St. Simons, in Georgia’s Golden Isles, Lets You Explore Treasure Trove of American History

One of the most important historic attractions on St. Simons, Christ Church and cemetery is the link to so many of its key people and events © 2013 Karen Rubin/

by Karen Rubin

I hadn’t anticipated becoming so entranced by the history of  St. Simons Island, the largest of Georgia’s Golden Isles, when I came to experience The King & Prince Resort, which has been attracting guests since 1935. One of Georgia’s barrier islands, St. Simons played a pivotal role in how America’s history unfoldedView slideshow: St. Simons among Georgia’s Golden Isles holds a treasure trove of history

Indeed, the events here figure in to why the British prevailed over the Spanish, and the rest is history.

It is entirely possible to come to the King & Prince resort and enjoy all its amenities, the beach, the championship golf course, perhaps wander over to the Neptune Park Pier and even visit the Lighthouse or explore some of the restaurants and shops around the island, but never realize the intriguing stories that lay underfoot: how James Edward Oglethorpe, who founded the Georgia Colony, set up Fort Frederica here to prevent the Spanish from expanding their colonial hold on the East Coast, how the Wesley Brothers came over at his request and established the Methodist Church in Georgia, how early settlers established plantations, first with indentured servants and soon after with slave labor, how one woman who was witness to the horror of slavery, single-handedly may have turned the tide of the Civil War for the North, and how, during World War II, advanced radar systems were developed here in top secret.

Lighthouse Trolleys Tour

Dick Gardner, our Lighthouse Trolleys guide and driver © 2013 Karen Rubin/

All of this unfolds for me during the Lighthouse Trolleys Tour – traveling in a a delightful open air old-timey trolley with plastic, roll-down windows for when it rains – which offers the best way to get oriented to the island and its important attractions, so you can go back on your own and appreciate what you see all the more, going back as I did with new appreciation to explore Christ Church, Fort Frederica, the Lighthouse and Museum, particularly.

It is a delightful open air trolley with plastic, roll-down windows for when it rains.

From the King & Prince – itself a historic attraction – Dick Gardner, our Lighthouse Trolleys guide and driver, goes by the US Coast Guard Station, built in 1936 by the WPA. It seems odd – about a block away from the water, but in those days, the station was just 15 yards from the steps to the water. This is because the barrier islands are moving south year after year, he says, (and as the exhibit at the Lighthouse Museum notes, the island is growing because of the soil and silt being deposited from inland rivers).

In colonial times, the coastal area from South Carolina to St Augustine was claimed both by Spain, and the British, so the entire Southeast coast was called “debateable.” Indeed, it was the Spanish who named St Simons – San Simeon.

King George II sent James Edward Oglethorpe to the Georgia colony in 1733. After Oglethorpe laid out the plans for Savannah, he came south to St Simons, and in February 1736, set about to build a fortress, he named Fort Frederica after King George’s son, Frederick (another fort was already named Fort Frederick). He built the Old Military Road that connected to south end (the same road we travel today).

Governor Gonzalo Méndez de Canzo, who established St Augustine, In July 7 1742, commanded 52 war ships, with 3000-5000 men, to invade St. Simons. They landed at the south end of the island and marched up Military Road.

This was Oglethorpe’s worst nightmare. He knew that he could defend the island from the water, but he worried about a ground invasion.

Gardner continues the story as he pulls the trolley into the Bloody Marsh Battle site.

The Spanish knew there were only 750 men at Ft Frederica. Oglethorpe petitioned South Carolina Governor for troops but the SC governor held them back for his own defense.

By now, Oglethorpe had been on St. Simons island for six years. He was confident that no naval power could take the fortress, but he worried about land invasion.

Scouted out where could place defense.

Oglethorpe sent Capt Demere with 200-250 Scottish Highlanders to ambush the Spanish – harass them and delay them as much as possible.

So the Spanish soldiers landed, tired, hungry, and marched straight away through dense woods. They turn into a palmetto thicket and right into the British ambush.

