18th Century Life In Georgia’s Golden Isles

14 Jun

I just returned from a great week at the beach with my whole family (well…great in that we were all together, not so great in that I had a boot on my foot and couldn’t walk but, oh well) where we stayed on Saint Simons Island in Georgia. Saint Simons is truly a beautiful and hidden island off the coast of Georgia with towering live oaks drapped with Spanish moss dating back thousands (yes, thousands!) of years and secluded beaches that are something out of a painting. Seriously, if you haven’t heard of Saint Simons, you need to check it out.

This is my second time visiting this incredible Island and I’m so glad that this time I was able to really learn more about its incredible history. Last time we visited in March and we were only there for two days. This time, we went in the summer and had a whole week to explore (the island is only a few miles long but trust me, there’s lots to see!). If you’re looking to get your 18th century history lesson while you’re there, then you have to stop by Fort Frederica on the Northern part of the island.

Fort Frederica is an English military town and settlement that dates back to 1736 when it was settled by James Oglethorpe in the hopes that the Georgia fort would be able to protect the ‘debatable land’ in the American Colonies between Florida and South Carolina, from invading Spanish troops. Situated on the banks of the Frederica River, the fort was built to have a vantage point that could scan the river for any enemy ships before the ships could spot them. Saint Simons Island is not far from Savannah, another one of Georgia’s famous port cities, and the town of Frederica did most of its trading with Savannah via ships which followed the river to the Savannah port.

When the Spanish finally did invade the Georgia coast in 1742, the fort served is purpose and defended the American colonies in the famous Battle of the Bloody Marsh which was fought on Saint Simons island.

After the victory against the Spanish, the Garrison at Fort Frederica was disbanded (having served its purpose) and the town slowly dissolved as colonists moved elsewhere. The people who settled on the colony came from all over Briton, Germany and Scotland with a great many of the Scottish settlers being Highlanders. These Highlanders went on to establish the town of Darien (also in Georgia) which still stands today. All that remains today of the town of Frederica are the foundations of the homes that once were filled with the citizens of Frederica. constructed of ‘tabby’ (a sand and oyster shell cement-like mixture) and brick (for the wealthier citizens), the homes today show us the incredibly small size of the houses in which the colonists lived.

Walking under the large oaks with their rope-like vines and swaying Spanish moss, you almost feel like you can hear the voices and sounds of the past. I honestly thought I was going to see a British soldier pass me by at any moment (but I guess we can call that an active imagination too!). Archeologists have excavated much of the town so that you can actually walk down the same streets that were walked on over 200 years ago. The people who settled at Fort Frederica came to a jungle wilderness full of strange creatures (alligators, for one!) and carved a life for themselves out of the dense Georgia Maritime forest (half woodland, half tropical: think live oaks mixed with palm tress and dirt and sand soil).

I’m such a huge fan of colonial history and true, this site at Frederica is no Williamsburg with its full reenactments and in-tact town, but it has its own charm and beauty and it is a piece of history that I had never even heard about until I moved to Atlanta. I’m so glad I discovered this incredible island and I hope that some day, you can visit it too!

Happy History Hunting!

Rachael

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