Category Archives: Sunbury

Old Screven House at Sunbury

screven house

Old Screven House at Sunbury

Standing as a lone survivor of Sunbury’s former glory, this old Screven house, built about 1815, surveys a scene of quiet beauty where once the bustle of trade and commerce held sway; for Sunbury was the port for prosperous Midway District which, in the 1770′s, possessed nearly one third the wealth of Georgia.

In 1758 Capt. Mark Carr, one of Oglethorpe’s officers and Brunswick’s first settlers, gave the land for the town of Sunbury. Located on a bluff overlooking the waters of Midway River and across the Sound from the Islands of Ossabaw and St. Catherine, Sunbury soon became a place of importance.

A small earthwork, Fort Morris, situated just below Sunbury, was built for the protection of its inhabitants. In 1778 this fort was commanded by Col. John McIntosh, who successfully defended it against an attack by the British. To their demand for its surrender he replied “Come and take it!” Fort Morris fell the following year, being the last spot in the State to surrender when Georgia was overrun by the British.

Dr. Lyman Hall, one of Georgia’s Signers of the Declaration of Independence, made his home in Sunbury and was the medical doctor for the community, though his plantation was located on the Post Road. (now Hwy 17) a few miles north of Midway Church. It was from this port of Sunbury that he carried 160 barrels of rice and sixty pounds sterling, as a contribution from its citizens to relieve the condition of the patriots at Boston.

Button Gwinnett, Georgia’s other Signer from Midway District, had his plantation home on St. Catherine’s Island, within sight of Sunbury where he transacted business and moved among its citizens as one of them.

Sadly there is nothing left from this thriving town that had a population of about a thousand just before the Revolutionary War, and was considered a rival of Savannah in commercial importance.

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Posted by on January 8, 2014 in Liberty County, Sunbury


Sunbury Was Once Prominent Port in Trade with West Indies

Sunbury, now listed among the dead towns of Georgia, was Midway’s and Saint John’s Parish’s port. It was General James Edward Oglethorpe, who decided upon establishing a fortification there in his plans for defense against the Spanish. The site made an ideal getting for the town that was located there and a 500 acre grant to Mark Carr was made by the English crown on October 4, 1757.
A year’s later three hundred acres were transferred to James Maxwell, Kenneth Billie, and John Stevens of the Midway District for the purpose of dividing it into lots. One hundred acres was set aside as a town commons. The name of Sunbury was for the original Sunbury-on-Thames in England, near the city of London.
It is said that as many as seven ships entered the port in a day. It was made a port of entry in 1761 and its first appointed officers were, Thomas Carr, collector; John Martin, naval officer; Francis Lee, searcher. The town had a commission form of government which continued until 1825 after which continued until 1825 after which no elections were held and the town gradually dwindled away.
Sunbury was the county seat of Liberty County until 1797 and the first session of Liberty County Superior Court was held there. Member of the Midway community as well as the citizens of the port of Sunbury, which was eleven miles away from Midway Church, made up the list of the county’s first grand jury.
The Sunbury Academy was the chief seat of learning in this part of Georgia. Further reference of the famous old school is elsewhere in this edition of The Herald. Possessions of its noted principal, Dr. Wm. McWhir are to be seen on exhibit in Midway Museum.
The Sunbury Baptist Church, organized in 1806 by rev. Charles O. Screven, listed among the Baptist ministers that it sent out into Georgia and other states some of the leading clergy men of that denomination.
Sunbury Baptist Church is said to have been of the same architecture as the Midway Church building. The soldiers of the Union army burned it during the Sixties as a signal to the Union gunboats in the outer waters that the land forces had taken command of the town of Sunbury.
screven house
The late J.W. Morgan who lived in the old Screven house on the water front at Sunbury told in an interesting way how he furnished the torch to the Union soldiers to burn the church. As a boy at the time he obligingly gave the enemy soldiers a torch presumably to light a camp fire. At his death he was probably the oldest citizen of Sunbury section who remembered the event.
The old Screven house, so typical of the architecture of the period, stands on the Sunbury waters edge in a state of decay. Nearby is the old Sunbury cemetery where are buried so many of the early settlers. Sunbury business men carried on thriving trade between them and the other ports – especially the West Indies and the town at one time had a population of nearly a thousand.
The inhabitants lived the easy lives of typical Southern planters and the hospitable homes were the scenes of a gay social life. Perhaps the important revolutionary fort, Fort Morris, is Sunbury’s chief claim to military fame and the ruins of the old fortification are still in evidence. The earth works fort cover an acre in size.
Colonel John McIntosh of the Continental Troops perpetuated the history of the fortification’s brave stand when he sent back his famous message to the British command to surrender when he replied, “Come and take it.”

SOURCE: Liberty County Herald November 26, 1959

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Posted by on May 18, 2013 in Liberty County, Sunbury


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Sunbury Colonial Cemetery

Sunbury Colonial Cemetery
Sunbury, Georgia

J.T. Stevens
Born July 2, 1850
Died October 1, 1861

Sacred to the memory of Josiah Powell, Esq. who died at his house near Sunbury on the 21st July 1788 and his age of —- He was through life a sincere friend to his country and a zealous advocate for Liberty. Called by his fellow citizens to office of public trust, he discharged their respective duties with strict Fidelity. In his commerce with the world he was upright and honest to his family he was a blessing; and to all the social and benevolent duties, ever prompt. Reader; Go and do thou likewise.

Revt. Wm. McWhir, D.D who was born in the County Down Ireland 9th Sept. 1759 and died in Liberty Co., Ga 31st Jan. 1851. In 1783 he came to the U.S. and settled at Alexandria, Virginia whence he moved to Ga. in 1793.

Mary McWhir who was born in Liberty Co., Ga 27 Sept 1757 and died at Springfield near Sunbury 16 Dec. 1819. 1st husband Col. Lapina
2nd husband Co. John Baker
3rd husband Rev. Wm. McWhir.

