Congregationalists (Puritan heritage) founded the town, once an influential center for political, economic and religious life. These transplanted colonists were in favor of independence from Great Britain, and during the Revolution most of the buildings (including Midway Church (1754)) in the town were burned by the British (and Tories) in retaliation. Remaining to represent from the colonial era of Midway is its cemetery (1756) and an original alignment for a segment of the historic "Old Sunbury Road" -- now a portion of Georgia highway 38. A museum modeled after the houses that once stood in Midway is also located in the historic district.

Moving further north and east -- What can one say about Savannah ? Premier beaches in South Carolina (Hilton Head) and in Georgia (Tybee) are about an hour away or less. Salt Marshes, a fort and fine fishing even closer. The port continues to be a mainstay in the area economy. But it is her cobblestone streets, historic squares and architecture, magnificent churches and ubiquitous live oaks draped with Spanish moss that affect and satisfy the artistic senses. From its origins as Georgia's first town, Savannah has grown in the past 275 years to become the essence of a southern city with charm and beauty.

Tybee at Midnight -- Sunset effect is Savannah lights

Today, Savannah's downtown Historic District (one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States), includes a large number of remarkable park-like squares. Most were part of the original city-design. The riverside area around the old warehouses remains vital, always a main tourist stop, a beautiful first-impression of a port town that goes back to February 1, 1733.

The State celebrates February 12, 1733, as the anniversary of the founding of Georgia. However, all letters, diaries, and records of the time indicate that the colonists arrived on February 1, 1732/33 (the new year did not start until mid-march in those days). That is, the Old Style represents the same day in history as the day numbered 12 on the New Style Calendar. The leader of this expedition to organize a new settlement was James Edward Oglethorpe, tenth and last child of Theophilus and Eleanor Oglethorpe. Read about all the other events that happened on February 12th -- the official founding day of Georgia:

On June 5th of 1775, Patriots raised the first Liberty Pole in Georgia, in front of Tondee's Tavern at Georgia's first city, Savannah. This town, like others throughout the colonies, by 1775 was divided into two hostile factions, with a group in the middle who hoped for peace. Peter Tondee was known as the tavern's keeper. Georgia's roster of Revolution records him as a Son of Liberty and a member of the Provincial Congress. He referred to himself as a carpenter. As usual, there is much more to this story than first meets the eye, go HERE for More.

Founded in 1733, with the establishment of the Georgia colony, Christ Church (Anglican tradition) is the longest continuous parish in Georgia. Early rectors include the English evangelists John Wesley and George Whitefield. Although the greek-revival structure (looks a lot like Église Saint Pothin in Lyon) is much later (1838), Christ Church still is located on its original site on Johnson Square (28 Bull Street). A great experience recounted, well-written and moving: Unfortunately, the Presiding Bishop had her way (au chemin de l'honneur) and this congregation lost its historic home. No, the building was not torn down, the congregation lost it to a competing group in the appeal process. The case was settled in May 2012 because the Congregation could not afford further appeals, while the presiding bishop had unlimited endowment money into which to tap: The Anglican parish will be out by the end of the summer 2013.

A list of historic structures to view in town also would include: the Green-Meldrim House (Sherman's favorite B&B), Pink House (adjacent to The Planters Inn, the Olde Pink House remains one of Savannah's most sophisticated, popular restaurants serving a southern menu), Sorrel-Weed House, Juliette Gordon Low birthplace, Owens-Thomas House, William Scarborough House, the Wormsloe Plantation of Noble Jones (and others in his family), as well as the Mercer-Williams House, former home of Jim Williams, the main subject of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Historic cemeteries abound: Colonial Park Cemetery (some portions of an early graveyard dating back to the English colonial period of Georgia), Laurel Grove Cemetery (next oldest) and Bonaventure Cemetery (a former plantation and the final resting place for some noted personages). Established later, but in a beautiful location overlooking the marshes of Chatham, is Greenwich near the Victory Drive bridge.

Want more to do on the coast Go HERE.

