Since the arrival of the first European explorer, probably the Spaniard Hernando de Soto in 1540, the Golden Isles of Georgia have been the setting for many significant events. Historical sites continue to draw thousands of visitors each year who are fascinated by the human dramas played out here.
While there are many sites of interest on the Golden Isles, weâ€™d like to highlight four attractions worth your time.
Christ Church, Frederica
Located in a beautiful grove on the north end of St. Simons Island, the site of this church was first distinguished by the preaching of John and Charles Wesley, who later founded the Methodist Church. The first church structure, built in 1820 via a land grant from the state of Georgia, was severely damaged when invading Union troops looted it and used it as a stable in June, 1863, during the Civil War. The Rev. Anson Phelps Dodge rebuilt the church in memory of his wife, Ellen, in 1884. A number of famous Georgians, such as novelist Eugenia Price and historian Lucien Knight, are buried in the cemetery here, along with centuries of explorers and settlers.
Fort Frederica National Monument
Established by British Colonel James Oglethorpe to defend the Georgia coast from Spanish attack, the town was a destination for hundreds of colonists from England, Scotland, and the Germanic states. The fort became the epicenter of the Spanish-British quest for New World supremacy in the War of Jenkinsâ€™ Ear and the Battle of Bloody Marsh (1742) during which Oglethorpe won renown for his strategies. With the British victories, Spain retreated from further attempts to occupy the area.
Epworth by the Sea
A world-famous Christian conference and retreat center on the Frederica River, Epworth is home to the Arthur J. Moore Methodist Museum and Library. The museum contains historic paintings, letters, and porcelain, while the libraryâ€™s 6,000 books are available for research. The center also sponsors concerts, tours, camps and conferences year round.
Perhaps the most famous historic monument in the area, the original lighthouse, built in 1810, was 75 feet tall, topped by a 10-foot oil lamp. It warned ships away from the many sandbars along the coast. The original structure was destroyed by retreating Confederate soldiers to prevent its use by the Union during the Civil War. A new lighthouse was completed in 1872, and fitted with a biconvex Fresnel lens. After many renovations, the ownership of the lighthouse was transferred in 2004 to the Coastal Georgia Historical Society. In June 2010, the Society completed its most recent restoration.
With so much history in so beautiful a setting, it would take a lifetime to appreciate it all.