Mrs. Semor Smith the consort of James Smith, Esq. of McIntosh Co. who departed this life on 6 Dec. 1828 age 53 yrs. 22nd day.

Eliza Anne.
Eldest daughter of Edmund and Eliz Richardson
Death: Oct 23, 1831
AET 11 yrs. 9 mo.

Adam G. Dunham
Death: Oct. 28 1867
AET 50 yrs. 9 mo.

Mary Dunham
Death: Dec. 8, 1864
80 yrs. 9 mo.

Revt. Jacob H Dunham
Death: Sept 25 1832
58 yrs. 7 mo.
Minister Baptist Church.

Hannah Mary Dunham
Birth: March 8, 1836
Death: April 1, 1911

Thomas H. Dunham
Death: Oct 12 1870
Aged 30 years. 12 days.

Jacob H Dunham
Death: July 10 1857
13 years 1 month 7 days.

Mrs. Anne H Dunham
Death: May 18, 1854
39 years 2 months 2 days.

Thomas J. Dunham
Birth: July 31, 1810
Death: Sept 9 1885.

George W. Dunham
Death: Sept 16, 1860
52 years 10 months.

Thomas Gould Law
Death: Oct 16, 1853
aged 2 years 2 months.

Revt. Josiah S. Lay Son of Revt. Samuel and Rebecca Law Death: Oct 4, 1853
45 years 8 months

Charles H. Law
Death: 1887
Lieut C.S.A., by U.D.C

Mrs. Temperance Law. 3rd wife of Rev. Samuel Spry Wife Rev. S.S Law
Death: Oct 16, 1857
aged 77

Mary H. Law.
Death: Sept 15, 1832
12 years.

James P. Law
Death: Oct 6 1826
15 years.

Revt. S.S Law
Death: Feb 1, 1825
62 years.

Ann Martha Law
Death: Oct 1, 1825

Sarah Law
Death: Dec 17, 1822
16 years.

Samuel Ed
Death: Sept 28, 1820

Mrs. Rebecca G Law,
Death: June 22 1817
age 37 years.

Mary C Fleming
Death October 12, 1838
14 years 5 months.

Eliz. C. Fleming
Death: Nov 3, 1838
6 years 6 months.

Geo. Troup Fleming.
Death: Feb. 3, 1838
3 years 5 months.

Thomas Barrett Law
June 7, 1836
Aged 12 months.

Matilda Emma Fleming
Death Oct 5,1852
4 years

Mrs. Matilda H. Fleming
Daughter S.S and Rebecca Laws
Death: Aug 21, 1853
43 years 2 months.

Capt. Peter Winn Fleming
B. May 1 1817
D. Jan 6 1882

Little Sally
Daughter Josiah Law and Mary Alice Fleming
Birth: Feb. 18 1870
Death: Feb 19 1870.

Josiah Law Fleming
Birth: March 24 1842
Death: May 24 1891

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Posted by on March 2, 2013 in Cemetery, Liberty County, Sunbury


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John Elliott Ward (1814 – 1902)

John Elliott Ward (1814 - 1902)

Born at Sunbury, son of William and Annie McIntosh Ward. She was the daughter of Lachlan Mclntosh, and sister of Commodore James McKay McIntosh, and Maria McIntosh. John Elliott Ward became an attorney and established a law practice in Savannah, Georgia. In 1836 he became solicitor of the Eastern Judicial Circuit. He was appointed U.S. Attorney in 1838. He resigned from that position when he was elected a state representative, and served in that position again in 1845 and 1853. During the latter term he was elected speaker of the house.

In 1854 he was elected mayor of Savannah, Georgia. He presided over the Democratic National Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1856 when James Buchanan was nominated for and later elected president of the U.S. He was elected a state senator in 1857, served as president of that body, and was at one time lieutenant governor of Georgia. He resigned as state senator to accept a federal appointment as the first U.S. Minister to China.

He married Olivia Buckminister (1819-1890) of Boston, Massachusetts, on August 15, 1839. She was the younger sister of James Swan Sullivan, a physician in Savannah, Georgia. His wife died in New Jersey, while John Elliott Ward died in Liberty County, and is buried in Midway Church cemetery. He was survived by two daugh­ters and one son. Two of his kinspersons in Liberty County when this book was published were Cordella Jones Brown­ing of Riceboro, and Major General (U.S. Army-Retired) James Francis Cochran III of Hinesville.

From “Sweet Land of Liberty, A History of Liberty County, Georgia” by Robert Long Groover; Appendix Number #, Page(s); Used by the permission of the Liberty County Commissioners Office


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The Death of the Town of Sunbury

         According to Captain McCall’s History of Georgia, during the 1870’s, Sunbury, Liberty County, was “Thought by many, in point of commercial importance, to rival Savannah.” With a seaport more accessible than Savannah it had a significant advantage of becoming Georgia’s leading port.

       However, Sunbury was vulnerable to the destructive forces of storms sweeping in from the Atlantic whereas the town of Savannah being 18 miles up the Savannah River did not receive the full force of those storms coming ashore.

       Sunbury declined in population when the County Seat moved to Riceboro in 1792 but a hurricane in 1804 demonstrated the damage an Atlantic storm can inflict.

       The SAVANNAH ADVERTISER for September 15, 1804 said, “The bluff resembles a perfect beach, almost every chimney is level with the ground, houses blown down, some of them quite new and lately erected. Every boat on the plantation opposite Sunbury is lost except two.

       “Several plantations suffered in the loss of all their cotton houses, corn houses, stables and slave houses. Mr. Cubbedge lost five slaves and all the horses, some cattle and all the stores and necessary articles for living.”

       Savannah also had a great property loss and flood waters covered Hutchinson Island to a depth of 6 to 8 feet. A number of lives were lost on the island.

       Then in 1824 another hurricane struck Sunbury and the citizens realized it would not be feasible to attempt to rebuild. The once thriving town of Sunbury soon became a corn field.

