St. Marys Magazine Issue 35

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Georgia’s Grand Canyon
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Page 34
Page 60
Beauty Queen of Birds Murder, Mayhem, and Martinis
Daniel McGirt
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Our National Seashore Treasure:

St. Marys fared better than most of our coastal neighbors when Hurricane Matthew swept through last fall. Our beautiful city and neighboring Cumberland Island were back in business almost immediately following the storm. If you are thinking of visiting in these cooler winter months, our weather is still warm and inviting so we encourage you, your friends and relatives to come on down!

With the growing popularity of ecotourism, coastal Georgia is becoming more and more a destination for many seeking refuge from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan city life. St. Marys is certainly benefiting from that popularity as we see increased tourism in all seasons, but especially in the cooler months.

Or up, as the case may be as we have many visitors arriving from Florida as well. The Georgia Welcome Center at Exit 1 just as you cross from Florida into Georgia has been re-furbished and has re-opened to welcome all to our great state and offering dozens of ideas for spending time in St. Marys.

Fortunately, that increase has a positive effect on our community. Our local businesses are enjoying an uptick in visitors and sales but we are still able to maintain the small town ambiance our local residents and tourists enjoy.

St. Marys fared better than most of our coastal neighbors when Hurricane Matthew swept through last fall. Our beautiful city and neighboring Cumberland Island were back in business almost immediately following the storm. If you are thinking of visiting in these cooler winter months, our weather is still warm and inviting so we encourage you, your friends and relatives to come on down!

From St. Marys, the Gateway to Cumberland Island, both tourists and residents enjoy visiting the Island in the cooler season. It may be chilly but it’s never really cold like the winters or late springs I remember “up north.” Cumberland’s National Seashore designation celebrated its 50th anniversary this past October. To say it is unique is an understatement as there is no other National Park like it in the United States.

Or up, as the case may be as we have many visitors arriving from Florida as well. The Georgia Welcome Center at Exit 1 just as you cross from Florida into Georgia has been re-furbished and has re-opened to welcome all to our great state and offering dozens of ideas for spending time in St. Marys.

Just remember that there is a limit to daily visitors and campers on Cumberland Island, so be sure to get your tickets and reservations early to visit or camp at the Park. The Cumberland Island Ferry runs two trips from St. Marys to Cumberland Island every day. Check their websites for more information…

While our waterfront, rivers and entryway to Cumberland Island remain our most popular attractions, we enjoy year-round entertainment venues like steam train rides and community theatre presentations at Theatre by the Trax. Kayaking continues to grow in popularity as do bicycle touring and races. Our History Walk is proving to be an enjoyable historical stroll through the long history of our waterfront village. We are known for our family friendly parades and festivals with February featuring our very own version of the Mardi Gras. Our historic hotel, modern motels, and charming bed and breakfasts provide lodging for all tastes and budgets while restaurants in midtown, downtown and the west side offer a variety of casual dining options.

Whether you are here for an outdoor adventure or just want to enjoy time in a peaceful, quiet, laid back and friendly community, St. Marys is the place to spend a week, weekend or longer. Many will fall in love and move here to call St. Marys home.

While our waterfront, rivers and entryway to Cumberland Island remain our most popular attractions, we enjoy year-round entertainment venues like steam train rides and community theatre presentations at Theatre by the Trax. Kayaking continues to grow in popularity as do bicycle touring and races. Our History Walk is proving to be an enjoyable historical stroll through the long history of our waterfront village. We are known for our family friendly parades and festivals with February featuring our very own version of the Mardi Gras. Our historic hotel, modern motels, and charming bed and breakfasts provide lodging for all tastes and budgets while restaurants in midtown, downtown and the west side offer a variety of casual dining options.

While the term ecotourism usually refers to visitors enjoying our natural resources, we boast a proud record of residents who take advantage of those opportunities as well. Whether it’s kayaking, fishing, boating, bird watching or just watching the sunrise or sunset over the marsh, our residents get to enjoy all of our natural resources every day.

Whether you are here for an outdoor adventure or just want to enjoy time in a peaceful, quiet, laid back and friendly community, St. Marys is the place to spend a week, weekend or longer. Many will fall in love and move here to call St. Marys home.

Whether a visitor or a resident, I encourage all to enjoy these natural resources in St. Marys. Enjoy, and please help us protect our natural resources for generations to come.

Welcome! And if you have time, please stop by City Hall and say “hi” or “hey” depending on where you are from.

Welcome! And if you have time, please stop by City Hall and say “hi” or “hey” depending on where you are from.


from the Mayor
Letter from the Mayor
John mayor letter 23 q 1/7/17 9:42 AM Page 1
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Next Time, Stay Here! Rockefeller Did!

Step 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...

may leave St. Marys, but St. Marys will never leave


Georgia’s Grand Canyon

Plan Your Fall Y’all


Beauty Queen of Birds: The Roseate Spoonbill

Timeless. Versatile. Enduring. The Venerable Pocket Knife

Everybody Loves a Parade and a Festival!

Cinemagical Coastal Georgia: Film Friendly. Talent Rich. Red Carpet Ready.

Murder, Mayhem, and Martinis: Exciting New St. Marys Walking Tour

Birdie Hunting Low Country Style

Local Entrepreneur turns Super Ideas into a Super Business

From the Great Swamp to the North Pole: Honoring History. Unearthing Miracles. Dazzling Audiences.

Daniel McGirt: A St. Marys Turncoat


64 Media
PHOTO: Cumberland Island Seashore

Publisher’s Note

Getting Inspired

Is there any greater feeling that being inspired? The sheer exhilaration of being excited and moved to do something you may have never done before?

People derive their inspiration from many different sources. For me, it’s being creative—writing a song, or a play, or a poem, or an article for the magazine.

