Being on the wrong side of history isn’t unusual, and there are many examples of it in the United States (and around the world). Learning about such circumstances can be very enlightening, and when the wrong is clearly acknowledged I am so appreciative. Not long ago I paid a visit to beautiful St Simon’s Island in the state of Georgia, and learned so much about the history of the area! One of my favorite experiences was our visit to The Harrington School, and meeting Amy Roberts.
My group toured with Cap Fendig’s Lighthouse Trolleys and Tours, and he obtained permission to visit The Harrington School off hours. The school was founded in the 1920s by emancipated slaves on St Simon’s Island. The school provided education for children through 7th grade until the Georgia schools were desegregated in the 1960s. The school became the focal point of African American communities on St Simons Island. Apparently, Gullah Geechee heritage is simply being an American whose origins are in Africa and whose ancestors were slaves. At least that is what I gathered from Amy Roberts, our lovely guide at The Harrington School, which is open to the public.
Amy Roberts was a thoroughly enjoyable personality who attended the Harrington School in the 1950s. Her stories of the school and the community of former slaves and their families was riveting. I learned that Eugenia Price, a southern author, wrote a trilogy about the history and lives of the plantations of St Simons Island. From Amy, I also learned about an incident in St Simons that ought to have tremendous historical influence on us as Americans. The story as I heard it from Amy is that slave catchers “conned” a group of Igbo (now Nigeria) Africans to come to the United States to participate in agricultural endeavors. When they boarded the ship they were chained and learned what their fate was going to be: slavery. The Wanderer, the ship that carried them to America, docked in Savannah where most of the people were bought for about $100 per person by slaveholders John Couper and Thomas Spalding of St Simons’ Island. These poor people were crowded onto the York, a coastal vessel, in chains and transported to Dunbar Creek on St Simons. During the trip, led by their chief, the Igbo rebelled, took over the ship, and drowned their captors. Rather than endure slavery, several of the Igbo people committed suicide by drowning themselves in Dunbar Creek. The story grabbed my heart and I felt this sacrifice in my bone marrow. The event is known as the Igbo Landing Mass Suicide and even though there are accounts that differ regarding the event, the power of this story has a huge impact.
I love the South, but its past is on the wrong side of history. The Harrington School and the stories of “slaves” and their “owners” help to give us a view into the actual humanity of the individuals, and the redemption of the evils of slavery. I feel the same way about Confederate flags and statues, they should be displayed as artifacts of a time in history that must be remembered because of the great wrongs committed, not in honor of their “lost cause”. The idea of the demise of a society based on slavery being “romantic” doesn’t sit right with me. For me, it is an unfathomable evil to “own” people. Glorifying the antebellum society pre Civil War is something people tend to do, without recognizing exactly what they are glorifying. I found the history of St Simons and the birth of an African American community around The Harrington School to be a story of hope, perseverance and honesty on the part of the island, and the people of the island.
A visit to St Simon’s is many things, but among the many activities and quaint streets, there is a history worth knowing.
You should visit amazing St Simons Island if you love animals! I was overjoyed to find different types of interesting animals in and near St Simons. My son in law once asked my daughter why our family always spent our vacations looking at animals. The answer is animals are endlessly fascinating, and important to our ecosystems….and I love them, and I planned the trips!
First, are you aware that the North Atlantic Right Whale spawns off of the southern Georgia coast? Every year these super endangered whales return to the waters of St Simons and northern Florida in their fight for survival. They are estimated to be somewhere around 500 animals, a very low number. They were driven to the edge of extinction by whalers who considered this whale to be the “right whale” to kill for oil. Because of their low numbers, boats are not permitted to get too close, but you can head out in the winter with binoculars and see this very rare creature. I learned about this from a boat trip with Cap Fendig’s Lighthouse Trolley and Boat Tours!
Second, St Simons Island is perfect for seabird watching! On a Dolphin Tour (we didn’t see any dolphins even though they are in the waters around the island) we floated off the shore of Bird Island, and I saw a big variety of seabirds! The Pelicans are the most beautiful in my eyes, and I had never seen a White Pelican before! I couldn’t believe how big they are, and how beautiful! We were told that they aren’t supposed to be in Georgia, but they came and stayed. However they arrived, it is fabulous to see them!
Third, it has been reported that Manta Rays have been sighted off St Simons. I looked for them, but never saw them myself. I did find an article, Catch Cobia Riding the Rays, which talks about how Cobia shade themselves under Manta Rays. Manta Ray sightings have been reported as far north as the Carolinas in recent years due to warming ocean waters. It’s a little nerve wracking to read about fishing for Cobia around Manta Rays…Mantas and fishing line are not compatible. The guys on the boat said they’d send me a photo of a manta if they managed to get one!
Fourth, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center is on Jekyll Island, just a short drive from St Simons. The most common sea turtles in the area are the Loggerhead and the Green Sea Turtle. Very rarely a Leatherback, Hawksbill, or Olive Ridley is sighted. At the time I visited, only Loggerheads and Greens were in residence. The Center serves the community in many, many ways, with nesting, turtle rescue, education, and rehabilitation. When I was there with Lauren, from the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort, we saw a children’s field trip going through, and we also went back and saw the injured residents being rehabbed. I want to say thank you to Jessica Barber Scott, from the Jekyll Island Authority for giving me the tour. Our sea turtles are so very endangered, and it is good to know that these good people are always taking in wounded or stranded animals. A big problem is plastic….turtles cannot regurgitate, so when they take in plastic, it stays in their throat, stomachs, and even noses. It can starve them, or choke them, but in any manner, plastic does not belong in the ocean, or in the tummies of our sea creatures. Thank you to Georgia Sea Turtle Center for your care of our endangered turtles!