After a six hour battle, in what became known as the Battle of Bloody Marsh, just one British soldier died, but 200-300 Spanish soldiers were slain, the “blood of Spain.”

The Spanish commander, panicked and retreated south, convinced that South Carolina had reinforced Oglethorpe and feared the worst defeat of his career. He loaded up his transports and sailed back to St. Augustine.

This led to a treaty in 1759 where the Spanish gave up their claim.

“This battle most important in early formation of colonies. Were it not for British victory, the East Coast might be speaking Spanish.”

Demere Road was named in honor of the captain.

Gardner pulls into Fort Frederick National Monument just to get a peak at the outside, but I plan on making a return visit to spend more time.

The trolley takes us passed Gascoine Bluff where Oglethorpe landed.

St. Simons became important for the lumber industry The 600-year old Southern live oak was much valued as dense hardwood. Indeed, in 1797, the Continental Congress authorized construction of six warships; St. Simons’ Southern oak was used to build the frigate USS Constitution which went on to fight in Tripoli in 1803 and sunk four British warships in the War of 1812. The British who watched cannonballs fall off its sturdy sides gave the ship the nickname, “Old Ironsides.” It is the oldest commissioned warship afloat, now in Charleston.

Timber from here was used to build the first Brooklyn Bridge.

St Simons offered an excellent deep water river port – protected from storms; the cut trees were floated down the river could ship

After the Civil War, with the St. Simons economy devastated by the destruction of the plantation system, Anson Dodge and other wealthy New York merchants saw a great profit in southern lumber and organized the Georgia Land and Lumber Company. In 1868, they purchased large tracts of land and erected mills, and by 1874 had decided upon St. Simons Island as the center of their operation. Gascoigne Bluff and Hamilton Plantation on the Frederica river were purchased. The mill became one of the three largest n the US, and made Dodge wealthy.

The story next turns to plantations, slavery, and the Civil war era.

Here, we go through what would have been Hamilton Plantation where there are still two slave cabins made of tabby that remain from that time.

Only a couple of slave cabins remain on St. Simons © 2013 Karen Rubin/

Sherman’s March to the Sea destroyed every vestige of plantation life except for four buildings, including these 2 slave cabins. They were cleaned up, he says.

James Spalding owned Retreat Plantation and experimented with what might grow — grapefruit, oranges, lemons, figs, dates, rice, indigo, cotton. Spalding brought seed from British Antigua – long silky fibrous blossoms – long stemmed Sea Island cotton – which became the gold standard of cotton industry – made owners wealthy

In 1860, the year before the start of the Civil War cotton from the South represented 57% of all exports from America to the rest of world.

“Cotton was truly king,” Gardner says.

Slavery made cotton cultivation possible and Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin made cotton profitable again and that’s what re-incentivized the slaveholders to cling to this inhumane institution.

This tiny island turned out to have a tremendous impact on the outcome of the Civil War.

The story begins with Pierce Butler, who owned Hampton Plantation on St. Simons. He is described as “a hard man who was notoriously tough on his slaves, but he had a soft spot for Fanny Kemble, an English actress, whom he married.”

He brought Fanny here to Hampton Plantation where, for the first time, she came face to face with the reality of slavery.

Determined to change things, she stood up to her husband. Instead, Butler shipped her back to England and divorced her. But Fanny had kept a diary which she published as a book, “Life on a Southern Plantation”. It became a best seller in the North, fueling the abolitionists’ cause, and in Britain.

At the time the Civil War broke out, England was heavily dependent on Southern cotton and Queen Victoria was strongly influenced by the South (it bears noting that New York City was also heavily dependent on southern cotton and sought to secede and set up an independent country so it could remain neutral and continue its commerce). England was staying out of the war until Fanny Kemble’s book generated such an outcry against Southern culture of slavery that Britain threw its support to the north. (I subsequently learn more about Fanny Kemble and Hampton Plantation at a free exhibit at the AW Jones Heritage Center at the Lighthouse Museum, a must-see).

