Early Settlers to Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island
SETTLEMENT. Frederica was settled in February of 1736 by James Edward Oglethorpe as a fortress to protect Savannah and Darien from the Spanish. The trustees had selected a number of passenges to settle a new village, while Oglethorpe interviewed the widow Wesley who gave her two sons to minister the colony, John and Charles Wesley. Oglethorpe had successful negotiations with the Creeks who that the English settlers should have St. Simons Island. The land was very fertile, chiefly Live-Oak and Hickory trees, intermixed with Savannahs and old Indian fields. The island was about 40 miles in circumferance, and a road was immediately opened for travel to the north and south of it. The island was a popular landing for Spanish raiders but the Frederica River afforded a clear view of Spanish and pirate vessels. The initial regiment consisted of 500 soldiers. From 1736 to 1739, while Oglethorpe re-enforced St. Simons Island, Amelia Island and other points near the St. Marys River in Florida, he negotiated with Governor Johnston of South Carolina and Parliament to deliver more troops. As one tours the little village and views discovered artifacts and tabby foundations to rows of two-story houses, the imigative life-style begins to unfold. The settlers themselves tell the story.
Thomas Hawkins was appointed Magistrate of Frederica before leaving England. However, he and his wife, Berta, were baudy sorts. While enroute, their conduct was so obnoxious that the captain threatened to put them off the ship. This was reported by Charles Wesley, the selected minister for the new colony. They built a two story brick home (the records state this was a brick home) on Broad Street which shared a community wall with the Ale House of Samuel Davison. Hawkins, the magistrate, also ran an apothecary shop. Davison was paid ten pounds a year for his job as constable, plus from 1736 to 1740 Davison served as Searcher if Ships. Davison, a Presbyterian, was known to be quite industrious. He cultivated a lot of land outside of the village, had twenty head of cattle, servants, and 2 to 3 carts. Hawkins, known to have a violent temper, argued with Mr. Davison as he enlarged his side of the building. Hawkins complained to Oglethorpe that the improvements threatened the visibility of his own home and persuaded him to force Davison to stop construction. In October of 1741 the arguing was so violent that Davison temporarily moved into a stable before finally removing to South Carolina. Hawkins had succeeded on running off Davison, as well as others. One so industrious fit the stereotype desired by the trustees. If there is a question mark as to why Oglethorpe allowed this sort of nonsense, read on.
Oglethorpe was a frequent traveler during his development of the colony. He was not always in Frederica or Savannah, but searching for new sites and travelling to and fro to Great Britain to acquire more settlers. He was the colonizer, not having the time or temperament for civil duties. The civil appointees were therefore left to handle the affairs of the colony.
As the construction began of huts and houses in the village of Frederica and the building of a fort commenced, the settlers established shops and trade among themselves and the regiment. This group of settlers were not religious, so they were unsupportive of Rev. Charles Wesley. Berta Hawkins regularly beat and abused her maid and the servant went to Rev. Wesley to issue her complaints. Wesley tried to settle the matter, however, was met with the bad temperament of Berta Hawkins who refused to cooperative. Wesley pleaded with the maid to return to her mistress, which she did. While this abuse was occurring, Berta Hawkins joined a group of men who sat boosing every Saturday night in front of an open camp fire inside the village, swearing and shooting their muskets. As Sunday morning rolled around and Rev. Wesley attempted to conduct open air church services, the loud noises continued. Thus, Wesley established a rule that there would be no gunfire on Sunday. Berta, still resenting Wesleys interference with the maid situation, launched a full attack on the minister. The first thing that she did was to have his toiletries and bedroll removed from his hut. The youthful Wesley complained to Oglethorpe, who did nothing to assist him. Ultimately, cthe persecution of Berta Hawkins and failure of the settlers to attend church services, drove him from the colony. A year later he left Frederica and found passage back to England. But his brother, John Wesley, who located in Savannah, was also destined to have a short-lived ministry in the colony.
Berta Hawkins was never prosecuted. Her husband was the magistrate. The two of them caused such disturbances that justice was hopeless. Captain Perkins, for example, suffered vandalism from Berta and Mr. Anderson also found himself the object of cursing and abuse.
