St. Marys Magazine Issue 29

Page 1




PAGE 42 St. Marys’ Waterfront Renaissance

Hauntingly Majestic Sugar Mill Tabby Ruins Resurrecting the Bridge From St. Marys to Fernandina Beach



PAGE 71 Owls on Osborne Giving a Hoot about Downtown St. Marys

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Letter from the Mayor


mayor letter 23 q

1/7/17 9:42 AM Page 1 s we enter a new decade I cannot help but reflect on the last one and how much St. Marys has changed, yet so many of thethan thingsmost we love about our city have stayed the same. We have fought back St. Marys fared better of our coastal neighbors when Hurricane Matthew swept through last fall. Our beautiful city andstronger neighboring Cumberland weredowntown, back in from two devastating hurricanes and rebuilt and better. We have aIsland refurbished business almost immediately followingand the storm. If you are of everywhere. visiting in these expanded boat docks and new restaurants retail. Renovations arethinking popping up Our Letter from the Mayor cooler winter months, our weather is still warm and inviting so we encourage midtown is changing for the positive with new and expanded retail. Our many and diverseyou, your friends and relatives down! neighborhoods continueto tocome grow toon accommodate new residents and retirees. Or up, as the case may be as we have many visitors arrivingMatthew from Florida as well. The better than most of our coastal neighbors when Hurricane swept St. WeMarys are a fared community on the move yet we carefully manage that growth to make sure we do not Georgia Welcome Center city at Exit 1 just as you cross from into through last fall. Our beautiful and neighboring Cumberland IslandFlorida were back in Georgia has been lose any almost of the small town ambiance residents visitors both of treasure. Our parades and festivals business immediately following the storm. Ifand you visiting these re-furbished and has re-opened to welcome allare tothinking our great state in and offering dozens of ideas continue in popularity with localsis and music, community art and history venues cooler winter months, our weather still visitors. warm andOur inviting so we encouragetheatre, you, your for spending time in St. Marys. friends andtorelatives to come on down! continue thrive. Our natural attractions remain a pride and joy because we vigorously our While and entryway to Cumberland ourprotect most popular attractions, we enjoy Or up, asour the waterfront, case may be asrivers we have many visitors arriving from FloridaIsland as well.remain The precious environment. year-round entertainment likecross steam rides community Georgia Welcome Center at Exit venues 1 just as you fromtrain Florida into and Georgia has been theatre presentations at Theatre by the During the winter months as Midwest and Northeast fleetouring the blizzards and snowstorms and Walk even those in the to Carolinas re-furbished and has re-opened to welcome allpopularity to our great state offering dozens of ideas Trax. Kayaking continues tothose growininthe as doand bicycle and races. Our History is proving be an for time in choose St. Marys. andspending north Georgia to escape thethe chilllong and history gloom, we St. waterfront Marys welcome them.We With ourknown mild climate, enjoyable historical stroll through ofinour village. are for ouroutdoor familyactivities friendlyare While our waterfront, rivers and entryway to Cumberland Island remain our most popular attractions, we enjoy still enjoyable here whether it February islike boating, kayaking, a ferry ridepresentations toof Cumberland Island. Hardly a day goes by that there are parades and festivals with ourcommunity veryorown version the Mardi Our hotel, modern year-round entertainment venues steam featuring train rides camping and theatre at Theatre the historic motels, and charming and breakfasts provide lodging for all tastes andorWalk budgets while in midtown, Trax. Kayaking continues tobed grow in popularity bicycle and races. Our History is proving torestaurants be anin the river. not groups gathering at the Waterfront Park as to do enjoy the touring view, the sunrise or sunset watch otters playing The city’s enjoyable stroll through the long of our waterfront village. We are known for ourasfamily friendly downtown and is the west sidedays offer ahistory variety of visitors casual dining options. Welcome historical Center open seven a week to steer to these and other attractions well as accommodations and dining options. parades and festivals with February featuring ouradventure very own version of the Mardi Gras. Our historic hotel, modernquiet, laid back and Whether you are here for an outdoor or just want to enjoy time in a peaceful, motels, We are large enough to offer visitors diversity in accommodations and activities, yet small enough to maintain our small town and charming bed and breakfasts provide lodging for all tastes and budgets while restaurants in midtown, friendly community, St.enough Marys the place to spend a week, longer. Many fall in love here and downtown andWe theare west side offer a variety ofand casual options. friendliness. close toisI-95 the dining Jacksonville airport weekend to be easilyoraccessible, yet farwill enough away to and avoidmove the clamor to call St. Marys home. Whether areishere for anspot outdoor adventure just want enjoy time a peaceful, quiet, laid back traffic. St. you Marys an ideal on the Georgiaorcoast that to visitors enjoyinand local residents love to and call their hometown whether life-long friendly community, Maryshave is thetime, place please to spendstop a week, or longer. Many willor fall“hey” in lovedepending and move here Welcome! And St. if you byweekend City Hall and say “hi” on where you are from. residents or newly relocated. to call St. Marys home. if you have please stop by City Hall and say “hi” or “hey” depending on where you are from. Welcome! Welcome And to the 2020s intime, our beautiful community.


John John Sincerely,

John Morrissey, Mayor John Morrissey, Mayor City of St. Marys City of St. Marys

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FEATURES 8 Experience the Magic of St. Marys 10 A New Legacy Begins for Downtown Landmark: The Riverview Hotel 16 St. Marys Takes Strong Position in Georgia’s Film Trail

60 Resurrecting the Bridge from St. Marys to Fernandina Beach: Water Taxi Debut 64 Riding the Rails into Yesteryear’s Adventures 68 Alluring. Inventive. Coming Soon! VUE

24 In Loving Memory of Mary Sloan Chapman

71 Owls on Osborne: Giving a Hoot about St. Marys Downtown

26 A Feast for the Senses: 401 West Restaurant

76 Welcome New Businesses to our Community

32 St. Marys Little Theatre: Putting Community back into Community Theatre

79 In Search of my Great Grandfather: Civil War in St. Marys

42 St. Marys’ Waterfront Renaissance

85 The Guardian of Orange Hall

46 Salt.Pepper.Thyme. A Delicious Destination

92 Canadian Geese: Regal Residents or Neighborhood Nuisance?

52 The Grand Dame of Jacksonville Beach: Casa Marina Hotel 58 Hauntingly Majestic: Sugar Mill Tabby Ruins

DEPARTMENTS 22 30 56 90

LowCountry Events Mail Bag Media Darlings Magazine Party

PHOTO: St. Marys River

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Publisher’s Note You’ve got this!

Publisher Barbara Jackson Ryan Creative Director & Designer Jerry Lockamy Contributing Artists Steve Saley Editor Robin Cross Director of Public Relations Kristen Lockamy Contributing Writers Alex Kearns Steve Kesterson Christopher Hallowell Pamela Keene Robin Cross Contributing Photographers Roger Graw Steve Royer Dave Webb Robin Cross Holly Yurchison Ashley Alexander Matt Johnson Lindsey Nicole Hicks

Historic St. Marys Magazine is a LowCountry Publishing publication. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the prior consent of official representatives of LowCountry Publishing. All contents Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.

This is the message you will find on the spine of this issue of St. Marys Magazine. This year, we are celebrating our 15th anniversary. Fifteen years of sharing with you all the things wonderful about living in or visiting Coastal Georgia. So, I thought long and hard about what message I might impart that would honor my readers and—in some small way—uplift their spirit. 2019 brought triumphs for some and challenges for many. As 2020 unfolds, this is what I know for sure. In meeting the challenges of life, most people are stronger than they think, smarter than they admit, and less confident than they should be. Might this describe us all? This thought led me to look back and review times in my life when a personal success, a small personal triumph surprised me. I know, for sure, my success (such as it is) can be mostly attributed to the fact –not that I knew how to do something, but because I didn’t know that I “couldn’t” do something. This course of thought could work for others. Think of a time or event in your life when you felt proud of yourself. I think retrieving positive memories can spur new insights, new inspirations. My good friend, Ed Robinson, recently shared a memoir he had written—a collection of his “best” memories. As Ed enters his ninth decade of life on Earth, this exercise of memoir writing gave him a chance to observe what a blessed life he has lived thus far. I loved reading his recollections and thought what a great exercise it would be for us all. So…starting with your first memories, I entreat you all to re-visit all the good times in your life. Even if it’s just a bullet point list. Absolutely no negatives can be on this list. All triumphs. Something as small as the first time you successfully rode a bike. That time you lost 10 pounds and looked so good at your class reunion. The unexpected promotion you got. Or something as simple as the way you felt after helping a stranger. Remembering the good stuff goes a long way to keeping the bad stuff at bay and reviving your empowerment. Life’s always going to throw us all curve balls from time to time. You just got to reach out that well-gloved hand and grab it back into play. And say, “I’ve got this.” Cause you do. You’ve got this.

Barbara Jackson Ryan Publisher


Letters to the Editor or other Correspondence Email: St. Marys Magazine 208 Wheeler Street St. Marys, GA 31558 For general information, advertising, or subscription service, call 912-729-1103 or visit


Email me anytime with your thoughts or ideas for the magazine:








On the cover Sugar Mill Tabby Ruins Photo by Steve Royer

St. Marys’ Waterfron

t Renaiss anc

Hauntingly Majestic Sugar Mill Tabby Ruin s




Resurrecti ng the Bri From St. PAGE 60 Marys to dge Fernandina Beach Owls on Osborne Giving a Hoot abo ut Downto wn

PAGE 71 St. Marys


t’s easy to get to St. Marys no matter what mode of transportation you use. By land, St. Marys is located just 8 miles east of I-95 off Georgia Exit 1 or 3. By sea, an easy sailing up the Intracoastal, and into the St. Marys River just north of Florida, gets you right into St. Marys’ Downtown Historic District. And by air, the Jacksonville International Airport is just thirty minutes away.


Waterfront Dining in the Historic Riverview Hotel

Appetizers Soups & Salads Children’s Menu Baskets with fries Burgers & Sandwiches Seafood & Steak Entrees Chicken & Pasta Entrees Homemade Desserts & more

Proms Weddings Bachelor & Bachelorette Parties Airport Services Special Occasions

Office: (912) 882-7904

Tom Mitchell

Cell: (912) 674-9102 7

By Alex


tand silently in the dawn mist that drifts across the harbor. Watch the swift tidal current that stirs the dark water as the sea inhales and exhales. Listen to the first birdsong and rustle of a waking world. In this seemingly timeless place, the Long Ago is just a breath away… November 20, 1787: The burnished rays of the evening sun create a chiaroscuro portrait of a small group of men who have come together on Cumberland Island. One by one, they reached for the quill pen and solemnly affix their names to a charter for “a town on the St. Marys River.” The decades pass with the clash and roar of conflict, the bustle and thrum of commerce, the chatter and laughter of daily life, and the majesty of history unfolding.



On March 2, 1799, St. Marys becomes a United States port of entry by act of the U.S. Congress. In 1808, after the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves took effect, the harbor gains a bleak reputation as a center for human smuggling. The War of 1812 rages and the Battle of Fort Peter is written upon the pages of history. The Civil War almost brings the town to its knees beneath the bombardment of the U.S. Navy. A center for shrimping, a paper mill town, a Navy base, a mecca for eco-tourists, and (above all) a close-knit and diverse community—these are the many faces of our extraordinary southern town. Whether fate and fortune were thrust upon it or self-determination guided the journey, St. Marys has

always grasped opportunity, risen above trials and tribulation, and shaped its destiny. And so it continues still. Now, from where you stand by the river gazing back to a distant past, turn and look along the waterfront. There you will witness the resiliency and progressive planning of a coastal town that recognizes the challenges of a changing world. You’ll see it in the newly designed riverfront with its permeable pavers and retention ponds, wide sidewalks, flood-control measures, upgraded boat ramps and docks, and ongoing efforts to safeguard a community and lead the way for America’s coastal communities. The forward-thinking growth and alterations blend

seamlessly with the historic buildings. Every decision in St. Marys is made with an eye to protecting what was, enhancing what is, and carefully shaping what will be. The waterfront is the jewel in the crown of the city, and nothing will be allowed to mar its open views, delicate environment, and graceful lines. This is, perhaps, the most profound hallmark of St. Marys: the ability to preserve and cherish a rich past while celebrating the present and acting to safeguard the future. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow combine in timeless harmony here. We invite you to experience the magic.



