Saint Simon’s Island is rich with history. Colonial history. Civil War history. Religious history. Family histories. It is an island filled with stories, some of which, it seems, have not yet ended.
They say she wanders the beaches and roads of Saint Simon’s Island. She wears a long white dress, a wedding dress. Her dress is wet, and clings to her slender body. Her long hair flows behind her. It is wet, always wet.
You might see her from the tall windows of the restaurant at the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort or spot her from the pool patio right on the beachfront as she wanders by in the moonlight. She sometimes walks through Massengale Park. It’s been said that sometimes she’s seen in the marsh. Her name is Mary.
Some people call her Sad Mary. She is dolorous, lost. It is said that she was soon to be wed to her true love, but as he rowed his boat across a wide creek to fetch her, the wind and waves overcame him. His boat capsized, and he drowned.
Waiting on the shore, Mary witnessed the disaster, and threw herself into the waves. Perhaps she was attempting to save him. Some say that she knew she could not, and went to be with him rather than face a life without him. She wanders the island now, searching.
She is elusive, but often encountered. She walked towards a man on the beach one night. He was puzzled at the pretty girl walking slowly with her head down, dressed so oddly. As he passed, she raised her head as if to search his face for a sign of recognition. But she, herself, had no face. He looked away, shocked, but when he looked back, she was gone.
The Schoolteacher and the Raven
History tells us America’s witch hunts centered around northeastern towns like Salem, Mass. Sadly, the madness made its way one day to Saint Simon’s Island, and what could have been a fanciful story of love transcending death ended, instead, in tragedy.
In the plantation times, young Margaret was hired by the plantation owners to be a schoolmarm to their children. She was an off-islander, but had attended the best schools, and was a sophisticated European traveler. She was a perfect fit for the gentile aristocracy of the island.
When she arrived she began to teach, and everyone was thrilled. As time went on, however, her more worldly point of view challenged the notion that slaves were just chattel; she believed that they, too, deserved an education.
Teaching Blacks to read and write was against the law of the time. Slaveowners feared an educated slave population that might rise up against them. But Margaret was headstrong, and took to teaching Black children at night after the plantation children had gone home. This did not go unnoticed by the plantation owners, but they looked the other way since they were so happy with the work she was doing with their own children. However, she had earned their mistrust, and they kept a wary eye on her.
Of all her students, Joshua was her favorite. He was a slave boy, sharp, inquisitive and eager. He had a special love of poetry, and long after the other children had gone, he would stay behind and beg Margaret to read poetry to him. She readily obliged, sitting in a chair by the window where he stood outside, listening. This, too, did not go unnoticed as their friendship grew.
Soon after, there was a slave uprising on one of the plantations. It was quickly and cruelly suppressed, but the rage of the plantation owners and their crews knew no bounds. Marauding bands of white men attacked black slave towns, tearing into homes, randomly beating and killing in reprisal. Rising to defend his mother, Joshua was clubbed to death.
Margaret was stricken by the news, and isolated herself, only going to the schoolhouse to teach her lessons. Otherwise, she would wander the island roads and paths to avoid contact with other people. Her behavior became more worrisome, erratic.
One day, a large black raven seemed to be following her. It was there wherever she went. It would perch on the windowsill where she used to read to Joshua. It would follow her to and from the schoolhouse. One afternoon, after the children had gone home, and still very much missing Joshua, she sat in the chair by the window and began to read poetry.
The raven bobbed his head up and down, and it seemed to her that he was listening attentively, as Joshua had done. She began to read to the raven every day after school, perhaps as a way to ease her grief.
Some children returned to the school late one afternoon and saw her by the window reading to the bird, which nodded its head up and down, seemingly in the rhythm of the rhyme. The children screamed home and told their parents that Margaret was a witch, and had brought the little black boy Joshua back to life as a bird.
Few parents today would believe such a tale, but Saint Simon’s Island in the early 1800’s was a fiercely religious and superstitious place. Margaret had already proven rebellious with her worldly views, disregard of the law, and her increasingly odd behavior. Some went the next afternoon to see for themselves, and they spied Margaret reading to the raven, smiling at him, and watched him seem to knowingly respond. They were angered and terrified, and reported what they saw to the rest of the islanders, that Margaret was a witch.
Not long after, an angry mob dragged Margaret from her home and killed her, leaving her body to scavengers. Her remains were refused burial at Christ Church and no other cemetery would accept her. Finally, one sympathetic landowner allocated a tiny plot by the side of the main road, and she was buried there, friendless and abandoned. It is said that nothing grows around her lonely grave.
Stories of love, tragedy, and treachery abound on this historic island. See for yourself. Let the concierge at the King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort arrange a ghost tour with Lighthouse Trolleys. Pick a dark and stormy night, and contact www.kingandprince.com.