Brief Timeline of History on Cumberland Island

By Andrew Koransky andrew(at), VIP, January 15-March 15, 1999


Text in italics relate to the modern history of the North end of the island (High Point and the Settlement). I would have liked to add a section describing how all of the current landowners and retained right holders came to hold their property (starting with data from the tables in the endnotes) but this information is difficult to find in a concise form and I ran out of patience trying to interpret deeds. J Hope you find this helpful.

NOTE: I'm not a historian and have done the best I could with the information I had at the time (Jan-Mar 1999).  In the words of Neil Boortz.  "Don't believe anything you read on this web page... unless it is consistent with what you already know to be true, or unless you have taken the time to research the matter to prove it's accuracy (or inaccuracy) to your satisfaction."



Timucuans (called the island Missoe [beautiful], Wissoe [sassafras], and Tacatacuru).


Explorer Juan Ponce De Leon passes by Cumberland Island.


French land on island and befriend Timucuans.


Spanish name island San Pedro, build fortification & presidio (logs & earth) with 80 men. Jesuits arrive to set up missionary and are killed by Timucuans (loyal to French).


Harsh conditions drive Spaniards home.


Franciscian Spaniards arrive, successful conversion of Timucuans begins.


Successful missionary, San Pedro de Mocama, established. Located inner side of island, 2 leagues from Cumberland sound, southern end.


Successful missionary, San Pedro y San Pablo de Portuba, established. Located inner side of island, northern end.


Gualean Revolt - spurred by public reprimand of tribe chieftain on mainland for polygamous habits among tribe. Faithful Indians on Cumberland defend missions causing rebel retreat northward. Missions abandoned by Spanish soon thereafter.


Spaniards return, rebuild San Pedro de Mocama church.


English presence weakens Spanish positions.


English take possession.


Spanish abandon island.


Oglethorpe visits island with Creek Indian "King's" nephew Toonahowi; Toonahowi visited England previously and visited William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland; Toonahowi renames island "Cumberland" after the Duke of Cumberland.
Fort Saint Andrews is constructed.


Barracks for 220 men with storehouses completed at Fort Saint Andrews. Village of Barrimacke is established for living quarters.


War of Jenkin's Ear (War of the Austrian Succession) between England & Spain.


English construct Fort Prince William, Southern end of island.


Fort St. Andrews abandoned and later destroyed by Spaniards while forces are concentrated at Fort Prince William. Fort Prince William successfully defends island the English position.


Cumberland becomes neutral territory between Spain and England and becomes refuge for criminals, debtors and dissenters from both sides.


Grays gang w/~300 inhabiting Cumberland engaging in small trade with Spanish and Indians for 8-10 years. This was the first semi-permanent settlement.


English begin to dish out land on Cumberland, but island remains thinly inhabited.


Earliest record of Dungeness: Dungeness (hunting?) lodge/camp… named after the Duke's county seat, Castle Dungeness.


Fort Prince William abandoned, but land surrounding Prince William and St. Andrews is held by English for "public use" (IE in case of future war).


Revolutionary War. Island mostly abandoned during war. British occupy island for staging area before attacking Savannah in 1778.


General Nathaniel Greene purchases land on Cumberland for timber harvesting hoping that income from the timber will take him out of debt.


Greene dies suddenly of sunstroke, wills all of his property to wife, Catherine Greene, and children.


Phineas Miller is married to Catherine Greene, now Catherine Greene Miller.


Greene Miller family moves to Cumberland, grows sea island cotton and live oak.


Andrew Ellicott arrives on Cumberland Island March 26, ending his famous survey.


A network of roads exists around this time, portions of which become the Main Road.


Phineas Miller dies. The brick crypt at Miller-Greene cemetery might contain his body (discovered 1996).
The Dungeness tabby mansion completed w/attached Gardener's house (Tabby House). Eli Whitney, inventor of cotton gin, friend of Miller family, becomes a frequent visitor.


War of 1812, British troops on island, but little damage incurred.


Catherine Greene Miller dies and wills Dungeness to daughter Louisa Shaw.


General "Light-Horse" Harry Lee (subordinate to General Nathaniel Greene, father to Robert E. Lee) arrives ill (with cancer) and aging and dies under Louisa's care.
Louisa begins to cultivates other produce, such as olives and oranges, as well as the cotton/oak, but Cumberland remains mostly wilderness.


Louisa Shaw dies at Dungeness, willed Dungeness to her nephew (sister's (Martha) son), Phineas Miller Nightingale.


Phineas Miller Nightingale is in financial trouble and sells various parts of his holdings.
Robert Stafford Jr. becomes largest plantation owner on island. The island becomes mostly developed plantations with many slaves.


Civil War begins.


Cumberland falls to Union Forces.
The Dungeness mansion is burned after the war (drunken debauchery?).


Robert Stafford Jr. (and others) are permitted to reclaim their lands. Freedmen are placed on large plantation owners property. Robert Stafford Jr. burns freedmen quarters resulting in The Chimneys.


Luther Martin purchases Half Moon Bluff tract (The Settlement).


Main Road evident on contemporary maps of the time.


Phineas Miller Nightingale dies. Due to debt, property is transferred to Edmund Molyneux.


General William George Mackay Davis, former confederate general, friend of President Jefferson Davis, purchases Dungeness from Molyneux. The mansion ruins become a tourist attraction.