       Today the only reminder of the past is the cemetery and many of the original grave markers are now missing.

SOURCE: Midway Museum

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Posted by on October 15, 2012 in Liberty County, Sunbury


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Town of Sunbury Lot Owners During Revolutionary War Times

The following is a “list of the Proprietors of the Town of Sunbury in Georgia,” and of the Lots owned by them or their representatives about the period of the war of the Revolution:

Lot Number 1: Mark Carr
Lot Number 2: Arthur Carnaby
Lot Number 3: Grey Elliott
Lot Number 4: Grey Elliott
Lot Number 5: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 6: William Graves
Lot Number 7: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 8: John Cubbidge
Lot Number 9: James Maxwell
Lot Number 10: Mary Spry
Lot Number 11: Samuel Bennerworth
Lot Number 12: Stephen Dickinson
Lot Number 13: James Fisher: Schmidt & Mölich
Lot Number 14: James Fisher: Schmidt & Mölich
Lot Number 15: Swinton & Co.
Lot Number 16: Darling & Munro
Lot Number 17: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 18: James Derwell
Lot Number 19: Swinton & Co.
Lot Number 20: Thomas Peacock
Lot Number 21: Andrew Darling
Lot Number 22: Thomas Young
Lot Number 23: Thomas Young
Lot Number 24: Roger Kelsall
Lot Number 25: John James
Lot Number 26: Joseph Bacon
Lot Number 27: John Stewart, Sen’r.
Lot Number 28: John Lupton
Lot Number 29: Dunbar, Young & Co.
Lot Number 30: Dunbar, Young & Co.
Lot Number 31: John Elliott
Lot Number 32: James Dunham
Lot Number 33: Lyman Hall
Lot Number 34: Lyman Hall
Lot Number 35: Samuel Miller
Lot Number 36: Kenneth Baillie, Sen’r.
Lot Number 37: Samuel Bennerworth
Lot Number 38: Samuel Bennerworth
Lot Number 39: William Sererson
Lot Number 40: William Sererson
Lot Number 41: Mark Carr
Lot Number 42: Tabitha Bacon
Lot Number 43: Tabitha Bacon
Lot Number 44: John Winn
Lot Number 45: David Jervey
Lot Number 46: David Jervey
Lot Number 47: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 48: Francis Lee Lot Number 49: John Quarterman, Jr.
Lot Number 50: James Dowell
Lot Number 51: John Irvine
Lot Number 52: Jeremiah Irvine
Lot Number 53: Darling & Co.
Lot Number 54: Matthew Smallwood
Lot Number 55: William Peacock
Lot Number 56: Isaac Lines
Lot Number 57: John Osgood
Lot Number 58: Rebecca Way
Lot Number 59: John Stewart, Sr.
Lot Number 60: John Lupton
Lot Number 61: James Dunham
Lot Number 62: John Shave
Lot Number 63: Jacob Lockerman
Lot Number 64: Paynter Dickinson
Lot Number 65: John Lawson
Lot Number 66: John Lawson
Lot Number 67: Thomas Ralph
Lot Number 68: John Quarterman, Sr.
Lot Number 69: Thomas Gouldsmith
Lot Number 70: James Houstoun
Lot Number 71: John Stevens
Lot Number 72: Mark Carr
Lot Number 73: Hugh Clark
Lot Number 74: Hugh Clark
Lot Number 75: Kenneth Baillie, Sr.
Lot Number 76: Kenneth Baillie, Sr.
Lot Number 77: Paris Way
Lot Number 78: Nathaniel Yates
Lot Number 79: William Dunham
Lot Number 80: Charles West
Lot Number 81: Daniel Slade
Lot Number 82: Jacob Lockerman
Lot Number 83: Samuel West
Lot Number 84: Thomas Carter, P. Schmidt
Lot Number 85: John Elliott
Lot Number 86: John Elliott
Lot Number 87: William Baker
Lot Number 88: William Baker
Lot Number 89: Audley Maxwell
Lot Number 90: Elizabeth Simmons
Lot Number 91: John Graves
Lot Number 92: John Graves
Lot Number 93: Robert Bolton
Lot Number 94: John Baker
Lot Number 95: John Humphreys
Lot Number 96: James Fisher, Francis Guilland

