Thursday, March 14, 2019

Cumberland Island Museum, St. Marys, Georgia

We did not take the ferry out to visit the actual island as the wind was blowing very hard that day and we really did not have enough time. We went to visit the St. Mary's Submarine Museum in the morning, had lunch with an old friend who I used to work with at Shapiro Fussell back in Atlanta (1996-2010), then went to the Cumberland Island Museum. Please enjoy these pictures that I took these at the Museum.

Cumberland is one in a string of narrow, sandy barrier islands just off the southeast coast of Georgia. Formed by the rise and fall of sea level during the last ice ages, barrier islands are fragile and ever-changing. They move in response to tides, currents, and storms. Barrier islands create rich habitats that are nurseries for many species. Marshes form between the mainland and barrier islands. These broad expanses of cordgrass and other salt-tolerant plants protect and nurture birds, fish, crustaceans, and turtles.

The sea advances and retreats twice daily, carving tide pools and patterns in the sand at the water's edge and undercutting, adding to, or moving dunes. Windblown sand buries shrubs and trees in the inter-dune area between beach and forest. Sea oats, a protected species, often grow on and stabilize dunes, but their root systems are easily damaged when trampled by people and animals. the beach hosts pelicans, sandpipers, gulls and osprey feeding along the water's edge and diving for fish in the ocean.

Live oaks form a dense canopy that shelters palmettos and delicate ferns cradled in branches. Spanish moss sways in the breeze. Painted buntings, summer tanagers, cardinals, and pileated woodpeckers add color to the forest's palette. You may also see white-tailed deer, turkey, armadillo, and occasionally a bobcat. Farther inland, on warm spring nights, rain-fed freshwater ponds host the booming courtship of bull alligators.

At low tide the saltwater marshes between Cumberland Island and St. Marys on the mainland resemble broad, tallgrass plains. Birds wade in grasses or feed at creek banks. Fiddler crabs scurry across the mud flats and eat decaying vegetation. Raccoons hunt for crabs and shellfish. At high tide, grasses sway with the current and disappear into it.

A Timucuan Village
Humans have been drawn to the island for thousands of years. Piles of shells (middens) offer clues to the early Timucua people who left them. Indigenous people lived along the ocean and rivers for over 4,000 years, harvesting seafood, hunting game, and farming the uplands. Little evidence is left of their lifestyle: oyster middens, pottery sherds, and flawed paintings of their culture made by Europeans, remain.

In June of 1564, French explorer Rene de Laundonniere was greeted by an impressive figure when he landed his ships near the Somme River. The man had olive skin covered with red, blue and black tattoos. His face was painted and he wore jewelry made of copper, shell, feathers, and fish teeth. Two years earlier Laundonniere accompanied Jean Ribault, another French explorer, when an alliance was struck with this same powerful chief. On this occasion the chief presented his bow and arrow to Laundonniere signifying their continued pact.

Yamacraw Indian Chief Tomochichi and
nephew Toonahowi
Chief Tomochichi traveled to England with James Oglethorpe in 1736. On their return, Toonahowi requested that the island be named "Cumberland" in honor of the Duke of Cumberland, William Augustus, whom he befriended on the trip.

In 1739 war was declared between England and Spain, and in 1742 Spain attacked the fortifications on Cumberland Island. The Spanish knew they had to befriend and control the Indians, so they established a system of missions along the east coast. The Indians that converted would gain religious instruction, education and protection of the Spanish military garrisons, and greater access to European trade goods.

Live Oak trees were used to build ships, as depicted above, such as the USS Constitution. Today the Live Oak is valued for its beauty.

Sea Island Cotton
Sea Island cotton had longer and finer fibers than upland cotton, creating high quality textiles, allowing the cotton to fetch a higher market price. Sea Island cotton required fertile soils that the sea islands could provide. Many fields were amended by adding mud from the marsh into the sandy soil.

Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin
The rich came to Cumberland Island and built their houses to support their lifestyle. Mrs. Lucy Carnegie supported her extravagant lifestyle by moving to the island after the death of her husband, Thomas in 1886. Island life was filled with formal dinner parties, beach exploration, hunting trips, fishing expeditions, and carriage rides through the woods.

Pig Racing

Thomas Carnegie III plays croquet

Dungeness Ruins
In 1803 Catherine Greene, widow of Revolutionary War hero Gen. Nathanael Greene, built Dungeness, a four-story "tabby" mansion, near the southern end of the island. A century later, Pittsburgh industrialist Thomas Carnegie and his wife Lucy purchased land on the island and built their own mansion, which they called Dungeness, in the same location. Several homes were built on the island for their children, including Plum Orchard, in 1898.

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