Anne Harris, Merchant in Frederica
Anne Harris indisputably the most industrious and venerated merchant in Frederica, was the widow of William Harris, a Clerk in Savannah who came to Georgia on one of his early voyages. In April of 1737 William was granted Lot No. 126, it first being possessed by Lawrence Mellichamp who deserted the colony June 1736. The youth of about sixteen years old was married to Anna Coles, daughter of Joseph Coles (a miller) and his wife, Hannah. Anna was seventeen. Anna and her son, William, remained in Savannah, until December of 1742 when they removed to Frederica and take up the lot which had been granted to her husband "on the Road to the North End, crossing Military Road from the Fort. The former road also led straightway out of the fork easterly from the Town into the farm area." In other words, one of the first streets to cross the main street, practically adjacent to the fort, and a splendid view of the river. The garden land that went with the Frederica Town Lot, was located two or three miles from the fort in an area described as "the Garden Area", and adjoined that of Lachlin McIntosh, who had 500 acres, James Arkin, who had 400 acres, and James McKay. This means that her husband had improved his lot, which entitled her, as widow, to receive it. This same type of situation no doubt gave her title to a subsequent lot in Frederica. From the above accounting, then, it is confirmed that William Harris paid his own passage from England to Savannah and came as a citizen-soldier. Annas father had died shortly after their arrival in the colony, and her widowed mother, Anna Coles, and a servant went with her and the baby to Frederica. In 1736 Anna Coles married again Thomas Salter, a Savannah brickmaker, but did not reside with him until later, as Salter was just getting started in the brick business and did not yet have a home for her. In December of 1741 Salter received a land grant of 136 acres on DawbussIsland, which he later named Salters Island. Formerly, he was listed among the 120 settlers who signed a petition in 1738 complaining about land titles and restrictions on slavery. He preferred this island because its clay was highly adaptable to brick making. The colony needed brick masons, and the industry of Thomas Salter thrived. In August of 1742, the Common Council recommended that he be given 500 acres near St. Augustine Creek, adjoining Salters Island. Salter was known to be a diligent worker, however illiterate. In 1746 he discovered that the clay on Hutchinsons Island was superior, and, abandoning the 500 acres on Salters Island, established himself with a seven-year lease on Hutchinsons Island. Apparently the industry of Thomas Salter brought him prosperity, as the colony was in need of brick masons, and he later willed Salters Island to his grandson, William Thomas Harris, who became the owner in 1749. When the garrison at Ft. Frederica was disbanded by General Oglethorpe in 1749, most of the soldiers returned to England. Soon thereafter, the town had a fire. For a while the town remained in tact, continuing to prosper. The widow of William Harris, being in the timber and shipping business, also remained, but married again, to Daniel Demetre, a soldier in Oglethorpes rangers who elected to settle. However, without the soldiers, the town fell into ruins, with the settlers moving off into Glynn and Liberty Counties to begin the ultimately expansive rice and cotton plantations. As William Thomas Harris inherited lands in Liberty County, this is where he established a rice plantation, a valuable commodity in early Colonial Georgia. On 12 May 1752 Francis Harris applied before the Board for 500 acres for his brother Thomas Harris continguous to lands formerly laid out for him on the north branch of Little Ogeechee River, 200 acres bounding on the west by his lands, south by lands granted to Henry Parker Esq., east by lands granted to William Spencer, and North vacant, and 300 acres bounding on the south by his lands, west by lands granted Capt. Noble Jones, north by lands granted Noble Wimberly Jones, and east by vacant lands. 