Brief Timeline of History on Cumberland Island

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

Notes

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."

Timeline

Pre-history

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

1513

Explorer Juan Ponce De Leon passes by Cumberland Island.

1562

French land on island and befriend Timucuans.

1566

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).

1573

Harsh conditions drive Spaniards home.

1578

Franciscian Spaniards arrive, successful conversion of Timucuans begins.

1587

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

~1595

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

1597

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.

1603

Spaniards return, rebuild San Pedro de Mocama church.

1670

English presence weakens Spanish positions.

~1683

English take possession.

1686

Spanish abandon island.

1736

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.

1738

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

1739

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

1740

English construct Fort Prince William, Southern end of island.

1742

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.

1748

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

1757

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.

1763

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

~1765

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

~1770

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).

1776

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

1783

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

1786

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

1796

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

1799

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

1800

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

~1802

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

1803

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.

1812

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

1814

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

1818

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.

1831

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

~1840

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.

1861

Civil War begins.

1862

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

1868

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.

1870

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

~1870

Main Road evident on contemporary maps of the time.

1871

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

1872

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

1877

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

1880

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.

1881

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

1882

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.

1885

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.

1886

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.

1887

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.

1890

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.

1893

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

1895

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.

1898

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

1900

Stafford Place burns. Stafford House construction begins.

~1900

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.

1906

Additions made to Plum Orchard.

1913

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

1916

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

1920

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

1925

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

1928

Carnegies own all of Cumberland except footnoted property.

1930

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

1937

First African Baptist Church is replaced by current structure.

1949

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

1955

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

1959

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.

1962

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

1969

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

~1970

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

1972

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

Bibliography

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)koransky.com

Copyright (C) 1996-2008 Andrew Koransky