By Barbara



er tabby walls and hallowed halls have been witness to hurricanes and steel magnates. She has hosted literary giants and famous admirals. She was featured in a nationally-syndicated cartoon strip, and her scrapbooks abound with storybook weddings and high-spirited commemorations. Just three years ago, she celebrated her 100th birthday. This iconic landmark and anchor for downtown St. Marys is The Historic Riverview Hotel. Recently, the symbolic baton was passed from the Brandon family who had owned and operated the hotel since the 1920s to prominent businessmen and community leaders Bert Guy and C. B. Yadav. Hotel guests, residents and visitors are already seeing major changes as the century-old structure gets a heaping dose of TLC from its new proprietors. But what won’t change, according to Guy continued ...


and Yadav, is the soul of the stately building. “We are preserving a treasure here,” Guy said. “We’re working to return the hotel to the majestic building it was when the Rockefellers and Carnegies stayed here.” Guy and Yadav both know the challenge before them, but they are well on their way to turning their passion for history into a living monument that can be enjoyed for another 100 years. “When you come inside, we want you to step back into 1916, and we are making sure the décor and furnishings are true to that era,” Guy said. The new main dining room will feature furnishings that feel like period. “We are going to reinstate the original corner door feature and pressed tin tile ceilings like what was popular in the early 1900s continued ...


will be installed in the restaurant and the lounge,” he said. On the second floor, rooms have been gifted with 110-year-old exterior doors in walls that heretofore had no outdoor ingress or egress. “Now, the north side of the hotel will have its own balcony access like the east side does. And long-term we hope to build a balcony on the south side so guests can enjoy an up-close view of the river and Florida across the way,” Guy said. The mastermind behind the restoration work is local builder Bill Gross who has his own passion for historic preservation and a portfolio of successes that prove his talents. He is known for his quintessential dedication to authenticity, searching far beyond Camden County for materials he can use to tell the story of a historical building in the most genuine way. The decision to purchase The Riverview Hotel was not one made overnight, according to Guy. He and Yadav had been discussing the possibility and potential for the hotel for more than 5 years. The power duo considered the purchase intensely, making a “gut” and “calculated” decision. (Yadav already owned several other hotel properties as well as retail venues.) “We’ve always thought it was a remarkable piece of property,” Guy said. “This past year, the timing became continued ...

C.B. Yadav and Bert Guy, Proprietors of The Riverview Hotel


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right. The Brandons were ready to spend more time at their home in Montana, and Jerry loved the idea of being freer to enjoy, in person, every Georgia Bulldogs football game.” Guy’s ancestors moved to Coastal Georgia in 1805. He understands how history that is not protected is lost forever. “I want to give back to a community that has given so much to me and my family,” Guy said. “The Riverview has an opportunity to make a great first impression to thousands of people who board the Cumberland Island Ferry every year,” he said. “The Riverview and Cumberland Island pretty much grew up together and share a history. I think we have an obligation to give the absolute best first impression of Coastal Georgia to all who visit.” Just as meticulous restoration will keep the historic value of The Riverview unaltered, new things are afoot as well— operational and layout features that will enrichen the experiences for diners and overnight guests. Yadav and Guy plan to build a structure on the vacant lot between the hotel and the Submarine Museum that will feature a rooftop bar with unrivaled water views and casual dining. The breezeway for the inner atrium that has now been created by the installation of the antique doors on the second floor will eventually connect to the rooftop bar. The main dining room will now be divisible into three entertainment areas for more productive group events. Guy expects many weddings, special events, and family reunions will be booked in the coming months when people become familiar with the new facilities. Speakeasy, the martini bar, will re-open with swanky décor for those who enjoy a more sophisticated and quieter evening. Already, the hotel is featuring live entertainment six nights a week. And signature hostings such as the Thanksgiving boaters and the “Damn the Torpedoes” road race will continue to be annual events at The Riverview. If walls could talk, Guy thinks they would say something like, “this hotel, restaurant, and lounge have had a fun vibe.” Yadav and Guy plan to perpetuate that “fun vibe,” carrying the tradition of good times for visitors and locals long into the future. And P. S.—yes, the revered Tiffany lamp will remain on the front desk.

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Doctor Sleep filmed on St. Marys’ waterfront.



ast year, the State of Georgia issued a list of “Selfie Spots” for travelers to seek out film locations around the state. In 2020, the state’s film division plans to create a more robust location-based film trail with enhanced experiences and branded signage to encourage year-round visitation. The Coastal Georgia Film Alliance in St. Marys is taking a lead in making sure St. Marys and Camden County have a spot in that trail. Explore Georgia is collaborating with the state’s film division on the project which they project will “enhance recognition of the state’s long history in film production and also help visitors locate and experience their favorite films, from ‘reel’ to ‘real’ locations and studio tours to film festivals and related attractions.” In St. Marys, visitors (and locals) will be able to take a selfie where “Royal Pains’” star Mark Feuerstein doctored the injured ritzy. They can continued ...


sit on the waterfront bench featured in Stephen King’s “The Peach State remains the Hollywood of the South, “Doctor Sleep” (sequel to “The Shining”) where Ewan and companies across the globe have Georgia on their McGregor (Danny Torrance all grown up) revisited his minds as a great place to invest, expand, and relocate,” childhood. They can stand at the entrance to Dark Kemp said. Creek and take an over-the-shoulder shot of the setting “The entertainment industry has found a home in for “Dumbo.” And they can take a selfie in front of the Georgia,” said GDEcD Deputy Commissioner for Film, Riverview Hotel featured prominently in “Eye of the Music & Digital Entertainment Lee Thomas. “While the Hurricane” starring Campbell Scott and Melanie spotlight certainly shines on our competitive incentive, Lynskey. Just a few locations that have film it is the Georgia-based skilled crew, diverse topography, trail quality and will help to available infrastructure, and bring more visitors to the hundreds of small Camden County. businesses that support our “We’re working hard to do productions that keep us our part to make an economic ranked as one of the top filming impact for our community locations in the world.” through film production,” While CGFA continues to said Doug Vaught, Co-founder pursue major film productions and Chair of the non-profit (as of press time, talks were Coastal Georgia Film Alliance being held about filming a (CGFA). “As of December Marvel Comics movie in the 23, 2019, “Doctor Sleep” area), Vaught and his team (opening scenes filmed in St. know that smaller ventures ZZ-1 Productions’ filming of “Fright of the Full Moon” can make a difference as well. Marys) has grossed a total of at Riverview Hotel. $71.8 million worldwide.” Supporting smaller companies “Dumbo has grossed a like ZZ-1 Productions in St. worldwide total of $353 million (as of December 2019), Marys, CGFA helped provide talent and locations for against a production budget of $170 million,” their recent filming of “Fright of the Full Moon.” Vaught continued. CGFA hosted a filmmaker tour in the fall that brought Georgia Governor Brian P. Kemp recently announced filmmakers from all over the world who had films the record-breaking impact the Global Commerce and featured in Amelia Island’s Rendezvous Film Festival. Film Divisions had in Georgia during fiscal year 2019 They were impressed with the diversity of locations in which ran from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019. Camden County and several indicated they would be The Global Commerce Division supported the back for more scouting. creation of 28,960 new jobs, generating more than $7.4 CGFA is reaching out regionally as well supporting the billion in investment through the location of 332 newly created American Golden Picture International projects, while 399 productions filmed in Georgia resulted Film Festival in Jacksonville which was founded by in a record $2.9 billion invested in the state, according award-winning filmmaker Mahmoud Shoolizadeh who to Kemp. has made four films in St. Marys. continued ...


CRAWFISH FESTIVAL Last Saturday in April 18

Next Time, Stay Here! Rockefeller Did!


tep into yesteryear at the newly renovated Riverview Hotel. This boutique hotel is the closest mainland accommodations to Cumberland Island, just steps from the Cumberland Island Ferry. With a storied past that includes steel magnates, literary greats, and famed admirals, the Historic Riverview is a destination in itself. Beautiful riverfront views from Captain Seagle’s, the main dining room, where fresh seafood, succulent steaks and creative cuisine abound…



Fun Entertainment in Seagle’s Saloon “Where Good Friends Meet,” and Sophisticated Evenings in the Speakeasy Martini Bar—it’s an overnight experience like no other. Come for a day, a week, a month—at the Historic Riverview Hotel, you will discover, in full, what we mean when we say...

“You may leave St. Marys, but St. Marys will never leave you.”

St. Marys has birthed filmmakers and industry stars. Recently, “Batwoman” television star Camrus Johnson returned to his home in Camden County to accept an award from then Woodbine Mayor Steve Parrott for his achievement as an independent filmmaker. Camrus got his start in the entertainment world in St. Marys as an actor for St. Marys Little Theatre, appearing in their first show, “Man of La Mancha” at Theatre by the Trax. Hopefully, Camrus will join the likes of Will Smith, Cicely Tyson, Dwayne Johnson, Melissa McCarthy, Tyler Perry, Forest Whitaker, Salma Hayek and others who starred in films made in Georgia in 2019, and come back to his home state for future productions. Who knows, maybe it will be one of his own making. Until then, St. Marys, Georgia, is poised in chameleon-like fashion to be whatever she needs to be to make a hit on the silver screen—a Victorian village, a post-hurricane disaster area, The Hamptons, an English countryside—the lady waits expectantly for her next role.

Camden native Camrus Johnson featured in Batwoman.

4450 Highway 40 East St. Marys, GA 31558 From I-95 take Exit 3 (Hwy. 40 E.) and turn left. Brant Creek will be approximately 3 miles on the left.

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All Events in St. Marys unless otherwise noted.

Every First Friday, art, entertainment, special dining opportunities in Downtown St. Marys

February 22 ........................ Mardi Gras Parade and Festival

July 11 ................................ Music in the Park

February 28, 29 .................. “Invisible” at Theatre by the Trax

September 12 ..................... Music in the Park

March 1 .............................. “Invisible” at Theatre by the Trax

September 11 & 12, 18-20 ... “Smokie’s Blues” at Theatre by the Trax

March 7 & 14 ..................... Wild West Express Train Rides

October 3 ............................ Rock Shrimp Festival & Parade

April 4 & 11 ........................ Peter Cottontail Express Train Rides

October 24 & 31 ................. Halloween Express Train Rides

April 4 & 5 ......................... Annual Railwatch Weekend/Folkston

October 30 .......................... Haunted History Tour

April 24 & 25 ..................... Crawfish Festival/Woodbine

November 21 ...................... Kingsland Catfish Festival

May 8-17 ............................ “River of Life” at Theatre by the Trax

December 1 ........................ White Lighting Parade & Ceremony

May 9 ................................ Music in the Park

December 5 ........................ Christmas in the Park

June 13 .............................. Historic St. Marys Fishing Classic

December 8 ........................ Live Nativity at Orange Hall

June 13 .............................. Music in the Park

December 11-13 .................. Christmas Spectacular at Theatre by the Trax

July 4 ................................. Independence Day Festival & Parade Every Saturday ............................ St. Marys Community Market on Osborne & Royal District Market in Kingsland Every Friday & Saturday Evening ... Woodbine Opry

For additional information about other area events, visit these websites (St. Marys) (Kingsland) (Woodbine) (Folkston) (Brunswick and The Golden Isles) (Darien) (Savannah) (Amelia Island) (Jacksonville & surrounding area) (St. Augustine & Ponte Vedra)

Train Ride information at


Relax and unwind while visiting the sites of Historic St. Marys and surrounding attractions. Plenty of delicious restaurants nearby and St. Marys’ iconic waterfront just a few minutes away. • Standard rooms, kitchenette suites, Jacuzzi suites • Beautiful screened-in pool • Picnic areas • Peaceful relaxing beneath our oak canopies • Enjoy the quiet spEcIAl rAtEs ArE OffErEd tO Our ExtEndEd-stAy GuEsts, As wEll As fOr GrOups thAt bOOk Our lArGE cOnfErEncE ArEA.