By now the trolley is taking us over a small bridge and Gardner, our Trolley Tours guide, turns our attention to Ebo’s Landing. “By 1803, importing slaves was against law but a Dutch slave ship from Nigeria with boatload of slaves locked below decks ran the barricade, came up backside to that point, with Ebo tribesmen chained together. Recognizing they would be bound in slavery, they chose to walk off the other side – all chained together – to their death. It was a mass suicide, the only recorded case of mass suicide by slaves.” Ebo’s Landing still draws visitors from Nigeria who come to pay homage to their ancestors, he says.

After the Civil War, the plantations were cut up and the property divided among freed slaves. A good number of St Simons residents today are heirs to the freed slaves, Gardner tells us.

We next travel past Masgrove Plantation, which Gardner says was never an plantation – the, 1400 acres were owned by heirs of RJ Reynolds and hosted President Carter (Reynolds also owned nearby Sapelo Island, another of these Georgia barrier islands, and the mansion there).

These days, what would be comparable is the state-of-the-art stables and thousands of acres of property acquired at fire-sale prices during the economic collapse by Wayne Huizenga, the multi-millionaire founder of Waste Management.

Next we pass First African Baptist Church – established 1859, two years before Civil War, which I gather was fairly progressive. “It was built by slaves for slaves, the materials provided by slaveowners.”

Now we come to the first of the three most photographed sites on St. Simons: Christ Church grounds (the other two are the Lighthouse and Avenue of Oaks).

Another theme runs through St. Simons: its connection to the Wesley Brothers, founders of the Methodist church, who were brought over to Georgia by James Oglethorpe.

The Methodist Church at Epworth by the Sea founded by the Wesley Brothers, now used only for weddings which can be booked three years in advance © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.

Our tour has already taken us through Epworth by the Sea (, a Methodist Center named in honor of the boyhood home of John and Charles Wesley, founders of Methodism, which was carved out of the Hamilton Plantation.

The complex has a charming church that is only used for weddings (some are booked three years in advance) and a museum.

Now at Christ Church, the connection to the Wesleys continues.

Christ Church

At Christ Church, one of the most interesting historic sites on St. Simons, we get out of the trolley and go into church for commentary, then walk around cemetery.

Christ Church has been attended at service by more seated presidents (four) of any but National Cathedral in DC –Coolidge, Wilson, Carter and Bush #1 (he honeymooned here and used to come for vacations; “It wasn’t unusual to see George and Barbara Bush,” Gardner tells us).

Christ Church was first built in 1820 by a plantation family in Civil War. Then Sherman’s Armies descended on the barrier islands. The Church grounds were occupied by the famous Massachusetts 54 (the all-Black regiment featured in “Glory”). “They burned almost all the pews for firewood; and housed their horses in the church,” he says. “What was left, lay fallow for 15-20 years and became overgrown.”

But in the late 1870s-80s, Anson Dodge (the New Yorker who made a fortune in lumber) – had a son Anson Green Phelps Dodge Jr., who became enthralled with the mystique of Wesley Brothers, the founders of the Methodist Church, who had preached to soldiers at Fort Frederica 100 years before.

“He has an epiphany: he doesn’t want to follow the father’s lumber business but wants to a preacher in the style of the Wesley Brothers. His parents send him to Yale Divinity School where he meets Ellen Dodge (they were first cousins, as it turns out). His parents don’t want them to marry but Anson and Ellen elope to London, then take a honeymoon around the world in his boat (he was rich, after all). When they get to India, Ellen gets sick, dies of cholera, but makes him promise he won’t leave her. So he builds a crypt of lead and in 1884, sails back to St. Simons, places the crypt in the church that the shipwrights were building for him. They hadn’t finished the altar so he builds the altar around the crypt so he keeps his promise never to leave her side.