Lot Number 97: John Lupton
Lot Number 98: John Lupton
Lot Number 99: Henry Saltus
Lot Number 100: Donald McKay
Lot Number 101: Stephen Dickinson
Lot Number 102: Stephen Dickinson
Lot Number 103: William Clark
Lot Number 104: Thomas Christie
Lot Number 105: Samuel Jeanes
Lot Number 106: Moses Way
Lot Number 107: William David
Lot Number 108: Paynter Dickinson
Lot Number 109: Francis Lee
Lot Number 110: Francis Lee
Lot Number 111: James Harley
Lot Number 112: Samuel Bacon
Lot Number 113: Tabitha Bacon
Lot Number 114: John Stewart, Snr.
Lot Number 115: John Stewart, Snr.
Lot Number 116: John Stewart, Snr.
Lot Number 117: Stephen Dickinson
Lot Number 118: John Stewart, Snr.
Lot Number 119: John Elliot
Lot Number 120: John Elliot
Lot Number 121: Benjamin Stevens
Lot Number 122: John Lynn
Lot Number 123: John Lynn
Lot Number 125: John Sutherland
Lot Number 126: John Sutherland
Lot Number 127: Samuel Jeanes
Lot Number 128: Samuel Jeanes
Lot Number 129: Joseph Tickener
Lot Number 130: William Miller
Lot Number 131: Richard Mills
Lot Number 132: Richard Mills
Lot Number 133: Peter McKay
Lot Number 134: James Miller
Lot Number 135: James Miller
Lot Number 136: David Jervey
Lot Number 137: William Davis
Lot Number 138: William Davis
Lot Number 139: Joseph Serjeant
Lot Number 140: John Jones
Lot Number 141: Strong Ashmore
Lot Number 142: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 143: Donald McKay
Lot Number 144: Donald McKay
Lot Number 145: Andrew Way
Lot Number 146: James Fisher
Lot Number 147: George Monis
Lot Number 148: Thomas Way Lot Number 149: James Hatcher
Lot Number 150: James Hatcher
Lot Number 151: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 152: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 153: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 154: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 155: John Perkins
Lot Number 156: John Perkins
Lot Number 157: William Lowe
Lot Number 158: William Lowe
Lot Number 159: Charles West: Schmidt & Mölich
Lot Number 160: Charles West: Schmidt & Mölich
Lot Number 161: Charles West: Schmidt & Mölich
Lot Number 162: Charles West: Schmidt & Mölich
Lot Number 163: William Peacock
Lot Number 164: William Peacock
Lot Number 165: Charles West
Lot Number 166: Charles West
Lot Number 167: William Davis
Lot Number 168: William Davis
Lot Number 169: Francis Lee
Lot Number 170: Francis Lee
Lot Number 171: Thomas Vincent
Lot Number 172: Benjamin Baker
Lot Number 173: Grey Elliott
Lot Number 174: Grey Elliott
Lot Number 175: Grey Elliott
Lot Number 176: Grey Elliott
Lot Number 177: John Lupton
Lot Number 178: John Lupton
Lot Number 179: John Lupton
Lot Number 180: John Lupton
Lot Number 181: T: Quarterman
Lot Number 182: Joseph Bacon
Lot Number 185: Susannah Jones
Lot Number 186: Susannah Jones
Lot Number 189: Barnard Romans
Lot Number 190: Barnard Romans
Lot Number 191: Barnard Romans
Lot Number 192: Barnard Romans
Lot Number 200: John K: Zubley
Lot Number 205: Edward Way
Lot Number 206: Edward Way
Lot Number 207: James Fisher
Lot Number 208: James Fisher
Lot Number 209: Edward Maham
Lot Number 210: Edward Maham
Lot Number 211: Richard Spencer
Lot Number 212: Richard Spencer
Lot Number 213: William Swinton
Lot Number 214: William Swinton

Lot Number 215: William Swinton
Lot Number 216: William Swinton
Lot Number 217: Samuel Jeanes
Lot Number 218: Samuel Jeanes
Lot Number 219: Samuel Jeanes
Lot Number 220: Henry Saltus
Lot Number 221: James Read
Lot Number 222: James Read
Lot Number 223: Charles West
Lot Number 224: Charles West
Lot Number 225: John Shave
Lot Number 226: John Shave
Lot Number 227: Richard Baker
Lot Number 228: Richard Baker
Lot Number 229: Marn’k Perry
Lot Number 230: Marn’k Perry
Lot Number 231: Thomas Dunbar
Lot Number 232: Joshua Snowden
Lot Number 233: Samuel Burnley,
Schmidt & Mölich
Lot Number 234: Samuel Burnley,
Schmidt & Mölich
Lot Number 235: Samuel Burnley,
Schmidt & Mölich
Lot Number 236: Samuel Burnley,
Schmidt & Mölich
Lot Number 237: John Milchett
Lot Number 238: John Milchett
Lot Number 239: James Andrew
Lot Number 240: John Milchett
Lot Number 241: William Dunham
Lot Number 242: William Dunham
Lot Number 243: Samuel Jeanes
Lot Number 244: Winw’d McIntosh
Lot Number 245: David Jervey
Lot Number 246: David Jervey
Lot Number 247: Francis Lee
Lot Number 248: Samuel Morecock
Lot Number 249: Mark Carr
Lot Number 250: Mark Carr
Lot Number 251: George Bodington
Lot Number 252: Mary Bateman
Lot Number 253: John Goff
Lot Number 257: Robert Bolton
Lot Number 258: Robert Bolton
Lot Number 265: Mark Carr
Lot Number 266: Mark Carr
Lot Number 267: John Bryan
Lot Number 268: John Bryan
Lot Number 269: Patrick M: Kay
Lot Number 270: Patrick M: Kay
Lot Number 271: Benjamin Andrew
Lot Number 272: Benjamin Andrew Lot Number 273: Morgan Tabb
Lot Number 274: Morgan Tabb
Lot Number 275: Morgan Tabb
Lot Number 276: Morgan Tabb
Lot Number 277: James Watcher
Lot Number 278: James Watcher
Lot Number 279: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 280: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 281: John Bryan
Lot Number 282: Samuel Richardson
Lot Number 283: John Gaspar Stirkey
Lot Number 284: John Gaspar Stirkey
Lot Number 285: John Jones (mulatto)
Lot Number 289: Thomas Carter
Lot Number 290: Thomas Carter
Lot Number 305: Thomas Carter
Lot Number 306: Thomas Carter
Lot Number 307: Thomas Carter
Lot Number 308: Thomas Carter
Lot Number 309: Thomas Carter
Lot Number 313: Samuel Tomlinson
Lot Number 314: Samuel Tomlinson
Lot Number 315: Samuel Tomlinson
Lot Number 317: William Swinton
Lot Number 318: William Swinton
Lot Number 319: William Swinton
Lot Number 320: William Swinton
Lot Number 340: Peter McKay
Lot Number 341: Peter McKay
Lot Number 342: Peter McKay
Lot Number 343: Peter McKay
Lot Number 344: Peter McKay
Lot Number 345: Peter McKay
Lot Number 346: Peter McKay
Lot Number 347: Peter McKay
Lot Number 348: Peter McKay
Lot Number 349: Peter McKay
Lot Number 350: Peter McKay
Lot Number 351: Peter McKay
Lot Number 352: Thomas Quarterman
Lot Number 353: Barrack Norman
Lot Number 354: Barrack Norman
Lot Number 355: Barrack Norman
Lot Number 356: Tarah, Senior
Lot Number 357: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 358: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 359: Frederick Hobrendorff
Lot Number 360: Frederick Hobrendorff
Lot Number 361: Joseph Richardson
Lot Number 362: Joseph Richardson
Lot Number 373: John Ford
Lot Number 403: Thomas Christie
Lot Number 404: Thomas Christie

