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Kings Ferry, Sawpit Landing, Leigh Hill

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Excerpt from "History of Charlton County"

Leigh Hill, Coleraine and Sawpit Landing

Recollections of Sawmills and Steamboats

Civil War Action at the Kings Ferry Sawmill

(excerpt) "History of Charlton County,"

By A.S. McQueen 1932

Possibly the most famous town along the St. Mary’s river, and especially as to its importance in the history of Georgia and the nation, was Coleraine, an Indian trading post in the early days.

From information furnished by students and local historians, and gleaned from old records, it appears that Coleraine was already an Indian village before a grant was made by the State of Georgia to James Armstrong and James Seagroves, two traders from St. Thomas (now St. Mary’s and Camden). These grants were dated December 1, 1786, and granted 2,300 acres of land to Armstrong and 2,000 acres to Seagroves.

It seems that the entry of these traders upon these tracts of land caused dissention among the Indians, and the United States government had to take a hand, and, later, during the year 1795 established a Government trading post at Coleraine which, however, survived only two years.

Possibly the most important historical event during the entire life of Coleraine village was the signing of the treaty of peace and friendship between the United States and the Creek Nation of Indians.

This important event was concluded June 29, 1796, and the Indians, after much smoking of the pipe of peace and drinking the white man’s rum and wine, pledged to abide the New York treaty, and pledged themselves to aid in the running of the line between Spain and the United States; but they positively refused to cede any of the territory between the Oconee and the Ocmulgee rivers to Georgia.

The commissioners on the part of the United States were Benjamin Hawkins, of North Carolina; George Clymer, of Pennsylvania; and Andrew Pickens, of South Carolina. Georgia also sent agents in the persons of James Jackson, James Simms, and James Hendricks. The parley, according to an early historian, commenced in May, 1796, and was attended by twenty kings, seventy-five chiefs, and three hundred and forty warriors, representing the Creek Indians. The commissioners on the part of the United States were also attended by soldiers.

The result of the parley was highly displeasing to the Georgians, and when the treaty was completed General James Jackson of Georgia arose and made a lengthy speech, in which he pointed out the faithless observance of their treaties with his State by the Creeks, and exhibited two schedules of the property which they had stolen. This amounted to one hundred and ten thousand dollars, and General Jackson demanded that this sum be restored to the Georgians.

The Indians listened with profound attention, and when he had concluded his long speech they adjourned for the day. The “Big Warrior,” who had lately become a prominent chief, facetiously remarked: “I can fill up more paper than Jackson has done with the list of similar outrages of the Georgians upon my people.”

The agents representing Georgia became highly offended with Seagrove, the Indian agent, with the Indians and with the Federal commissioners, and the last named were charged – and truthfully – with disregarding the interests of Georgia in this parley. The Georgians did not gain anything in these deliberations, but it was the beginning of a bitter controversy between Georgia and the Federal government which terminated several years later with the sovereign State of Georgia winning out by open and threatening defiance to the general government.

Coleraine struggled along for years as a small trading post, but the Indians gradually deserted it for Fort Alert (Trader’s Hill), several miles farther up the St. Mary’s river, and later Center Village (or Centerville) eclipsed Coleraine as a trading post for the whites.

The old landing, and beautiful grounds surrounding, with large, moss-draped oaks dotting the old deserted village streets, is still a spot of beauty, for the same beautiful St. Mary’s river continues to flow peacefully toward the Atlantic, and from the very spot where this historic treaty was concluded – an incident which changed the course of history of our nation, for it was the beginning of the end of the power of the proud Castilians to the south in Spanish Florida – a clear view of the historic St. Mary’s can still be seen.

This beauty spot has not been entirely neglected, for on the 30th day of April, 1912, the Lyman Hall Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Waycross, Ga., erected upon the very spot where the peace treaty was signed, and under the same moss-draped oak trees that sheltered the kings and chiefs of the Creeks and the commissioners of the United States on that memorable June day in 1796, when the course of history of this great nation was altered, a giant granite boulder commemorating this great event.