“Anson later marries Anna Gould, granddaughter of James Gould, the original lighthouse keeper and contractor. But in 1898, at age 38, Anson dies of a heart attack. Anna dismantles the altar, removes the crypt and places Anson in the crypt with his first wife, re-seals it and moves it into the family plot, honoring his promise to his first wife where it is today, next to his mother’s burial and on the other side, Anna’s with their 3-year old son next to her.”

The church, which only seats 165, is actively used so may conduct as many as five services a day. A few of the pews from the 1820 church were saved. There are brass plates on the pews where Presidents have sat.

The original walls, built by shipwrights with that famous heart of pine lumber, are so secure and impervious, they have never been painted.

Christ Church has exquisite stained glass windows that depict the history of the island. One window portrays Anna Musgrove, whose mother was Creek and became the translator for Oglethorpe © 2013 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.

It is a small, narrow church and one of the most picturesque and intimate I have ever seen. What makes it so stunning are the large stained glass windows, installed at different times.

One is from Rebecca Dodge (Anson Greene Phelps Dodge Jr’s mother), where there is also a bust of her son as a boy.

Another is a Tiffany window (but not signed because Tiffany didn’t personally supervise the installation). But that is not the most valuable window – the most valuable is just to the right of it, because the red sections are made of ruby.

The most intriguing to me, though, shows Indians, one of the few reminders of the original inhabitants of this island. One window portrays Anna Musgrove, whose mother was Creek and became the translator for Oglethorpe; she is given credit for the success of the British over the Spanish, and for her service, the King gave her 1400 acres of land (I’m not sure what happened to that land or her family, but I learn more about her when I visit Fort Frederica).

Most fascinating of all is the cemetery.

We see where Anson, Ellen, Anna and their three-year old son are buried (he was trampled by horses).

Anna, who was just 10 years younger than Anson’s mother, Rebecca, and yet outlived him, established the Anson Dodge Home for Boys, which operated 14 different homes; last one closed in 1956.

“A Kind Master” is emblazoned on the crypt of Thomas Butler King at Christ Church cemetery© 2013 Karen Rubin/

Gardner brings us to the King Family Plot, where he tells us the story of the King family: King owned the largest plantation on the Island. Before King, James Spalding owned the Retreat Plantation, which was sold to the Page family. The Page family lost all their children but Anna Matilda Page, who was sickly, also. In a last effort to save her, they moved to this semi-tropical environment. Anna thrived, wound up managing the cotton plantation and married Thomas Butler King from Carolina. And because women’s property reverted to the husband, he took it over though she still managed the plantation.

They had a son, Henry Land Page King, called Lordy. It was a practice to bring up a slave child of same age as own child and this was a boy named Neptune Small. The two were schooled together; whenever they gave the son a horse, they gave Neptune one also. “They were master and slave but best of friends,” our guide says.

“The Civil War breaks out, Lordy fights for Southern cause; he can take a manservant so he takes Neptune with him. They thought they would wup those Yankees, and have a great adventure.

“At the Battle of Fredericksburg, Lordy is killed on the second day. Neptune Small only had to walk across to the Union line to be free, but he chose not to. Instead, he waited for night and snuck out to find Lordy’s body. He carried the body back to Retreat Plantation for burial.

“He could have had his freedom but he didn’t want it,” Gardner says. “Then, Neptune Small went out to find his other master – he went to Virginia to stay with Tyler King. Both came back alive from the war.”

As a reward, King gave Neptune Small five acres of land – on Southeast corner of plantation against the water – today it is called Neptune Park, that beautiful pier and village.

On the crypt of Thomas Butler King (1800-1864) is written: “A profound statesman who laboured faithfully for the public good. A man gentle and true, a devoted husband and father. A kind master.”

We continue on to where Retreat Plantation would have been.

It no longer exists; instead the area is now owned by the Sea Island Company and is a grand, exclusive resort with three world-class golf courses, Plantation Retreat, where PGA holds its classic. Every major tournament in the 1920s was played here.