Lot Number 431: Marmaduke Gerry
Lot Number 432: Marmaduke Gerry
Lot Number 433: Marmaduke Gerry
Lot Number 434: Robert Smallwood
Lot Number 435: Robert Smallwood
Lot Number 436: John Winn
Lot Number 437: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 438: Francis Arthur Lot Number 473: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 474: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 475: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 476: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 477: Francis Arthur
Lot Number 478: Samuel Bacon
Lot Number 479: Francis Lee
Lot Number 480: John Tutes

The Dead Towns of Georgia. Charles C. Jones, Jr., Morning News Steam Printing House, Savannah, Georgia, 1878

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Posted by on July 14, 2012 in Sunbury


Sunbury…Home of Many Famous Persons

Many famous persons lived in the town of Sunbury. Among them was Dr. Lyman Hall, signer of the Declaration of Independence. It was also the home of Richard Howley and Nathan Brownson, later governors of Georgia; of John Elliott and Alfred Cuthbert, United States Senators; of Major John Jones and Major Lachlan McIntosh. Button Gwinnett, another signer of the Declaration of Independence, spent much time here as a Justice of St. John´s Parish, and Georgia´s third signer, George Walton, was among those held in Sunbury as a prisoner of the British during the Revolution.

Maria J. McIntosh, noted authoress and her brother, Commodore James McKay McIntosh, hero of the Mexican War, were born in Sunbury. The Hon. John E. Ward, first United States Minister to China, and the Hon. William Law, noted jurist, were also natives of Sunbury.


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Posted by on May 5, 2012 in Sunbury


Sunbury by Kate Jones Martin…

This history of the town of Sunbury was written by my Great Aunt Kate Jones Martin.

The first mention of Sunbury is found in the memoirs of General James Edward Ogle­thorpe by Robert Wright, London, 1857, in which he tells of General Oglethorpe’s explora­tory expedition to the southern frontiers of Georgia. On this trip (in 1734) he embarked in a row boat at Savannah with sixteen men, and followed the inland waterway to St. Simons Island. It was at this time that Oglethorpe was impressed by the beautiful, bold bluffs over­looking the Medway River and its outlying islands, which later became a part of the town of Sunbury. According to tradition, it was on this expedition that the first Masonic Lodge ever organized in Georgia was instituted by Oglethorpe.

In 1757 His Majesty, King George II, conveyed to Mark Carr, his heirs and assigns forever, “All that tract of land containing 500 acres, situate and being in the district of Midway in the province of Georgia, bounded on the east by Medway River, on the west by the land of Thomas Carr, on the south by vacant land, and on all other sides by the marshes of said river.”

On the 20th of June 1758, Mark Carr conveyed 300 of his 500 acres, including that portion fronting on the river, to James Maxwell, Kenneth Baillie, John Elliott, Grey Elliott and John Stevens of Midway in trust that the land be laid out as a town by the name of Sunbury. The name Sunbury comes from two Saxon words, sunna, the sun, and byri, a town, and denotes a place exposed to the sun. Sunbury was the name of a town in England on the Thames River, and it is quite probable that Mr. Carr was perpetuating (as did many colonists) the name of a town he loved. However that may be, a more suitable name could not have been chosen, for it recalls the peace­ful memories of old England, and from the early dawn until sunset, the locality is always bathed in sunlight.

The trustees of the early town of Sunbury were all men of prominence and position. John Stevens and James Maxwell were members of the Provincial Congress which assembled at Tondee’s Longroom in Savannah on July 4, 1775. The other members of this Congress from St. John’s Parish were: James Screven, Nathan Brownson, Daniel Roberts, John Baker, Sr., John Bacon, Sr., Edward Bell, William Baker, Sr., William Bacon, Jr., and John Winn, Sr. Grey Elliott was subsequently selected by the General Assembly to act as an assistant from the colony of Georgia to Dr. Benjamin Franklin who had been chosen by several of the provinces, including Georgia, and sent to England to represent the grievances of the colonies, remonstrate against such Acts of the Crown as were deemed oppressive, and oppose taxation without repre­sentation. Most of the trustees were members of the Midway church. The plan of the town of Sunbury as laid out embraced three public squares (known as King’s, Church and Meeting) and 496 lots. These lots had a frontage of 70 feet and were 130 feet in depth. Lots numbered from one to forty fronting the river were called Bay Lots, and included ownership of the shore to low water mark. Four lots constituted a block bounded on 3 sides by streets and on the 4th by a lane. From north to south the length of Sunbury, as thus laid out, measured 3,430 feet. Its breadth on the south side was 2,230 feet and on the north 1,880 feet.

Within a short time substantial wharves were built, the most marked of which were owned and used by the following merchants: Kellsall and Spalding; Fisher, Jones and Hughes; Darling and Company; and Lamott.

In 1761 the governor of the province declared Sunbury a port of entry and appointed Thomas Carr, Collector; John Martin, Naval Officer; and Francis Lee, Searcher. In his letter to Lord Halli­fax, in 1763, Sir James Wright said: “I judged it necessary for His Majesty’s service that Sunbury-a well settled place having an exceedingly good harbour and inlet from the sea-should be made a port of entry, and I have appointed Thomas Carr, Collector, and John Martin, Naval Officer, for the same. There are eighty dwellings in the place, 3 considerable merchant stores for supplying the town and planters with all necessary goods, and around it for about 15 miles is one of the best settled parts of the country.”