This boulder was given to the Daughters by Hon. Sam Tate, of Tate, Georgia, who recently served a term as chairman of the State Highway Board of Georgia. Upon one side of this magnificent boulder is the following inscription: “This boulder marks the site of the old Town of Coleraine, where the treaty of peace and friendship was made on the 29th day of June, 1796, between the President of the United States and the kings, chiefs, and warriors of the Creek Nation of Indians. Ratified March 18, 1797. The commissioners on the part of the United States were Benjamin Hawkins, George Clymer and Andrew Pickens.” On the other side of the boulder is the following inscription: “Erected April 30, 1912, Lyman Hall Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Waycross, Georgia; donated by Sam Tate, Tate, Ga.” The site of this old, deserted village is the dividing line between Charlton and Camden counties, and the Coleraine tract is now owned by Mr. D.L. Hebard of Philadelphia, Pa., and a portion of the original tract is owned by Mr. M.G. White, Folkston, Ga. Only recently Mr. D.L. Hebard or Mr. Dan Hebard, (as he is better known among the natives) erected a handsome winter home within a few feet of the granite boulder which marks the spot of the signing of the peace treaty. It is, without a doubt, the finest and most expensive house to be found in this section of Southeast Georgia. It is constructed entirely of wood, mostly cypress lumber. Mr. Hebard owns the greater portion of the Okefenokee swamp, and is a wealthy, retired lumberman. He is an ardent sportsman and an excellent gentleman, and has many warm, personal friends in Charlton County.

(Note: We found one early history differing slightly with all other data found on the subject of the signing of the peace treaty and about the village of Coleraine. We have an old Georgia history published in 1856 which states that after the council met at Coleraine for a few days, the entire assembly moved a short distance away to Muskogee. This history gives it as follows: “At the suggestion of Seagrove, the Indian Agent, the council was removed from Coleraine to Muskogee, a short distance off. Here a considerable time was spent in listening to the speeches of the commissioners, and in subsequent deliberations.” If this is true the actual signing of the pact was made on the high bluff at the present home of Mr. M.G. White. After reading this account we interviewed old settlers and found that Muskogee bluff is a short distance up the river from Coleraine and is the spot where Mr. M.G. White’s home now stands, and if the above account is true then the actual signing of the peace treaty occurred in Charlton County.)



Leigh Hill, Coleraine, Sawpit Landing

A Letter From Rev. W.O. Gibson

Charlton County Herald

April 27, 1934

Dear Editor of the Herald,

Instead of telling you about the sawmill at Coleraine I have something I prefer to write about at this time.

Through the courtesy of L.E. Mallard I visited old Leigh Hill a few days ago. This old historic place is near the St. Marys River one mile above Coleraine. I say historic, for such it is to me. I spent the first 21 years of my life near its foot where my mother was born and lived and died. In January 1830 my grandfather James J. Leigh moved from Nassau County, Fla. to make his home in Georgia, his native state. He was born and reared in Liberty County and went to Florida in 1823. He stopped at Coleraine in order to select a location on which to build a home. He was at first attracted to the natural beauty of this hill and decided to make a home there but before building he changed his mind and selected a location near the public road one mile above Coleraine and opposite Leigh Hill and where he died in 1839.

I had not seen the old hill in nearly sixty years and naturally my emotions were stirred when I saw it. Instead of house and fields as I used to see it, Nature had been at work as time passed and had placed there a forest of oaks, pines and other trees that no hands beside hers could equal in beauty. The situation of the hill is not clearly seen on account of the dense undergrowth covering it. I could not venture an estimate of its altitude though it rises to a considerable height above the flat woods or pasture lands surrounding it. It is circular and formed with a gradual slope to the base which is something like one-fourth of a mile in each direction. The soil was very fertile when in cultivation and the finest peach orchard I have ever seen in South Georgia was on Leigh Hill when I was a boy.

What a wonder it is that this place has escaped notice for so long a time. With the proper clearing of undergrowth and the pruning of trees, Leigh Hill could almost rival Bonaventure in scenic beauty.