St Simons and Georgia’s Golden Isles are a treat for all people who enjoy animals! Be sure and see these wonderful creatures on your St Simon’s Island Vacation!
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I loved my recent visit to St Simon’s Island and enjoyed the authentic southern history and charm of the place! It truly is like stepping back in time because the island does not allow buildings over four stories, so there are no big name hotels (the Supreme Court ruled that the island could keep their zoning regulations!). No big chain restaurants. Everything is small, authentic, one of a kind. It is very hard to find places like that anymore! Welcome to St Simon’s!
Captain Fendig’s Lighthouse Trolleys and Tours is the best company on the island to get the real scoop and stories. Cap is island born and bred, and he makes sure his tour guides are the real deal.
The Bloody Marsh Battle Site
The end of Spain’s designs on Georgia came on July 7, 1742, when British troops ambushed the Spanish and ended Spanish claims on the colony forever. James Oglethorpe colonized Georgia for Great Britain, but there were many disputes over the Georgia and Florida borders between Spain and Britain. The fight found the Spanish taking cover in the forest….but the outnumbered British caught them by coming across the marsh (swamp) and over 200 Spaniards died. (Want more info? Click on https://www.goldenisles.com/listing/bloody-marsh-battle-site/210/) Cap Fendig took us to the site, and like a true history buff, he had one question for us: what if the Spanish had won? My bet is that everyone would be speaking Spanish on St Simon’s, and probably the whole Eastern seaboard!
St Simon’s Island Lighthouse
There are only five remaining lighthouses in Georgia, and you guessed it, St Simon’s is one of them. It is still in operation, assisting traffic entering St Simon’s Sound. The historic site is beautiful, it houses a fascinating museum, gift shop and yes, you can climb the 129 steps to the top of the lighthouse! For more information go to www.saintsimonslighthouse.org.
Christ’s Church, Frederica
The church was built in 1820 and destroyed by Union soldiers during the Civil War. It is the 3rd oldest Episcopalian Church in the USA. The cemetery was the most fascinating part of the tour…Cap Fendig had a Union Soldier waiting for us at the entrance to the grounds, and the family histories of those buried there were riveting. Many famous Georgians have been laid to rest at Christ Church, including southern novelist Eugenia Price, who wrote the St Simons Trilogy.
One of the most interesting stories is that of Lordy King and Neptune Small. The King family owned Retreat Plantation on St Simon’s Island, and each child of the family had a companion slave with whom to grow up. Henry Lord Page King, called Lordy, had a slave, Neptune, who was only five months younger. They grew up together and all of the children and their companion slaves were taught to read and write by Anna Mathilda Page King, Lordy’s mother. It was not uncommon for slaves to accompany their owners to war, and Neptune went with Lordy when Civil War broke out. Lordy was shot and killed during the Battle of Fredericksburg, VA, in 1862, and Neptune found his body on the battlefield. He enlisted help from the officers to make a simple pine box to carry Lordy’s body, and in Richmond Neptune bought a casket and started home. The story says that Lordy’s siblings met Neptune in Savannah and they buried Lordy in a temporary grave because Union soldiers had taken St Simon’s Island for their headquarters. Neptune then went with Tip King, the youngest brother, when he went to the war, and stayed with him until the surrender. Neptune was free, but he chose to return to Savannah to disinter Lordy and take him home to be buried at Christ Church on St Simons, with his family. The King family gifted a small piece of land on their plantation to Neptune, and he took the name “Small”, apparently because he was a smallish man. He built his house, married, and raised his children there, working for the King family until he died. He was buried in the Retreat Plantation slave graveyard. Now, I am not a person to idealize the antebellum or war time South, and I’m not fond of the display of the Stars and Bars unless it is in a historical context, but I did find the story touching, that a slave who could have been free would have taken his companion home for burial. It speaks to a love or fondness for Lordy on the part of Neptune Small.
Stay tuned for more fascinating stories and blogs about St Simon’s Island and the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort where I stayed in historical and casual splendor! Casual luxury is my favorite kind!
Speaking of casual luxury, be sure and check this out:
Relax in Luxury on St Simon’s Island, Georgia at the only beachfront hotel on the island! The King and Prince is the epitome of southern hospitality in an island setting!
Are you aware there are 10 places where you can go bat-shit crazy in the Lone Star State? Particularly in the Hill Country! Yep, the state of Texas is batty about bats! Texans love watching bats emerge in the evenings and they will travel to do it. Most particularly, Texas is crazy about the Mexican Free-tailed Bat who migrates to many parts of the state beginning in March every year. These cool bats spend their winters in Mexico and summers in Texas. Sounds kind of nice, don’t you think? So, why does Texas, or anyone for that matter, care about bat populations, you want to know? Well, the answer is quite simple: bats are a very necessary part of our ecosystem. Throughout history people have viewed bats in a negative fashion, but the fact is that they are a positive force in nature and in farming, for many reasons. They eat a lot of our most detested and bothersome insects such as mosquitoes, they pollinate many plant and tree species, and even their guano (waste) can be mined and used as a very valuable fertilizer. Farmers, especially those in Texas, encourage bats to forage on their lands nightly. Mexican Free-Tailed Bats love eating moths, and moths love to eat corn, cotton, pecans and sorghum from the fields. Did you know that moths can lay 1,000 eggs? Imagine the tons of moths eaten by bats, lowering the number of these pests eating crops. Studies have found that bats save millions of dollars in pesticide costs for farmers all over the United States, and that is good for humans and the economy as well. Texas Hill Country is a bat mecca! [Read more…] about 10 Places You Can Go Bat-Shit Crazy in Texas Hill Country!