Captain McCall in alluding to the early history of Sunbury says: “Soon after its settlement and organization as a town, it rose to considerable commercial importance . . . . a lucrative trade was carried on with various parts of the West Indies in lumber, rice, indigo, corn and other products. Seven square-rigged vessels have been known to enter the port of Sunbury in one day, and about the years 1769 and 1770 it was thought by many, in point of commercial importance to rival Savannah.” In his report on the condition of the province of Georgia, dated September 20, 1773, Sir James Wright mentioned that in the year 1772, fifty-six vessels of various sorts were entered and cleared at the Custom House in the port of Sunbury. On one or two occasions cargoes of Africans were sold in this port.

Sunbury played a most important part in the Revolutionary War. Imagine a town of that size having three signers of the Declaration of Inde­pendence closely connected with it. Dr. Lyman Hall, although having a plantation a few miles north of Midway, lived in Sunbury, where he owned two lots facing the river. He was the leading physician of the country thereabouts. In 1775 he was sent as a delegate to the General Congress in Massachusetts from the parish of St. John, which acted independently of the province of Georgia. Later, he was a signer of the Declara­tion of Independence. Button Gwinnett, another signer, although having his home on St. Catherines Island, carried on his public business as Justice of St. John’s Parish in the town of Sunbury, and transacted his private business there. George Walton, the third signer from Georgia, was sent to Sunbury as a prisoner of war at the fall of Savannah in 1778, being wounded and paroled there until his wound healed.

Sunbury contributed other great men to the war for freedom. Here lived Major John Jones, aide to General McIntosh, who was killed while defending Savannah on the same day on which Pulaski fell. Dr. Stacy gives Sunbury as the home of General James Screven, who was mortally wounded at Spencer Hill, south of Midway, in a skirmish with the British on November 22, 1778, and died two days later. Colonel John Baker was the first captain of the St. John’s Riflemen and later made colonel. He led the expedition against Florida planned by Button Gwinnett, was wounded at Bulltown Swamp near Riceboro, and partici­pated in the capture of Augusta in 1781. Baker County was named for him.

Besides contributing these great men to the army from the town, Sunbury was actively a part of the Revolutionary War in that it was the scene of much fighting. It was the place of rendezvous for the forces of General Charles Lee in the expedition against Florida in 1776. From here, Colonel Elbert embarked his troops in an expedi­tion against St. Augustine in 1777. Here in 1778 Colonel Pinckney came with his troops to rest. Fort Morris was located here on land belonging to John Winn. This fort had been started in the year 1756 as a precautionary measure against a rumored invasion of Indians. Also according to church records on account of French privateers, citizens raised a couple of batteries and made carriages of eight small cannon. When Congress met on July 5, 1776, they resolved to raise two battalions to serve in Georgia . . . . that four galleys be built for defense of the seacoast, and that two artillery companies of fifty men each be enlisted to garrison two forts which the state was to erect at Savannah and Sunbury. The old fort was used but was modified and enlarged. It was given the name of Fort Morris in honor of Captain Morris who commanded a company of Continental Artillery raised for coastal defense. The fort was built, according to tradition, chiefly by the slave labor of the planters of Colonels Island and the Midway District. It was well armed for that day, for records show that twenty­five pieces of ordnance were surrendered by Major Lane to Colonel Prevost. The guns were small, consisting of four, six, nine, twelve, and eighteen pounders with one or two twenty-four pounders. The walls were of earth work, built to include one acre of ground. The parapet was ten feet wide and six feet above the parade of the fort. Surrounding the whole was a moat ten feet wide at the bottom and twenty feet wide at the top. The guns were all removed later. One was taken to Hinesville; two to Riceboro during the War Between the States, where no use was made of them. Two more were taken by Captain Lamar, and after being used as signal guns at Sunbury, they were moved to Fort Bartow in Savannah, where they fell into the hands of the Federals. Two more were left buried in the soil of the parade ground. One of those taken to Riceboro was removed by Colonel C. C. Jones in 1880 to his home in Augusta.

Colonel John McIntosh was left in command of Fort Morris in 1778. He courageously defended it against the attack of Colonel Fuser who, with 500 men, battering cannon, light artillery and mortars, attacked the fort by land and water. When Colonel Fuser demanded the surrender of Colonel McIntosh, promising that the citizens should be left in peaceable possession of their property, Colonel McIntosh (with less than 200 men, including continental troops, local militia and loyal citizens) replied in these words: “Sir, We acknowledge we are not ignorant that your army is in motion to endeavour to reduce this state. We believe it entirely chimerical that Col. Prevost is at the Meeting House; but should it be so, we are in no degree apprehensive of danger from a junction of his army with yours. We have no property compared with the object we contend for that we value a rush:- and would rather perish in a vigorous defence than accept your proposals. We, Sir, are fighting the battles of America, and therefore disdain to remain neutral ’til its fate is determined. As to surren­dering the fort, receive this laconic reply: Come and Take It.”

Colonel Fuser waited for Colonel Prevost to join him, and when he did not appear, he reim­barked his troops and left. However, later when Major Lane was left in command of the fort, he disregarded the orders of General Howe to evacuate and join the main army and was forced to surrender unconditionally to the British under Prevost. After the fall of Sunbury, the Conti­nental officers captured at Savannah were sent there on parole. Fort Morris has the distinction of being the last spot on Georgia soil where the old Colonial flag remained flying. After its surrender to the British, it was called Fort George. During the War of 1812, the fort was repaired and named Fort Defense. The Committee of Defense for Liberty County during that war consisted of General Daniel Stewart, William Fleming, John Winn, John Stacy, John Elliott, John Stevens and Joseph Law. The garrison was under the command of the Honorable John A. Cuthbert but was never called into active service. This was the last time the old fort was used.

A sketch of Sunbury would not be complete without mentioning other famous citizens. Richard Howley and Nathan Brownson, both governors of Georgia, lived there for years. John Elliott and Alfred Cuthbert, United States senators, and John A. Cuthbert, a member of Congress, lived there. Commodore James McKay McIntosh and his sister, Miss Maria McIntosh, the authoress, were born there. Born there, too, was the Honorable John Elliott Ward, who was mayor of Savannah, a senator, U.S. district attorney, and first Minister Plenipotentiary to China (those who preceded him being commissioners only). It was also the birthplace of Honorable William E. Law who was a cele­brated teacher and jurist.

