The tiny sliver of land visible on the horizon in this image is Creighton Island, a wonderfully obscure place on the McIntosh County coast.
The abridged sketch which follows, archived from an older website, was written by Jeannine Cook and details the island’s fascinating history.
Creighton Island is a privately-owned, inner barrier island in McIntosh County… It was formed by aeons of rising and falling ocean levels combined with ever-changing deposits of sand ridges. The roughly 1,100 acres of high ground on Creighton date mainly from the Pleistocene era (40,000 B.C.), but are still being shaped afresh by wind, waves, tides and storms. Today, the island is roughly 2 1/2 miles long and a mile wide.
Creighton bears testimony to human activities during at least the last 3,500-4000 years. Archaeologist Clarence B. Moore uncovered important funerary materials – urns, stone and copper chisels, hatchets…- on Creighton’s north end in 1896-97. It is said that the Guale Indians considered the north end of the Island as a very sacred burial ground. Later, it is possible that the first European colony on the eastern seaboard of North America, San Miguel de Gualdape, took brief root on Creighton in 1526 when Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon tried to establish 600 Spanish and African settlers on this coast. By 1756, Daniel Demetre had acquired “John Smith’s Island”, as Creighton was then designated. In the 1770s, William DeBrahm, Surveyor General to King George III, noted the existence of unexplainable entrenchments and ruins on the Island. The mysteries DeBrahm created about Creighton have lingered to this day.
The Island acquired its present name from its 1778 owner, Alexander Creighton, a Savannah businessman. Timbering and farming (especially cotton, sugar cane and corn) were important activities, despite occasional devastating hurricanes…Thomas Spalding worked with his son-in-law, William Cooke, owner of Creighton after 1838, and during that period, tabby dwellings were built at the north end. Their vestiges remain today. Freed slaves, based at the north end, remained on the Island after the Civil War. The north end was also a focus of important timber-loading facilities for large ships at the “Sapelo port” in 1880-98, complete with US post office and telegraph lines connecting Creighton to Darien. The 1898 hurricane destroyed these port facilities; they were rebuilt but by 1910, the timber boom era in McIntosh County had finally ended. In 1947, Creighton Island was acquired by the present owners…
…The Island’s long, diverse history combines with great natural beauty to represent a unique microcosm of Georgia’s coast. Today’s owners deeply respect the environmental importance of their island sanctuary…
Originating in swampland east of Young Man Road in northern McIntosh County, the White Chimney River [also referred to as White Chimney Creek] flows southerly for several miles before joining the Sapelo River. I haven’t located an origin for the name, but would presume it to be related to an early house or other landmark with white chimneys. Seems logical, but who knows…
The White Chimney River is surrounded by marsh and hammock on both sides for most of its brief course.
This landscape is typical of estuaries along the Atlantic seaboard.
In the southeast, they generally feature palmettos, oaks, and cedars.
A web of smaller creeks feed into the river from all directions.
Like the rivers they support, they are dependent on the tides.
These estuaries are integral to the abundance of marine life that attracts fishermen to the region.
This sign, across from Hunter’s Cafe, sums up the mood around Shellman Bluff; no hurries and no worries. The words change from time to time, but the message really doesn’t. It overlooks the idyllic Julienton River, a tributary of the Sapelo River.
Hunter’s Cafe is one of the best loved local hangouts on the Georgia coast and it’s the epicenter of “downtown” Shellman Bluff. Open since 1951, it’s located in a World War II-era army barrack acquired as surplus from nearby Fort Stewart.
It’s a no-frills kind of place that caters to locals while welcoming the occasional tourist. If you’re in a rush, go elsewhere, because they don’t get in a hurry here. If you read internet reviews, you’ll hear people complaining about the wait time, but that misses the point of Hunter’s Cafe. It’s as much about the experience and atmosphere as it is the food. The original section of the restaurant feels like a neighborhood gathering place, and the bar, added in the 1970s, has the ambiance of a classic dive. And the staff are very welcoming and friendly, even if you’re not a local.
The food is really good. I visited with my parents and my aunt. My mother ordered fried green tomatoes, which I generally don’t care for, as an appetizer. There was something different about the Hunter’s version and I enjoyed them. I also don’t care for battered french fries, but their perfectly floured shoestring potatoes were memorable and way above average. The fresh Georgia shrimp was excellent, as it must be in a place like this, and it was accompanied by the most perfectly fried hush puppy to be found, amazingly light and flavorful. My mother and I agreed we could have made a meal of the hush puppies.
I made these photos in 2009; no one was living here when I was in the neighborhood earlier this summer. As a self-service ice house, and home to a welder, it served an important purpose in this community of fishermen. The owners were obviously on the honor system, but to make sure customers were honest, a decorative skeleton kept an eye on things. The “answers” part of the sign always got my attention. I imagine it had something to do with the telling of fortunes. This is a bigger deal in these parts than many like to admit.
Our Top Ten post was so popular that I’ve decided to try to do one of these each month. For Black History Month, I thought these would be timely. There may be a greater concentration of historic African-American-related sites on the coast than anywhere else outside Atlanta, but like all history on the coast, they are under constant threat from population growth and changes in land use and land value.
Though the headstone pictured above is the most unique in the cemetery, I have chosen to document the site due to its considerable collection of vernacular headstones. Ebenezer (spelled Ebernezer on the sign) is actually two cemeteries, located off Churchill Road near I-95. A fenced section is the white cemetery while the surrounding larger cemetery is the domain of African-Americans, a few of whom were born into slavery and others who represent the first generation after emancipation. The African-American section is what is represented here.
The predominant vernacular form in this cemetery is the homemade star-adorned headstone, a locally made type that is well-represented in the nearby Gould Cemetery at Harris Neck. It’s possible that all of these were the work of the same maker. They follow in no particular order but many of the examples are memorials for the Thorpe family.