Some History Follows

Map with link to Google ImageMay 3, 1525: A Spanish slave-trader, Pedro de Quejo, piloted two ships from Hispaniola on a preliminary expedition for Lucas Vasquez de Ayllón, in order to explore the coast of land granted to Ayllón by the King of Spain. On this day, Quejo's ships land at the mouth of the Savannah River, marking the first known time Europeans set foot on present-day Georgia. Quejo had passed by the coast in 1521 seeking more natives, because the tribes of the island on which Spain first settled had been wiped out almost completely. A far more complete timeline of these events can be found at:

Less than a year later on September 29, 1526, Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón and 600 Spanish colonists (including African slaves and perhaps freemen) landed on the Georgia mainland opposite Sapelo Sound and founded the settlement of San Miguel de Gualdape. This was the first European settlement in North America since the time of the Vikings' exploration circa 1000 A.D. The colonists had sailed from the Caribbean island of Hispaniola in July aboard six ships. In August, they had landed at Winyah Bay on the Carolina coast, but failing to find a native settlement (which would be necessary for food until crops could be planted and harvested) they sailed southward.

On the Georgia coast, Ayllón found the Guale tribe. Although physical remains of the settlement have not been found, historians and geographers have utilized surviving navigation logs and other records to reconstruct the 1526 voyage. (See Jeannine Cook, ed., Columbus and the Land of Ayllón, 1992.) Based on the latest research, the San Miguel de Gualdape settlement probably was situated on the mainland of what today is McIntosh County, opposite Sapelo Sound. (Click HERE to view map.) One source feels the most likely location was within the present-day Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, which is located near the mouth of the Newport River facing St. Catherines Island. To view a timeline of Spanish exploration and colonization in the New World, see

In September 1597, five Spanish friars were martyred at various missions in Georgia, near Darien, on St Catherines and St Simons. In 1605 the Guale missions were reestablished. The Catholic Church recognizes September 10th as the Saints' Day.

June 20, 1661: On this day, a fleet of canoes carrying Westo, or Chichimeco, Indian raiders descended the Altamaha River to attack and destroy the Guale mission of Santo Domingo de Talaje near present-day Darien, Ga. The survivors from the mission fled to Sapelo Island and later re-established their town on the north end of St. Simons Island. The Westo/Chichimeco, armed with muskets from Virginia and later South Carolina, preyed for the next two decades on Georgia missions and other villages in the interior in search of Indian slaves they could capture and sell to the English. [Contributed by Dr. John Worth, The Coosawattee Foundation] from &

Gascoigne Bluff: Overlooking the Frederica River, Gascoigne Bluff was a favorite Native American campground. In the 16th century a Franciscan monastery, San Buenaventura, was built near this site. During colonial days the landing at the bluff became Georgia's first naval base and bears the name of the man, Gascoigne, who first surveyed the Georgia coast for England. When the Spanish fleet sailed up from St. Augustine to attack Oglethorpe's settlement at Fort Frederica, they landed here at Gascoigne Bluff. Live Oaks growing on St. Simons were cut and milled at Gascoigne for the U.S.S. Constitution - "Old Ironsides" so named because of the nearly impenetrable strength of the Live Oak timber.

February 27, 1736: Aboard the Symond near the mouth of Tybee Creek, James Oglethorpe wrote the Trustees about the arrival of the first colonists on St. Simons Island and his subsequent visit with the Scottish Highlanders at New Inverness (Darien):

". . . I arrived at Saint Simon the 18th and found the sloop and a detachment of men whom I had sent with her there. . . . We immediately got up a house and thatched it with palmettoes, dug a cellar, traced out a fort with four bastions by cutting up the turf from the ground, dug enough of the ditch and raised enough of the rampart for a sample for the men to work upon.

"On the 22nd a boat arrived with a detachment of the workmen and the same day I left Saint Simon, rowing up the Altamaha three hours. I arrived at the Scotch settlement which they desire may be called Darien. They were all under arms upon seeing a boat and made a most manly appearance with their plaids, broadswords, targets and firearms . . . . They have mounted a battery of four pieces of cannon, built a guard house, a storehouse, a chapel and several huts for particular people. . . ."