Some people are inspired by nature, by a work of art, by music, or by another person. Sometimes, just witnessing someone perform an act of kindness can inspire you to be a better person.

For those who are fortunate enough to visit or live in St. Marys, there is inspiration around every corner.

Simply take a walk.

Dolphins dancing in the harbor is an inspiring sight. The stunning beauty of a roseate spoonbill against the backdrop of emerald green marsh grasses can take your breath away. Following the footsteps of history in the Oak Grove Cemetery as soldiers from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars whisper their battle cries can bring one to tears, but also inspire you to covet your freedoms and vow to play a role in keeping those freedoms for your grandchildren. The genuine warmth of the people who live here can open your hearts as they are the quintessential beacons of southern hospitality.

The word “inspire” comes from the Latin word “inspirare” which means “to breathe into.”

I think St. Marys is the perfect place to have a new take on life “breathed” into your vital force.

Inspiration can revive, refresh, and rejuvenate. Inspiration can arouse the spirit and stir the soul. Getting inspired—today’s the perfect day.

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

On the cover

Roseate Spoonbills as photographed by Jay Smith.

scaN here to visit our website
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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,theJacksonville International Airport is just thirty minutes away. 7

From St. Marys, Georgia, you can travel 2,065 miles and visit THE Grand Canyon. Or you can travel 237 miles and visit Georgia’s own “grand canyon,” Providence Canyon. Compared to its more famous counterpart, it might be relatively small, but its beauty is just as striking and its gullies massive.

While The Grand Canyon was formed by the Colorado River more than a million years ago, Providence Canyon’s formation began in the early 1800s due to poor farming practices. Farmers at that time took no efforts to avoid soil erosion, and deep 9
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ditches began forming. Over the years, the water flow and sand movement created nearly vertical gullies.

The result is a spectacular sight that includes canyons forged by sandstone, chasms, cliffs, and ribbons of colored soil in pinks, reds, purples, and oranges.

Its bright red rocks are stunningly contrasted with vibrant green trees and wildflowers in every color.

Part of Providence Canyon State Park, a 1003-acre recreation area, Providence Canyon is actually one of 16 canyons worth exploring.

The state park has 10 miles of hiking trails including Canyon Loop that circles nine of the canyons and takes about two hours to hike five miles. It travels through a shady forest on its way to the canyon floor. Pioneer and backcountry camping sites are available as well.

Providence Canyon hosts unique geological formations you might expect to see in Colorado, Arizona, or Utah, but certainly not in the Peach State.

So, forgo that 2,000 mile trek and slip

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St. Marys holds year-round magic and charm, but October is especially fun with lots of Fall events throughout the community. The ever popular Haunted History Tour, created and produced by St. Marys Little Theatre, is the last Friday in October. And the display of hundreds of scarecrows downtown throughout the month of October puts smiles on everyone’s faces.

Heads up! Plan your visit early because that’s high season here and accommodations fill up fast.

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t. Marys is a virtual water realm with rivers, tributaries, the Intracoastal Waterway, and even the great Atlantic Ocean just around the bend. So there is no surprise that a number of water birds make their home here. But if you happen to get a glimpse of a Roseate Spoonbill—and there’s a good chance you will, you’ve been given a rare opportunity to witness one of nature’s most elegant and graceful birds. And certainly most beautiful.

Peacocks can lay claim for being in the running as a pageant contender for “Beauty Queen of Birds.” And the Cassowary certainly deserves a place on the docket, but

you have to visit White Oak Conservation to see this endangered species (White Oak is just minutes from St. Marys.) No, it’s the Roseate Spoonbill that we think deserves the title and it’s not an unusual sight around St. Marys. This gregarious wading bird sports a body of pale pink feathers that segue into bright pink at the shoulders and rump. It looks like something that came straight out of a Dr. Seuss book with its red eye staring out from a partly bald head, and a giant spoon-shaped bill.

A “bowl” of spoonbills (that’s what they’re called as a group) sweeps their spoonbills

continued on page 18

through shallow fresh, brackish, or salt waters snapping up crustaceans and fish. They fly with necks outstretched, to and from foraging and nesting areas. They are very social and often roost in trees and bushes with other large wading birds. They often stand on one leg which causes some people to mistake them for flamingos. And, like flamingos, their coloring comes from their diet.

Here are some more fun facts about the Roseate Spoonbill:

• Roseate Spoonbill chicks don’t have a spoon-shaped bill. When they are nine days old the bill starts to flatten. By 39 days, the bill is nearly full size.

• Though their lifespan is generally around seven years, the oldest recorded is just short of 16 years.

• When the Roseate Spoonbill walks, it swings its head back and forth in a sideways motion.

• There are six species of spoonbills in the world, but the Roseate Spoonbill is the only one with pink plumage and the only one found in the Americas.

• In the early 1800s, the Roseate Spoonbill became endangered because people collected their feathers for hat adornments, fans, and other objects of beauty Thankfully, they became protected by a government protection order.

• During mating season, a male Roseate Spoonbill will try to attract a female by bringing her nest materials and dancing and flying around.

• After mating, the female will construct an intricate nest in shrubs and trees to lay a clutch of two to three eggs. Both parents participate in the month-long incubation period. After six weeks, the chicks will be able to leave the nest and fly away.

So, next time you’re visiting the St. Marys waterfront or plying the waters gracing the peninsula, keep your eyes peeled for the “Beauty Queen of Birds.” Seek them out. They are worth the search.

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s a small boy growing up, I remember one of the most highly-anticipated events in my young life was that magical day that I would turn 10 and my mother and father would allow me to carry around my first pocket knife.