Another fact that might make the word historic admissible is that on the river half a mile away is an old landing called the Sawpit Landing. I wonder how many of your readers know what the name implies. Many years ago an arrangement was made there for the sawing of such lumber as necessity really demanded, mostly for making coffins. A pit was made in the ground about ten feet long and four feet wide with a depth of about five or six feet. Across this pit two logs were laid and the log to be sawed was placed on these and lengthwise the pit. Two sides of the log was slabbed and hewn with axes. It was then put in place and was of whatever length the boards were desired. With a “straight edge”, a line was made with a piece of chalk where the saw was to run to make the board. If chalk was not convenient charcoal was used. One man stood on a frame above the log and another stood in the pit and with a common crosscut saw a board was made. It was slow, hard work but it was better than to have no lumber.

The old pit is there yet but the men who worked and sweated in it have long been gone and most or perhaps all of them were buried in coffins made of lumber that was made by more modern  methods, though it is safe to say none of them were put in what we now call caskets.

If we could go backwards to those good old days when the tooting of an automobile horn would have alarmed us, fewer coffins and caskets would be needed, and the morals of the people would no doubt be several grades higher than they are.



Recollections of Sawmills and Steamboats II

May 11, 1934

To the Editor of the Herald:

In a recent communication I promised to say something about the sawmill at Coleraine and the people connected with it. I have already stated that not long after it was put in operation Capt. J.S. Tyner became the sole owner of the business. Persons who are not familiar with conditions existing at that time would be astonished to know how much timber was wasted in getting the logs for the mill. Except for an area of a few thousand acres in the vicinity of Camp Pinckney where Mr. Edward Buck operated a turpentine business and another near Uptonville operated by Baker, Jones and Co. and one at the place where the home of E.F. Dean, Jr. is located, operated by John D. Jones, round pines covered the woods and in cutting the trees for mill logs usually about 2/3 of the length from the butt to the limbs was the part used, leaving to lie and rot on the ground enough timber without limbs or knots to please the eyes of a sawmill [owner] of our day.

When the mill got into action Capt. R.H. Bachlott was the first sawyer. Mr. Sampson Barfield was the first engineer and Mr. John G. Wickes was the first lumber inspector. Capt. Bachlott was also foreman of the mill. Almost every young man in the community at some time during the operation of the mill worked in it, besides a great many others from other sections. I had the distinction of being the first "sawdust roller". Except engineer and sawyer, I occupied every other place in the mill and after the death of Capt. Tyner when the business was purchased by J.L.K. Holtzendorf I left the steamboat where I had been working and accepted the position of lumber inspector and foreman which I held during the period of Mr. Holtzendorf's ownership and when he closed the business and sold the machinery to the firm of J. Mizell & Bro. of Kings Ferry I pulled the wire that sounded the last whistle of the sawmill that was ever heard at Coleraine. Of all the men under whom I worked and of all who worked under me, not one is living that my recollection can recall.

Referring further to steamboats and water, the sawmills and turpentine plants on and near the St. Marys River required many vessels to carry lumber and naval stores to the markets and where these products were sold. The firm of S.L. Burns & Co., who operated the largest sawmills on the river except those of J. Mizell & Bro. owned and operated two steamboats. One was the Flora Temple, a side wheeler. The other was the C.T. Sheppard, a propeller driven boat. It was the Sheppard on which I worked between the periods of my work in the sawmill for Capt. Tyner and Mr. Holtzendorf. If I had the physical ability it would indeed be a pleasure to me to make one more trip on the St. Marys and Nassau rivers and on the sounds between them and across the lapse of time I could still handle the wheel of a steamboat.

When these steamboats had been in use a number of years, like all other things they yielded to the hand of time and service and they were overhauled and rebuilt and the name of the Flora Temple was changed to Athlete and that of the C.T. Sheppard to Gladiator. These boats and their names have long passed into oblivion and perhaps all except myself whoever handled their wheels their throttles and their ropes have gone with them out of existence.