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I-95 GA ExIt 3 EAst • 2710 OsbOrnE rOAd • st. MArys, GA •


By Barbara


n September 18, 2019, Heaven gained an angel but St. Marys lost a treasure.


She was the Mama Bear of all Mama Bears and dare you encroach upon one of her cubs, Lord help you.

Mary Chapman was everybody’s mama. Whether you were 8 years old or 80 years old, to be in Mary’s orbit was to be in the arms of someone who made you feel safe. Her maternal instincts were unmatched, and taking care of others was just what she did. Always. To know someone so beautiful on the outside and so extraordinarily beautiful on the inside is a real privilege. Mary’s friends were privileged, indeed. The ultimate steel magnolia—with a soft, sweet exterior, yet unmatched in her inner strength and resiliency, Mary touched the hearts of thousands. If you were in need, Mary gave. If you hurt, Mary helped heal. If your smile had turned upside down, Mary’s gentle humor could make it flip again and your world would, all of a sudden, be brighter. 24

Above all, Mary Chapman loved her family. Family gatherings gave her great joy, and with her beloved Al by her side, great southern food was in abundance and laughter filled the air. She personified the essence of a true southern belle. Soft, lovely, charming—a real lady to whom good people were attracted like magnet to steel. It has been said that a mother is she who can take the place of others but whose place no one else can take. So true for our Mary Chapman. She was a flicker of light in an often too-dark world. But her light will shine forever in the hopes and dreams of her children, her grandchildren, and her many, many friends. Mary, we always have and always will love YOU!















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mazing views! Awesome food! These words you read time and again in the social media reviews for St. Marys’ new culinary star 401 West. After two and a half years of high anticipation during a meticulous construction process for this new eatery, accolades are pouring in. 401 West proprietor Bill Shaffer knew he had a challenge on his hands to meet the high expectations, but his strength in strategic planning helped him and his team fulfill the long-awaited promise. “The build-out took time, turning a private residence into an operable commercial restaurant property takes a lot of flexibility and patience,” Shaffer said. “Admittedly, by the end I was running low on both. My wife

and her family have called this area home for generations. The pride they have in this town is what fueled our passion to open in St. Marys.” Shaffer practically grew up in the restaurant business. His first job was washing dishes at a restaurant at the age of 14. He cooked his way through college, then was awarded the prestigious James Beard Scholarship to attend Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in Paris, France. Through his travels he met his current Executive Chef, Dan Latham. Dan is one of the hardest working people Shaffer has ever known, he says. “He’s at the restaurant all day, every day. Working with the culinary team to shine light on the natural flavors of the season.” Latham and Shaffer share the same vision continued on page 28


and work strategically to bring that vision to life—“To champion the hard work of our grower partners, build community through food accessibility, and encourage celebration of family and friends around the table.” “We’re not aiming to be a ‘special occasion’ restaurant,” Shaffer said. “But to be the kind of restaurant that makes every dining experience a special occasion.” According to the reviews by locals and visitors, they have met their mark. With an ever-changing “farm fresh” menu, 401 West has already developed a loyal following—many enjoying the great food and views 2 to 3 times per week. Though the breathtaking views of the marshes and river are gifts from God, the triumph of satisfying hard-core foodies demands the owner and chef be “strategic.” Sourcing local and regional farms for the freshest vegetables, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chickens, Shaffer is constantly revising his purchasing plans to meet the demand of his customers. “We have a local chicken farmer right here in Camden County. In the beginning when we sat down with Brandon who owns Grass Roots Farm, we were predicting our need to be 25-30 chickens


per week,” he said. “We are now consuming over 80 chickens per week.” Shaffer and his team make several trips each week to area produce farm partners to make sure they’re accessing the freshest possible ingredients. “Our relationship with our farmers is a key ingredient to our success,” Shaffer said. He has a friend who owns a buffalo farm and Shaffer is in the process of purchasing a whole buffalo for his diners to feast upon. The 401 West menu reflects the best each season has to offer: summer squash and cucumbers in the summer, parsnips and turnips in the fall, citrus fruits and beets in the winter, etc. “When we serve grits—their shrimp and grits have been declared the best anywhere—they have to be stone ground grits. A partnership outside of Valdosta is sourced for seasonal specials like Grilled Drum Fish over Georgia Blue Corn Grits and Satsuma Citrus Glaze.” Shaffer said. “We simply take the flavors that God intended and touch them lightly with seasonings and sauces.” The menu does change by the season but some favorites are the hot smoked fish dip, bacon balls, and southern style poutine for appetizers; a creative selection of burgers and sandwiches including a continued ...

Georgia Cuban sandwich; duck breast, vegan love, homemade pastas, and hanger steak with fries. 401 bakes fresh bread in house daily. Even the bacon is produced on site from fresh bellies with a 13 day cure and smoke process. “Downtown St. Marys is poised to be the next great food movement,” Shaffer pointed out. “Much like Fernandina was a few years ago. We have a great group of neighboring restaurants, Riverside Café has been family owned and operated producing quality food for over two decades. They have been an amazing support system for us in the opening months. Other investments like Fulford’s Fish House, the Riverview Hotel transition, and staple establishments like Lang’s, Cedar Oak, and Pauly’s Café have built a foundation for the waterfront food scene. We are just happy to be a part of this food movement and to watch it grow. I’ll put our downtown views and history up against any on the coast. I think a lot of folks that live here and come to visit would agree with that. ” This writer agrees. With the advent of 401 West, St. Marys’ downtown dining/entertainment district has moved up a few notches. 401 West offers seasonal live entertainment. The

outside band area draws music and outdoor lovers from all over. You can play a game of corn hole while you watch an enthralling sunset. But the best sunset view is from the upstairs deck where comfy sofas and quality cocktails await. One customer called the sunsets “ethereal,” and it is so true. People may come for the views but they will return for many other reasons including the food. Shaffer is also in the wine business and plans to put his expertise to use expanding the 401 West wine offerings to 100 + selections. Wine pairings, a wine club, and wine education classes will draw those with a passion for the grape. For the business group set, 401 West offers an upstairs separate section complete with media center. Whether one is drawn to 401 West for the breathtaking views, its sumptuous food, the friendly and courteous wait staff, or the ambiance that makes meeting friends an enhanced pleasure, one thing is for sure. You will want to return again and again for an encore performance. 401 West Restaurant has definitely raised the bar for dining opportunities in Coastal Georgia. For more information visit


I received the beautiful St. Marys Magazine and enjoyed reading the articles and the pictures so very much. It made my husband and I very homesick for St. Marys as we enjoyed living there many years ago. Carolyn Mitchell Williamsburg, VA YOU are truly amazing. You certainly have a gift towards the arts. The magazine, the plays, the direction – WOW. I know we each have our own gifts – but yours really shine. Diane Carroll Osprey Cove Your creativity and energy breathe life into our town; it would be a much diminished place without your contributions. We want to particularly acknowledge your memorial to Al Chapman in your last issue. It was not only touching, but it was also spot-on. Roz and John Toshach St. Marys Thank you so much for your help on my visit to St. Marys. Tom Cyphers shared your magazine with me (Volume 14, Issue 27) and I hold onto it. As a board member of the Hernando Historical Preservation Society and Academia Hernando, I found it to be excellent work and I hope to get involved in your community theatre in the future. Beverly Morgan-Nuzzi Brooksville, Florida

Send letters to: St. Marys Magazine 208 Wheeler Street St. Marys, GA 31558 30

I received the magazine yesterday and just started reading today. The cover photo is beautiful as usual. I love the Publisher’s Note about your Mom and Dad and how timely! You do a great job and I appreciate your sending it. Joan Frazier Hendersonville, NC

I moved here in 2019, and I wanted to tell you how important your magazine was to me when I made the decision to settle here permanently. When I came to visit friends here, they gave me copies of St. Marys Magazine. From the beautifully illustrated and descriptive pages, I received a delightful orientation on the St. Marys community. The history articles led me to revealing tomes of historical revelation. I got a good taste of where the town came from, and what it is about to do in the future. Let me thank you for what you do for my new home town, its environs, visitors, and the citizens of lovely St. Marys, Georgia. Steve Kesterson, Sr., Retired but aspiring novelist now living in St. Marys.

On August 30th my wife, Ginna, and I made a trip to Germany to follow up on my ancestor, Baron von Stein, referenced in your great magazine. His statue is the only one in front of the German Parliament and is the largest of any statue in Germany to any individual. I learned there are other statues and streets in Germany and Austria named after Baron von Stein. It was a tremendous humbling experience to have the opportunity to see the statue and learn all about Baron von Stein being one of the greatest statesmen. Jim Stein Camden County, GA

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f you’ve ever been to a St. Marys Little Theatre production at Theatre by the Trax in St. Marys, you already know the enjoyment of seeing people you know perform onstage. If you haven’t been, shame on you! St. Marys Little Theatre (the name of the group) is doing wondrous things at Theatre by the Trax (the name of the building), and it’s all about community. People who have never performed are finding their muse and reaching a new level of pride when they achieve something they never thought they could do before. Children and young people are learning about team work, goal setting, and reaching for higher goals. “It’s all about the community,” L. J. Williams explained. Williams is a founding board member and Vice-Chair of St. Marys Little Theatre (SMLT). He’s been in numerous productions and serves as “Sergeant at Arms.” (Yes, there are rules in continued ...



community theatre.) Williams has seen St. Marys Little Theatre grow from its first production of Man of La Mancha nine seasons ago when there was no air conditioning and no sound system, to a formidable regional group with state of the art technology and a cast and crew that always exceeds an audience’s expectations. As our community has grown, so has community theatre, and Williams sees a correlation in growth. “We have numerous military families that are moving in and they have become an integral party of our theatre,” he said. “Most rewarding is seeing families perform together, and we have many situations like that— sometimes three generations.” Williams’ 7-year-old daughter, Natalyah, has been performing with SMLT since she was three. “Theatre has taught her so much,” Williams said. “But beyond that she has an extended family—literally dozens of people who love her and are championing her success.” Quality in community theatre can sometimes rival the professionals at every level, and it’s an exciting thing when an audience member says your community theatre production was as good as or better than anything they’ve ever seen on Broadway. But achieving perfection will never be more important than making theatre accessible to and inclusive of the very people it exists for: the community, according to SMLT founder Barbara Ryan. “Our theatre is all about inclusivity and diversity,” Ryan said. “It’s not how great an actor or tech performs, but it is the greatness within that person that grows each time they are involved in a production.” Ryan says a community theatre should be a place for people with no experience to come and fulfill their dreams under the wise and experienced guidance of someone who knows the ropes. SMLT is filled with theatre veterans who love sharing their knowledge and expertise with newbies. Ann Walsh, who is a director for SMLT and has been involved with community theatre for decades said, “I want our theatre to be an environment of welcoming and learning with the opportunity for the many, not the few.” continued ...