Back when I was a kid, most every boy on the block either already had their pocket knife or anxiously awaited the age their parents deemed as old enough to have one. Some of the kids already had theirs, even

though they weren’t 10, but my parents said “10”! Plead as I might, I would have to wait.

Every adult I knew carried a pocket knife. My grandfather did. My grandmother carried a small pearl-handled one in her purse. My dad carried his to the office in New York City. My uncle had a big one he used for processing the fish and game he harvested and another long, skinny pocket knife he said was especially for cutting continued

... A

My collection of family pocket knives including my great grandmother’s, my grandmother’s and my mother’s pearl-handled knives, my grandfather’s and my dad’s small knives, and my first small buck knife.

grapefruits. Everybody had one and I wanted mine so bad!

My grandmother had taught me that every young boy should never leave home without his pocket knife and a dime in each penny loafer to call home if necessary. Since turning 10, I think I can count the days I left home without one on one hand—excluding airplane trips post-9/11.

There are all kinds of pocket knives used for any number of tasks on a daily basis.

As a kid, we used them to whittle sticks into sharp pointy arrows for our homemade bows. We would cut the rope we used to fashion our crude log rafts. And we would cut the rat’s nest of fish line off our bait caster when it fouled. With our knives we would open cans and bottles, dig a splinter out of our hand, and—every now and then despite being told not to, we’d spend hours trying to throw our knives at a tree to see who could get their knife to stick the most.

My first pocket knife was the traditional Barlow pocket knife. The Barlow knife has been around for centuries. It dates back to the late 1600s England. It was carried by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and written about by Mark Twain.

Other kids on the block had the official Boy Scout knife and a couple of my friends had these multi-functional devices called the Swiss Army knife. We didn’t quite understand what the corkscrew was useful for, but it looked really cool. 21

Over the years, I have collected hundreds of pocket knives. I have collector knives, Buck knives, Kershaw (instant-open) knives, Gerber knives, and knives made by pretty much any manufacturer you can name.

My personal favorite for the last two decades has been my Leatherman. It’s really more than a pocket knife with folding pliers, a saw, a file, two blades, and even a bit driver with 16 bits. My Leatherman features 18 functions including scissors. It’s the one knife I never leave home without and I’ve had my current one for almost 20 years.

As an adult technical worker, my pocket knife was mostly regulated to cutting the cake at an office party when no one remembered to bring a cake knife. Today, I reach for my Leatherman almost as often as I reach for my cell phone. And these days, in addition to all the other things I use it for, it’s great for opening Amazon boxes.

Times have changed, and not everyone carries a pocket knife like they did in days gone past. But to me the pocket knife is the one tool I consider indispensable. The iPhone may have replaced the wristwatch, but nothing can replace the pocket knife.

My wife says there are two types of men—those who carry a pocket knife and those who don’t. I will always be the prior.

Turning ten and getting my first pocket knife is one of the most memorable days of my life. Turning 12 and getting my first Daisy BB gun—now that’s another story.

A Swiss Army knife and the much more functional older brother—the esteemed Leatherman Wave including bits.
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An older Buck 315 specialized for boating with the marlin spike.

While enjoying our beautiful downtown keep an eye out for these bronze owls designed by local artist Walter Palmer. Inspired by the history of Downtown St. Marys, the Owls are a result of a public art program collaboration between St. Marys Mainstreet and Rustapalooza.

St. Marys is a place where history walks around each corner and city block. I watch from above, near the dearly departed, right where you finish just as you started.

Seven seats and many doors. The people's place and so much more. It's the heart and it's a hall. Tomorrow is shaped by us all.

Shrimp boats and pirates, A Navy's great fleet - I've seen them pass at the end of the street.

Starry Nights and sun-filled days, I wait by the river where the music plays.

A pillar of society, A belle of the ball, I perch above main street watching you all.

Families and friends share meals 'neath my wings in this beautiful place where the fountain sings.

03 04 05
01 02
06 Whoooooo will find the Owls of Osborne? Just follow the clues...

Imoved to St. Marys in May 2004 after buying the Goodbread House Bed and Breakfast with my best friend Mardja Gray.

Falling in love with St. Marys was easy. Coming from busy bustling Fort Lauderdale, I was soothed at how the edges of the day softened. And I was enchanted by the storybook setting—like living in a Norman Rockwell painting. I was seduced by front porches, rocking chairs, stately magnolias, and sweet honeysuckle.

Then July came, and the Kiwanis of St. Marys’ Independence Day Festival reconfirmed what I had suspected all along—I had found my forever home.

Nostalgia had me dabbing at my eyes as the line of antique tractors filed forward. Patriotism ran rampant. School bands. Beauty queens. Clowns. The parade that launched the festival was a gateway into what I consider all the things that are wonderful about living in a small town. And the all-day festival was everything my big city world had forgotten—real carnival street food, vendors of country crafts, continued ...


impressive local talents performing onstage, and best of all, the people.

I witnessed lots of hugs as the people in the community reunited with friends and family. It seemed the festival was about “coming home.”

Camden County has the good fortune to have citizens who take the time to volunteer, organize, and work our five major festivals. Here’s what they look like—up-close and in color.

Y ’all don’t miss a one of them now! There’s something for everyone and a festival is the perfect opportunity to greet friends and sample some of our area’s most notable fare that includes shrimp, crawfish, and catfish.

Mardi Gras Festival

(Last weekend in February in 2023)

Kingsland has the honor of hosting this festival that radio station K-Bay has fostered into a national talent event.

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Crawfish Festival (Usually last weekend in April)

Woodbine is home to this popular festival where you can get your fill of delicious crawfish and etouffee while enjoying Woodbine’s beautiful Riverwalk.