Robert Stafford Jr. dies. His property is inherited by John Tomkins and Thomas D. Hawkins after litigation.


General Davis's son, Bernard M. Davis accidentally shoots his son (also living at Dungeness with wife and family) and later died suddenly (suicide?). Theory is that the brick crypt at Miller-Greene cemetery (discovered 1996) supposedly contains both bodies.
Mason T Burbank purchases hotel on North side and begins to form the Cumberland Island Company.


General Davis sells land to Thomas Carnegie (younger brother to Andrew Carnegie, steel magnate).


John Tomkins and Thomas D. Hawkins sell land to Thomas Carnegie and Leander M. Morris.
Thomas Carnegie gives Dungeness land to Lucy Carnegie as a gift.


Main portion of Dungeness is completed, Lucy begins to expand house.
The Cottage construction begins around this time, built for Thomas Morrison Carnegie Jr. and wife.


Thomas Carnegie dies leaving all to his wife Lucy Coleman (as in Coleman camping gear!) Carnegie.
Leander Morris sells his interest in the Stafford land to Walton Ferguson.


Walton Ferguson sells the Stafford land (Stafford Place with Robert Stafford Jr.’s old mansion) to Lucy Carnegie, who gives it to William Coleman Carnegie & wife Martha Gertrude Ely.


Cumberland Island Company absorbs Bunkley property and hotel facilities expanded. Luther Martin sells 5 acres of the Half Moon Bluff tract to Mason T. Burbank and 5 acres to Charles A. Miller (no relation to Phineas). Burbank divides the Half Moon Bluff tract into 52 lots, 50x100 feet. Negroes (many former slaves) purchased these lots.


First African Baptist Church is built. Church used as schoolhouse too.


The Grange construction begins (completed ~1900). This becomes a home for William E. Page. Page was a tutor for Carnegie children at first (Tabby house used for school). At this point, he is the estate manager.


Plum Orchard mansion is constructed for Lucy's son George Lauder Carnegie and wife Margaret Thaw by architectural firm Peabody and Stearns of Boston.


Stafford Place burns. Stafford House construction begins.


Greyfield House construction begins for Lucy's daughter, Margaret "Retta" Carnegie & husband Oliver Garrison Ricketson.
Dungeness is in its prime for the next 20 years. Lucy Carnegie owns 90% of the island. Most Dungeness support structures are either complete or soon to be completed.


Additions made to Plum Orchard.


General "Light-Horse" Harry Lee's remains moved to Washington and Lee University Cemetery.


Lucy Coleman Carnegie dies, allowing no lands to be sold while any of her children were alive.


Cumberland Island Company shuts down hotel, Cumberland Island Club (for hunting) is formed.
Nancy Carnegie’s marriage – last time Dungeness is used.


Dungeness too costly to maintain, left vacant. Managed by the Lucy Carnegie Estate and associated banks.


Carnegies own all of Cumberland except footnoted property.


Howard Candler Sr. and son purchase Cumberland Island Club property at High Point.


First African Baptist Church is replaced by current structure.


The Cottage is destroyed by fire. The much smaller brick house, the currently standing Cottage, is built around this time.


Study by US NPS places Cumberland 2nd to Cape Cod as places of national significance along the Atlantic and Gulf coast.


Dungeness overseer shoots deer poacher on island. Poacher escapes and ends up in hospital. 3-4 days after poacher is released from hospital, the Dungeness Yacht is sunk and the Dungeness is set afire. No direct evidence can be found, so no one is charged.


Last of Lucy's children dies, estate divided up to heirs. Some decide to sell their land to various investors including Charles Fraser.


Charles Fraser owns 1/5th of land, envisions resort/wilderness/park.


Electricity is brought to Cumberland from mainland in anticipation of further development.


Cumberland Island National Seashore established, Fraser transfers land to Cumberland.


Torres, Louis. Historic Resource Study Cumberland Island National Seashore Georgia and Historic Structure Report Historical Data Section of the Dungeness Area. Denver, Colorado: National Park Service Historic Preservation Division, October 1977.

Bullard, Mary R. Letter to Zack Kirkland regarding newly discovered brick crypt in Greene Miller Cemetery. August 2, 1996 (received directly from Zack Kirkland).


Personal notes for doing walks/talks on Dungeness duty.

Meeting the ferry at Dungeness

Mention the following items:

  • Picnic
  • Trash
  • Icehouse
  • Toilets
  • Distances
  • Horses/wildlife
  • Ticks
  • Dunes/beach markers
  • Ferry times
  • Tour

Dungeness/Footsteps walk

During history talk, cover following info:

  • Cumberland Name
  • Dungeness Name
  • Nathaniel Greene, Phineas Miller, Louisa Shaw
  • General Lighthorse Harry Lee *
  • Robert Stafford
  • 1862 2nd Dungeness burns
  • 1880 General William George Mackay Davis *
  • 1881 Davis Sells to Carnegie
  • 1900 Dungeness in its heydays
  • 1916 Lucy Carnegie dies
  • 1920 Last event in Dungeness
  • 1959 3rd Dungeness Burns *

* indicates that a story can be relayed here.


My E-Mail address is: andrew(at)

Copyright (C) 1996-2008 Andrew Koransky