Walsh says that anyone who is reading this and ever wanted to design and build a set, go on a prop-finding hunt, design a costume, decorate a stage, learn how to be a director or stage manager, or how to operate a light board, or even get on stage and perform, is welcome. As audiences exit the theatre after a performance, Ryan and Walsh love hearing the accolades and love knowing they’ve touched someone in a meaningful way. “There is something exhilarating about putting on a show. It brings people close together and it often connects an audience to an emotion they might not have expected,” Walsh said. Many lifelong friendships and relationships have been formed while performing in community theatre. “There is a strong bond with all who band together to put on a play,” Walsh explained. “We become friends because we work as one to tell a story.” It seems that participating in community theatre brings with it an immediate social circle, and all the networking benefits that such group endeavors can provide. Community theatre is a team effort opportunity for people of all talents, skills, and energy. It enriches the community—financially and artistically. Both Walsh and Ryan agree that the one area in which SMLT needs help is financial support. “It takes a lot of money to put on a production and as a 501c3 nonprofit, we depend entirely on the community for support,” Ryan said. “With sufficient funding, we could put on bigger and better shows. We hope that more and more people will think highly enough of community theatre to help in that area.” SMLT and its team of actors, writers, directors, tech people, and artists invite the entire community to get involved and join their environment of welcoming and learning that offers opportunities untold. Email with questions about St. Marys Little Theatre, or call 912-729-1103.











Kayak cradles will help people get in and out of kayaks more easily.


ong known for her alluring waterfront, St. Marys has always been a beacon for travelers by land and by water. The Howard Gilman Memorial Waterfront Park, for decades, has inspired paintings, photographs, and most of all memories. Then came two hurricanes that completely wiped out the docks and left the waterfront canvas diminished, though the park itself survived most of the carnage. Thankfully, the City of St. Marys already had a plan in place to not only upgrade, beautify, and strengthen the waterfront, but also a plan that addressed sustainability. With a five-year master plan as its road map, St. Marys began to rebuild its iconic waterfront. The storms propelled the process even more by enabling the city to obtain grants that would help move along solutions to storm damage and resiliency. St. Marys Mayor John Morrissey said a big factor in the waterfront revitalization was feedback from the public. “They wanted a vibrant downtown anchored by a variety of restaurants and shops for people to enjoy,� continued ...

Morrissey said. “They looked beyond the visitors who would ride the Cumberland Island ferry and those who would come to the park. The public envisioned a waterfront that would draw people for a full experience.” “When you sit in one of our waterfront restaurants and look out to the water, the scenery is fantastic,” Morrissey said. “Palm trees that more define Coastal Georgia’s landscape now line both sides of St. Marys Street. The new flora, chosen for its hardiness against the constant encroaching waters, enhances the vista as well.” Bio-retentional basins and permeable pavers are integral to the new streetscape that delivers more “resiliency” on which the master plan is focused. “We wanted to introduce a more natural look that matched the park property,” Morrissey continued. “We engaged marine and horticultural teams to determine what would thrive with the occasional river intrusions which are unavoidable.” Mayor Morrissey, who visited St. Marys numerous times before he decided to make it his retirement home in 2006, thinks St. Marys is the ideal town—small in size yet close to a big city with all the amenities you would ever want. To him, the revitalization of the waterfront is an impressive bonus to an already desirable location to live, work, play and visit. The St. Marys waterfront renaissance incorporates functionality as well as beauty. Consider the newly installed Kayak launching dock that incorporates kayak cradles and support bars that greatly improve the ease of getting in and out of a kayak especially during the strong river current pulls. The new boat dock area has been increased to twice the size it was before as well. “Drawing people to our waterfront is what we want to do,” Morrissey said. “Anything that makes their downtown experience easier and more enjoyable— whether they are locals or travelers—is right on mark with our endeavors.” Whereas the old waterfront’s enhanced streetscape stopped near Osborne, the new streetscape extends all the way to continued ...

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the Intracoastal Gateway property at the east end of St. Marys Street—the entire length now harmonious and inviting. Other enhancements include real-time cameras placed strategically throughout the waterfront area including overlooking the boat docks. Morrissey said that now a wife can check the camera from the city’s website and see if her husband has returned from his fishing trip or not. Visitors can tune in and observe the beautiful weather to add to their anticipation of their upcoming trip to St. Marys. New benches and trash cans (chosen by the public) are also incorporated into the streetscape. “We would like to add more pergolas and swings along the lagoon area that lies between Market on the Square and the Intracoastal Gateway,” Morrissey said, “and erect storyboards that depict the flora and fauna of the area.” Morrissey can also envision an over-the-water restaurant sometime in the future. “After working diligently with the DNR and Corps of Engineers, of course,” he said. “That kind of change won’t happen overnight, but it’s possible. People love being on the water and we want to maximize St. Marys’ opportune location that showcases a bounty of water.” Other visions for a more beautiful and vibrant waterfront include a compass rose (sometimes called a wind rose) embedded in front of the pavilion. This is a monument used to display the orientation of the cardinal directions (north, east, south, and west) and their intermediate points. “And eventually maybe some kind of waterfall feature and a service memorial would be nice to place near the pavilion,” Morrissey said. As you stroll the widened paver sidewalks and catch a whiff of rosemary carried on the warm salt breeze, one can look to the future and picture colorful umbrellas shading tables where patrons dine al fresco. Convivial conversation and laughter fill the evening. And you are not in Paris, or Monte Carlo, or Miami. You are in little ole St. Marys—still southern, still sweet, but just a little more grown up. She will wear it well.

By Barbara


Rarely does a writer get to have someone else do their job for them, but when Celebrity Chef Art Smith offered me the following after dining at Salt.Pepper.Thyme., I grabbed the opportunity to let a real food expert speak for this treasure of an eatery located at the central intersection in Downtown Kingsland. Here’s what he had to say:


own along the coastal region of Georgia, close to the famed Cumberland Island, is the picture perfect rural city of Kingsland. There are boutique shops filled with antiques, and amongst those quaint small town stores is the restaurant “Salt. Pepper.Thyme.” This Southern French restaurant is owned by the very talented Chef Cyd Johns and her wife Tiara. These beautiful women move through their “scratch” kitchen like a well-rehearsed symphony creating extraordinary dishes such as ménage à trois—perfectly seared sweet scallops, shrimp and lump crab with an amazing beurre blanc sauce to finish. The bourbon salmon crusted with deliciousness is served with Cyd’s signature scented jasmine rice (which is continued on page 48



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absolutely not your everyday rice). The lump crab cake is big and full of white lump crab served with a decadent macaroni and cheese with creamy mornay. And then there are the collard greens with roasted red pepper jam that made me say ‘amen.’ Not to be missed is the southern dressing with a velvety cranberry sweet potato soufflé which was like eating dessert first. Topping off these incredible eats was a home-made pain de chocolat served with frozen custard that brought tears to my eyes. All this, and a staff who serve with panache. All in all, this was truly a religious food experience—this Southern American food with a French flair is like no other I’ve had. We enjoyed coffee with the ladies while listening to their amazing story from personal tragedy to triumph—seven children and fourteen grandchildren later and a solid relationship that produces the most delicious and beautiful food unmatched in the region. As a “Top Chef” judge, I deem them winners. And all the fabulous people I have the privilege to serve would also approve this masterpiece—this rare gem. Thank you ladies for a beautiful evening with my beloved Margie Geddes, our dinner host, along with the owner of The Goodbread House, Mardja Gray, Mr. Carol Moore, and my husband Jesus Salgueiro. (Not to mention that I truly love when others cook for me!!!)” XO Chef Art Smith


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continued ... 48

So, what could there be left for this writer to say after such a glowing review by one of America’s most revered chefs? I do want to mention that Cyd’s kitchen is a “scratch” kitchen, meaning all the meals begin with fresh ingredients. More than four pounds of fresh herbs are used each week. She cracks her own pepper, and all veggies are fresh—“there’s not a can opener in the house,” she says. One would need to speak with Cyd for only a few minutes before realizing the unleashed passion she has for great food. “I love putting a spin on southern food,” Cyd said. “Every day of your life is an opportunity to be a blessing to someone. My intention is always to surprise you, to help you widen your senses and palate and try new things.” As good as the food at Salt.Pepper.Thyme. tastes, visually it is enticing as well. Creating picturesque works of art has earned the restaurant numerous photos on social media with tons of 5-star reviews to match.

L-R Margie Geddes, Tiara Johns, Chef Art Smith, Jesus Salgueiro, Cyd Johns, Mardja Gray, Carol Moore.

A word about staff: as mentioned by Chef Art, they are impressive. Not surprising though because Cyd puts her team through a vigorous training course that includes memorizing a 22-page glossary. “When my diners ask about an ingredient, I want my servers to have the answer,” Cyd said. She was top of her class in culinary school, then rose fast up the chain of culinary arts to hold chef continued ...

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stay at The Federal Quarters just steps away from St. Marys’ waterfront is an immersion in yesteryear. Though renovated and modernized, the oldest home in St. Marys still holds the enchantment of the past. Recipient of the “Excellence in Rehabilitation Award,” The Federal Quarters was built in 1801 and is registered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Lots of amenities including the use of a 1929 Model A replica. Find photos of this exclusive historic inn, reservations and rates on most Vacation Rental websites, or call 912-729-7501 direct.


With a sparkle in her eyes that authenticates the passion in her voice, Cyd Johns tells of future events that will give her guests an experience not found elsewhere: a Beauty and the Beast themed dinner, hosting a party where she cooks the last meal of the first-class passengers of the Titanic, Dining in the Dark, Murder on the Orient Express dinner, Dining through the Decades experience—all sound like so much fun, I can hardly wait. Already in much demand for custom events including her ultra popular “Chef ’s Table,” the heart and soul of Salt.Pepper.Thyme. says “My high is the gratitude my guests shower on us. I am cooking for my life, and what a grand life it is.” Salt.Pepper.Thyme. enlivens the senses as only a great restaurant can. You can find them on Facebook or at 105 North Lee Street in Kingsland. Call 912-729-3663 for reservations or for more information.

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By Barbara



he year was 1925. The rich and famous made their playground on a stretch of sandy beach presided over by Casa Marina Hotel—the only currently standing hotel on Jacksonville Beach from that era. Casa Marina survived mostly due to the fact that it was the only hotel of its time to have a sprinkler system. Fancy folks in horseless carriages made their way to Jacksonville Beach to bathe in the sun, dine on sumptuous food, hob nob with others of their social status and enjoy the amenities of what would become a signature landmark for Florida. Today’s Casa Marina still embodies the style and glamour of the Roaring 20s—in its Mediterranean architecture and interior design. Yet a more informal atmosphere pervades for those who appreciate a relaxed resort setting. Upon entering the intimate lobby, you’re instantly transported continued ... 53

to that carefree era of flappers and Gatsby-esque living—to the privileged world of yesteryear. The stone courtyard awaits you for leisure afternoons sipping cocktails or wine while watching beachgoers parade past the iron gates. Weddings, corporate gatherings and family events hosted in the courtyard and catered to by Casa Marina’s friendly and professional staff take on an undeniable layer of panache. Casa Marina is known for its destination weddings. Reminiscent of a European-style boutique hotel, 24 rooms and suites comprise the Casa Marina—each one unique and delivering on the promise of what makes Casa Marina the “Grand Dame” of Jacksonville Beach. My accommodations included an elegant bedroom and sitting room complete with a black dial telephone— the kind of telephone once used by famous guests like Charlie Chaplin, Katharine Hepburn, John D. Rockefeller, Harry S. Truman and President Franklin D. Roosevelt—all who were said to have stayed at the Historic Casa Marina. The third-floor rooftop bar and restaurant—Penthouse Lounge—drew me for a late night cocktail and a tasty repast. Local celebrities and sports figures like to wind down in this oasis of relaxation. The hotel’s executive chef creates a seasonal “carte du jour” of popular dishes that accompany one of the most creative bar and martini continued ...


menus worthy of a connoisseur’s exacting palate. And the view is spectacular! In the Penthouse Lounge on Sundays, locals and guests enjoy the famous Casa Marina Brunch that continues to receive dining awards for its lavish dishes featuring local seafood and the freshest of fresh ingredients-infused fare. The Historic Casa Marina overflows with the feeling of classic glamour and an air of a refined private residence, blending together a sultry tapestry of history, natural beauty, and sophisticated culture. Its membership in the Historic Hotels of America and the National Trust for Historic Preservation speaks volumes of the owner’s unfaltering dedication to preservation—both of lifestyle and atmosphere. Add that to its most convenient location—less than an hour’s drive from St. Marys, and you can easily see why Casa Marina will be my choice for memorable getaways for years to come.