Independence Day Festival (July 4th)

Kiwanis of St. Marys hosts this down home festival that culminates with an awesome fireworks exhibition that rivals big city displays.

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Seafood Festival

(Usually first Saturday in October)

Formerly known as the Rock Shrimp Festival, the Kiwanis of St. Marys have been dazzling attendees for decades with mouth-watering seafood plates and great entertainment on St. Marys’ waterfront.

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Catfish Festival

(Usually third Saturday in November)

Kingsland launched this fun family event in 1983 and it’s been a favorite ever since. Arts, crafts, and food vendors grace the historic main street highlighted by the popular catfish dinners.


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From Savannah to St. Marys, the film industry has discovered the joys of making movies in Coastal Georgia and they are harvesting the talent that lives here as well.

From July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022, Georgia hosted more than 400 film productions bringing $4.4 billion into the state. It was another record-breaking year for a state that prides itself on the generous incentives that draw filmmakers from around the globe.

As filmmakers discover the diverse locations of Georgia, they have also discovered some home-grown talent.

Camden County Film Commissioner and Coastal Georgia Film Alliance Chair Doug Vaught says that anytime a film is being made, its location will benefit in many ways.

“From caterers to gas stations, restaurants, and lodging venues, film crews can make a difference in a local economy,” Vaught said.

Such was the case recently when several St. Marys residents were chosen to be in Success Camp, a Christian-based movie filmed in St. Marys, starring former Superman star Dean Cain.

Success Camp

Cain starred in the popular television series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in 1993. He has a special interest in Christian-based films and has been involved in several of them since his role as Superman.

Success Camp is a multi-plot film that follows the lives of several young teens and their radical transformation after attending Success Camp. This is an actual camp for troubled kids (located in Jacksonville, FL) that not only fixes “problem children” but

continued ...
“And more and more filmmakers are receptive to local actors who have the opportunity to display their talents, often alongside famous stars.”
Dean Cain as the judge in Success Camp. L-R, Actor Keith Jowers, Camden County Film Commissioner Doug Vaught, and Actor Dean Phillippi.
Local resident Collin Galvin in Success Camp.

fixes the entire family. The film is based on incredible true stories.

Jason Campbell, president of JC Films, the company that produced Success Camp said, “For some parents, the pre-teen and teenage years can be a nightmare. We are facing a crisis in our young people disrespecting authority, growing lazy and unmanageable, or acting out aggressively in home or at school. Success Camp aims to break these kids from these behaviors by dramatically shifting a child’s world view.”

The Menu

Recently, Coastal Georgia resident Brandon Herron got to rub shoulders with Academy Award winner Ralph Feinnes when he was chosen as an actor in The Menu, filmed locally.

The Menu is about a young couple who travel to a remote island to eat at an exclusive restaurant where the chef has prepared a lavish menu, with some shocking surprises. The movie is billed as a comedy/horror/thriller.

Herron was also featured in the final scene of Dying for the Crown, an original Lifetime movie in which he played a cop.

He just finished playing a bad guy in Season 8 of the Walking Dead as well.

More accustomed to being behind the camera (as a filmmaker himself), Herron says he’s enjoying his acting roles but is continuing his filmmaking with the upcoming production of Clean. It’s a film he wrote with a twisted plot and twisted ending—both Brandon Herron signatures. From fantasy to reality, films that have a connection to Coastal Georgia include television series Naked and Afraid

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Ralph Fiennes in The Menu.
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Actor and Filmmaker Brandon Herron.

Naked and Afraid

Kingsland resident Rebel Blalock passed a stringent series of interviews to qualify for a spot on Naked and Afraid, the television series that is considered the “Everest” of survival challenges. Rebel had been a binge watcher of the show and as a risk-taker pretty much all her life, she said “Why not?”

Imagine being dropped off in the depths of Limpopo, the northernmost part of South Africa, and left with nothing but one tool to survive for 21 days. Rebel chose her machete. Her female counterpart chose a line and hook—tools that would have to do to build a shelter and feed them the entire time.

Fortunately, there was catfish in nearby waters but little else. Rebel survived mostly by eating termites and lizards. She had one especially exciting day when she indulged in an ant and her partner consumed a stink bug. That was cause for celebration.

Their water source was a muck pond which they had to share with jungle animals like Giraffes and Lions. But her most frightening moments were listening to the hyenas circling their shelter at night. Hyenas have jaws as powerful as those of great white sharks, and they can crush an elephant’s leg—so there was reason for fear. Rebel got a little uneasy another day when baboons took over their shelter.

It was winter in Limpopo, so Rebel was not only “naked and afraid,” but she was also cold.

Limpopo is known for its untamed bush and mountain landscapes, and it was the altitude—not the wild animals or lack of food—that brought Rebel’s survival experience to an end.

She developed an uncommon elevation sickness that caused her to tap out for medical reasons after 11 days. But all that is not stopping Rebel from applying for another stint on Naked and Afraid, and her husband, Steven, will be applying as well.

Seems like Rebel’s mom naming her “Rebel” created a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You can watch Rebel in Season 14 which aired in April 2022.

The Fuzzies

St. Marys native Dustin Vaught is enjoying some notoriety out on the West Coast and just recently traveled to Chicago where he garnered several awards for a horror film which he wrote and starred in. Vaught’s movie, The Fuzzies, sold out within days and there was

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Rebel Blalock in Naked and Afraid.

a line around the corner of folks waiting to get in. The film won “Best Short, Best Villain, and Best Creature or Monster” at the Chicago Film Festival.

“It’s one of those experiences that I will never forget,” Vaught said. “Seeing our film on the same stage where so many film luminaries have been before was such a humbling experience and a great reminder of how far we still have to go.”

