CUMBERLAND ISLAND, GEORGIA - 1996
Sunday, March 24, 1996 - After almost a week of delays, we left the mountain on Sunday morning heading south, first destination Macon, Georgia. If all went well we would get there in time for the last few hours of the Cherry Blossom Festival. But that was not to be. About twenty miles north of Marietta a trucker pulled up alongside us waving and pointing. I pulled off the highway at the first opportunity to find out what he was trying to tell us, and found that we had blown a tire on the trailer. the right rear. It was a mess, but fortunately we had stopped in time to save the rim. It was on the curb side so there was no trouble with traffic. I moved the center tire back to the rear position, and we limped in to Marietta. Found that the Sears Auto Center was open and bought a new tire, but the episode stole almost four hours of our day. We made Macon all right, but it was five o'clock and all the activities were over. The highly publicized blossoms were almost non-existent, either past their peak, or frozen or blown away by recent bad weather. We drove into town to see streetsweepers and workmen everywhere cleaning up trash, vendors packing up their carts, and craft people pulling down their tents. From the amount of debris, and the number of tents, it must have been a well attended event. The craft displays had taken up two or three blocks along Mulberry Street. Motor homes and trailers were parked along the streets nearby, providing free campspace for the crafters.
Question - The tire that blew was practically new - no more than 10000 miles. From the start it had a slow leak - too small to make a bubble, but the tire would lose from 55psi down to 35psi over 2 or 3 months. I put some sealant in thru the valve stem while we were in Newfoundland, and it stopped the leak. Is that stuff strong enough to weaken a tire, especially one left standing in one position for several months?
Tomorrow, we'll explore a little around Macon. There are some antebellum mansions along College Street that are quite attractive. We'll probably end up in the Macon Mall and its 130 stores.
Don't know when I'll get this sent, so I'm putting it in the outbasket for first opportunity. We're camped in Tobesofkee State Park with no phone jacks handy.
Monday, March 25, 1996 - It turned out to be a poor day for sightseeing with rain in abundance. Spent some time walking at the Macon Mall, then ate lunch at Morrisons, bought some reading material and came back to trailer to loaf rest of the day.
Tuesday, March 26, 1996 - Left Tobesofkee SP about 9:00am and drove down to Adel, GA and Reed Bingham State Park. This is about 15 miles from Moultrie. Park is on a large lake. Campsites are scattered among pines and live oaks with lots of space. Noticed as we were unhitching that the new tire was flat. Removed it and went into town hunting a tire repair place. Turned out to be a defect in the tre that could not be repaired. Ordered another like the five still on the trailer. Supposed to be in tomorrow at 2:00pm. Checked the postoffice in Moultrie for our mail, and came away with a bundle. Then went to the Ellen Payne Odum Genealogy Library for some peace, quiet and research. Library was started in 1989 as an adjunct to the public library. They have an extensive collection of materials about the people and history of Colquitt County. This is the county where my mother's people, the Crofts, came from before migrating to Florida before the Civil War.
Wednesday, March 27, 1996 - Went back to the Odum Library for a couple of hours of looking, then after lunch found a bowling alley to work off some energy. At the appointed hour we went back to the tire store to get the new tire mounted. It too turned out to be defective with a large bubble appearing on the side. Now we'll have to wait until 9:00am in the morning for another try. But we're in a nice spot so the theme is relax and enjoy.
Thursday, March 28, 1996 - Back to Moultrie for my 9:00am date with the tire company. The new one had not yet arrived, so I went to the library for an hour. When I returned at 10:00am the tire was ready, and I was on my way. After mounting it on the trailer, we were off to Brunswick. It was a smooth and quiet ride through the piney woods of south Georgia. Went through Adel, Nashville, Waycross, Hoboken, and Nahunta. We found a campsite in the Blythe Island Regional Park, a public park on SR303. Blythe Island, when we live here, was a deserted area. Now it hums with activity. Brunswick too. Doesn't seem like 33 years since we lived here. Much has changed, though there are a few landmarks that are recognizable. Stopped by the Sears Auto Center to tell my tale of woe to the tire store. Without argument they issued me a refund, even though the defective tire was bought in Marietta. Things are looking up.