Here, we drive down the famous Avenue of Oaks – planted 200 years ago, 20 feet apart, extending for quarter mile, today they form a thick canopy. You can’t drive through any more (the road is on either side), but it is the most popular place for photographs, especially for wedding photos.

Anna Matilda Page King (1788-1859) planted 125 varieties of roses on Retreat Plantation.

She also built a hospital exclusively for the use of the slaves, Gardner says. “I never heard of that anywhere else.”

As we leave the Retreat Plantation, we see the drainage ditch which played such a part in how the plantation survived a major hurricane. It was dug by slaves, overseen by Morris, a slave himself, who (I learn later in the Lighthouse exhibit) was rewarded with a tankard and an offer of freedom but he turned down the offer of freedom because it did not include his wife and children, so he just got the tankard.

The drainage ditch dug by slaves is still working for drainage for golf course.

The Lighthouse Trolley tour is quite good – a great way to get oriented to the island and learn its stories. I get lots of ideas of where to explore and I have a greater appreciation for what I see.

I get off the trolley at the Neptune Park pier beautifully redone. It is at the end of a charming street of shops and eateries and connects to a paved path along the water large playground and gazebo and the to the lighthouse and museum, where there is also the AW Jones Heritage Center, a free exhibit which is a “must-see.”

I now understand the significance of the name, Neptune Park, named for the slave who stayed.

Lighthouse & Museum

The St. Simons Lighthouse, which you can climb, is the centerpiece of a museum complex which offers a fascinating insight into St. Simons history © 2013 Karen Rubin/

The St. Simons Lighthouse is a major attraction. The original lighthouse was built in 1810 by James Gould of Massachusetts who became the first lighthouse keeper; his daughter, Anna, married Anson Green Dodge; it is a fixed 3rd order Fresnell Lens and you can climb to the top, but you have to arrive by 3:45 pm and it takes 35-40 minutes to complete the tour ($10/adult, $5/child admission,, 912-638-4666).

Before I arrived in St. Simons and Sapelo Island I had no idea the role these barrier islands played in colonial times and their role in Civil War, and it adds to my Civil War Heritage tour which started for me in Tennessee, continued to Vicksburg, was taken up again at Darien and Sapelo Island (a neighboring Golden Isle), and now here. But on Sapelo and St. Simons, I more fully understand the plantations, have some inclining of slavery, and what happened after.

My education continues at a wonderful free exhibit at the just beside the St. Simons Light Station, at the AW Jones Heritage Center.

The exhibit discusses the natural features of Little St. Simons, and the fact the island is growing because of the undammed Altamaha River.

Between 500 and 1500 AD, Native Americans made seasonal visits to the island in search of food, feasting on oysters.

The Spanish established missionaries but pulled back to St Augustine, Florida, due to raids by Native Americans allied with the English., and pirate attacks of 1683 & 1684. There is only one Indian site from that period that has been identified.

Private ownership of the island began with Samuel Auspourger of Zurich, Switzerland. In 1730, James Oglethorpe, founder of Georgia colony, appointed Auspouger to be engineer surveyor for new settlement at Fort Fredericka. In July 1739, Auspourger traveled to England to secure a royal grant of a 500-acre plantation and brought over two indentured servants.

In 1773, James Graham Reynolds from Savannah, got a grant for marshland, and established Five Pound plantation. His brother, John secured Hampton Plantation.

In 1774 Major Pierce Butler of South Carolina assembled a network of plantations, including Hampton Point and Five Pound, and a 1500 acre island on the Altamaha River, south of Darien, called “Butler’s Island”. He also acquired a remaining parcel of Little St. Simons Island.

Major Pierce Butler had come to America in 1767 where he met and married Mary Middleton, heiress to several plantations. He resigned his commission to Britain and supported American independence. He was a signer of the Constitution and was elected South Carolina’s first US Senator, 1789.

By 1815, over 500 enslaved laborers worked Butlers’ plantation, raising rice, long-style cotton, indigo, sugar cane and subsistence crops.

