Posts Tagged ‘st. simons island history’

History is Alive on St. Simons Island

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

History is Alive on St. Simons Island

Our quaint island paradise is the perfect place to relax on the beach or do some shopping…but did you know that you’ll find history around every corner while you are on St. Simons Island? Home to Ft. Frederica, Christ Church, The St. Simons Island Lighthouse and several trolley companies, there are many ways to explore the rich history of the island.

Fort Frederica- This centuries old fort is located at the northern end of the island was established in 1736 and still stands today as a testament to the dreams, struggle, victory and defeat of the early colonists. If you visit the fort, there are ranger-led tours and re-enactments that take place throughout the year. While learning about the history of the fort, you will take in breathtaking views of the marsh and see many coastal birds. The fort is open 7 days a week from 9am-5pm except for certain holidays.

Christ Church- In 1763, John & Charles Wesley (the fathers of the Methodist church) began holding services under the live oak trees on the property. The church as it stands today, was built by Anson Phelps Dodge, Jr. as a memorial to his late wife. From the beautiful gardens to the interior of the church, to the love story that it tells, this church is a lovely place to visit for an afternoon during your trip to St. Simons Island.

St. Simons Island Lighthouse- The lighthouse is one of only 4 active lighthouses in Georgia. Climb the 129 stairs to the top for a spectacular view of the village, St. Simons Sound and Jekyll Island. While you are visiting, be sure to spend some time at the attached A.W. Jones Heritage Center where you can learn about the coastal heritage of the island. The lighthouse is open daily. View their website for information on specific days and times.

For more information about historic tours and sites as well as trolley tours, visit our website.

 

WWII History on St. Simons Island

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

History is at our doorstep! Did you know that on April 8th,  just months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, German U-boats sank 3 ships off of the coast of St. Simons Island? The blast was so strong that it shattered windows in nearby Brunswick, Georgia. To learn more about this day in history, take a look at this video.

The King and Prince Resort played an important part during World War II. The resort became a U.S. Navy coast watch and training facility as well as a radar station and later re-opened to the public in 1947.

Radar Station at The King and Prince

Neptune Small – Story of a Friendship

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

The southern tip of Georgia’s Saint Simons Island is a verdant park next to a friendly little town with great shops and some extraordinary restaurants. From the pier at the foot of the village, the view is across to Jekyll Island, and the passage between sometimes fills with looming super cargo ships passing by on their way in or out of Brunswick harbor.

Neptune Park

Neptune Park Playground

Several small hotels and inns are nearby, and it’s only a short stroll or bike ride from the celebrated King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort about a mile up the road or up the beach.

There’s a playground area for kids of all ages, sweeping oaks and waterside benches looking across the way and out to sea. The famed Saint Simon’s Lighthouse stands guard there, with its tales of illicit love, violence and ghosts.

But it’s a tale of loyalty, transcendent friendship and bitter irony that defines the spirit of this place, known as Neptune Park.

View from Neptune Park

View from Neptune Park

In the 1830’s, the lower part of the island was owned by the King family, and operated as the Retreat Plantation. Like all plantations of the day, it was self-sustaining.  The Kings grew their own food and raised their own livestock, and raised cash crops like cotton and indigo to sell or trade for the things they needed.  Like all plantations, it was a place of wealth and power, and its labor was done by a small army of slaves.

It was the custom of the times, when a child was born to the owners of the plantation, for them to reach into their community of slaves and choose a young child to be a playmate and companion for their own child. When Henry Lord Page King was born in 1831, the King family took the slave baby Neptune Small into their house to be friend, playmate, and eventually manservant to young “Lordy” King.

The two boys grew to be fast friends.  They did everything together.  They hunted in the rich forests of the island.  They fished and swam up the east beaches (where the King and Prince stands now, and up to where the old Coast Guard Station would later be built).

Lighthouse

St. Simons Island Lighthouse

They took their lessons together, and although it was rigorously against the law, Mrs. King also taught Neptune to read and write. While Neptune was not free and in the service of his master, the relationship seems to have been more secured by friendship than slavery.

Lordy King grew up to study law and opened a practice in Savannah. On the plantation, Neptune married his true love and had a daughter.

The hostilities between the states broke out, and in 1861 Lordy King enlisted to fight.  As was the custom amongst aristocratic families, the men took a manservant with them, and Neptune went north to serve his young man.

King fought valorously at the Peninsula in Richmond and at Sharpsburg, and witnessed the fall of Harper’s Ferry. He seemed invincible, and when a dangerous mission emerged, he was the first and only volunteer.

Lordy was the aide-de-camp of the commander of the division. During the battle at Fredericksburg in December 1862, orders needed to be carried across the battlefield to one of the Brigadier Generals.  Instructing Neptune to stay at the camp, Lordy set off to deliver those orders. When night fell, Lordy King had not returned. In the black of night, Neptune went out onto the battlefield to find his friend, and found him killed.

