Tag Archives: Georgia Landmarks

A Last Look at the Georgia Guidestones

After hearing the news of the destruction of the Georgia Guidestones in the early morning hours of 6 July 2022, I decided to revisit my photographs of the place. I’ve talked to people from Elberton and most just thought of them as a curiosity, but they were a tourist attraction; how much impact they actually had on the community in this regard has always been up for debate.

They also fed conspiracy theories, most recently highlighted by fringe gubernatorial candidate Kandiss Taylor (3.4% of the vote in the 2022 Republican primary) who declared them “satanic” and made their removal a tenet of her candidacy.

Elberton mayor Daniel Graves recently told Stephen Fowler, in an interview on NPR’s Morning Edition: “[the] county is a solidly conservative and religiously observant, so outside voices claiming Satan’s hold on the stones don’t add up. “Our view of righteousness is not an Almighty God that needs zealots to do his dirty work and destruction,” Graves said. “That’s hatred … all the dynamite in the world can’t change a man’s heart.”

The only controversy regarding this relatively plain monument when it was unveiled on 22 March 1980 had to do with its origins and the identity of its mysterious patron. The man chose his pseudonym, R. C. Christian, because of his faith, but nothing else was ever revealed. Perhaps that’s what helped feed growing theories regarding the “New World Order” and satanism over time.

Occupying the highest point in Elbert County, the Guidestones were sometimes referred to as America’s Stonehenge, even though Stonehenge was laid out in a circular fashion and the Guidestones formed an “x”. There only similarity to Stonehenge was in their use as a sort of celestial sundial.

Elberton is known as the Granite Capital of the World, and is a charming small town. Personally, I prefer the area’s architectural gems, but I think it will be a challenge to draw people to the area on that aspect alone.

As Elberton Star editor Rose Scoggins told NPR: “I do think that we will slowly start to see just how big of an impact they had, because it will affect our tourism…I think we will unfortunately see that decline.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) hasn’t released any updates recently, but they do have video footage of the vehicle that was at the site just before the explosive device was detonated. Elbert County intends to prosecute anyone responsible.

Two slabs were destroyed in the initial explosion and the GBI took out the remaining stones as a safety measure. For now, to my knowledge, there aren’t plans to replace the Guidestones.

Peter Joseph’s Store, Circa 1900, St. Simons Island

This was the general store and boarding house of Peter Joseph, a leader of the historic Black community of South End on St. Simons Island. Built circa 1900, per the Glynn County Historic Resources Report [2009], it was razed circa 2016. The only Peter Joseph I can locate on St. Simons was born in 1903 and died in 1966; if this is the same Peter Joseph, it would mean the store was built by someone else, perhaps a member of his family. I will attempt to update this if I can find out anything more.

These photographs were made in February 2015.

As the images confirm, the structure had long been abandoned when I photographed it. It was an important resource for a long lost community, so I’m glad I had the opportunity to document it.

Strangers Cemetery, St. Simons Island

Officially known as Union Memorial Cemetery, Strangers Cemetery gets its unusual name from those interred here. Former slaves (and their descendants) who toiled on the island’s plantations prior to Emancipation were buried on those properties. The original “strangers” were freedmen who came to the island after the Civil War and worked primarily in sawmills along the Frederica River. Many remained for generations in three thriving black communities: Harrington, Jewtown, and South End, and some were interred here, as they weren’t allowed to bury on the former plantation lands. While most marked graves are in very good condition, a large number of unmarked graves exist, as well.

Among later “strangers” is Mary Elizabeth “Bessie” Sampson Jones (8 February 1902-4 September 1984). She was born in Smithville (Lee County) and never knew her biological father. Her mother moved to an uncle’s farm in nearby Dawson when Bessie was a baby and while there married James Sampson, who was a father figure to Bessie. Of her childhood, she wrote: “I never has went to school a whole term and I didn’t get past the fifth grade; every school day I had to keep other people’s babies and sometimes I had to work in the fields.” Music was always present in Bessie Jones’s childhood. Her mother Julia played the autoharp and James Sampson played numerous instruments by ear. Her grandfather, Jet Sampson, was an accordionist. He was enslaved, along with five brothers, around 1843 and died in 1941 at the age of 105. Listening to his stories and songs, Bessie gained many insights that would inform her later work.

Bessie Jones. on the set of “Music of Williamsburg” film, Williamsburg, Virginia, April 28, 1960. Photo by Alan Lomax. AFC Alan Lomax Collection (AFC 2004/004).