Source: Mills Lane (ed.), General Oglethorpe's Georgia: Colonial Letters, 1733-1743 (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1990), Vol. I, pp. 239-240. -- found at

In 1735 a body of one hundred and thirty Highlanders with fifty women and children sailed from Inverness and landed at Savannah in January 1736. They were under the leadership of Lieutenant Hugh Mackay. Some Carolinians endeavoured to dissuade them from going to the South by telling them that the Spaniards would attack them from their houses in the fort near where they were to settle, to which they boldly replied, Why, then, we will beat them out of their fort, and shall have houses ready built to live in. "This spirit," says Jones, "found subsequent expression in the efficient military service rendered by these Highlanders during the wars between the Colonists and the Spaniards, and by their descendants in the American Revolution. To John Mohr McIntosh, Captain Hugh Mackay, Ensign Charles Mackay, Col. John McIntosh, General Lachlan McIntosh and their gallant comrades and followers, Georgia, both as a Colony and a State, owes a large debt of gratitude. This settlement was subsequently augmented from time to time by fresh arrivals from Scotland .... Its men were prompt and efficient in arms, and when the war cloud descended upon the southern confines of the province, no defenders were more alert or capable than those found in the ranks of these Highlanders." More at our Burns page.

Why recount this item on early Georgia here? Records indicate that a close relation to one of two of the Georgia Trustees was a soldier (named Isaac LaRoche of Huguenot or Irish heritage - probably) in the American Revolution. Isaac's wife, Elizabeth, was the granddaughter of a Scotsman, Donald MacKay, who as a child first settled at New Inverness (Darien Ga.) in January 1736. His father, James MacKay was killed or captured (and then killed by the Spanish or the Native-Americans employed by them) at a battle where many of the settlement, including friendly Creeks, died (Moosa 1740). This incident was one of many in the Spanish-British relations, begun by a Spanish sneak-attack on November 14, 1739, during which the Spanish beheaded their surprised victims. The Georgia Rangers, the Highlanders [led by Hugh MacKaye] and some of the Creek Indians had but too fatal an occasion of giving proofs of their resolution at [Fort] Moosa, where most of those who died fought with an obstinacy worthy of the Greeks or Romans. quote found at: (old link)

Donald MacKay fought the double disadvantages of poverty (the Highlanders were impoverished by the English in attempt to depopulate Scotland -- many embarked to Ireland and later the 13 Colonies -- the Scots-Irish) and the lack of a father, to end up owning most of St. Simons Island, including the abandoned town of Fredrika. In a somewhat similar story, the first leader of the initial Georgia Rangers (first established by Oglethorpe), Captain John Barnard (Georgia rank under Colonial governor Ellis -- Major under Oglethorpe), died defending the Colony (September 2, 1757). After the Spanish were driven out of the Southern Georgia Islands the Rangers had been disbanded. In 1756 they were re-established under Barnard's command. His son ended up owning Wilmington Island near Savannah. Descendants from both families married in the late 1800's producing several sons including my grandfather (1900). For me it puts history in a more real context.

Speaking of Saint Simons and Christ Church, in 1736 the Rector of Christ Church (Savannah) held services at Fort Fredrica. Over the years, the Anglican tradition continued there. Christ Church at Saint Simons was established formally in 1807. The congregation received a charter from the state of Georgia in 1808 and the church organizers began to raise funds for a building. William Best became the first rector of the parish. Again, there is much more to the story.

March 25, 1765: Following Great Britain's victory in the French and Indian War, King George III issued the Proclamation of 1763. One of its provisions was to extend Georgia's southern boundary from the Altamaha River to the St. Mary's river. Two years later, on March 25, 1765, Governor James Wright approved an act of the General Assembly creating four new parishes -- St. David, St. Patrick, St. Thomas, and St. Mary -- in the newly acquired land, and further assigning Jekyll Island to St. James Parish. Here is a map showing the Georgia's colonial parishes. Twelve years later, the Constitution of 1777 combined St. David and St. Patrick parishes into the new county of Glynn, and St. Thomas and St. Mary into a new county called Camden.

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