On our trip to the Okefenokee Swamp recently, we included a boat ride into the swamp to see the flora and fauna. Though we saw several alligators in the swamp and along the banks, this gator seemed to have his territory claimed. Though we spent time around him, he was unmoved. I think he was waiting for his lunch to swim, hop or walk by him.
Cumberland Island is one of the barrier islands along the coast of Georgia and has long been a playground for the rich and famous. James Oglethorpe, reported to be one of the founders of Georgia, built a hunting lodge there in 1736 and named it “Dungeness”. The next “Dungeness” was built on the island by Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene who acquired 11,000 acres of the island’s land in exchange for a bad debt. His widow, reputed to be a beauty who enjoyed the social scene, built a four-story tabby mansion over a Timuouan (native Indian) shell mound and delighted in entertaining her friends there. During the War of 1812, the British occupied the island and used this house as their headquarters.
Henry Lee III (a.k.a. Lighthouse Harry Lee and father of Robert E. Lee) stayed at the house in his later years until his death and was buried there in the family graveyard. During the U. S. Civil War, the house was abandoned and was later burned in 1868.
During the 1880’s, Thomas M. Carnegie, brother of Andrew Carnegie, purchased this property and began building a 54-room Queen Anne style mansion on Greene’s original site. However, the mansion and accompanying buildings were not finished until after Carnegie’s death in 1886. His wife, Lucy, continued living at “Dungeness” mansion and built other estates for her children resulting in 90% ownership of the island by members of the Carnegie family.
The Carnegies vacated “Dungeness” in 1925 and the mansion stood vacant. In 1959 the Dungeness mansion was destroyed by fire. Many in this seashore community say the cause was arson. It remains a mystery. The ruins of the mansion and its accompanying buildings and property are now preserved by the National Park Service as part of Cumberland Island National Seashore.
Last Saturday, the gathering of the clans took place as our Sarasota community held its Celtic games and music festivities. It involved bagpipe band competitions along with foods and crafts. There were contests for men and women testing their physical prowess. Many of these contests reflected the history of early communities of the British Isles. Performing bagpipe bands were in competition showing their colorful kilts and music of the pipes. It is told that Scottish armies would march into battle with the bagpipes playing. It is difficult to believe there was any element of surprise. I enjoyed it all but was fascinated by the wonderful variations of the kilts with their clan colors and the dress accouterments. Some were quite lovely and most were worn quite proudly. Would truly enjoy having one of those good-looking kilts in my family’s clan colors. After all, with a married name of Ferguson and my family’s name being Hamilton, I probably have love and admiration for the pipes in my DNA.
Through the ages, man has discovered that horses can be domesticated to help him in his transportation and everyday work. Horses have carried men on their backs to fight wars and help the human travel rather long distances. It was advantageous to harness the energy of horses for pulling wagons, carriages and freight of all kinds. But with the arrival and general use of fuel-driven engines, the horse has been relegated to many of man’s sports’ diversions such as racing and polo. Here you see a polo player during a match at the Sarasota Polo Club (located in Lakewood Ranch). He is reacting to the latest play and racing toward the action. The horses in this particular sport are trained to help the riders as they make quick turns and fast sprints to follow the hit of the ball toward their team’s goal.
Last October, my husband and I tripped to the Okefenokee Swamp while visiting Amelia and Cumberland Islands. Part of our day there was spent trekking back into an area once inhabited by a “swamper” and his family. According to our guide, these “swampers” often were individuals escaping from ‘something’ and liked the anonymity of establishing a homestead deep in the swamp where they lived off the land. One such family was the Cresser family whose property we visited. The dwelling dates back to early 1900’s and depicts very well how these people lived. They would have been surrounded by all types of critters and creatures of the swamp and, thus, fences were an important part of guarding their animals, crops and themselves. However, it was apparent that the fences were a discouragement to these creatures and not necessarily a deterrent. The outer perimeter of their property had a fence — rather rudimentary — which seemed to mark boundaries of their claim. A rail fence surrounded what might have been the outer limits and a picket fence surrounded and guarded such buildings as the main house, a corn crib, the syrup house and the smoke house. They were said to have grown chickens and pigs and the fences would have kept these animals from wandering. All of these fences were crafted to suit the utility they served but all were honed from the trees of the surrounding forest.
During the Christmas Holiday, we visited with our son and his family in Austin, Texas. After a few days of celebrations and feasting, we took a ride to a small, historic town north of the city. Our destination was The Village of Salado where the shops and stores still boasted Christmas decorations. An interesting place, it was founded in 1859 at the Old Military Road crossing of the Salado Creek. At that time, the local Bell County leaders encouraged the building of Salado College that was simultaneously established. A viable settlement ensued with agricultural and industrial enterprises including a grist mill by the Salado Creek. The Salado College existed until 1885. From 1890 until 1913, the old stone college building became a private high school, Thomas Arnold High School. Among its graduates was a Rhodes Scholar. The Chisholm Trail followed Main Street and stage lines servicing Central Texas included Salado as one of their stops. In 1869, the town boasted the first bridge built in the county, a wire cable suspension bridge which stood until the great flood of 1900. By 1884, Salado was a thriving town but soon the railroads were built to the north and east of town drawing most of the trade away from town. The late 1880’s saw the town’s population diminishing until, in 1914 its population was but 400 and by 1950 its population was just slightly over 200. Rebirth of the town began in the 1940’s with gradual growth as people became attracted to some of its dining and cultural amenities. As we meandered through the quaint shops, it became evident that this town is a drawing point for those seeking area antiques, art galleries and crafts in addition to unique cultural activities.
A once green and leafy Live Oak now lays on a dune on Cumberland Island, Georgia. It had stood, rooted in its sunny, sandy soil lending stability to the dune and the plants and animals living around it. After many years of withstanding the ocean’s salt-laden breezes — and winds — the tree succumbed. Though not showing signs of being attacked by insects, perhaps it was weakened by some sort of bug or disease. Any trace of leaves has long since been erased while most of its minor limbs and branches have been blown or broken off. Now, still partially rooted in the dune, it shows the bleaching effects of Georgia’s intense sun and the smoothing result of sand being driven by the ocean breezes and winds. Some bits of bark remain on the trunk of the tree but it lies there deteriorating as nature causes further demise and it will eventually become part of the surrounding earth.