“St. Marys Magazine” makes a great travel companion. We’d like to know where you’re taking us. To become one of our media darlings, simply have your photo taken in a distinguishable location, holding a copy of the magazine, and email the photo with names and location to

Manolis Alpogianis, Renee Frigo, Amy Moeller, Margie Geddes, and Art Smith in Nashville.

Mardja Gray and Justin Jones in Wrightsville Beach, NC.

Jean Hurley in Scotland. 56

Jean Harley’s friend, Mr. Elephant, in Scotland.

Jim and Ginna Stein in Germany at ancestor’s statue.

Ana Vaught with friends in New Mexico.

William Lambert, Justin Jones, Deborah Maynard in Salem, Massachusetts.

Dan and Patti John, JayJay Johnson, Leslie Leombruno, Jean Farrell at Schroon Lake, NY.

National Rodeo Star Clayton Sellars with his great aunt Barbara Lundin at Las Vegas Rodeo. 57


uins can be decrepit and negligible by nature. Not so the tabby ruins in McIntosh Sugar Mill Park located just a few minutes from the St. Marys waterfront. The ruins are monumental, standing tall and strong—a reflection of the industry that previously existed within its walls. Built in 1826, the original innovative sugar factory had dimensions of 120’ x 75’ and consisted of three rooms: one for boiling, for grinding, and for curing sugar. John Houstoun McIntosh (1773-1836) constructed the mill on the site of his New Canaan Plantation, where he grew sugar cane. New Canaan was sold after McIntosh’s death, and the mill burned in the mid-1800s and was not rebuilt. The sugar mill is “the largest and best preserved of all tabby remains in the Southeast,” according to historians. Tabby was first used as a building material continued ...


in North America around 1580 by the Spanish in St. Augustine, Florida. The word “Tabby” is believed to be from the Spanish word tapia for “mud wall.” Tabby is a cement-like combination of water, lime, and crushed oyster shells. It did particularly well in the Coastal Georgia area because its makeup is suited to the southern coastal environment and its components are readily available in the area. Once dried, the tabby allows expansion and contraction that occurs with the changes in the local temperature and humidity. Early tabby constructions tended to be fortifications. After the American Revolution, Thomas Spalding of Georgia encouraged the use of tabby for agricultural and commercial enterprises. Plantation homes, slave cabins, factories, mills, and stores were built with tabby. Tabby declined in the 1860s when the Spanish discovered coquina, a shellstone that could be quarried. However, the wealthy occasionally had their homes built in a style called “tabby revival.” This coastal architectural tradition continues today with pseudo-tabby, a stucco encrusted with shells. The Sugar Mill Ruins have fully intact pillars and a discernable floor plan. Looking through one of the windows in the ruins is like looking through a window into the past. The tabby ruins are part of the McIntosh Sugar Mill Park, a popular picnic spot and wedding destination venue. After almost 200 years, grass has covered the mill floor, live oaks have grown taller, and Spanish moss now festoons the structure like Mother Nature’s garland. But the ruins remain unchanging and majestic—ready for exploration. Editor’s Note: The tabby ruins are located on Charlie Smith Sr. Highway on the left just past the Kings Bay Naval Submarine base entrance.

Railwatch Weekend 2020 April 4 & 5 Downtown Folkston, Georgia (22 miles west of I-95 on Hwy 40

The “Folkston Funnel” is a double track which serves as the main artery for railroad traffic into and out of Florida. From the viewing platform in Folkston, visitors can see trains passing on their way to and from Jacksonville, Florida in the south, and a split north of town where trains go west to Waycross, Georgia, and north to Savannah.

Robert West

The platform features lights, ceiling fans, and a scanner to listen in to radio traffic between trains.Adjacent to the platform are picnic tables, a grill, and a new restroom facility for our guests. Across the street is the restored Train Depot that houses the Train Museum (no admission charge), gift shop, etc.

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n the early 1870s, a steam yacht began carrying passengers from St. Marys to Fernandina Beach. In 1916, the steamboat “Hildegarde” made its last voyage between the two cities. More than 100 years later, a new Water Taxi service will, once again, link the two cities. Adding value for visitors on both sides of the St. Marys River and residents as well, Amelia Island Excursions, Inc., dba Amelia River Cruises, plans to launch the new Water Taxi in spring 2020. According to Kevin McCarthy, owner of the new service, “We plan to start out with 3 round trips a day on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and as the business builds, we will increase our frequency according to demand.” Both St. Marys and Fernandina Beach will benefit by the new Water Taxi service continued ...


and both cities have stepped up to the plate to support the new venture. The 45-minute voyage (about the same time it would take to travel by car) will include narration that points out historical and natural beauty highlights including Point Peter where a War of 1812 battle was fought even after the more famous Battle of New Orleans. Most history books depict the Battle of New Orleans as the last battle of that war. Also, within sight is Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base and Cumberland Island, hailed by many as the most beautiful wilderness island in the United States. The historic Fort Clinch is also on the route. The 7.5 meandering miles (4.5 miles as the crow flies) gives riders a chance to enjoy the scenic beauty that draws people to the coasts of both Georgia and Florida. There’s a good chance that passengers will be accompanied by playful bottle-nosed dolphins and even a river otter or two. Most people would agree that there are few experiences as relaxing and enjoyable as a leisurely river cruise, and McCarthy and his team are working hard to maximize the experience and expanding services to meet the needs of everyone. Between river crossings, plans are to have a 2-hour narrated tour from St. Marys along the shores of Cumberland Island. “This is a way for people who are perhaps less mobile or aren’t into hiking to view Cumberland Island,” McCarthy said. “You can almost always see the wild horses on the shoreline at Cumberland.”

Linking the East Coast Greenway for Cyclists

By accommodating bicycles aboard the Water Taxi, Amelia River Excursions will provide an integral link for the East Coast Greenway. Stretching 3,000 miles, the traffic-free path for hikers and cyclists is bringing a new era of eco-tourism to all the states that host a stretch. Cyclists will need to make reservations for their bikes on the 49-passenger boat that will be continued ...


the inaugural vessel for the Water Taxi service. Think of it: You get up early, have a great breakfast at your B & B or at one of St. Marys’ downtown restaurants. Then you mosey over to the city docks and catch the Water Taxi for a day of shopping, dining and fun on Amelia Island. Just before departing the Florida side for your return trip, you drop into the Palace Saloon, Florida’s oldest saloon, and imbibe in an adult beverage. Or families might want to have an ice-cream cone or some fudge from one of Fernandina’s downtown shops before boarding. Ice-cream and homemade fudge await passengers returning to St. Marys as well at Market on the Square just a short stroll from the Water Taxi dock. Whether you’re taking the taxi from St. Marys or from Fernandina, what waits for you on the other side is a great day of adventure and entertainment. For more information, watch for postings on as spring 2020 nears.


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(L-R: Sally Galyean, Lena Brathwaite Bell, Georgia Representative Steven Sainz, CBW Founder Molly McCue.

amden Behavioral Wellness would like to thank the following sponsors for making our 2019 fundraiser successful and helping to bring better psychiatric care to Camden County.

Wee Pub South and Dan Black K-Bay 106.3 Lee Spell on Behalf of the Mayor of Kingsland The Southern Charmer Synovus Bank Cumberland Plumbing Coastal Community Behavioral Health Camden and Charlton Board of Realtors Titan Labs St. Simons by the Sea Camden County Suicide Prevention Coalition Family Matters Counseling JP Wine and Spirits St. Marys Magazine

Special thanks to the talented Carrie Gay, entertainment for the evening.




f you’ve never ridden St. Marys Express in St. Marys, what have you been waiting for? Each train excursion is different. From shooting cowboys to hoppity bunnies to witches and elves, characters aboard the St. Marys Express roam the open-air railcars, interacting with passengers while riding through scenic woodlands and over picturesque marshlands. Hobos aboard always seem to be a little slicker and whole lot quicker than the conductor, boarding unseen, and stirring up lots of laughter in the wake. Fifty or more volunteers assure families and people of all ages a day of fun, a day of memories. Only 6% of the population has ridden a real train, and St. Marys Express is aiming to change that, one adventure at a time. A definitive journey into history, the train rides captivate those who love trains and continued ...


those who are experiencing a train ride for the first time. 2019 was a record-breaking year for St. Marys Express riding thousands of passengers into ghost towns, the North Pole, Peter Cottontail’s home in the woodlands, and even into a circus. The 2020 lineup includes the popular Wild West Express where real cowboys from the Single Action Shooting Society stage a cattle drive and a shootout. Peter Cottontail returns to host Easter egg hunts after each of his rides. And an enchanting Christmas experience in Santa Land. During every excursion, a stop at the midway point gives passengers a front row seat to fun entertainment as characters bring a story to life on the woodlands stage. Glowing Travel Advisor reviews and Facebook postings progressively bring new passengers to the train station in downtown St. Marys and remind previous passengers of their great experience. Many people ride all the excursions because they know they can expect something new and different each time. continued ...


The St. Marys Express has made a positive economic impact on the community with passengers eating in restaurants, shopping in shops, and staying overnight in hotels and bed and breakfasts. Most of the passengers are from out of town. “People come from hundreds of miles away to ride the St. Marys Express,” said Paul Pleasant, General Manager of St. Marys Railroad. “Our goal is to leave passengers with the feeling that they have experienced something magical and unique.” Pleasant said the “At the Throttle” experience where a person actually gets to run the locomotive has been very popular. “It gives them bragging rights for years to come and they get an official certificate to display as well.” Whether you’re looking for nostalgia, action, or just a relaxing way to spend some time outdoors, the St. Marys Express makes for a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Pleasant said that all rides sell out in advance and encourages anyone interested to book their tickets early.



o you like to eat? Do you like to play? Do you like to relax? In the spring of 2020, a new and exciting restaurant will appear on the St. Marys scene, and it’s guaranteed to satisfy all three of these desires and more. Gracing the most beautiful inland marsh and waterfront terrain in all of Camden County will be VUE. In the building that was formerly known as Borrell Creek Landing, proprietor Nicholas McCoy is building his dream team to make VUE “the” happening place in Coastal Georgia. Gifted with extraordinary views, VUE’s name was taken from Haitian Creole slang meaning “to gather, to connect.” McCoy sees VUE as a gathering place for families, for couples, for singles, for groups. “We are creating an intimate hideaway for those seeking an inventive and sociable dining and drinking atmosphere,” McCoy said. “Our menu will be Creative Contemporary American and will feature fresh seafood from local fishermen and fresh produce from local farms within 50 miles of St. Marys.” McCoy has family with farms in the region that will assure VUE of a real “farm to table” experience. continued ...