In 1914 a very young Jones gave birth to her first child, Rosalie. The child’s father, Cassius Davis, was a native of the Georgia Sea Islands and had come to the Dawson area seeking farm work. After World War I Bessie lived briefly in Milan and Fitzgerald. Cassius died in Brunswick in 1926. For the next seven years she lived in Florida. In Okeechobee she married George Jones and in 1933 they moved to St. Simons Island. They had two sons: George L. Jones (1935) and Joseph (1937). George died in 1945. After his death Bessie got involved with the Spiritual Singers of Coastal Georgia, perhaps the first group to formally attempt to preserve and perform the slave songs and spirituals of the Sea Island Gullah and Geechee people. It was a great honor for Bessie to have been invited to join the group, as she was not a native of the islands.

Bessie met musicologist and folkorist Alan Lomax in 1959 and a couple of years later he recorded a series of songs, stories, and interviews with her at his apartment in New York City. In 1963, the Georgia Sea Island Singers were established. Lomax arranged a tour that took the group to colleges around the country and a decade of travel followed. They participated in the Poor People’s March in 1968 and appeared at Carnegie Hall, the Newport Folk Festival, Montreal World’s Fair, Central Park, and numerous Smithsonian Folk Life Festivals. In 1976, the Sea Island Singers performed at the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter. In 1982, Mrs. Jones received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, but died of leukemia later that year.

Peter Stone and Ellen Harold’s profile of Bessie Jones at the Association for Cultural Equity, from which this was condensed, is an excellent source for further reading.

Faith Chapel, 1904, Jekyll Island

A non-denominational sanctuary built for the Jekyll Island Club by architect Howard Constable, Faith Chapel is one of the best-known structures in the National Historic Landmark District. It features a window signed and personally installed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and another stained glass panel behind the pulpit depicting the Adoration of the Christ Child designed by Maitland Armstrong and his daughter Helen. The chapel is well-maintained today and is often used for weddings and open for tours at times.

The gargoyles are a copy of those found at Notre Dame de Paris.

Jekyll Island Historic District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark

Villa Ospo, 1927, Jekyll Island

Villa Ospo was one of the last structures built in the Jekyll Island Club era. It took its name from the Guale word for either the island, or a village thereon, and has Spanish Eclectic and Italian Renaissance elements.

It was built by architect John Russell Pope* for Walter Jennings (14 September 1858-9 January 1933). Jennings was a member of Skull and Bones at Yale, a Columbia Law School classmate of Theodore Roosevelt, and director of Standard Oil of New Jersey. He was a student of history, as well, and helped successfully lobby the Georgia legislature to correct the long-used spelling ‘Jekyl’ to ‘Jekyll’, as it should have been all along since Oglethorpe named the island for Sir Joseph Jekyll.

*-Notably, Pope was also the architect of the Jefferson Memorial and the National Gallery of Art].

Jennings died here on 9 January 1933. He and his wife were injured in an automobile accident on Oglethorpe Road on 4 January and though a heart attack was listed as his cause of death, it’s possible this was brought on from injuries sustained in the accident.

Jekyll Island Historic District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark

Crane Cottage, 1917, Jekyll Island

This Renaissance Revival Mediterranean-influenced “cottage” was built in 1917 for plumbing magnate Richard Teller Crane, Jr., (7 November 1873-7 November 1931). David Adler and Henry C. Dangler were the architects. Dangler died in 1917 and the house wasn’t completed and occupied until early 1919.

It was the largest and most elaborate home ever built on Jekyll Island.

It contained 30 rooms and 17 bathrooms , the pinnacle of modernity at the time.

The grounds and sunken garden are among the most beautifully landscaped public areas on the Georgia coast.

Jekyll Island Historic District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark

Moss Cottage, 1896, Jekyll Island

One of the most beloved homes in the National Historic Landmark District, Moss Cottage was built for William Struthers, Jr., (15 June 1848-12 December 1911) in 1896. Though the architect is unknown, it’s possible that Struthers himself was involved in the design.

Struthers and his brother, John, owned one of the largest marble firms in the country. It was established by their architect grandfather, John Struthers, who worked with William Strickland on the iconic Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia.

It was later occupied by George Henry Macy, Kate Carter Macy, and William Kingsland Macy.

Jekyll Island Historic District, National Register of Historic Places + National Historic Landmark

Note: This replaces a post originally published on 5 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