Ship Happens

In Brunswick, GA, local businessman Stephen Prince produced a film about the MV Golden Ray, the 200-metre car carrier vessel that capsized near the Port of Brunswick in 2019. She was eventually declared a total loss and was removed as scrap but not before enough drama was created to fill a full documentary about the event.

Prince knew that the sinking would become a major event and felt someone needed to record its happening so that in the future people would have a true picture of the occurrence. So he created a 90-minute documentary, Ship Happens

The Fuzzies screening with a full orchestra performing the score in front of a sold out crowd at the historic Music Box Venue in Chicago.
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Ship Happens Co-directors Jordan Bellamy and Josh Gilligan and Producer Stephen Prince.

At the time he made the decision, he had no idea that it would take two years for the ship to be removed from the water.

From the outset, there were challenges documenting the wreck such as limitations on how close they could get to the wreck and restrictions on drones flying overhead to film the salvage operation.

Once the salvage operation began, there were many other challenges including strong tides and unpredictable weather.

Prince said the documentary tells the story in a straightforward way without casting blame or criticism. It is being entered in film festivals and shopped to different networks, including Netflix.

All in all, it’s been a great year for film making in Coastal Georgia. The film industry recognizes the area as “Cinemagical,” and gives it a thumbs up for movie and television production.

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Imagine you are taking a stroll along one of St. Marys’ waterfronts one evening when you spy a boat moored offshore that is engulfed in flames. Locals would have witnessed this horrifying scene in 2012, the result of a vengeful man’s incinerating his ex-wife and her friend on her yacht. (Of course, all parties concerning this crime were from somewhere out of town. St. Marys, itself, has an extraordinarily low crime rate.)

But history shows that St. Marys has not been immune to scandalous murders in the distant past. continued ...

An assassination plot. A deadly cane fight. A gruesome theft. On this walking tour, learn about the REAL murder and mayhem St. Marys has witnessed!

Two hundred years ago, St. Marys was a border town, with its river marking the international boundary between the United States and Spanish Florida. This meant that St. Marys was a violent place where Spanish and Native American attacks were a constant threat. For instance, in the 1790s thirty Native Americans entered the shop of a St. Marys founder, murdered him, and inflicted incredible torture upon his wife. In another example, in 1815 a local man retrieving customs money hidden away before the War of 1812 came upon a band of Spaniards. As you can imagine, it did not end well for him either.

St. Marys’ being a lawless border town also meant locals could get away with…mayhem. And they certainly took advantage. They smuggled, as a story of a donkey in a St. Marys bell tower illustrates. They pillaged, highlighted by the tale of Daniel McGirt, a local Revolutionary War turncoat and bandit. They attempted a take-over of Spanish Florida in the Patriot War of 1811 with a local resident, John Houstoun McIntosh (builder and owner of local historic site, the McIntosh Sugar Mill) at the helm. Plus, murder and mayhem were not just ancient history, as we learn when discussing a late-twentieth-century assassination plot featured on the TV show 60 Minutes, involving an esteemed local employer. continued ... 35
Molly Silver (2nd from left) and her Murder, Mayhem and Martinis tour group.

These stories are just a few of the gory and shocking tales this town can tell. You can hear them all when you take Molly Silver’s Murder, Mayhem, and Martinis tour any Thursday evening in downtown St. Marys. You will take in St. Marys’ picturesque historic buildings, such as the First Presbyterian Church of 1808 and Greek Revival-styled Orange Hall, and learn about the shady characters and lurid acts associated with them. Then you can make your own mayhem at the local watering hole, Seagle’s Saloon, where Happy Hour priced drinks will be offered exclusively for tour guests.

Murder, Mayhem and Martinis Tour

Every Thursday 6:00-7:15 p.m. $15 per adult, $8 per child
information and reservations, visit
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Starting Point: St. Marys Visitor Center, 400 Osborne St. For or call 904-735-8243. Molly Silver is owner and tour guide at Molly’s Old South Tours, offering daily tours of St. Marys and Cumberland Island.

When golf lovers discover what fertile grounds there are for their sport in and around St. Marys, they often retire here. And why not?

Three fine courses just minutes from St. Marys’ waterfront serve up birdie and eagle hunting of the highest order.

Take a tour for some unique, challenging, inspiring, and sometimes maddening golf.

Laurel Island Links

In 1996, PGA champion Davis Love III made Laurel Island Links the second course in his design portfolio. The Love trademark of creating a course that quietly interacts with nature is evident throughout the course’s entire 125-acre setting. Love’s design takes full advantage of the diverse terrain: heavy woodlands, stretches of salt marsh, and natural wetlands.

Play at Laurel Island Links is both exhilarating and inspiring. As is tradition at great courses, it starts easy and finishes hard with deviations in difficulty well-spaced to keep interest up and frustration to a minimum. Most fairways at Laurel Island

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Links are wide and flowing, and hole one, a 386-yard par four, is no exception. Highlights of the front nine are hole 2, a par 4 with stunning views of the vast expanse of Crooked River marshes followed by hole 3, a par 3 with a green sitting out on a small point surrounded by marshes. Hole 5 is a short par 4 with a table top green that’s a challenge to land on and stick. A short drive along the boardwalk through the woods and over a creek are holes 6 and 7 to the marsh again. The only way to hole 8, a par 3, is across the water.

The back nine offers more beautiful vistas with large pines and majestic oaks gracing immaculate fairways and greens.

Hole 18 might be the one to take your breath away. Water comes into play on your second shot as you make your way to challenging contoured greens well protected by water and sand. This is the hole that makes recreational players a tad nervous, but even experienced players enjoy the thrill of victory when they play it well.

Laurel Island Links is a trophy course for Davis Love III. It is picturesque beyond mere words—the danger being the visual distraction one might experience playing on a picture postcard golf course. Several times throughout the course, quaint wooden bridges take players under ancient live oak canopies and through verdant pine forest stands. It is a bit of a fairy continued ...

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tale setting for a game that often escapes the coveted “happily ever after” ending. And though no one has ever described the sport of golf as “soothing,” the excitement of birdie hunting at Laurel Island Links is well balanced by its nearly surreal, serene setting.

Laurel Island Links is located just six miles north of the Florida-Georgia border off I-95 Exit 6, a mere 15-minute drive from St. Marys’ waterfront. Call 912-729-7277 for tee times.

Trident Lakes Golf Club

Thankfully, the United States Navy decided a few years ago to invite the public to participate in their Arthur Hills-designed course at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base—Trident Lakes. Prior to its opening to the public, the course was reserved for the military and their guests only, often hosting rounds for some of the Navy’s highest ranking officers and visiting dignitaries.

Arthur Hills is renowned for designing environmentally-sensitive courses that are certified by Audubon International, and his mission is clearly showcased throughout the 18-hole layout.

Trident Lakes was birthed by a master, and to that point, in fact, Hills was the first architect to have two courses in the same year receive Golf Digest’s “Best New Course” awards. This is a beautiful course, but a course continued ...

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like the one Ben Crenshaw had in mind when he said, “Golf is the hardest game in the world. There is no way you can ever get it. Just when you think you do, the game jumps up and puts you in your place.”

Trident Lakes sets itself apart from other golf courses in the area in that there are no homes built on the course. Your round will only be witnessed by your playing partners and the resident wildlife—snowy egrets, great blue herons, and a gator or two. The undulating greens are a beautiful canvas on which to paint a satisfying day of golf. Wide open vistas are banked by pine islands, young oaks, and swaying cattails.

There’s plenty of challenge all along the way—water on nine holes. Actually, hole 15 might be titled “bridge over troubled water.” And the long par 3 hole 13 teases with water left and right. A great finishing hole, number 18, wraps up your game with a striking finale as the fairways hug water all the way to the green.

In his role as Pro at Trident Lakes, PGA golf professional Keven Doetch sees players return again and again to experience a course that is “seamless with nature,” and “the prices don’t hurt either.” Green fees are an undeniable bargain and a great excuse to play daily. (Ask about the golf card.)

For tee times and directions to Trident Lakes Golf Club, call 912-573-8475.

Osprey Cove

The accolades accorded Osprey Cove’s 18-hole championship golf course are extensive. Among them: Golfweek’s “Top 5 in Georgia,” Golf and Travel’s “Top 100 Modern Courses,” Golf Digest’s Four-Star rating and their “must play if you’re within 100 miles” designation.

by Mark McCumber & Associates, Osprey Cove’s

St. Marys Office 1819 Osborne Road
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“I’ve spent most of my life golfing… the rest I’ve just wasted.” —Author unknown
continued ...

meticulously manicured course is set against breathtaking scenes of pristine marshes and tidal inlets and conservation areas. The course layout was guided by McCumber’s commitment to designing a course that fits the natural characteristics of the land. At the same time, the course succinctly incorporates traditional elements of strategy, variety, balance, and surprise.

Dramatic elevations are a dominant feature of Osprey Cove. Two separate nines show tantalizing views of the expansive marsh early on. From the marsh to the landlocked fairways, then emerging from the interior to the edge of the vast river basin, the panoramic vistas are dazzling. Hole eight presents players with a view of the white cliffs of Florida. Osprey nests majestically tower over the terrain. And the centerpiece ninth and 18th hole share one of the great open playing fields in all of southern golf.

At one time, the course was kept private as an exclusive amenity for residents of Osprey Cove. But non-members are now invited to golf with certain times restricted.

Call 912-882-5575 for more information. Whether you’re a beginner, recreational golfer, or an experienced golfer; whether you feel you’ve maximized the learning curve or are eager for continuous improvement in your game, your next birdie hunting expedition should find you at one of these fine golf courses. St. Marys stands ready with golfing adventures aplenty and 54 reasons to get here sooner rather than later.

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Local Entrepreneur turns her Super Ideas into a Super Business.

Deborah’s “gift with purchase” when she bought the property at 711 Osborne which was formerly a British pub.

Just seven blocks from St. Marys’ waterfront is the much-applauded Cottle and Gunn—a shop, yes, but more a destination for those who want to answer the call to artistry and fill their homes with beautiful things.

Nine years ago, Cottle and Gunn proprietor Deborah Cottle (after living in Camden for a year), thought there was something missing from the charming downtown village. She had started with a $30 a month booth at Salt River Antiques which expanded to two, then three booths, and on and on. Then she made the leap to her own shop with business partner Ronnie Gunn Tucker in the old Sterling’s Grocery Store building, occupying about

continued ...

1400 square feet. In 2016 she bought out her partner. She quickly outgrew the Sterling’s space and moved a few blocks up Osborne settling into a 2200 square-foot space. And finally, she purchased her own building at 711 Osborne where she will ultimately utilize 6000 square feet of space to showcase her antiques, curiosities, smell goods, cook’s corner, and a long list of workshops. Anchored by her Annie Sloan and Miss Mustard Seed’s products, Cottle and Gunn has grown by leaps in bounds in an economy and pandemic era that had a lot of businesses scrambling to survive.

Not saying it was easy, Deborah feels blessed to have a large and loyal customer base and the opportunity to go “pickin’” with Girls Gone Pickin’ partner Maria Riebe. That’s where she gets a lot of “cool” stuff that mingles well with the collections of 20 local artisans represented in the store (Cottle and Gunn is a “Georgia Grown” business.)

Deborah and Maria are truly the “Thelma and Louise” of junkin’—Deb being Thelma and Maria, Louise. Their adventures began at the original Rustapalooza in St. Marys and most recently found them hosting an event on the Cottle and Gunn property that raised $4,000 for the Helping Hands Food Pantry.

“When I bought this property, the real attraction was the adjacent land that affords me a chance to host outdoor events of a pretty large size,” Deborah said.

It was projected that more than 2,000

continued ...
Maria Riebe, Deborah Cottle, and Pam Unger (Director of Helping Hands Food Pantry). Local Entrepreneur
73 Hawthorn Lane • St. Marys, Georgia 912-673-6545 45
turns her Super Ideas into a Super Business.

people attended the “Girls Gone Pickin’” event in November. And though people from some distance came to see what Thelma and Louise were up to, it is the local small town business that is nearest and dearest to Deborah’s heart.

“I love helping local artists succeed,” she said. “Small businesses are what keeps Small Town America alive and if people patronize Amazon and big box stores too much, Small Town America will cease to exist.”

Local growers know that they can count on Cottle and Gunn to help sell their wares as well. This year, Deborah’s customers came to the store to pick up orders of blueberries, oranges, and firewood.

Having always loved home décor, Deborah was ten years old when she started her quest to fulfill her inner artist. She began painting furniture and repurposing odds and ends.

“So many pieces of furniture with a good life still in them get tossed,” Deborah said. “But furniture from the past was built better, much higher quality than new pieces being mass-manufactured today.”

In addition to the better quality, she says pieces of old have a timeless style to them. “So it just makes sense to preserve and re-purpose these pieces.” Pieces like the 100-year-old buffet that Deborah was working on the day of our interview.

Deborah Cottle is a vintage soul in a modern world, staying real busy in order to bring beauty into her customers’ homes. And like her favorite saying by Elsie de Wolf that you will find on the Cottle and Gunn website, “I’m going to make everything around me beautiful—that will be my life,” she has made everything around her beautiful including her lovely daughter, Maddie, who is following in her mom’s footsteps.

The future looks bright and busy for Cottle and Gunn with many more outdoor events planned and possibly a café in the back area of the store.

If you want something you’re not going to find anywhere else, Cottle and Gunn is a great place to start.

For more information, visit, or call 912-510-0639.

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Local Entrepreneur turns her Super Ideas into a Super Business.

St. Marys Little Theatre has raised the bar on entertainment with its 12th season of compelling community theatre entertainment.

“Enriching lives through performing arts” is the mission of this theatrical group that makes its home at Theatre by the Trax in St. Marys. And if sold-out productions and standing ovations are any indication, St. Marys Little Theatre’s (SMLT) actors, tech crew, and volunteers can consider their mission accomplished.

In 2011, live theatre returned to Downtown St. Marys after an absence of several years. Since then, some of Broadway’s most beloved shows have been performed onstage just 10 blocks from St. Marys’ waterfront. Numerous original productions have graced the stage as well.

SMLT’s offerings are as diverse as its audience beginning with Man of La Mancha as SMLT’s opening show 12 years ago—perhaps one of live theatre’s most challenging productions. Other award-winning shows including The Fantasticks,

continued ... 49
50 51

Camelot, Steel Magnolias, and 9 to 5 came to life onstage as local performers displayed their awesome talents.

Visitors who come from out of the area are amazed that a small town like St. Marys has such an impressive collection of talent.

“Not only do we have our long-time residents to draw from,” said Barbara Ryan Harris, founder and chair of St. Marys Little Theatre, “we also have people from all over the country who are drawn to our community by Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base.”

Ryan said that lots of military families find a second family when they join St. Marys Little Theatre, a welcoming family of actors, techs, and volunteers who represent a varied cross-section of our population.

“We have business executives, political figures, homemakers, retirees, entrepreneurs, and lots of children involved in the success of our community theatre,” she said.

In a repurposed railroad building that was originally scheduled for demolition, magic-making is an everyday occurrence for St. Marys Little Theatre.

Ryan Harris said that SMLT is making a mark on tourism which means a shot in the arm for the local economy.

“More and more people are planning their destination

continued ...

based on experiences they can enjoy,” she said. “With recent shows depicting early life in the Okefenokee Swamp and the history of St. Marys, people can learn more about who we are as a community while enjoying entertainment of the highest order.”

SMLT’s Call of the Swamp which was its 12th season opener, drew fans of Okefenokee Swamp from all over—people eager to learn more about the wildlife refuge that is steeped in history and adventure.

From its first scene that has a young girl sitting on the porch of a shack with a cocked shotgun, to the ending where a swamp witch brings two cross-starred lovers together, Call of the Swamp brought smiles and tears to audience members as they immersed themselves in a story that even included dancing alligators.

SMLT’s holiday show for this season, Miracle at the North Pole, was another smiles/tears-production. When a little girl in St. Marys, Georgia, saves Christmas for some misfit toys at the North Pole, everyone rejoiced. Even the Grinch would have loved this story.

The board of directors for SMLT counts on the public to help support performing arts by donating their time and money, and they are grateful at the outpouring of support—mostly coming from people who have seen a production and understand the time, energy, and continued ... 53
Georgia Governor Kemp and Marty Kemp, Sugar and CB Yadav in St. Marys.

dedication it takes to put on high quality shows.

“With the financial help of the community, we can continue to create state-of-the-art performances that we can all be proud of,” said Gloria Hurley, SMLT board member and co-director of Miracle at the North Pole Debra Parsons, SMLT board member, co-director of Miracle at the North Pole, and producer of Call of the Swamp said, “We have the talent. We have the passion. And we have an extraordinary venue. And we are confident that our future productions, like our past ones, will be shining examples of what can happen when altruism, hard work, and unleashed love for the arts join hands.”

