King George Blockhouse
|From Buddy Sullivan
FKG was made a state park and historic site in 1965.
LAHS wasn’t founded until 1979 so the society had
nothing to do with the creation of the park. What LAHS
did do however was help Georgia DNR raise private and
corporate funds to implement the construction of the
replica cypress blockhouse that became the centerpiece
of the interpretation of the fort. That construction was
completed in 1989. The FKG museum buildings were already
in place having been built by the state in the late
From the October 1988 Echoes Newsletter
THE DEDICATION OF THE BLOCKHOUSE AT FORT KING GEORGE
Announcing the completion of the replica of Colonel John
Bamwell's Blockhouse (1721), its dedication. and opening
to the public, at Fort King George Historic Site, on
Sunday, October 23rd, 1988. Originated by the Lower
Altamaha Historical Society, and in cooperation with the
Georgia General Assembly, and the Department of Natural
Resources, the reconstruction of the blockhouse
represents a remarkable achievement in participation.
HOW [T ALL HAPPENED The dedication of the blockhouse ar
Fort King George is an important event for both Darien
and the Lower Altamaha Historical Society. The drive for
funds to restore the fort was originated and led by the
Society. The purpose in founding the LAHS (1980) was to
support improvements at Fort King George Site, namely,
reconstruction of the fort as a priority.
About 1912 a Lewis Emily settled in McIntosh County.
There was a daughter, named Bessie, and as a young woman
she taught school, as some of us can testify In
receiving instruction from her. This was the time of the
"Florida Boom," and interest was focusing on the Georgia
Coast, which ﬁred Miss Bessie's curiosity about the
County's past. She interviewed the older citizens for
what they could remember, and she began serious study of
regional history. She combed thc pages of thc early
newspapers, the Colonial Record qf Georgia. and those of
the Colony of South Carolina. Miss Bessie found 18th
century charts and maps showing a Fort King George
(|721) at the mouth of the Altamaha River. A surprise,
for this was prior to the Scottish settlement of Darien
(I736), and unknown to most people. The British Record
Ofﬂioe in London furnished from is ﬁles a plan of this
fort by the hand of its builder, Col. John Barnwell, and
the subsequent plans for repairs by military engineers.
Col. John Boswcll's journal is his Report to Governor
Francis Nicholson, the ﬁrst Royal Governor of the Colony
of South Carolina. ln it he describes the situation
regarding his scoutmen, and his method of constructing
the blockhouse at the Fort. It was found in the records
of the "Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in
Foreign Parts." The Library of Congress obtained a copy,
and it was published in the October, 1916 issue of the
South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine. It
is not so strange to have found this document in the
SPGFP's files. A strong missionary feeling toward the
American Indian ‘was prevailing, inspiring many English
clergymen, and there was a movement also to help their
own destitute people. This was the motivation for the
Georgia Colony; certain members of its Board of Trustees
were also members of the SPGFP. The need for reliable
information on the area was vital to their plans. The
source of the Journal was probably the agency managing
colonial affairs. or even Governor Nicholson himself.
Miss Bessie was building a reputation of respect by her
articles on the Scots of Darien. Oglethorpe, and hcr
persistent enthusiasm for the reconstruction of Fort
King George could no longer be ignored. Recognizing the
Forfs significance, in 1948 the site was relinquished by
the Sea Island Company to the State of Georgia.
Archaeologists uncovered the graves of British soldiers,
establishing that thc fort site was indeed nearby.
Vestiges of earthworks visible to William Bartram in
1773 had been obliterated by the timber industry's
century of occupation on the site.
The Darien Jaycees expressed interest, but it was beyond
their resources. At this point Dr. William Tailer
proposed forming a Chamber of Commerce as an organized
base for pressuring the State to reconstruct the fort to
attract visitors. A large delegation from Darien, headed
by Miss Bessie Lewis, DI’, Tailer and Jimmy Williamson,
attended upon Governor Sanders, and obtained a matching
grant to be administered by the Georgia Historical
Commission toward the site development The full $25,000.
could not be met, but even so the Governor gave the
promised money. Additional funds were made available,
and the Chairman and Director of the Historical
Commission met with interested citizens at Darien. It
was agreed on a museum and a dwelling for a resident
superintendent for the first construction. and the
replica of the fort to follow at a later time. With
these two buildings accomplished, the site was
officially opened to visitors.
The Historical Commission was dissolved, and management
of the system of historic sites was transferred to Parks
Division of DNR, which lacking experience in historic
site management. put them on hold.
McIntosh County tried again in 1983. at the celebration
of Georgia's 250th anniversary, but was unsuccessful in
raising the kind of funding needed to build the
blockhouse. It was a bad year financially for all. and
the foundations and corporations were unresponsive. As
alternate a history of Darien and the Coast in dramatic
form called Origins was performed, made possible by a
Humanities matching grant through the Georgia Committee
for the Celebration.
True to its stated purpose, to promote improvements at
Fort King George. LAHS had kept constant pressure upon
those in authority. "1nvestment,"it said. “in the
potentials of the site would surely increase revenues.
An exhibit mounted in the museum outlining long-term
planning for the future, would arouse beneficial
interest in Legislators, Foundations, and Corporations,
as worthy notice for financial response by this show of
commitment on DNR's part." This investment in Fort King
George is a test of that claim. There is a risk in
positive action, but it may advance Darien as the
Coastal Center for Historic Tourism. Observing the
growing interest in Historic Preservation. LAHS decided
1987 was the year npe for trying again. A committee was
appointed for this major effort. The resourceful
chairman, A. Rundle Cook, suggested a new approach.
Consequently, a letter to Commissioner J. Leonard
Ledbetter, proposing that LAHS undertake a drive to
raise $50.000., ii' DNR will accept these funds, add
what is needful. and proceed to build the replica of
blockhouse and fort. Means for broad community
participation representatives. The success of this
project owes much to Senator Glenn E. Bryant was
provided to express approval of this project where it
counted, to their legislative and response of the other
Lcgislnton that money for the blockhouse was available
to DNR to carry it through. We are indebted to Ed
Rowley, architect, for the authenticity of his design
for the "post and beam" framing supporting Col.
Barnwell's concept for the blockhouse.
LAHS's thanks go to all who contributed, especially to
Mr. Cook for bringing to a successful conclusion his
difficult assignment, Bill Haynes.
Other Related Data & References
Cleanup of the Bessie Lewis plot in the Hopkins Cemetery
is done by LAHS on a regular basis.
of the publication of Cemeteries of McIntosh County,
edited by Mattie R. Gladstone (2000).
monographs: Tabby in McIntosh County (1997), the 1898
Hurricane (1998), the Darien Waterfront history (2000),
all by LAHS Historian Buddy Sullivan; and reissue of
Bessie Lewis’s They Called Their Town Darien, with a new
Introduction by Buddy Sullivan (2002).