Butler was an absentee owner from 1802-1838, handing over management to Roswell King and his son Roswell King Jr. Apparently, their techniques were abominable: in 1803, there were 120 slaves living at Experiment under worst conditions of any Butler plantation. “Banishment to Five Pound was used as punishment.”

Major Butler died 1822 and in 1836, in order to inherit his property, his grandsons Pierce and John Meese of Philadelphia, took the Butler surname. Pierce Meese Butler brought his wife, British actress Fanny Kemble and their two young daughters to his coastal plantation, 1838-39.

After seeing the horrors of slavery, Kemble became an ardent abolitionist; tensions rose between them and he packed her off back to England. They divorced in 1849. One of their daughters sided with Fanny and the other went with Butler.

Pierce Meese Butler squandered his fortune but was saved from bankruptcy by 1859 sale of 436 slaves, an event that became known as the “Weeping Time.”

“Each person was examined and his or her value assessed. This was the preparation for what would be the largest single sale of human beings in United States history,” I subsequently learn after doing some more research.

A portrait of Fanny Kemble, who documented the hardship of slaves on her husband’s Hampton Plantation. Her book, “Life on a Southern Plantation” became a best seller in the North and in England, where it turned the British against supporting the South © 2013 Karen Rubin/

In 1863, 14 years after her marriage ended in divorce, with the American Civil War underway, Kemble published her diary, “Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation,” which as I learned on the trolley tour, was a major factor in England supporting the North against the South, even though England was dependent on importing Southern cotton.

After the war, Pierce Butler returned to Butler Island with his daughter Frances. Many of his former slaves were living there, and he arranged for them to work as sharecroppers (this is what infuriates me so much about the Civil War, as you look back; the Southern planters could have transitioned to paid labor; on Sapelo Island, I learn, that the freed slaves were not entirely free to refuse becoming sharecroppers). Butler contracted malaria and died in August 1867, and Frances took over the management.

At the exhibit, I learn more about Morris, another slave, who was became a hero. Morris had authority over the other slaves and was responsible for the levees, drainage ditches.

In advance of the 1804 hurricane which caused death and destruction, Morris created Hurricane House; 100 slaves survived the storm, earning the praise of the plantation manager, Roswell King. As a reward, Major Butler offered Morris an engraved silver tankard and his freedom. “But since freedom didn’t include his wife and children, he chose to remain a slave.” Morris died in 1822.

Fort Frederica

James Oglethorpe knew he could fend off any attack from the water from Fort Frederica © 2013 Karen Rubin/

The next day, I bike from the King & Prince Resort on the south end of the island, on paved bike paths that take me pass a tabby slave cabin (now a quaint shop), up the very road that Oglethorpe built and over which Spanish soldiers marched to attack Fort Frederica before they were stopped by Bloody Marsh, changing the tide of history, and bike to the fort itself.

A national monument managed by the National Park Service, this is a vast 55-acre archeological park – – of what once was one of Georgia’s finest colonial settlements.

Here you really are stepping back into time, more than 100 years before the Civil War, to the earliest colonial days.

You walk along the grassy boulevards and streets, alongside the excavations of the foundations of buildings and homes where there are superb historical markers with descriptions, artwork and even artifacts, so you can really visualize what this colonial town was like.

You can imagine the boulevards and streets that were here in the colonial town at Fort Frederica, now an archeological park © 2013 Karen Rubin/

Now it is more like a ghost town. Once one of the most populated settlements of colonial times, this whole, remarkable town was largely destroyed in the Great Town Fire of 1758.

I come to the remains of the house of the woman I learned about in Christ Church the day before– and that very familiarity sparks my interest. In 1743, Mary Musgrove Matthews, James Oglethorpe’s Indian interpreter, lived on this lot – “a good house of tabby.” She was a daughter of a white trader and Creek Indian mother and the niece of a Creek Indian King. She left the Indian tribe when she was 10 years old to receive Christian education in South Carolina. A skilled interpreter, negotiator and trader, she served as an interpreter for 10 years, and helped Oglethorpe win the friendship and support of Indians, so vital in the ultimate defeat of the Spanish.

I visit the house built by Primrose Maxwell, a Lieutenant in Oglethorpe regiment, who took part in the 1740 expedition against Spanish at St Augustine and also served as pall bearer at funeral of the great Indian leader, Tomechichi (that’s the part that interested me)

I walk down Broad Street – they have the street markers so you can easily imagine how the streets were laid out; drawings complete the picture of what the house would have looked like, the people, there are quotes from diaries.

Here I come upon the house that belonged to Patrick and Priscilla Houston. Patrick inherited the title of Baronnet and was appointed to the Royal Council of Georgia. One of their six of their children, John, who may have been born on this site, served as a delegate to Continental Congress and later was elected governor of Georgia.

I see where there would have been a public bakery – established in 1736 by Oglethorpe in a rather ingenious program to promote the welfare and security of the community. Oglethorpe bought off the time of an indentured servant who was a baker and had him bake for the whole colony. The colonists “gave him their allowance of flour and he returned to them the same weight in bread, the difference made by water and salt, his gain.”

Finally I come to the remains of the fort, itself, and see how Oglethorpe planned the defense.

(You can take advantage of an audio tour; you can easily spend several hours here and there are special tours and programs.)

There is a marker here, as well: accompanying James Oglethorpe to this island in 1736 were John and Charles Wesley, leaders in evangelical movement and founders of Methodist church, who preached to the soldiers and settlers at Fort Frederica. “The World is my parish.”

It is a remarkable setting – open, with live oaks, so peaceful, and yet with these wonderful remnants of structures – you can easily spend hours here.

A church bell tolls at 11 am on this Sunday morning. I know that Christ Church will be filling with worshippers.

I see the Old Burial Ground and where Military Road starts.

It’s also time for me to leave. So much of St. Simons history comes full circle, just as my ride.

The biking is absolutely marvelous, and brings you to scenes and sites you might not have noticed if you go by car.

The path takes me by a slave cabin which has been turned into a quaint shop. I am always fascinated by the “happy face” they seem to put on slavery, in this case, the historical marker, with names that are now familiar to me: “Tabby slave cabin of Retreat plantation, now Sea Island Golf Course, was one of 8 cabins hat stood in this area, known as New Field. The slaves who lived here tilled the Sea Island cotton fields nearby. Each of these cabins was 48 x 18 ft, with a partition and a chimney in the center they stood about 300 feet apart and were shaded by beautiful live oak trees Retreat Plantation, originally the property of the Spalding family, was sold to Major William Page whose daughter, Anna Matilda Page, married Hon. Thomas Butler King, MC.”

Ah, the cabin was shaded by live oak trees. How charming.

Top 10 Things to Do on St. Simons

The Lighthouse Trolleys tour (912-638-3333,

Christ Church (dating from 1884, has a Tiffany stained glass window, and cemetery that is absolutely fascinating,,

Ft. Frederica National Monument, where you can see ongoing archeology of the colonial-era community (

St. Simons Island Lighthouse (which you can climb; this one dates from 1872) and Maritime museum and AW Jones Heritage Center (

Neptune Park Pier village (the waterfront park is marvelous and there is a new Fun Zone playground), which is a block-long “downtown” of shops and restaurants (the island has more than 20 galleries and antique shops);

St Simons Island ‘Island Playhouse” theatre and Library”,

Historic sites including Bloody Marsh,

Bike the island – a bike path connects most of the major attractions(Ocean Motion, 800-669-5215,

Kayak (a two-hour dolphin nature tour is $45, Ocean Motion, 1300 Ocean Blvd, St Simons, 800-669-5215)


Stroll the beach

Stay in history: The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort, 201 Arnold Road, St. Simons Island, GA 31522, 912-638-3631,; also

For visitor planning information: Golden Isles Georgia, 800-933-2627,

See also:

King & Prince Resort in Georgia’s Golden Isles Has Storied Past, Playful Present and slideshow


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