For more information about St. Marys Little Theatre, visit or call 912-729-1103. P

Don’t Miss Presented by ST. MARYS LITTLE THEATRE March 3-12, 2023
At Theatre by the Trax Get tickets at or downtown St. Marys at Once Upon a Bookseller
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He was a dead shot with a rifle. He was an infamous cattle rustler. He was a “nefarious villain.” He was Daniel McGirt. Or McGirtt. Or McGirth. Just as there are many versions of this St. Marys resident’s name, there are many versions of his biography. We will present his story so that you can decide whether he was a lawless rogue or a misunderstood Patriot.

Daniel McGirt was probably born in the Camden District of South Carolina in the mid-1700s. He became a trapper and hunter and married into a well-respected family. Legend holds that he served the continued


Georgia Patriot militia as a talented scout during the Revolutionary War until a traumatic episode spurred his defection.

In late 1776, McGirt was scouting for the Americans along the St. Ilia (present-day Satilla) River in Georgia when he came upon a Patriot colonel who coveted his beautiful mare, Grey Goose. Stating a lowly private did not deserve a horse of that quality, the colonel attempted to confiscate the mare. McGirt refused to surrender her, causing the colonel to court-martial, whip, and jail him.

One version of the story states that McGirt escaped, summoning his horse with a sharp whistle. While riding off to join the Loyalists, he roared he would enact “vengeance against all the Americans for his ill treatment.” In another version, he bided his time and when he and his brother were placed on guard duty at Wright’s Fort south of Kingsland, the two stole all the Patriot horses and delivered them to the East Florida Rangers, a Loyalist militia which rewarded McGirt with a promotion to lieutenant colonel. Georgians recount the tale of his defection in a less favorable light, without either the court martial or Grey Goose.

In his new position, McGirt assembled a group of Loyalist refugees and escaped slaves and launched frequent raids against Georgia Patriots as far north as Savannah. He ravaged South Georgia plantations for several years, stealing thousands of head of cattle (10,000 in 1777 alone), horses, crops, and everything else of value to supply the British and Loyalists.

At the Revolution’s end, McGirt began to raid indiscriminately, making enemies of both the Spanish and Americans. In 1784, the Spanish jailed him in St. Augustine and confiscated his Florida lands, but he soon escaped and returned to Georgia. He was arrested again in 1795 near the Florida/Georgia border but was soon on the loose once more. In 1787, he was confined in a Cuban prison, but by the next year he was free and back in Florida.

Immediately, he was shipped to the Bahamas. Twice he escaped and twice he was shipped back. In 1797, McGirt,

Daniel McGirt

A St. Marys Turncoat

still actively engaged in banditry, was arrested outside Savannah, but his detention was apparently short-lived. Despite McGirt’s clashes with Spanish officials, the East Florida Governor restored to him land granted to his father years before. This tract is now a valuable piece of Jacksonville real estate, stretching from Roosevelt Mall at Roosevelt Boulevard to the Ortega River, once called McGirt’s Creek. Some even say this river sheltered his pirate ship and its banks housed loot from his raids. A memento of McGirt’s tenure here is McGirts Boulevard, a road stretching along the south bank of the Ortega River.

Just as there are multiple tales of McGirt’s defection, there are several stories surrounding his demise. In one, he was imprisoned in an unlit cell at a St. Augustine fort with only a small opening for receiving food. Here he died after many years of confinement. In another version, he escaped this fort to live out his days among the Native Americans. However, it is most likely

that by the close of the 1700s, he had settled near St. Marys, Georgia, and married a sister of St. Marys founder William Ashley, owner of the land on which Orange Hall now stands. From this home base, McGirt continued his illegal activities until his death, probably in 1804.

Many of these fantastic life events are mere conjecture, mainly because McGirt had instilled such fear among Georgia Patriots that legends grew around him. However, now it is your turn to decide: was Daniel McGirt a wronged Patriot or a self-interested scoundrel? Whichever side you choose, we all can agree that his escapades make for a captivating story.

Molly Silver is owner and tour guide at Molly’s Old South Tours, offering daily tours of St. Marys and Cumberland Island. Learn more about McGirt and the murder and chaos that took place in St. Marys on a Murder, Mayhem, and Martinis Walking Tour. For information and reservations, visit or call 904-735-8243.

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, aworld-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”!

A 912-729-1103 Visit to hear what other producers have to say about filming in Coastal Georgia. 61
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Did you know?

Best Life voted St. Marys as “one of the 10 Best Small U.S. Towns you need to visit if you’re over 60.”

Mary Willenborg and Edward F. Buyniski in Key West, FL. Roberto Partida, Grand Cayman, BWI. Terri Perkins, Biltmore House, Asheville, NC. Sam Lockamy and Cassie Clayton, St. Augustine, FL. Dianne and Ed Torgensen at Saint Paul Cathedral, London, England.
Linda and Mike Hebert and Terry and Charlie Chasse at Boothbay Botanical Gardens, Maine.
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. • 78 guestrooms including 40 suites • Fitness Center • Complimentary Business Center • More than 3500 Square Feet of Meeting Space • Free Continental Breakfast 800.768.6250 912.882.6250 I-95 GA ExIt 3 EAst • 2710 OsbOrnE rOAd • st. MArys, GA • surEstAyplusbwsAIntMArys cOM spEcIAl rAtEs ArE OffErEd tO Our ExtEndEd-stAy GuEsts, As wEll As fOr GrOups thAt bOOk Our lArGE cOnfErEncE ArEA. St. Marys • Cumberland Island • Kingsland Attractions include: Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Cumberland Island, Crooked River State Park, Jekyll Island, Amelia Island in northeast Florida and Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base.