With partner Alfred Wong (of the Wong dynasty that, for years, heralded great food in their Borrell Creek Landing Restaurant), McCoy is building a new kind of dining for residents and visitors that will include small plates. Jen Ringel will be reigning over the kitchen, preparing dishes like Macadamia Nut Encrusted Chicken and a Maple Glazed Salmon entrée. “Jen has earned the ‘Best of Camden Chef’ award several times,” McCoy said. “So, many locals are familiar with her culinary talents.” Much is being done to transform the previous restaurant space into a dining destination. With a focus on sustainability, McCoy and his team are bringing the old girl back to life. The original hardwood floors made of virgin un-planked pine wood and laid during the Gilman gilded era—the building was originally a private hunting lodge in the 1980s for a local family—have been stripped and refinished with a lighter patina. The dining tables are handmade from re-purposed wood. “I think it’s important to support our local economy so we are using craftsmen in this area rather than contracting with a large commercial firm,” McCoy said. VUE’s nod to sustainability goes far beyond the bones of the building and the furnishings. New planting is being done to replenish the marsh grasses. “It’s important to preserve the marsh,” said McCoy. continued ...




“And we want to do our part.” People nostalgic for the old Borrell Creek Landing can be assured of the same breathtaking views, the grand piano, and the ambient fireplace (also being white washed into a more contemporary look). What’s new will be the second story deck extended over the water. “Kids will be able to feed the fish, and guests will have a much more ‘upfront’ seat to the beautiful water vistas that might include a manatee or dolphin sighting,” MCoy said. Entertainment will play a big role in the ambiance of the new VUE with acoustic music on the deck and bands inside downstairs on the main stage. Amid the 27 acres of verdant cedar trees, marshlands, and creek waters, the renaissanced restaurant will await those who enjoy casual dining and an alluring atmosphere. You might even catch the sight of a train as the St. Marys Express excursion line runs on many Saturdays right over the trestle just a few yards away. “We will have plenty of seating, cozy nooks including sofa seating, and did I mention great craft cocktails and an incredible happy hour as well?” Said McCoy. Look for the opening of VUE in the spring of 2020, and in the meantime stay up to date with their progress on Facebook or visit their website at

Discover Darien where history meets the sea GATEWAY TO GULLAH GEECHEE CULTURE ON SAPELO ISLAND


ust one hour south of Savannah and one hour north of St. Mary’s, beautiful coastal Darien is a timeless place to discover. Visit Ft. King George Historic Site; take a day tour of Sapelo Island; enjoy some of the nation’s finest birding areas; take a relaxing kayak trip in our rivers; stroll our Historic Walking Tour or do some shopping. And, no visit to Darien would be complete, without sampling our world famous Wild Georgia Shrimp. Discover Darien - where history meets the sea. 70


By Steve


or generations, owls have made nests in the massive canopies of live oaks that grace Downtown St. Marys. What better form of wildlife is there to serve as artistic mascot for this historic town? That was the thinking behind three creative women who helped found the “Owls on Osborne.” “The owl is a creature of great integrity. Its quiet demeanor accords it an air of mystery and diffidence,” said Deborah Cottle, one of the brains behind the “Owls on Osborne” concept. “The owl is known as the serene, wise observer of human society.” And now, from their perches at some of St. Marys’ most iconic locations, whimsical owl sculptures will be delighting residents and visitors alike for continued ...

Maria Riebe and Deborah Cottle. 71

The Principal will be at St. Marys Elementary school where the live owls that inspired the Osborne street project made a home nest.


Heading south next will be Skipper The Conductor at the Toonerville trolley.

Orange Hall, St. Marys’ Grande Dame Antibellum house will be home to this cool creature.

The waterfront’s Gilman Park gets the owl celebrity Y’all Come! above the park’s entrance.

years to come. Here’s how they came about. The “Owls on Osborne” concept was birthed when former St. Marys Main Street coordinator Becky Myers joined Maria Riebe and Cottle to brainstorm some projects as a result of St. Marys Downtown Development Authority’s involvement with Rustapalooza. It was early 2018 when Cottle, owner of the Osborne Street shop Cottle and Gunn, Riebe, and Myers convened to discuss future Rustapalooza ideas. Riebe is the force behind the Rustapalooza Vintage in Nature Festival, the streetfest for vintage retro, chic, and antiques that has become a big hit for downtown St. Marys. That spring, Cottle and Riebe put on a fundraiser for their customers, 10,000 Facebook friends and email contacts and raised the money for the six bronzes of the Owls on Osborne project that sculptor Walter Palmer created. The owl sculptures will highlight various points of historical interest. The town’s Welcome Center will feature a map with owl locations and clues. Another similar map will be located at the Cumberland Island ferry dock. Cottle says that her store and other downtown merchants will have rack cards available that contain clues to the owls’ whereabouts and directions.

Blast From the Past goes to the cannon at the riverfront end of Osborne.

The owl named Missed the Boat will be a reminder to visitors who take the ferry to Cumberland Island.

continued ...


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Walter Palmer, the artist who sculpted the owls, and his artist wife Karen chose St. Marys for their home three years ago. The move was the circuitous end to their migration from Cook’s Island in the middle Keys, where they lived and worked for nearly 30 years on the small island accessible only by boat. Palmer has a robust art history in the southeast coastal low country of South Carolina and Georgia. Upon graduation from the Atlanta College of Art & Design in 1970, he went straight to Hilton Head where his older brother, the painter Jim Palmer, lived. Walter wasted no time beginning the creations that had been incubating in his imagination. He would go on to create a tribal assortment of “bird people” characters doing and/or participating in real “person” activities. Life-size to tabletop, Palmer birds evoke the comedy of life. In the beginning, he worked in fiberglass and wood. His first bird bodies were formed in simple molds, then given a pair of legs made from threaded bar stock. These sold well in the gift shops of the resort island. Palmer was ready to take wing. The 1970s through the eighties brought evolution to the refined creations that became characters with broadbills and puffin-like heads lounging, taking flight, and playing tennis. Or, roosting in fountains in such locations as the Sea Pines traffic circle and the Westin Hotel. Palmer’s birds began to anthropomorphize, which the dictionary defines as “To attribute a human form or personality to things not human.” From the basics to studied results came new creatures with more size, realistic wading legs, pot bellies, and broad bills in front of defined eyes. In his body of work that now spans five decades, sculptured figures run the gamut of “males” doing typically “male” things and “girls” doing what toned women do outdoors at resorts, decked out in female finery, or just plain nude from their bird heads down. All of this is posed in measured stop-frame animation, enjoying everything from hot tubs to golf, they make the viewer smile. Not only has Palmer won an expanded following no longer confined to South Carolina, but his move to the Florida Keys came shortly after he began to bring his bird personas to life in bronze. With increasing exposure and responsive demand, this new medium inspired limited editions and facilitated many

commissioned pieces that have found homes in both outdoor and indoor settings, including private and corporate collections, in addition to museums, and university campuses along with international venues. As far as marketing goes, Palmer was never interested in the business approach to art. He has said in numerous interviews that his love is centered on humor and making people laugh both at his work and at the human condition it features. Mass production goes against his individual character. Much of his contemporary work has been commissioned in which the creation is a thoughtful, deliberate process in which he endeavors to make a reflection of the personality of the person for whom he is creating his unique signature. In one of his many interviews, he once said, “I have been told that my work is not sophisticated. But, if I have a choice between adding humor to someone’s life or selling sophistication, I’ll take the laughs.” Over the years, Palmer has donated his art to a diverse cross-section of organizations that make significant contributions to the quality of life in the communities in which he has lived. He sees more unique bird people in St. Marys’ future and is confident that additions to the Palmer bird collection only await his imagination.

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ometimes, the best way to get to know a new restaurant is to check social media for reviews. When you see 100% consistent excellent reviews, you know you’ve discovered a gem. This is so with Las Delicias, the new Latin American restaurant located adjacent to the movie theater on City Smitty Drive. “The food here is absolutely amazing and I couldn’t ask for better service”—so go the reviews again and again. “The couple and team that run this restaurant are so hospitable and treat you like family!” said one happy customer. Las Delicias is definitely a “family” restaurant run by the most charming Serafin and Lorena Flores. Chef Roman Gonzalez rounds out the power trio who are dedicated to always going beyond their customers’ expectations. “We strive to make sure all our homemade dishes are something you won’t taste at any other restaurant around here,” said Lorena. “We put a lot of our heart into this business,” she said. “A restaurant needs great food and great service to create a ‘wow’ response.” With creations inspired from Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico, it’s easy to see how foodies can explore pretty much all of Latin America without continued ...



s if Pam Jones’ bounty of treasures in her Merry Mermaid shop at 203 Osborne Street were not enough, she has now opened an additional location even closer to St. Marys’ Waterfront. At 112 Osborne Street, you will find a plethora of antiques and collectibles that tell their stories—colorfully, joyfully. The treasures of the second Merry Mermaid are graced by a charming coastal cottage ambiance. Walking inside makes you just want to “sit a spell” and soak up the smells and whispers of times gone by. Pam has always had a passion for “treasures.” She is the ultimate picker, finding “special somethings”—lots of special somethings that are unique and that she feels desirable for her customers. In the recently opened cozy shop just steps from St. Marys’ Waterfront, The Merry Mermaid is brimming with unique finds—a collection she feels includes “something for everyone.” Just like her original shop, at 112 there are numerous mermaid-related items to pay off the whimsical name. “To me, mermaids are mystical,” Pam said. “When I go picking, it is that mystical mindset that inspires my choices.” Pam is focusing on coastal, retro, vintage continued ...


Las Delicias continued from page 76

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leaving Camden County. Las Delicias is the only restaurant that serves South American food in Camden County. The menu itself is an adventure—and a challenge as there are so many good selections from which to choose—all homemade. Empanadas, authentic sweet corn, plaintains, and homemade chimichurri sauce are very popular, but diners have consistently praised much of the menu which features some dishes that folks around here aren’t very familiar with such as the Chicken Poblano with Corn and Creamy Sauce, Uruguayan Sausage, Carne Asada, and Arroz con Camarones. And the desserts are to die for—Bread Pudding and Coconut Flan are favorites. (Even the whipped cream is homemade.) The portions are more than generous, and though prices are already modest, you can usually amortize the cost of your meal over two meals when you get your “doggy” bag. Chef Roman says he likes to do “everything with a twist,” so you can expect creativity and variety to the max with specials changing daily. For groups, Las Delicias can customize a buffet as well. It’s always a thrill to see a new restaurant in St. Marys, but to be able to indulge in cuisine that well represents the name of the restaurant—Las Delicias—that is an exciting new discovery. Welcome the Flores family and Chef Roman to our community. You can find Lorena greeting customers with her beautiful smile and Serafin adding his special touches to the excellent food in the kitchen for lunch and dinner. Get there soon and prepared to be “Wowed!” Las Delicias is located at 143 City Smitty Drive in St. Marys. Find them on Facebook, or call 912-439-3695 for more information. The Merry Mermaid times 2! continued from page 77

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out-of-the-ordinary finds—“things that jump out to me as different,” she said. With the addition of the 112 Osborne store, Pam has opened her 203 Osborne location to more vendors, keeping the new location to mostly her own finds. Pam Jones loves her community and loves giving back. Thankfully, she has vendors with a similar mindset. Nan Shealey, whose antiques occupy a room of their own at 112, donates 100% of her profits to a children’s charity. This past Christmas, The Merry Mermaid was a drop-off site for Toys for Tots—Pam giving the big box a good start with donations of her own. The Merry Mermaid times 2—what a great idea for Downtown St. Marys! Call 912-510-0160 for more information.

