LAHS HISTORICAL SYNOPSIS
Written by Buddy Sullivan
The Lower Altamaha Historical Society was established in 1979 by a group of
McIntosh County citizens interested in preserving and promoting the history and
culture of the Altamaha River basin of coastal Georgia.
Two of the early motivating forces behind the creation and growth of LAHS
were William G. (Bill) Haynes of Ashantilly and Will Dean of Pine Harbor. Others
who worked to promote the early efforts of the Society were citizens who, like
Haynes and Dean, had been involved in the research and preservation of local
history for many years, including Miss Bessie Lewis, Mr. and Bill Fanning, Doris
Rabb, Mattie Gladstone and Lillian Schaitberger.
LAHS has undertaken a number of worthy projects in its 25 years of existence.
Among the most prominent are the cataloging and documentation of all the
cemetery sites in McIntosh County, some 80 in all. This effort, which began in
1990, culminated in the publication of a comprehensive volume of county cemetery
records in 2000, edited by Mrs. Gladstone who had spearheaded the cemetery
project from its inception.
One of the primary missions of the Lower Altamaha Historical Society from its
inception was, and continues to be, the support of the Fort King George State
Historic Site near Darien, scene of the earliest English fortification in
Georgia, actually predating the 1733 founding of the colony by 12 years. In this
regard, LAHS assumed the lead role in fund-raising efforts to assist the Georgia
Department of Natural Resources in the construction of an exact replica of the
1721 blockhouse from the original specifications. This project was successfully
completed in 1989, followed by subsequent LAHS support in the development of
other reconstructed facilities at the Fort.
LAHS played an integral role in the 250th anniversary observance
of the founding of Darien in 1986 and has for several years, coordinated the
observance of Georgia Founders Day activities locally in February of each year.
Out of the rolls of the Lower Altamaha Historical Society over the years has
come a long line of historians and promoters of the McIntosh County cultural
legacy. Among these are the late Bill Haynes, author, preservationist, historian
and proprietor of the nationally-famous Ashantilly Press; Bessie Mary Lewis,
long-time county historian, educator, journalist and researcher of many of the
records and papers that led to the eventual establishment of the Fort King
George Historic Site; and Buddy Sullivan, current county historian, and author
of over a dozen books on local, coastal and Georgia history, including the
definitive local history Early Days on the Georgia Tidewater, now
in its sixth printing.
LAHS, utilizing grant funds provided by the City of Darien, has expedited the
preparation and installation of several state historic markers in the community,
with support provided by the Georgia Historical Society, of which LAHS has been
an affiliate chapter since 1996. These markers commemorate such aspects of local
history as the 1895 railroad depot at Columbus Square, the Darien waterfront,
the burning of Darien by Union forces in 1863 and Sapelo Island.
Another successful outreach of LAHS is its publication program, begun in 1998
with the Society’s publishing of an account of the 1898 hurricane and tidal wave
which struck McIntosh County. Other publications sponsored by the Society are a
history of the Darien waterfront, the book of county cemetery records and a
reprint of They Called Their Town Darien, first issued in 1975 by the
late Bessie Lewis.
Following is a list of past presidents of the Society: