Tag Archives: © Brian Brown/Vanishing Media

South Dunes Beach, Jekyll Island

Sea Oats (Uniola paniculata) are vulnerable to development yet essential to the retention of sand in the constantly-shifting dunal landscape of the Georgia Coast. South Dunes is a great place to observe their impact.

The beach is accessible from the South Dunes Picnic Area.

Just remember not to walk on the dunes if you visit, as they’re important nesting areas for sea turtles and are vulnerable to any intrusions.

Groups like Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island and One Hundred Miles are great advocates for these fragile landscapes which make the coast so appealing to residents and tourists alike.

Note: This replaces a post originally published on 4 March 2012.

House Creek Boils, Wilcox County

Known locally as “The Boils”, this natural Eden is an oxbow of House Creek, a tributary of the Ocmulgee River near the Wilcox-Ben Hill County line, which has been protected by the Fuller family for the better part of two centuries. There are several other well-known boils in this area, including Oscewicee [pronounced ossi-witchy] Springs and Lake Wilco. None of these are open or accessible to the public, though Oscewicee Springs once was. Elizabeth Sizemore recalls another site north of The Boils, Poor Robin Springs near Abbeville.

In South Georgia, the term “boils” is commonly used to describe natural springs found in creeks, rivers, oxbows, and swamps. Water rises rapidly from an underground fissure and appears to be bubbling or boiling. With an average temperature of 68-70°F year-round, unaffected by the air temperature, they are warm in winter and famously cold in summer.

Native Americans would have been the first humans to appreciate these mystical places, using them in much the same ways we use them today. They were likely sacred to the tribes who knew them, both for their beauty and their unique qualities when compared to other aspects of the nearby terrain.

One of their most appealing features is the clear water which gives them a blue appearance, looking more like a tropical sea than a Coastal Plains swamp. Since tea-colored or muddy waters are the norm in these parts, they really stand out. I have treasured memories of swimming in these places as a young man, especially on holidays when we’d float watermelons near the sides to keep them cool.

In the 1940s, biologist Brooke Meanley did fieldwork here, some of which eventually appeared in his book, Swamps, River Bottoms & Canebrakes. Local farmer and naturalist Milton Hopkins and renowned woodcarver C. M. Copeland were also regular visitors for many years, welcomed enthusiastically by “Uncle Guy” Fuller. Hopkins made detailed observations on local birdlife and C. M. Copeland ventured into the surrounding swamps and collected cypress knees to use in his carvings.

The site was documented by David Stanley for the American Folklife Center circa 1977, as well. Some of his notes and images can be found in the Library of Congress.

Ken Fuller

I’m grateful to Ken Fuller for allowing me to photograph this incredibly special place and to share it with you. My father and I really enjoyed our last visit here, as we do all our visits with Ken and family.

We saw some amazing trees.

This view from the House Creek “side” of The Boils, along with Ken’s lifelong memories of the place, was ample reward for our hike.

Elizabeth Durden House, 1840s, Emanuel County

Local historians have referred to this as the Barwick House but it is best known as the Elizabeth Durden House. Elizabeth Ann Barwick Durden (16 December 1820-20 December 1909) was the daughter of Nathan B. Barwick, Sr., (3 August 1782-5 April 1868) and Elizabeth Whiddon Barwick (1782?-October 1880). Theirs was a large and prosperous family of pioneer settlers who came to Emanuel County (Bulloch, at the time), from Dubose Ferry, South Carolina, circa 1810. His obituary noted that he lived in the fork of the Ohoopee River and that he was buried on the land on which he lived, which is not this property. Elizabeth Ann Barwick married William Durden (15 August 1817-October 1864) in 1838 and they likely built the house soon thereafter. They had 12 children, 11 of whom lived to adulthood.

NOTE: The house is located on private property and is not accessible to the public in any way. I’m grateful to two of Mrs. Durden’s great-great grandsons, Hudak Hendrix and Von Wilson, for arranging my visit, and to the property owners for allowing me to photograph it.

It is likely the second oldest surviving structure in Emanuel County [after the Rountree House near Twin City] and may be slightly older than the date I have indicated, perhaps as early as 1838.

Original section of house, southeast corner

It has remained in the ownership of Mrs. Durden’s descendants throughout its existence and their good stewardship has made possible its survival.

Original section of house, front

It is of statewide importance as a vernacular dwelling, especially since the owners have been sensitive to retaining the original walls and footprint of the house.

Original section of house, northeast corner. Note the lack of chinking on the rear wall, possible because of the shed kitchen behind it.

As it stands, even with the modifications, it’s one of a very small number of log structures of this era remaining in Georgia.

Original section of house, southwest corner. Windows have obviously been replaced, but have the same placement as the originals as best I can tell. .

Shed rooms [next two images] and a modern chimney have been added to the original single-pen log house over its long history.