By Christopher



t its mouth, the St. Marys River, which forms the border between Georgia and Florida, runs slow and gentle amid a sprawl of soft marsh islands dotted by egrets and ibis. The main channel is on the Florida side across from the Georgia town of St. Marys. Its muddy waters course under Reid’s Bluff, a sandy elevation some 80 feet above the river. During the Civil War, Confederate troops positioned on top of the bluff took pot shots at Union activities below. I think of my great-grandfather, a preacher and intellectual with no military background, commanding a Union gunboat under that bluff as he and his freed-slave soldiers made their way upstream. Apparently, no shots were fired, at least not then. But here I am in the same spot as my great grandfather, tracing his route in hopes of better understanding this man who, historical evidence suggests, continued ...


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held his emotional cards close to his chest. In January, 1863, TWH, as I shall call him, traveled upstream on the John Adams, formerly a steam ferry boat in Boston Harbor, since converted into a gunboat. It carried a thirty-pound parrott gun, two ten-pound parrotts, a howitzer, and 200 freed slaves, part of the First South Carolina Volunteers regiment commanded by my great grandfather. It was one of three river expeditions he made—on the Edisto, the St John’s, and the St. Marys. Lumber expropriation was the underlying purpose of the St. Marys expedition. Not just any lumber; this is the land of longleaf yellow pine, or heart pine, a southern species with an interior so saturated with resin that, once dried, its resistance to rot made it ideal for masts and decking. Word had it that there were piles of Confederate logs waiting on the banks of the St. Marys River. To be honest, I was never aware of much about my great grandfather beyond a portrait of him gazing down at my sister and me when as children we ate our meals in my parents’ dining room in Massachusetts. He was old in the portrait—jowly and mutton-chopped, but with contemplative watery eyes. My mother told me he was a Civil War hero. Not only that but he had discovered Emily Dickinson. Actually, it was Emily Dickinson who discovered him as a result of a column he had published in the “Atlantic Monthly Magazine” in Boston. It was entitled, “Letter to a Young Contributor.” In response Dickinson sent him three of her poems with a timid note: “Mr. Higginson, are you too deeply occupied to say if my verse is alive?” He did, and set her on a course to near immortality by publishing them and becoming a mentor. Growing up, I became increasingly intrigued by the man in the portrait, my curiosity helped along by several writers who visited my mother in search of information about him. I learned that he had published scores of books, articles, poems, lectures and sermons from the age of 16, when he graduated from Harvard College and a few years later, from Harvard Divinity School. Howard Meyer, his principal biographer, points out that the bibliography of his works fills 34 pages ranging from fiction to verse to essay, including writings on women’s rights. Yet, I often find myself feeling badly for my great grandfather. He never made it into the upper-echelons of Civil War or pre-war repute nor as a remembered writer. It is his command of the First South Carolina Volunteers, a regiment of freed slaves, for which he is most recognized, principally through his journal account of their training and fighting in his book, “Army Life in a Black Regiment.” Before the Civil War, he took the pulpit of a Unitarian Church north of Boston where he delivered abolitionist sermons too threatening for the wealthy mill owners in the area dependent on cotton from the south. Eventually he found a pulpit in a more liberal church in Worcester continued ...

where the abolition movement was in high pitch. He volunteered, as well, to train a regiment of white soldiers to join the war, even though he had had no military training or experience. They were almost ready to board a train south when he got word that Colonel Rufus Saxton requested that he decamp to Beaufort and Port Royal, South Carolina, to take over the training of a regiment of freed slaves, the first of its kind. The idea had been introduced by various northern generals following the savaging of Union forces at the Battle of Bull Run. Former slaves, it was speculated, could be trained to be a substantial fighting force, beefing up Union fire power as well as psychologically disarming the Confederates. The current just below Reid’s Bluff is slow on the June day that I ascended a stretch of the St. Marys in a 16-foot open boat driven by Rick Frey, who until recently headed the St. Marys’ Riverkeeper program from a little office in town. He seems both amused and enthralled by my search for my great grandfather. The other passenger is Clyde Davis, a lawyer from nearby Fernandina, who has spent almost as much time studying local angles of the Civil War as he has representing clients. “There’s nothing on top now,” he tells me as we drift under the bluff. As a boy, he scoured the bluff’s summit for Civil War artifacts, but nothing turned up. Now, he has offered to show me some of the locations along the river mentioned by my great grandfather on his trip along the river. He does so with an enthusiasm tinged with authority and pride, showing this Yankee where his great grandfather spent his Civil War years. Upstream from Reid’s Bluff, the river’s banks on both sides are heavily forested with pine and occasional thick-trunked cypress and heavy-limbed live oak shaggy with moss. Everything here is now owned by Rayonier, a mammoth timber and paper company with a plant in Fernandina that sporadically belches geysers of smoke. We come to a tranquil clearing on the river’s bank shaded by ancient live-oaks draped in moss, a place of such peace and shelter from the sun’s heat on the continued ...

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river that you just wanted to stay there. Now, the site belongs to Rayonier. Clyde’s daughter was recently married here, a grand wedding under the oaks and on the smooth grass, says Clyde pridefully, with everything—food, tents, seating, etc.—all transported in by boat. This oasis used to be called Township, a landing 150 years ago that my great grandfather badly wanted to arrive at. Word had it that there was cut timber here. Any word of a Confederate sawmill on the St. Marys River or neighboring waters like the St. John’s River or the Edisto made Union leadership take action. “The best peg on which to hang an expedition in the Department of the South…..was the promise of lumber,” wrote TWH in his journal. Yet expeditions of white troops, he continued, had come back empty-handed. “Somehow the colored soldiers were the only ones who had been lucky enough to obtain any.” When my great grandfather arrived at Township where Clyde’s daughter’s wedding had taken place, he found an empty plantation house close to the riverbank with “negro” cabins scattered about it. The occupants of the main house had fled but a former slave still occupied one of the cabins. I wonder what this man thought of the company of Black soldiers, who had recently been slaves as well. He offered to lead them to a Confederate encampment nearby. This would be Higginson’s first engagement and his excitement is palpable, at least in the pages of his journal. “The thing really desirable appeared to be to get them under fire as soon as possible and to teach them, by a few small successes, the application of what they had learned at camp (Camp Saxton on Port Royal).” That night the soldiers swarmed into the forest “whose resinous smell I can still remember.” The men could see very little through the trees as they inched forward. Suddenly, the sound of horse hooves beat towards them. Shots rang out. The soldier next to my great grandfather crumpled, shot through the heart. “I felt it no more than if a tree had fallen—I was so busy watching my own men and the enemy,” he observed. Confusion followed, a lot of shooting, continued ...

and then sudden silence. The fusillade had worked unintentionally, panicking the Confederates into total retreat. TWH was ecstatic. “I have made more of this little affair because it was the first stand-up fight in which my men had been engaged, though they had been under fire, in an irregular way, in their small early expeditions. To me personally the event was of the greatest value; it had given us all the opportunity to test each other, and our abstract surmises were changed into positive knowledge. Hereafter it was of small importance what nonsense might be talked or written about colored troops; as long as mine did not flinch, it made no difference to me.” The following morning he ordered the plantation house and outbuildings burned to the ground. A century and a half later, there is no evidence of a settlement here. A few days later Rick, the Riverkeeper, and I drove down a sandy lane to the site in his little jeep to see what we could see of the “Battle of the Hundred Pines,” as it is locally known. The same type of forest grew around us that had embraced the regiment’s soldiers. The difference was that they had been planted in straight rows. Rayonier or some other company had gobbled up the land for paper-making, leaving no signs of the past. Rick, a retired health consultant and retired middle school teacher from Atlanta, seemed as excited by the exploration as I, although we both were aware of its futility, all the evidence of battle, weaponry, and death having vanished. Later in the day, we traveled upstream to other places visited by my great grandfather—a brickyard, a sawmill, a place called Woodstock stacked high with logs in his journal. There is no evidence now of any buildings at Woodstock, but when Higginson was there, he found a small outbuilding that contained stocks with holes for big as well as little appendages—confinement for adult as well as child slaves. Another building housed a horrible instrument of torture—“a machine so contrived,” TWH writes, “a person once imprisoned in it could neither sit, stand, nor lie, continued ...

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S T.

Independence Day Celebration





July4•2020 Family fun events include road races, parades, arts and crafts, all-day entertainment and great food in downtown St. Marys.

Rock Shrimp Festival

Oct.3• 2020 Kiwanis Club of St. Marys meets every Monday at noon. Please visit to find out how you can make a difference in our community by joining the Kiwanis Club of St. Marys.


but must support the body half-raised, in a position scarcely endurable.” And he adds: “I remember the unutterable loathing with which I leaned against the door of that prison-house; I had thought myself seasoned to any conceivable horrors of Slavery, but it seemed as if the visible presence of that den of sin would choke me.” He removed the stocks but “the torture machine, firmly fixed into the ground, would not budge.” The area is now a golf course; it is a sure bet that no golfers are aware of what horrors had taken place on today’s 9th tee. Union troops invaded St. Marys in November, 1862, and burned much of the town. A short time later, my great grandfather ascended the St. Marys River. When he returned to St. Marys on his decent, “three old ladies,” he wrote, stood on a dock in front of their house waving white handkerchiefs in surrender “brandishing them after the manner of the domestic mop.” They insisted that there was no danger from Confederate soldiers lurking nearby, a claim made to other Union expeditions as a subterfuge. Suddenly a volley of enemy fire was let loose from Reid’s bluff across the river “like the sudden burst of a tropical tornado, a regular little hail storm of bullets into the open end of the boat.” No one was struck. But my great-grandfather’s response to the duplicity struck me. He told the old ladies that as punishment, he was going to burn down what remained of the town. The old ladies pleaded with him not to burn their home. My great grandfather granted them their wish. He never gave a reason; perhaps he pitied them. He did, however, set fire to the rest of the town along the river. In his merciful act of sparing their home, I see a side of my great grandfather much less known than his military actions. I believe he was a gentleman, albeit a gullible one, a glimpse into an inner Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

Horace Pratt


By Robin


elcome to Orange Hall Mansion, the crown jewel of St. Marys and a very special destination in the heart of our town. Rising majestically just a few blocks from the St. Marys waterfront, this stately Antebellum home boasts 9500 square feet of space, 12 fireplaces, 11 previous owners, and one shining dream of transformation we share with you today. For more than eight generations and through five wars, Orange Hall’s greatness has inspired people from all walks of life. Since 1837, this glorious mansion has cast her spell on preachers and planters and Civil War soldiers; on practitioners of medicine and law. The story of Orange Hall is complex and fascinating, filled with synchronicity. When the great Civil War changed the face of St. Marys, Orange hall was chosen as headquarters for the Ninth Main Volunteer Union Army led by Captain Higginson with his surgeon and 28 exhausted soldiers who arrived by riverboat. Although they destroyed several surrounding structures during their stay in the mansion, Union forces made an exception, quietly choosing to protect this elegant southern home. Archival records show us that after the war, Orange Hall was owned by a lengthy succession of investors including Elizabeth continued ...


