Early Colonists In Savannah

Dated: 08/23/2017

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    When the early colony was established, Oglethorpe directed his attention to the defense of the colony against Spanish incursion from Florida. THE WAR OF JENKINS' EAR was a minor episode in early American history, but it was important for colonial Georgia. The conflict between England and Spain focused on disputed land claims between South Carolina and Florida as well as shipping. In 1739, conflict erupted with several battles occurring. The name of the conflict focused on one incident where a Spanish privateer severed British captain Robert Jenkins's ear in 1731 as punishment for raiding Spanish ships. Jenkins presented the ear to Parliament, and the outraged English public demanded retribution. 

General Oglethorpe and his troops were unsuccessful in seizing two Spanish forts in Florida. They retreated to Fort Frederica and waited for the Spanish to invade. The Spanish launched their attack of Fort Frederica in the summer of 1742. General Oglethorpe was successful in defusing the attack. A second battle, THE BATTLE OF BLOODY MARSH, occurred with a second attempt by the Spanish to attack Fort Frederica. Once again, General Oglethorpe and his troops were successful in defending the area. The last skirmish had little results when he attempted to invade a fort at St. Augustine in March of 1743. THE TREATY OF AIX-LA-CHAPPELLE in 1748 returned all colonial claims to previous owners, and the two nations unofficially agreed upon the St. Johns River as the boundary between Georgia and Florida. 

    Accused of misconduct by a junior officer and having spent his own fortune to finance the colony, Oglethorpe returned to England where he was exonerated and reimbursed for his expenses. He remained a Trustee until shortly before the Trustees turned the colony over to the Crown in 1752. Oglethorpe never returned to Georgia. 

    While most of Georgia’s first colonists settled on house lots in the wards that Oglethorpe laid out and tended their gardens in the five-acre plots that ringed the settlement, as much as 500 acres per person was available in the surrounding country. The first man to take advantage of this opportunity was NOBLE JONES, who arrived from England with his wife, son and daughter. They leased part of an island located on the Skidaway River on what is now known as the ISLE OF HOPE. The Skidaway River, which provided access to the Atlantic Ocean, served as a “back door” for early shipping traffic into Savannah and provided much-needed protection for Savannah

    After the War of Jenkins’ Ear, in which Jones fought alongside Oglethorpe, Jones applied for a patent from England and was given 500 acres and additional land. Jones was not the only landowner on the Isle of Hope, but was joined there by two other colonists named John Fallowfield and Henry Parker. 

    Noble Jones named his family’s plantation WORMSLOE after a place in his native Wales. After clearing land and digging wells, Jones constructed a fortified dwelling of TABBY, a slurry of sand, limestone, oyster shells and water that was poured into forms and allowed to harden into large building blocks. The tabby ruins are still evident today and serve as a popular tourist destination on Isle of Hope. Since tabby is a building technology originally developed in west Africa, and still practiced in the 20th Century in Senegal, many historians believe that Jones hired slaves of African descent, probably from South Carolina, to develop his homestead. 

    Noble Jones served as a carpenter for the colony and doctor. He trained his son, NOBLE WIMBERLY JONES, as a physician. The younger Jones served as the Georgia Medical Society’s first president and is honored with a monument on the east end of Bay Street. He also served as a member of the Continental Congress supporting American independence while his father remained a Loyalist. 

    In 1740, the Georgia Trustees granted George Whitefield 500 acres to establish the BETHESDA ORPHANAGE for boys, with James Habersham acting as the administrator for the project. Within a year of opening, 150 children were cared for by the orphanage. The original building, designed by Whitefield, was destroyed by fire in 1773. A replacement building was partially demolished in the 20th Century. However, the west wing of the building remains standing and is the oldest building on the campus dating to 1883. It now serves as a museum which includes a portrait of Selena the Countess of Huntingdon who was one of Whitefield’s English benefactors in creating the orphanage. Bethesda Orphanage, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, still serves the community and has a remarkable roster of successful alumni. 

    Despite successes at Wormsloe and the Bethesda Orphanage, by 1750 it was becoming apparent that the Georgia colony was not producing an income comparable to other British colonies. The Trustees’ idealistic vision of a community of farmers tending their garden lots was eclipsed by the overwhelming success of Carolina’s plantation system. As a result, the Trustees relinquished their charter and the Crown officially took over the colony in 1752. Wealthy planters from South Carolina, whose West African-inspired system of rice culture depended upon cultivation of a narrow band of land on tidal estuaries, moved into Coastal Georgia, enabling the colony to prosper at last. 



Excerpt is courtesy Barbara C Fertig's Tour Guide Manual for Savannah

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Jenny Rutherford

Meet Jenny Rutherford Jenny Rutherford Real Estate, LLC. Where did you grow up? I grew up on a farm at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. I've lived in several states, including Virgi....

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