Shed room [bedroom], west side of house

Shed rooms were common additions to utilitarian structures and were usually porches which were transformed into rooms by the addition of new walls.

Shed room [kitchen], rear of house

The kitchen is of particular interest, as it contains the original rear wall of the house. As was the convention of the time, a free-standing kitchen originally served the Durdens but it has long since vanished.

The front porch, though featuring a new roof and floor, appears to retain its original footprint, as well.

The photograph below has become an iconic Georgia image. It graces the cover of Vanishing Georgia, [no relation to my website], a book highlighting the amazing collection of vintage photographs of the same name held at the time of publication by the the Georgia Department of Archives and History and now in the stewardship of the University of Georgia.

Elizabeth Durden with her grandson, Verdie Ricks, on her front porch, circa 1900. Copy of a family photograph, shared with permission.

Augusta Canal Headgates, 1840s & 1870s, Columbia County

Augusta Canal gatehouse, headgates, and locks.

Henry Harford Cumming envisioned Augusta as the “Lowell of the South” [in reference to the textile hub in Massachusetts] and was the driving force behind the Augusta Canal. The first nine-mile section was completed between 1845-1846, and within a couple of years three mills had already been risen along the waterway. Built near the end of the Canal Era [roughly 1800-1850], it was amazingly successful, as most Southern canals never were, and is the only intact industrial canal still in use in the South today. It was lengthened and enlarged between 1872-1877. It was after this expansion that most of the mills associated with Augusta’s industrial heritage were constructed. These included the Enterprise, Blanche, Sibley, and King Mills. I believe the present gatehouse dates to the expansion period in the 1870s.

Diversion Dam and Savannah River Rapids

A V-shaped dam diverts the Savannah River at the headgates and below it are what is now known as the Savannah Rapids. It is a popular recreation area and a very picturesque location.

Augusta Canal just below the headgates

Along the walkway at the gatehouse you’ll notice hundreds, if not thousands, of modern padlocks. These have been left behind by visitors over the years, as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the place. I’m not sure when the tradition started, but it has definitely caught on.

Augusta Canal Industrial District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark + Augusta Canal National Heritage Area

Sibley Mill, 1880, Augusta

The Sibley Manufacturing Company was chartered in 1880 and construction of the Sibley Mill began on the site of the old Confederate Powder Works. Jones S. Davis, who also designed the Enterprise Mill, created an extraordinary factory, 528 feet long with three floors containing 24,000 spindles. A fourth floor was added by 1882 and 30 houses for workers were also built. The Neo-Gothic architecture recalled the appearance of the Confederate Powder Works and half a million bricks from the old factory were used in the construction.

The Sibley Mill produced around 2 million pounds of cotton in 1883 and that figure increased to 8.5 million pounds in 1894. It was a symbol of Augusta’s post-war prosperity and a major contributor to the state’s economic growth in the late 19th century.

Sibley Family Coat of Arms

An economic downturn in the early decades of the 20th century saw production fall below capacity by 1911. The Graniteville Company took over management of the mill in 1921 and purchased it in 1940, though the Sibley name remained.

In the late 1970s, the Sibley Mill began producing denim for Levi-Strauss but that ceased by 2006 and the facility shut down. The Augusta Canal Authority purchased the campus in 2010 and its presently being redeveloped as a mixed-use cyber works.

Augusta Canal Industrial District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark + Augusta Canal National Heritage Area

Confederate Powder Works Chimney, 1862, Augusta

This historic chimney, standing 150 feet tall, is all that remains of the Confederate Powder Works, which was the only major industrial facility built by the Confederate States. Augusta was chosen as the site of the powder works for the ready power source provided by the adjacent canal and good railroad infrastructure. Lieutenant Colonel George Washington Rains oversaw the construction of the project and Major Charles Shaler Smith was the chief architect and engineer. Construction began in 1862 and when complete consisted of 26 well-spaced buildings stretching two miles along the Augusta Canal. It was soon the second largest powder works in the world. Around 2.75 million pounds of gunpowder were produced here until operations ended in April 1865, though production was slowed by a massive explosion in August 1864. When the Powder Works was demolished during a widening of the canal between 1872-1875, the chimney was saved as a monument at the request of Colonel Rains, who remained in Augusta and later became dean of the Medical College of Georgia. The adjacent Sibley Mill was not part of the Confederate Powder Works but was constructed with bricks leftover from the ruins of the complex.

Augusta Canal Industrial District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark + Augusta Canal National Heritage Area

Dennis Cahill Memorial, Augusta

On 29 July 1902, as 9-year-old Dallas Corine Kitchens was taking lunch to her aunt at the Enterprise Mill [visible at left background], she fell from the canal bridge to the water below. Dennis Cahill, an Irish immigrant working for the City of Augusta, noticed her distress and jumped into the canal to save her, but was drowned during the attempt. I believe the girl also died.