Ryals, Silas Fordham, J. L. Sweat, Howard Becker, George Fryhofer, and Ms. Effie Townsend whose daughter, Faye Kelly, sold it to the St. Marys Kraft (Gilman) Corporation in 1951. They used it to house paper mill workers. After a decade, the City of St. Marys purchased the property and began the long journey to restore this priceless legacy to share it with generations of historians and dreamers. To share it with you. For more than 180 years, this mansion has captivated poets and painters while gracefully eluding the ambitions of political candidates and civic planners. Whether as a luxurious residence or a shelter for war-torn soldiers, even while serving as a humble apartment building or as a city library for school children, Orange Hall has always embraced her community. It is now our honor and responsibility to return the favor. In order that our grandchildren may enjoy this historic treasure, today’s restoration of Orange Hall is being accomplished using only the highest standards of historic preservation, assuring its survival for many generations to come. Accordingly after diligent consideration, the City of St. Marys chose McAllan Works of Marietta, Georgia, for this extraordinary project. In the late summer of 2019, the first workers arrived to walk the grounds of the mansion, introducing the past to the future. continued ...

Construction underway.

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What does it mean to bridge a gap of such magnitude in the river of time? True, some materials are unchanged—longleaf heart pine, mortar for the bricks, even concrete is the same. But everything else has changed since the spring of 1837. Now, with modern bucket trucks and powerful forklifts, a small group of talented professionals was able to disassemble and move all of the heavy two-story tall columns that graced the mansion’s front porch, gently replacing them with four identical columns of precious redwood. High frequency skill saws and heavy duty drills are used to restore this complex structure—once built entirely by hand. Today, there is a new energy in the air, almost tangible, among the team of masons and electricians and plumbers and carpenters as they share tools and stories.

The Workmen Speak

“It was really amazing when we found those huge beams on the back porch held in place—not with iron railroad ties,” the carpenter said, “but with fire hardened oak pegs!” There was a moment of silent appreciation. “Yep. There’s something different and very special about this place,” he said, turning to the mason. From wall to wall, hundreds of uneven bricks had been dug out and replaced by a smooth expanse of concrete continued ...

Old columns were found to be hollow in places.

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stretching into both kitchens. “Oh, you should have seen the construction perimeter. Suddenly, and with bone us. We poured it all the way up to the hearthstones,” he deep instinct, he knew he was not alone. He was being said, pointing with calloused hands to a worn granite slab. watched—being observed with detachment by something. “And just look at this iron hook made by a blacksmith,” “You know, it’s strange. But for some reason I didn’t said the welder. “Why it must have held a kettle over the feel scared,” he said. Standing up, he pointed up to the fire, don’t you think?” top of the northwest corner of the In a flight of imagination, the building. “See right up yonder in rich aroma of stew unfurled in that window? I give you my solemn the room. word I saw a tall man in a coat “Speaking of which, it’s time standing there, holding the for lunch!” the superintendent curtains back with one hand, looking said. “And we’re ahead of down at me. He didn’t move, and schedule, guys.” I couldn’t. He stared at me for the With this, the crew secured space of about 40 heartbeats, then their tools and went outside to he just…faded away.” sit under the trees. These are There was silence as all five men men who have traveled together looked high above them at the for years. Their relationship with empty window. Northwest corner at sunset. each other is close and trusted. “So we all know there’s nobody As lunches were unpacked, one thoughtful electrician up there, right?” he asked. gathered his courage to share a recent experience with Today, it’s still an open question. this small brotherhood of craftsmen. Would they laugh? As he stands in the window, watching us at sundown, Would they believe him? who could it be that isn’t there? So, he told them. Was it James Mongin Smith, owner of several It was all going smoothly until sundown the day before plantations who first bought the mansion in 1848 for when he found himself the last to leave the site, walking back taxes on the courthouse steps? continued ...

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Or was it an 1865 battle-weary soldier eternally resting for the night? Perhaps, it was the wealthy and infamous John Becker whose beautiful young wife fell in love with the empty mansion in 1919—the man who became the mayor of St. Marys, living in luxury but mysteriously leaving in the middle of the night seven years later, in such a haste that he left the priceless silver and Waterford crystal still on the dining room table. No, you say? Who then was the stranger in the window? Not a wealthy planter. Not a war-weary soldier. Not a powerful politician? We don’t know who he was. We know who he is. He is the man who gave his life to his little church congregation early in his ministry, living in a small crowded house with his wife and children. Although he was given the blueprints for a magnificent home, he was never given the means to build it for his family. But in his heart, an obsession was born and he later got the money to build what became known as Orange Hall (named for the orange trees that once graced the mansion’s lawn). He is the original builder of Orange Hall, whose love for his mansion has survived catastrophe and disaster and even death itself. From the time the first footers were dug in 1837, and for all the years to come, the man in the window is—and always will be—the Reverend Horace Southworth Pratt: the true guardian of Orange Hall.

GREAT ADVENTURE AWAITS! Visit for a schedule of themed train rides in Downtown St. Marys.

Christian Contemporary Music • News • Lighthouse Sports Every Tuesday Night 6:30 pm at

The Lighthouse

For Youth 12-18...Awesome Rock Youth Praise and Worship Band! Special guest speakers every week. Hang out with other teens and “chow down” on free food. If you can’t join us at The Lighthouse, then tune in for the live broadcast at 6:30pm on The Lighthouse 89.3.

The Lighthouse WECC FM 5465 Highway 40 East • St. Marys, GA

800-577-WECC • 912-882-8930 •




By Steve



ur beautiful coastal niche here in southeast Georgia has its share of snowbirds who have converted to residents. The author’s first experience with this variety of strange neighbors took place the second day after he’d moved into a new St. Marys apartment in July. Just as the sun cleared the eastern horizon, He heard a strange gabbling clamor that sounded like tin cans being dragged behind a truck. Opening the living room blinds, he discovered a flock of Canadian geese in the freshly mowed grass across the street. In the ensuing days of coming and going as he got settled into the new community, encounters with the resident waterfowl were numerous, and no doubt will sound familiar to many locals. The geese can be seen on the railroad tracks or standing on sand piles adjacent to ongoing road construction. They cross traffic with impunity and often are standing unfazed in the median as commuter traffic roars by within several feet of the bird groups. Our area has abundant freshwater ponds, impoundments, and tributaries. We also have golf courses planted in fine-bladed grasses. These are the preferred feeding source for our resident geese which spend the bulk of their days grazing. Almost all of the local water impoundments have algae and shallow water succulents that also support the goose population. They eat a lot. Consequently, they are messy. continued ...


However, the poop left by local birds seems to disappear after summer showers. Nevertheless, this aftermath from a substantial goose population makes them unpopular in areas catering to human traffic. The birds become friendly by merely feeding them. Not a good idea. Once acclimated to the presence of humans, the geese can become territorial and aggressive to people and their pets. When the precious goslings hatch in the late spring, the adult geese become feisty and unpleasant. They will attack nipping and thrashing with powerful wings. This full-frontal aggression is frightening and compelling. Injuries to people often occur from falls as they try desperately to escape the assault by both parent birds. Nothing is as demeaning as being goosed by a goose. Local resident birds are descendants of migratory birds who used to nest in the Hudson Bay and James Bay regions of Saskatchewan and Ontario. There is no scientific answer for the unusual change in the migratory behavior of these resident Canadian geese. This began more than sixty years ago in the eastern flyway and spread to the West coast. Before the geese became non-migratory, they were impacted by the proliferation of Snow geese who were overwhelming the spring nesting grounds of the Canadian goose pushing the returning birds out. Today, resident populations exist from the Florida panhandle west to northern Mexico. There are still transient birds, and occasionally two- to three-year-old resident birds will find mates with visiting migratory geese before they start north. The birds are monogamous, bonding for life. When one gets killed or lost, the surviving breeder will attempt to mate again. Canadian geese that presently live as resident birds across the south and through middle America number in the thousands. The highest concentration in Georgia is in the Atlanta-Piedmont area. However, Minneapolis, Minnesota, is the leader in localized population concentrations. It is believed that more than 27,000 Canadian geese live there. Canadian geese resident populations now pose significant problems in more continued ...


wonderland of compelling locations, Coastal Georgia serves up verdant marshlands, wilderness islands, the Atlantic Ocean, the Intracoastal Waterway, three rivers, the Great Okefenokee Swamp, quaint waterfront villages, and majestic maritime forests—captivating vistas at every turn. Add in the mystique of historic cemeteries, a world-class Navy Submarine base, the charm of antebellum mansions, the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, plus film-friendly city leadership, and you’ll discover the makings of a great film. We call it “Cinemagical”!

912-729-1103 Visit to hear what other producers have to say about filming in Coastal Georgia.

St. Marys is the perfect storybook setting to begin your new life together. From breathtaking vistas and antebellum mansions for your ceremony to our charming bed and breakfasts and inns for a romantic honeymoon, your happily ever after is just a click away.

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2201 Osborne Rd Suite B, St. Marys, GA 31558 Licensed in GA, SC and Florida License #W203678.


1101 Osborne St. St. Marys, GA 912.576.5002 Mon.-Thurs.10am – 9pm • Fri.- Sat. 10am – 10pm Sun. 12:30pm - 5:30pm

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than 100 urban areas in 37 states. Geese in the wild feed on beans, wheat, rice, and corn if available. On the water, they feed readily on aquatic plants. Greg Balkcom is a senior biologist with the Wildlife Resources Division of the Georgia DNR. He has been following Georgia’s resident geese for decades. He writes on the DNR website, “Local birds nest March through June. A pair will produce two to ten eggs that hatch in 28 to 30 days. Both parents take turns sitting the eggs. When the goslings hatch they leave the nest in twenty-four hours, they can swim immediately and are capable of diving to depths of 30 to 40 feet. While the youngsters begin to grow, the adult birds then start to molt, which means they lose their flight feathers and are unable to fly for 30 to 40 days.” Balkcom says, “The Wildlife Resources Division asks people to be patient during this time of year. The birds can’t fly, but the goslings are active and growing flight feathers. The female leads the babies in a single line with the male goose bringing up the rear and on the lookout for danger.” This is a flight formation practice. “This time of year when the geese are ‘land-bound’ is when the most complaints about goose feces and feathers are reported. The DNR’s first bit of advice to those who encounter geese is to let them be.” Balkcom says that harassing the geese when they can’t fly is useless, but as soon as they can, they will respond to harassment. Balkcom writes on the Georgia DNR website, “Canadian geese are protected by federal and state law. There are two courses of action that landowners can employ to reduce or eliminate geese from their property. First, the property owner has to obtain a permit from the WRD Game management office (see This permit allows them to have geese captured and relocated to a suitable area or allows them to legally and lethally remove the animals. Removal can be done by the homeowner or a licensed nuisance wildlife trapper. “Harassment is a method that will get results. Techniques include chemical repellants, Mylar balloons, wire/string barriers, and noisemakers. Consistency by the property owner helps get rid of the birds but is not always 100% effective.” Living with the geese involves patience and an appreciation for wildlife, most of which are under unnatural manmade pressures. The Canadian geese are handsome birds. The males are larger than the females. They are intelligent and family-oriented. Flying they are graceful, and their gabbling communication is comical. Remember to keep your distance from the birds during late spring through early summer, especially when goslings are present. The rest of the year—don’t walk barefoot in the areas they frequent.

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Miss Julie’s House In Downtown St. Marys

Have you enrolled your little ones yet? M-F: 6:30 am - 6:00 pm 501 Osborne Street • St. Marys, GA




Storied treasures around every corner including beautiful antique furniture, collectibles, rugs, artwork, and great gift items. Gallery Featuring 13 Local Artists! Downtown St. Marys at 102 West Church Street 912-882-5861


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A Neighborhood TrAdiTioN Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks, Coffee and Smoothies FREE WiFi, outside porch and inside seating. 912.882.9555 304 Osborne Street • St. Marys, GA • Open 7 Days • 7:30am – 2:00 pm


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Explore Midtown St. Marys! Movies. Restaurants. Shopping.

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