Friday, March 29, 1996 - We found our way over to St. Simons Island despite changes in the roadways. The marshes of Glynn are timeless. The highway over is now fourlaned. Toll is still 35 cents. Traffic was heavy. During the course of the day, we visited the Village, the King & Prince, East Beach, Frederica, Little St. Simons, Sea Island, our old house on Broadway, the lighthouse, and several little shopping areas. Azaleas on the island were prettier than we've ever seen them, and far more numerous. Seemingly every home has hundred of bushes. The oak trees are just as large and plentiful as ever. Houses still going up rapidly, and the crowds are increasing. Lots of recognizable things though. We ate lunch at the Mullet Bay Restaurant in the Village. Rain cleared up about noon. There was magnolia tree in the front yard of our old home that must have been a foot in diameter at the base. Neither of us remembered it being there when we were there. Otherwise the yard looked about the same. New houses being built seem to be in a race to see which can be the biggest and most lavish.
Saturday, March 30, 1996 - It was an easy drive down to St.Marys where we found camping at the Crooked River State Park. After setup we went to the docks to check on the ferry to Cumberland. All space was taken through Monday. We made reservations for Tuesday, but hoped to get on via a cancellation on Monday. They allow 300 visitors on the island at a time. Learned that the only transportation once on the island is by foot. Trail from first docksite crosses the island via the burned out Dungeness mansion of Thomas and Lucy Carnegie. Then a walk down the beach to another trail back to the second set of docks covers about four miles total. We picked up maps, and checked some books to see what to expect on the island.
Located in the very southeast corner of the Georgia, St. Marys is one of the oldest settlements in the country, There were 34 buildings on the National List of Historic Sites. The Methodist church dates back to 1799. St. Marys has a trident nuclear submarine base, a paper mill and some fishing to keep things going in today's economy. A new submarine museum was being dedicated as we arrived. We walked around the historic district for awhile, then found a seafood restaurant for lunch. Saw several signs claiming that St.Marys was the rock shrimp capital of Georgia. Then it started raining so we went back to camp.
Monday, April 1st - Stlll cloudy so we decided to wait until Tuesday for Cumberland. While Ann did the laundry, I drove up to Woodbine to visit the Bryan Lang Historical Library. Found some excellent records on cemeteries in Camden County. Several Johns family sites.
Tuesday, April 2nd - CUMBERLAND ISLAND - April, 1996
Hiking the Dungeness Trail on Cumberland Island is a walk through the solitude and stillness of a maritime forest. Spanish moss hangs on the live oaks, and resurrection ferns grow along the upper sides of the oaks' long horizontal limbs, muffling all sound but the singing of birds and occasional rustling of leaves as the ocean breezes sift through. Following the trail as it tunnels through this island paradise leaves one marvelling that such semi-tropical forests near a beautiful beach can still exist.
Cumberland is a the largest barrier island on Georgia's coast. It is also the most southern of the islands. With all the pristine forest and unblemished seashore, there are also signs of civilization - very opulent civilization. In 1881, Thomas Carnegie, younger brother of Andrew Carnegie, bought 4,000 acres and began building a mansion. His widow continued buying up the land until she owned over 90% of the island. The Carnegie mansion was called Dungeness. Mrs. Carnegie built five other mansions for her children, and maintained a 300 man staff to keep the estate going. Though these mansions seem out of place in the otherwise natural surroundings, it is probably because of them and the Carnegies' exclusivitiy, that Cumberland Island hasn't fallen to the crowded development problems that have befallen other seashore sites. In 1972 most of the Carnegie holdings were sold to the National Park Service which now controls most of the island and is dedicated to keeping it as natural as possible.
The Park Service operates a ferry service from the port town of St. Marys twice daily to Cumberland. Only 300 visitors are allowed on the island at any time. This is controlled by the tickets sold on the ferry. We arrived in St. Marys on Saturday, March 30th, to learn that the earliest available ferry seats were the following Tuesday, April 2nd. Reservations can be made in advance, but we didn't know that before our arrival. All things work for the best though. Tuesday turned out to be the nicest day we've seen since leaving home ten days ago. A cold front had come through the day before and flushed out all clouds from the sky. The temperature was in the sixties.
We boarded at 8:45am for the 45 minute ride to the island. There were some interesting folks aboard with us. Some were backpacking with there aluminum racks, planning to spend up to seven days on the island. One man had a host of gear strapped to a warehouse dolly. Planning to set up camp and stay in one place for a week, he had coolers, fishing gear, a surfboard, tent, and who knows what else. There were 33 fifth graders from Marietta on a chaperoned field trip. There were thirteen senior citizens from Tennessee going over for the day. The ferry will haul most anything but cars, bicycles or animals. So those going over must get around on foot.
We disembarked at the Dungeness Dock and went first to the Ice House Museum. The exhibits in the old ice storage room portray the history of the island from the time of the seven foot tall Timuacan Indians through the Carengie era. There have been inhabitants for 3,000 years. A surprising bit of information was that Nathaniel Greene, the Revolutionary War general built the first mansion at Dungeness. Robert E. Lee's father "Lighthorse Harry" Lee, die and was buried there, though he was later exhumed and moved to Virginia. Greene's heirs raised Sea Island cotton and sold live oak lumber for shipbuildings. Before the Civil War there were 36 whites and 400 blacks living on the island.
A ranger was on hand to conduct a guided tour from the docks to Dungeness. As we walked along he gave a running commentary about the ecology, the history, the Carnegies, all reflecting his obvious love of the place. As we walked down the road that led to Dungeness we saw huge magnolia trees intermingled with the live oaks. Ahead we saw the ornate gate to Dungeness. The Dungeness mansion is now in ruins. Lucy Carnegie lived there until her death in 1916, but then the house was abandoned. Her children all had mansions of their own. Forty three years later the mansion burned. Now it is a skeleton of tabby and brick walls. Wild horses, descended from Carnegie horses set free by Lucy's will, were grazing on the lawn. (There were 239 such horses, called feral because they were once tame, the last time they were counted.) After a walk around the estate listening to the ranger, we left the group to take the trail to the beach.
The path left the forest 1/4 mile from the estate and led across a wall of sand dunes. Climbing and walking in the loose sand was difficult. The dunes can only be crossed at designated points about two miles apart. (The park service has established rules to protect the dunes.) Another 1/4 mile brought us to the beach. The beach was at least a 100 yards wide giving a wide angle view of the Atlantc Ocean. The tide was on the way out, having left behind and array of shells. Walking along picking up shells brought back memories of Sanibel Island, Florida.
We walked the two miles northward on the beach to the next crossing point. There a boardwalk had been built across the dunes, so the dune crossing was easy. We entered the forest where live oaks had grown to maturity in perpetual wind off the ocean. The great trees with their low hanging tangled web of crisscrossed limbs presented a natural playground for the kids. A bit further and the trees straightened up some. Palmettos made up the thin undergrowth around the trees. The wild horses keep other leafy bushes down. An especially clean and modern restroom was in a clearing next to a camping area. We washed up and found a bench to rest and eat some of the snacks we'd brought along. By now we were completely alone. All the people that had come across on the boat with us had scattered. Birds were singing in the trees, and the perfect tranquility was marred only by the sound of occasional planes overhead. An armadillo waddled out of the palmettos about twenty feet from our lunch bench, crossed the trail and disappeared again, fully unaware of our presence.
It's easy to see why the Carnegies fell in love with this place. I asked the ranger why they didn't just build a house on Jekyll Island like the other millionaires of that era. His answer was that the snobs on Jekyll considered the Carnegies inferior because their's was new wealth, not inherited. On a trip south in 1881, they were rejected by the Jekyll Island Club. Continuing south they stopped at Cumberland. Lucy loved it. They continued on to Florida, but Thomas left the family for an interval in which he came back to Cumberland and made arrangement to buy 4,000 acres in Lucy's name. He went back to Florida and gave her the deed. He died five years later and Lucy built the estate. Dungeness was built over the ruins of the Nathaniel Greene mansion, also called Dungeness. The Carnegie Cemetery has four generations of Carnegies buried there, all arranged like a descendency chart with Thomas and Lucy at the top.
We continued westward on the trail, marvelling over and over at the beauty. The island at this point is about 1/2 mile wide so it wasn't long before we were looking at water on the "river" side. Here, a second set of docks operated by the park service allows people to reboard the ferry without going back to the Dungeness Docks. It was still three hours before the ferry left, so we decided to walk a trail along the river back to Dungeness. Heavy vines as thick as ones arm reached from the ground to the uppermost limbs of the giant oaks. At three more spots we heard a rustling in the leaves and turned to see more armadillos. We reached our starting point shortly, calculating that we had walked about 4 1/4 miles. After a short rest and look at the map, we decided to stroll up Main Road to Greyfields, one of the Carnegie children's mansions now an inn.
Main Road is a one-lane oyster shell road that runs the entire seventeen mile length of the island. There are a few automobiles on the island, operated by a few private residents and employees of the park service. A few of these passed us as we walked along the "highway" toward Greyfields. After two miles of this we came to Greyfields. At the gate was a No Trespassing sign. We got a tiny glimpse of the inn and saw a few more wild horses but were disappointed in not seeing the old mansion. So back we walked along the road to the SeaCamp landing, figuring that we had walked about 7 1/4 miles all together. By then, folks were gathering for the return ferry trip. The rangers showed a videotape about the loggerhead turtles that come ashore each year on Cumberland to lay their eggs. Then, it was time to board the ferry. We were tired but happy with what we had experienced on the island, and we recommend the excursion to anyone.