Memory carries me back through the space of these many years to one of the grandest sights that my eyes ever met. One bright fair day when a stiff gale was blowing and the waves were rolling high we were towing a big bark out to sea. As we were going seaward the Lizzie Baker, an ocean steamer, was coming in from New York to Fernandina. As the steamers passed each other and each blew three long whistles of recognition I was thrilled with awe and pleasure as I watched the beautiful white monster plow her way through the waves, her bow raising and splitting a heavy roll of sparkling spray.

--W.O. Gibson

Civil War Action At the Kings Ferry Sawmill

By Lois Barefoot Mays

Local amateur historians were astonished recently to learn how perilously close the Civil War came to Charlton County in February 1864. More than a year before the end of the war, Union troops numbering more than 300 men were raiding two Nassau County sawmills on the St. Marys River. They stole, in a weeklong greedy, plundering episode, most of the lumber stacked at these mills. Then they suddenly jumped aboard steamships and made their ways back to their Fernandina post, leaving in such a hurry that they cast adrift four rafts of timber, hoping the tide would deliver them to the coast.

A report of the expedition shows that Major Galusha Pennypacker, who was in charge of a unit of Pennsylvania Volunteers, received orders to leave their Fernandina post on February 15th, 1864 and rapidly walk the thirty-three miles to Woodstock and Kings Ferry Mills on the St. Marys River to confiscate lumber for military use. Persons living along the road, who might have given information of their approach, were made to march with the soldiers until they arrived at sunset at Woodstock Mills.

Twenty men were sent by Major Pennypacker to surprise and capture mill guards and prevent the lumber from being set on fire, as orders had been given to watchmen to burn the property on the approach of any Federal forces. However no sentries were there and the lumber was found undisturbed.

The following morning, Major Pennypacker ordered the 300 Yankee soldiers to build rafts of the lumber found at the mills. (The Edwin Alberti estate was the owner of Woodstock Mills and Gilbert and Franklin Germond owned the Kings Ferry sawmill that was later purchased by William Mizell, Sr. and his brother Jackson Mizell in 1870.) Stacks of lumber, some of it very valuable, were sent by raft daily to Fernandina. Before the week was up, at least a million feet of lumber was stolen.

Abruptly on February 22nd Major Pennypacker and his whole force were hastily dispatched back to Fernandina, the troops returning on the steamers “Island City” and “Harriett A. Weed”. Thirty-one extra persons, who had come inside the mill property during the week, were sent to the Fernandina post also and included two deserters, four refugees and 25 slaves. Four rafts of lumber were quickly abandoned to make their own way to Fernandina down-river. The suddenness of their departure was almost surely caused by an unexpected exchange of gunfire that day with Confederate soldiers on the Camden County side of the St. Marys, in which two of the Pennsylvania Volunteers were wounded.

It’s been a long time since the gunfire of the Civil War encounter was heard on our peaceful St. Marys River. Maybe some day a concrete monument will mark the place where Confederate soldiers defended this part of Georgia.

SOURCES: The War of the Rebellion, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series One, Volume 35, pages 359-60, also Series One, Volume 15, pages 283-4; The Vanished Town of Kings Ferry by William Mizell, Jr., page 17; Yesterday’s Reflections II by Jan H. Johannes, Sr., page 122-3.

After the Civil War

"Almost Forgotten Historical Notes"

 By John Harris

Charlton County Herald

September 14, 1977

Francis Marion Mizell, son of Perry Stallings Mizell and Charlotte Albritton Mizell, was one of Jefferson Davis’ personal aides and was captured with him in Irwin County near Ocilla and was carried to Fort Moultrie, S.C., where he languished and died in a filthy dungeon there.

The election at Traders Hill, soon after the close of the War for Southern Independence, was manned by three black poll holders. Voters who had become of age since the close of the War, all others being disenfranchised, had to march to the polls between lines of Yankee soldiers forming an arch of guns with fixed bayonets. The list of those voting was not large.

Civil War / King's Ferry
Leigh Hill, Coleraine
Sawmills and Steamboats
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