Sunbury Academy was established by the Georgia Legislature, February 1, 1778. Abiel Holmes, James Dunwoody, John Elliott, Gideon Dowse and Peter Winn were appointed commissioners to establish the academy and erect a building. About the year 1793 the Reverend William McWhir, D.D., a native of Ireland, came to Sunbury as a minister and educator. He was elected headmaster of the academy, and for thirty years he conducted the institution by the highest standards of scholarship and discipline. Students from many sections of the country attended the academy, and there were as many as seventy enrolled at one time. Other teachers were James E. Morris, the Reverend Mr. Lewis, the Reverend Mr. Shannon, the Reverend Thomas Goulding, Uriah Wilcox, the Reverend John Boggs, Captain William Hughes, C. G. Lee, the Reverend A. T. Holmes, the Reverend S. G. Hillyer, Major John Winn, W. T. Feay, Oliver W. Stevens and the Reverend Reuben Hitchcock. Dr. McWhir and his wife died at Sunbury and are buried in the cemetery there.

For its size, Sunbury had few churches. On May 20, 1790, a charter was granted to the Congregational Society of Sunbury with the following selectmen: Francis Coddington, David Rees, James Powell and John Lawson. The members of the Church of England, or Episcopal Church at Sunbury, had a missionary, the Reverend John Alexander, in 1766 and 1767, who was sent by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. He was succeeded by the Reverend Timothy Lowten, another missionary who served for several months in 1771. The Revolutionary War interrupted the plans of the Sunbury Episcopalians as a permanent organization. The Baptist church was organized in 1806 with the Reverend Charles O. Screven as minister.

A Masonic Lodge known as St. John’s Lodge Number Six of Sunbury was chartered by the Grand Lodge of Georgia in Masonry April 21, 1777. Appearing as officers in 1787 were: Worshipful Master, Adam Alexander; Senior Warden, William Peacock; Junior Warden, Andrew Maybank; Treasurer, Thomas Lancaster; Secretary, Daniel Stewart; Senior Deacon, Nathan Dryer; Junior Deacon, John Bihleimer; and Stewards, James Robarts and Samuel Law. In 1805 the Masons constructed a building on property owned by John and Rebecca Couper in the town of Sunbury.

Sunbury never recovered from falling into the hands of the British. Homes were burned and those left were impoverished. For a time it seemed that prosperity would be revived, but with all the other reverses came an epidemic of yellow fever and two hurricanes which completed the destruction. In 1797 the seat of justice of Liberty County was moved from Sunbury to Riceborough. Many of the houses were moved to Dorchester. By the year 1848 nothing was left of Sunbury to indicate the prosperous, gracious life that was lived there. Graves are unmarked and unremembered. The oldest stone here is that of Josiah Powell who died in 1788. Mr. Powell was one of the prominent citizens of the parish and was interested in the education of its youth. The Laws and Flemings whose family plot is quite well preserved were people of prominence in the parish of St. John, and members of the Midway church. They include several ministers and jurists in their number.

The Dunham family, whose graves are the most recent, lived at one time next to Springfield Plantation, the home of the Stevens family. It is presumed that they were descendants of the same William Dunham who is listed in Colonel Jones’s book among those having lots in early Sunbury.

Chief Justice George Walton charged the grand jury at Sunbury on November 18, 1783, with the following words: “In the course of the conflict with the enemy whose conduct was marked with cruelty, the whole state has suffered undoubtedly more than any of the Confederacy. The citizens of Liberty County, with others, have drunk deep in the stream of distress. Remembering these things, we should not lose sight of the value of the prize we have obtained. And now that we are in full possession of our freedom, we should all unite in our endeavors to benefit and perpetuate the system, that we may always be happy at home and forever freed from the insults of petty tyrants commissioned from abroad.”

There is a message in these words for us today, and as we remember the brighter days of this old town, as we boast of its history, let us strive toward making a history of our own which will justify the efforts and ambitions of the early settlers of the town of Sunbury.

Source: Midway Museum

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Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Maps, Sunbury


Reverend William McWhir and the Sunbury Academy…

Rev. William McWhir

Reverend William McWhir became headmaster of Sunbury Academy in 1791. He replaced Reverend Reuben Hitchcock, who remained at the school as a teacher. McWhir was a Presbyterian minister, a native of Ireland, graduated from Belfast College, and was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Belfast. He emigrated to America in 1783, settled in Alexandria, Virginia, and for ten years was principal of the academy of which George Washington was a trustee, ad whose step-children he taught.He and his wife moved to Sunbury where he taught at the Sunbury Academy. He raised such high standards that the Academy became one of the best schools in Georgia. He married Mary Lapina Baker, widow of Colonel John Baker, and they had no children. William McWhir lived to the ripe age of 92 and was buried in the Sunbury Cemetery in . On his tombstone is inscribed, “His long and eventful life was devoted to the cause of Christianity and education, and his labors to promote these objects were eminently successful,”

The most famous institution of learning in Southern Georgia, for many years, was the Sunbury Academy. It was established by an act of the Legislature assented to the first of February, 1788. Abiel Holmes, James Dunwody, John Elliott, Gideon Dowse, and Peter Winn were nominated in the act as Commissioners. To them, or a majority of them, was authority given to sell at public sale, and upon previous notice of thirty days in one of the gazettes of the State, any confiscated property within the county of Liberty to the amount of £1,000. This sum, when realized, was to be by them expended in the construction of a building suitable for the purposes of the Academy. Each Commissioner was required to execute a bond, in favor of the Governor of Georgia, in the penalty of £1,000, conditioned for the faithful performance of the trust. In 1803 the number of Commissioners was increased to seven, but two years afterwards the Legislature directed a return to the original number, which was five.

As late as December 4th, 1811, the Legislature directed a grant and conveyance to the Commissioners of Sunbury Academy, for the sole use and benefit of that institution, of one-third of a tract of land adjoining Sunbury, known as the Distillery Tract; the same having been confiscated as the estate of Roger Kellsall, and being then the property of the State. The administration of the affairs of this academy during the long course of its valuable existence appears at all times to have been conducted by its trustees with prudence and skill. Certain it is that until the marked decadence of Sunbury this institution maintained an en-viable reputation, and attracted scholars in no inconsiderable numbers from various portions of the State, and even from States. The teacher whose name is for the longest period and most notably associated with the management of this Academy, and who did more than all others to establish a standard of scholarship and maintain rules of study and discipline unusual in that period and among these peoples, was the Reverend Dr. William McWhir. Great was the obligation conferred upon the youths of Southern Georgia, for certainly two generations, by this competent instructor and rigid disciplinarian. A native of Ireland, a graduate of Belfast College, and licensed to preach by the Presbytery of that city, he came to America in 1783 and settled in Alexandria, Virginia. There, for ten years he was the Principal of the Academy of which General Washington was a trustee. He was frequently a guest at Mount Vernon, enjoying the hospitality of that noted mansion. On one occasion while he was dining with the family, General Washington, as his custom was, asked the usual blessing. Mrs. Washington, somewhat surprised that Mr. McWhir had not been invited to do this, remarked to General Washington, “You forgot that we had a clergyman at table with us to-day.” “No, madam,” he replied, “I did not forget. I desire clergymen, as well as all others, to see that I am not a graceless man.”

About 1793 he removed to Sunbury where he became the Principal of the Academy and, for nearly thirty years, made it the leading institution of learning in this entire region. A thorough Greek, Latin, and English scholar, an uncompromising observer of prescribed regulations, and a firm believer in the virtue of the birch as freely applied in those days in the English and Irish schools in which he had received his training, he was a terror to all dolts and delinquents. To the studious and the ambitious, he always proved himself a generous instructor, full of suggestion and encouragement. The higher branches of mathematics were also taught; and, as a preparatory school, this institution, under his guidance, had no superior within the limits of the State. The average attendance was about seventy. Pupils were attracted not only from Liberty, but also from the adjacent counties of Chatham, Bryan, McIntosh, and Glynn. Some came from even greater distances. Two generations sat at the feet of this venerable preceptor. Fathers and sons in turn responded to his nod, and feared his frown. Although so impartial was he in the support of whatever was just and of good report, and so competent and thorough as a teacher, that for more than a quarter of a century his numerous pupils found in him, above all others, their mentor, guide, and helper in the thorny paths of knowledge. Strongly did he impress his character and influence upon the generations in which he lived, and his name and acts are even now well remembered. The evening of his days was spent, as inclination prompted, at the residences of his old scholars, by whom a cordial welcome was always extended. That welcome was recognized by him as peculiarly genuine and agreeable when accompanied by a generous supply of buttermilk and a good glass of wine. The latter might be dispensed with: a failure to provide the former was, in his eyes, an unpardonable breach of hospitality, and materially impaired the comfort of his sojourn, and the tranquility of the venerable guest.

Among the other teachers at this Academy may be mentioned Mr. James E. Morris, the Rev. Mr. Lewis, the Rev. Mr. Shannon, the Rev. Mr. Thomas Goulding, Uriah Wilcox, Rev. Mr. John Boggs, Captain William Hughes, Mr. C. G. Lee, Rev. A. T. Holmes, Rev. S. G. Hillyer, Major John Winn, Mr. W. T. Feay, and Mr. Oliver W. Stevens. The building–a large two story and a half double wooden house, about sixty feet square and located in King’s Square,–was pulled down and sold some time about the year 1842.

From the Hinesville, Ga., Gazette — The following, kindly furnished us by Colonel C.C. Jones, the distinguished historian, is interesting to many of the descendants of those who were school boys in 1807 at Old Sunbury:

Augusta, Ga., September 28 — Mr. Editor: It may interest you, and some of the readers of your valuable Gazette to see the accompanying catologue of the scholars of the Sunbury academy in 1807. It will be remembered that it was then a famous and flourishing institution of learning under the conduct of the Rev. Wm. McWhir, D.D. The catalogue is in manuscript, discolored by the stains of more than three quarters of a century. The town and academy live only in tradition, and of the pupils then present, all, I believe have passed into the realm of shadows.

Very Truly yours,
Charles C. Jones,

The Dead Towns of Georgia. Charles C. Jones, Jr., Morning News Steam Printing House, Savannah, Georgia, 1878, pages 214-216


Abijail James Alexr. McIntosh Amo. Axson
Ann Myres Artemus Baber Caroline Fabian
Elizabeth McCall Elizabeth Peacock George Forrester
Hester Elliott Adam Somersal Alex McIver
Ann Maxwell Ann Peacock Audley Maxwell
Edward Footman Elizabeth Jones Eliz. Wilkens
Hannah Maxwell Hester McIntosh Harriet Croft
James Bowen James McCall James McIntosh, Jr.
John Bulloch John Glass John Law
John McIntosh Lechlen Cuthbart L. Croft
Lucretia Cook Margorie Batllie James Baker
James Bulloch James McIntosh, Sr. John Baker
John Caldwell John Jones John Maxwell
John Pomeroy Lachlan McIntosh Louis Latouche
Maria Baillie Mary Axson Mary Law
Mary Osgood Peter Goulding Richard Cuyler
Samuel Linos Sarah Wood Thomas Baillie
Thomas McCall Thomas Winn William Cooper
William Grimball William James William Law
Mary McIntosh Matilda Elliott Preserved Alger
Richard Pomeroy Sarah Maxwell Susan Myres
Thomas Baker Thomas Stone William Baker
William Cuyler William Hughes William Jasper
William McIntosh
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Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Sunbury


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