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Neptune Small: A Story of Love and Friendship that Surpassed Death

700 Beachview St Simons IslandEvery state has its romantic tales of hardship, love, friendship and endurance in the face of extreme obstacles. These things happen when a life or a nation is being built.

Georgia offers for your information the tale of Neptune Small, born into slavery on St Simons Island in 1831. You will stroll through the park named for him on Beachview Drive. You will play on the park equipment, stare contentedly out to sea, and perhaps even view the statue and read the plaque established in his honor.

While you’re playing in the park as you’re looking for St Simons Island real estate for sale, allow us to tell you the story.

The Background

The inspirational avenue of oaks and the ruins of the plantation house, hospital and tabby buildings are all that is left of Anna Matilda Page King and Thomas Butler King’s plantation, Retreat.

The land now forms the Sea Island Golf Club. We have Anna to thank for any knowledge of the plantation, its peoples and its products, for she was a voracious writer and recorder of facts. Her book, Anna, the Letters of a St Simons Island Plantation Mistress, 1817-1859, will give you a better idea how life was lived, celebrated and ended in plantation era coastal Georgia.

She would have overseen the growing of citrus, olives, grapes, fruit orchards and of course, cotton.  She would have chosen which fowl from the duck and chicken runs would be cooked for supper. She would also have helped in the plantation hospital, the only one recorded in the South. Add to all this the fact that ten children kept her pretty busy, and you’ll have an accurate reading on the subject.

Were you to search for St  Simons Island real estate in the area of the plantation, you would be close to the avenue of the oaks in 10 Retreat Avenue, a four bed six bath gated creation overlooking the Sea Island Golf Club.

Neptune Small

Neptune Small was born to Neptune, Sr. and Sukey, a nurse in the plantation hospital. From birth, Neptune was destined to live side by side with the plantation children, learning to read and write along with them.

Of the sons, William Page, Thomas Butler, Jr., Mallery Page, John Floyd, Richard Cuyler and Henry Lord, Neptune was closest to “Lordy”. Henry Lord Page King was an attorney in Savannah before the war. He enlisted when hostilities began, and since it was the fashion for body servants to accompany their masters, Neptune went with Lordy to war.

Neptune and Lordy saw some of the hottest fighting in the war, from Richmond to Sharpsburg and on to Harper’s Ferry. It was when Lordy, who was aide-de-camp to Major General Lafayette McLaws, found it necessary to carry a message across the battlefield to Brigadier General Cobb that his world exploded.

Lordy successfully carried his message across the battlefield, but was shot down upon his return to his station. Neptune, sitting in camp, felt a cold wave in his bones. Something was wrong. He crawled across the pitch-black battlefield examining bodies until he found that of his best friend in the world.

Alone, frightened and heartbroken, Neptune carried Lordy’s body back to Savannah in the best pine box he could find for temporary burial until the war ended. Not knowing what to do, he then accompanied Lordy’s brother, Richard Cuyler back to the war. The two returned to Retreat following the end of the war, only to find nothing recognizable as home. The Union soldiers and freed slaves had wrecked everything. Everyone had to start over.

Neptune was awarded a small parcel of land on the plantation in recognition of his love for Lordy and determination to make sure he got home safely for burial.

Neptune married and produced children, although census records are sketchy for that period. There’s no telling how many offspring Neptune and Ila had. The Small family lived and worked at Retreat until their deaths. Neptune, by the way, took the last name of Small, it is thought in a humorous reference to his height. You will find his grave on the plantation grounds in the slaves’ burial spot.

Neptune might not have seen the property in 700 Beachview, a four bed five bath ocean-view wonder. You can, though, as you ponder how the house escaped the wrath of Hurricane Matthew last year. Designed especially to withstand hurricane force winds and rains, it offers stunning views and peaceful living. Neptune would have approved.

St Simons Island is a wonder of romantic history, proud heritage and congenial living. Please contact DeLoach Sotheby’s International Realty to learn more about the island and its wonderful homes.


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