500 acres granted Thomas Harris. Anne Coles Harris, widow, was an interprising woman, merchandising in shipping timber up and down the coast, having her own vessels. Eventually, she Married again, Daniel Demetre, and the activities surrounding that Marchriage are explained in the following deeds and contracts. The following deeds from Colonial Deed Book C-1: Page 40-41, (Quadriparte Agreement Prior to a Marriage) -Daniel Demetre, Mariner of the Town of Frederica in the Province of Georgia, Ann Harris, widow, of Frederica and Anna Salter, widow, mother of Ann Harris, to Noble Jones and Thomas Raspberry, Gentlemen, and James Habersham, all of Savannah, whereas the said Daniel Demetre is seized and possessed... of a plantation on the Newport River called "Bethany" containing 500 acres bounded south by lands heretofore granted John Rutledge, North by River Newport, and East on marshes of said river.... Whereas a marriage is intended shortly to be hand...between the said Daniel Demetre and the said Ann Harris...Daniel Demetre grants to James Habersham, Noble Jones and Thomas Raspberry....the aforesaid premises. And from after the determination of that Estate to such uses as the said Ann in and by her last Will and Testament...And whereas the said Ann Harris is seized and possessed...in a tract of land containing 50 acres on River Newport lately purchased by her of John Rutledge; Now the said Ann Harris doth covenant and grant to and with the said James Habersham, Noble Jones and Thomas Raspberry...the aforesaid 50 acres...after the solemnization of the intended marriage shall be ane enure and are hereby intended to be settled and assured to the use of them. Date: April 2, 17522. Page 199-203, The Last Will and Testament of Ann Demetre, wife of Daniel Demetre, formerly Ann Harris, widow, dated February 20, 1755, to heir, Daniel Demetre, Marchiner. "Ann Demetre does publish and ordain these presents to be her last will and testament. Reference is made to a Marchriage settlement written on April 2, 1752 in consideration of a marriage between Ann Harris, widow, and Daniel Demetre. Parties to the marriage settlement were Daniel Demetre, Ann Harris, now Ann Demetre, Anna Salter, mother of Ann Harris Demetre, and James Habersham, Noble Jones, and Thomas Raspberry. A 500 acre plantation called "Bethany" on the Newport River and a 50-acre tract on the same river, the latter purchased by Ann Harris from John Rutledge, were to become the joint property of Ann and Daniel Demetre, then go to the longest liver of us, and later to the heirs of Ann. The same provisions were to apply to a lot of land in the town of Frederica with improvements, also a lot in Town of Savannah with improvements, late Salters, which would become the property of Ann Demetre after her mothers death. Now that her mother, Anna Salter, is Deceased, Ann Demetre makes a will to bequeath her own property and that which she has inherited from her motherr. Anna Salters will, dated December 19, 1753, gave to her all her property in Great Britain or any other place. It further stipulated that in case William Thomas Harris, Anna Salters grandson, should die without heirs, then whatever was given to him by his grandmothers will would go to Ann Demetre. In her own will, Ann Demetre stipulates that her property will go to the heirs of Ann and Daniel Demetre. Ann Demetre also stipulates that if her son, William Thomas Harris, dies without issue and she inherits his property, then it will pass to Daniel Demetre or the children of Ann and Daniel Demetre. Date: 2 August 1758 at Savannah. Bethany went to William Harris and adjoined the plantation of Jonathan Bryan plantation, Walnut Hill, on Salters Creek. On 7 February 1758, William Harris of St. Andrews Parish, applied for and received a grant to Salters Island. He sold this grant in March of 1773 to Miles Brewton of Charles Town, South Carolina for 408 pds. Also, the 500 acres which Salter abandoned, was later acquired by Brewton. William Harris (died 1737) had a brother, Francis Harris, who came to the colony sometime after James Habersham, because they later joined together as merchants in the colony, establishing one of the earliest commercial houses in Georgia. The mother of Anne Coles Harris Demetre was Anna Coles who married after the death of her husband, (Joseph Coles) Thomas Salter, a brick mason who resided in Savannah. In December of 1741 Salter received a land grant of 136 acres on Dawbuss Island, which he later named Salters Island. Formerly, he was listed among the 120 settlers who signed a petition in 1738 complaining about land titles and restrictions on slavery. He preferred this island because its clay was highly adaptable to brick making. The colony needed brick masons, and Salters industry thrived. In August of 1742, the Common Council recommended that he be given 500 acres near St. Augustine Creek, adjoining Salters Island. Salter was known to be a diligent worker, however illiterate. In 1746 he discovered that the clay on Hutchinsons Island was superior, and, abandoning the 500 acres on Salters Island, established himself with a seven-year lease on Hutchinsons Island. Salters Island was willed to his grandson, William Thomas Harris, who became the owner in 1749.