At that point, Neptune was a free man.  The law had emancipated him, and his ”owner” was dead. He could simply have walked away.  Instead, Neptune Small gathered up the body of Lordy King, and braving the shells and fire of the battle, took him off the battlefield, built a coffin, found a wagon, and carried him from Fredericksburg, Virginia all the way home to Saint Simons Island.

Lordy’s younger brother Richard had enlisted, and Neptune went off to be his servant and protector.  He was told that he could stay home with his family, but he refused.

When the war ended, Neptune returned, with Richard unharmed. But they returned to a devastated, destroyed Retreat Plantation, occupied and then razed by Union troops. There was no food and no money, but as recognition for his bravery and loyalty, the King family granted a parcel of land from the old plantation site to Neptune Small. He lived there until his death in 1907.

Neptune Small, photo courtesy of www.GlynnCounty.com

Neptune Small, photo courtesy of www.GlynnCounty.com

Lordy King and his family are buried at the cemetery at Christ Church, in a majestic family plot, like those of the other plantation and luminary families of Saint Simons Island.  Neptune Small is buried at the former Retreat Plantation, presently the site of the Sea Island Golf Club.

A more fitting memorial, Neptune Park, is the former slave’s old homestead at the tip of Saint Simon’s Island. It stands in testament to the simple human attributes of loyalty and friendship honored by all men and women everywhere.

To learn more about the remarkable history of Saint Simons Island, and to see it for yourself, contact the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort at www.KingandPrince.com.

 

Christ Church History – Romance Abounds on Barrier Island Beaches

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Romance abounds on barrier island beaches. The pounding of the surf is like a beating heart.  The sunrise from the east is like new love dawning.  Quiet moments on the sand rejuvenate and rekindle dormant, forgotten, or just time burdened feelings.

But true romance, the romance of legend, can be found in a tale of Georgia’s Saint Simons Island. It is both shocking and sweet, heartbreaking and enlightening.

After a breakfast buffet at the oceanfront dining room at the famed King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort, it’s a short drive or a flat, easy seven mile bike ride to Christ Church, on the road to historic Fort Frederica.

Christ Church has a history as distinctive as its beautiful grounds and sanctuary. The original Christ Church was built in 1820.

christs church 2 141From 1736 to 1766, its early congregations were led by, among others, Charles and John Wesley, before their return to England and the advent of Methodism. A museum of their short sojourn can be found at Epworth-by-the-Sea, on historic Gascoigne Bluff, which plays prominently in the tale.

Anson Greene Phelps Dodge, a wealthy industrialist from Connecticut, became a major landholder on Saint Simons Island in those times. Dodge made untold riches harvesting the mighty southern oaks that populated the island’s forests. His lumber works, shipbuilding enterprises and ship’s landings were at Gascoigne Bluff on the Frederica River.  The original Christ Church was built to provide a place of worship for the small city of lumber workers, seamen, shipwrights and their families in the Dodge enterprise.

During the Civil War, however, Union troops took over the old church, bivouacked their men on the lawns and used the inside of the church as stables for the officer’s horses. The decimated and abandoned church remained a shambles well after the “Late Unpleasantness Between the States” had ended.

At about that time, the young scion of the family, Anson Greene Phelps Dodge, Junior had decided that he was neither lumberjack nor shipbuilder.

Determined to enter the clergy, he was sent back to Connecticut to study divinity at Yale.  It was there that the books took a back seat to romance, and young Dodge became enamored of a young woman named Ellen Dodge. They fell deeply in love, and pledged to marry.

christs church 2 143

Dodge Junior returned home to secure his father’s blessing to marry the young woman with the awkwardly coincidental last name, and was shocked to learn that she was actually a first cousin. They were accordingly forbidden to wed.

This was a judgment that the young lovers could not accept, claiming their love innocent and above any taboo. With money no object, the couple eloped and embarked on a lavish, honeymoon tour of the most exotic extremes of the world.  They were abroad for nearly three years of excitement, wonder and bliss.

Tragically, while in India, Ellen took sick with cholera. Anson was by her bedside day and night. She begged him never to leave her side, and he promised he would always be beside her.

Ellen died in India, little more than a child.  In his grief, Anson honored his pledge, and brought her body home to Saint Simon’s Island in 1884, and to Christ Church, which he rebuilt with loving care…the church that sits today on the road to Frederica. True to his word, he had her sarcophagus housed under the altar that he preached from every Sunday, her everlong companion.

Years passed, and Anson, still a young man in his early thirties, met Anna Gould, granddaughter of James Gould, who built the first Saint Simon’s lighthouse. They married in 1890 and spent many happy years together.

Anson died suddenly in 1898 at only thirty eight years of age. His widow Anna had the remains of his first wife, Ellen, reburied next to her husband, a testament of her own love for him that she honored his promise.  Today, the old cemetery at Christ Church includes a Phelps-Dodge family plot where Anson Greene Phelps Dodge Junior lays side-by-side with the two loves of his life, Ellen and Anna.

To learn more about Christ Church, and historical St. Simons Tours, visit the Historical Sites and Tours page of www.KingandPrince.com