A monument of “rugged stones” was placed at the foot of the Butt Bridge to memorialize the tragedy. It reads: Dennis Cahill, By a deed of self-sacrifice such as all humanity claims and counts among its jewels, hallowed this spot and rendered his name worthy of such. Lasting Memory as these rugged stones and this simple tablet can secure. For here he gave his life in a vain attempt to save from drowning a child, having no claim for his sacrifice save Humanity and Helplessness – July 29, 1902. Born Parish of Castlemagner, County Cork, Ireland, June 1861. I am unsure when the monument was placed, but it was likely soon after the tragedy occurred. A marker placed at his gravesite in 2009 by the local chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians identifies him as a Hibernian Hero.

Augusta Canal Industrial District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark + Augusta Canal National Heritage Area

Archibald Butt Memorial Bridge, 1914, Augusta: Georgia’s Only Titanic Memorial

The Major Archibald Willingham Butt Memorial Bridge [shortened to Butt Bridge, locally] is Georgia’s only monument to a victim of the sinking of RMS Titanic and is also one of the most unusual. In terms of sheer size it’s likely the largest such memorial in the nation. Four regal lions guard the corners of the bridge and bald eagles perch atop lighted globes on both sides. The pedestrian friendly structure is also a great place to view the historic Augusta Canal.

It is quite an ostentatious tribute and by nature a “living memorial”, carrying thousands of cars per day over the Augusta Canal at 15th Street. Nisbet Wingfield, the city engineer and commissioner of public works for the city of Augusta, was the engineer for the bridge; William Henry Deacy, who specialized in memorials, was the architect; and the W. W. Leland Company was responsible for the whimsical decorations. [The reinforced concrete bridge is 52.8′ at its largest span, has an overall length of 155.8′, and has a deck width of 55.8′. It is a T-beam, designed to look like an arch form]. By 1994, the future of the bridge was uncertain, but citizens rallied to save it, with the phrase “Save our Butt” a common refrain throughout Augusta. It took over 20 years for everything to fall into place, but in 2017 rehabilitation of the bridge was complete and the future of one of the city’s most unique monuments was insured.

Major Archibald Butt (26 September 1865-15 April 1912) was born to a once-prominent Augusta family who had fallen into poverty after the Civil War. While attending the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, Butt developed an interest in journalism, eventually editing the school newspaper. Before moving to Washington, D. C., Butt worked at the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Macon Telegraph. Upon arriving in the nation’s capital, he covered the government as a correspondent for a syndicate of newspapers in Nashville, Augusta, Atlanta, and Savannah. Through his skillful journalism, he made valuable connections with Washington’s high society and this ultimately landed him a job as the first secretary of the American Embassy in Mexico (1895-1897). Over the next few years Butt continued to write. He also served as a quartermaster in the Spanish-American War, noted for saving the lives of some 500 mules by turning down poor conditions in Hawaii and sailing on to the Philippines, where he remained until 1904. His logistical skills as a supply manager drew much praise, and he later served as Depot Quartermaster in Havana during America’s 1906 occupation of Cuba.

Bronze relief of Major Butt by Henry Price

In March 1908, he began serving as the military aide-de-camp to President Theodore Roosevelt, and retained that position with the incoming Taft administration. The military aides-de-camp of this time were essentially protocol chiefs and had close working relationships with presidents. Taft considered Major Butt a close friend, and the Taft family, as a result, were fond of visiting Augusta.

Butt never married and was the housemate and companion of the American painter and sculptor, Francis Davis Millet. Millet had been peripherally associated with the salon of John Singer Sargent and knew many of the finest artists in America during his lifetime. In 1912, Butt took leave from his White House job when animosities flared between Taft and Roosevelt, and he and Millet had been vacationing in Europe, highlighted by an audience with Pope Pius X, before embarking for home on the Titanic. It was said that both men helped women and children onto lifeboats before losing their lives, though this may be apocryphal. Taft was known to have been deeply saddened by Butt’s death.

Major Archibald Willingham Butt (detail of circa 1909 photograph) via Library of Congress. Public domain.

A fountain dedicated to the memory of Butt and Millet was placed in President’s Park at the White House in 1913. In April 1914, former-President Taft visited Augusta to pay tribute to his close friend, and spoke at the dedication of the Memorial Bridge.

Augusta Canal Industrial District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark + Augusta Canal National Heritage Area

Woolworth Department Store, 1939, Augusta

In its heyday, the F. W. Woolworth Company was one of the nation’s leading retail store chains. The location of the Augusta store was one of the busiest parts of the city when built in 1939. It closed in 1991 and has been empty since.

In 1960, its lunch counter was the site of a sit-in, protesting segregation, by a group of students from Augusta’s Paine College, a historically Black institution.

Broad Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Odd Fellows Hall, Augusta

This late Victorian storefront was home to the International Order of Odd Fellows and is one of several surviving 19th century commercial buildings on 8th Street.

Broad Street Historic District, National Register of Historic Places