Daniel Demetre, Captain in Oglethorpes Rangers, elected to settle in the colony rather than return to England. He owned a perigua which was used by the trustees in Frederica and was called a boatswain. He served valiantly during Oglethorpes seige on Ft. Augustine and during the Battle of Bloody Marsh. Ultimately he joined forces with the widow, Anna Harris who by 1744 owned substantial assets. Several sloops were mentioned in her estate, plus mercantile interests. James Habersham and Francis Harris, executors of the will of Daniel Demetre, late of Savannah aforesaid, mariner, deceased, "who intermarried with Ann Harris, widow, since deceased," who was the widow of William Harris and daughter of (Joseph) Cassell and Anna Cassell, afterwards Anna Salter also deceased, agree to convey specified property to William Thomas Harris in satisfaction of the latters demands against Demetres estate. In his will, dated 12 July 1758, Demetre bequeathed to William Thomas Harris a 750 acre plantation called "Bethany" on Dickinsons Neck in the district of Sapelo and Newport, with all livestock, plantation tools and following slaves: Nicholas, Hagar, Tony, Prince, Belinda, Dinah, James and Silvia and their issue. By virtue of the will, dated December 19, 1753, of his now deceased grandmother, Anna Salter, William Thomas Harris lays claim to the aforesaid mentioned slaves....To prevent suits against Demetres estates, Habersham and Francis Harris pay William Thomas Harris 20 pounds.... and sell to Harris ten negroe slaves, namely, Judy and her children, Will and Titus, Jenny, Harry and Priscilla and their children, Harry, Abraham, and London, and Brutus; also a lot at Frederica formerly occupied by the said Anna Salter and Ann Demetre adjoining a lot of John Latter. Harris agrees to deliver up to Habersham and Francis Harris the following slaves belonging to the estate of Demetre: Ben, old Joe, Minerva and her child Joe, Penny and her child Adam, Jemmy, Jack and long Joe. Date: 27 August 1759, Savannah. Son of William Harris and his wife, Anne Coles. James Habersham and Francis
Francis Moore Francis Moore and his wife, Mary were among the first residents to Frederica in October 1735. They came from Ireland and Francis Moore was the first Recorder at Frederica, having correspondence with Savannah officials, as well as England, holding the position of personal secretury under General Oglethorpe until 1743. He participated in the Hawkins-Allen Affair, siding with Allen and Perkins. However, he resigned his position in August of 1740 in protest of the injustice he received. Oglethorpe said that Moore had "behaved in a very wrong manner" .Moore, once a Recorder at Frederica, was known to be an ill man, who filled peoples minds with discontent, and was ungrateful to Oglethorpe. He unhappily returned to England in 1744 where he published the first part of his journal entitled A Voyage to Georgia.
Samuel PerkinsSamuel Perkins was the second bailiff in 1735, had a prosperous business in Frederica, running a store and owning a perigua with Thomas Hawkins. Wife, Catherine. By trade he was a coachmaker from London. Perkins was apparently well-bred who was bullied by Hawkins. His wife had a fine reputation who cheerfully handled affairs in the store during her the absence of her husband. Perkins took the side of Allen, and as a result was tricked by Hawkins who pretended to be sick when it was time for him to appear in court, even laughing and joking about it. When the Trustees rebuked Perkins for his participation in the affair, he decided that it was quite impossible
William Allen William Allen, a 1735 settler, was a baker. This is one of the settlers with whom Thomas Hawkins frequently argued. Allen was from the Carew Street in London, and came over with his wife, Elizabeth. John Wesley mentioned his name in his diary as a potential laborer in the work of the gospel. However, the squabbles with Hawkins were a source of scandal, a faction for him, and a faction against him. Hawkins allies took his side, but Allens allies (Perkins and Moore, also persecuted by Hawkins) claimed that Allen had taken Hawkins to court to pay for some clapboards and labor. Hawkins kept the case in court for several months, finally paying a portion of it, and Allen had to remand him to court to collect thre remainder. Inasmuch as the stories told by both factions are opposite, one does have to note that Hawkins refused to pay others for work and goods delivered as well. When the matter could not get adequately resolved in the courts, both parties appealed to the Trustees, who refused to hear the matter, while rebuking Moore (as Recorder) and Perkins for bringing an insignificant matter before them. Allen quit the colony in 1741, going to Carolina.
DROUGHT OF 1738 The drought almost wiped at Savannah. Many colonists ran away to Charleston, South Carolina.
WAR DECLARED Spain declared war against England in 1742. James Oglethorpe was named General of the land forces in the colonie.
SEIGE OF FT. AUGUSTINE Oglethorpe rushed into Florida to starve the Spanish out by laying a long seige. However, the cannon balls could not penetrate the walls; Oglethorpe became sick with fever, and the army returned to Fort Frederica.
Battle of Bloody Marsh The deciding battle for the English. Oglethorpe won the war with Spain for England, but received little recognization for it. Date: 1742.
Monument on Frederica Road, south of the fort, adjacent to an open glade which the Spanish crossed only to be cutt down by the Darien Rangers who surprised the Spanish with guerrila warfare and won the day for the English!.
Greatly outnumbered by the Spanish, the highlanders fought so fierce a battle that it is said that red blood was spilled thick into the grass. The battle only lasted two hours.
DEMISE OF FREDERICA When the English soldiers left Fort Frederica about 1745, the economy and commerce of the village suffered. By 1800, the village was in disrepair, most of the villagers having moved on, into Liberty County.
Biographical Sketches of the first settlers by Jeannette Holland Austin.