Notes Concerning the Old Plantation of Fort George Island, Gertrude Rollins Wilson, 1868-69
Mrs. Millar Wilson’s recorded knowledge and thoughts regarding this area
Transcribed on March 13, 2009 by Emily Palmer at the National Parks Service's Kingsley Plantation.
NOTES CONCERNING THE OLD PLANTATION ON FORT GEORGE ISLAND.*
By Gertrude Rollins Wilson.
The property was purchased during the winter of 1868-69 by John F. Rollins of Dover, New Hampshire, from the heirs of Zephaniah Kingsley.
The boundaries were described as, the St. Johns River, Sisters Creek, Fort George Inlet, and the Atlantic Ocean, with a right-of-way over Batten Island.
There was no public road over Fort George Island.
The buildings on the Island were, on the north end, the “Big House” the “Kitchen House”, or as it was called “Ma-am Anna’s House,** the Stable, the circular tabby building on the S.E. of the stable called the “grist Mill”, the foundations of which are now buried but not destroyed, the old well, the quarters houses and the remains of the old fort on the extreme N.W. point of the Island on the west side of Fish Creek.
On the west side of the Island about one mile from the south end was the remains of what was probably the village of San Juan, consisting of a grist mill, foundations of houses, excavations which may have been the underground portions of Indians teepees, ditches for drainage, a boatlanding called Hickory Landing and a “dam” or causeway between the extreme westerly points of land on either side of the “branch” or inlet. These vestiges remain to this day.
Note: *Reproduced without editing. This was Mrs. Millar Wilson’s (Nee Gertrude Rollins) recorded knowledge and thoughts regarding this interesting area. She was the daughter of John F. Rollins of Dover, New Hampshire who made changes in the Kingsley House and occupied it as a residence. Probably the period dates were inserted by someone other than Mrs. Wilson.
Note: **This house is now called the Anna Jai House inasmuch as Ma-am Anna’s name was Anna Madagegine Jai, said to have been a native princess of Madagascar.
On the south end of the Island was the ruin called the Tabby House or Ghost House.*** The shell mounds, said to be forty feet high, were intact and many relics were found in them when the shell was removed to pave the roads.
There were two Indian burial mounds on the Island both intact.
There was a tabby ruin on Batten Island and several houses occupied by pilots notably those of Capt’ Houston and Capt’ Johnson. Capt’ Latimer and Capt’la Mae may have lived there at this time also.
The tombs were unmarked and lost in the forest.
There was a cemetery on the west side of the “Big House” the site now marked by a group of trees.
The Island was entirely cleared on the west side except for occasional wind- breaks, (strips of forest left uncleared to cut off the North winds.) There were large fields on the north called the Sand Fields and larger fields on the east called the Cotton Fields. All these fields were under cultivation up to, and during the Civil War. There were ditches and remains of corn hills all through the woods on the north end of the island and about the ruins of San Juan showing that other portions of the Island had been under cultivation in some remote past. At this time, 1869, large trees grew in these ditches and over the old corn hills.
The Quarters Houses were intact and many negroes still lived in them. Andrew Fielding who had possibly been a driver, (head of a gang of slaves,)
Note***This house is now (1957) generally known as the Muncilla House and was given to Rollins College by the Ribault Club. The College in turn gave it and the Bird and Plant Sanctuary area to the State of Florida.
Duval County gave the State the Indian mound area lying to the west of the Muncillia House.
A deed dated July 20, 1831, filed August 19, 1836 from Zephaniah Kingsley to George Kingsley contains a provision that “Munsilina McGundo and her daughter Fatima shall possess the use of her house and four acres of land- also, rations – during life. Remarks- Further consideration and 10 years service.”
Was in charge of the place and lived with his wife and several children in the cabin on the extreme east of the semi-circle. Uncle Isaac Warfield with his wife Auntie Warfield and several children , Dilsey and Malinda were two of the girls, lived in the drivers cabin east of palmetto avenue and a man named Polite and his wife Charlotte and their family also lived on the east side. Uncle Jim Long probably lived on the west side in the large cabin next to Palmetto Avenue, he afterward moved to the “Dingle” cabin on the extreme west of the semi-circle. Aunt Celie lived on the west side and also a woman named Belle. Many others remained in the cabins, most of them on the east side, but their names are forgotten.
On the north end of Talbot Island the Lewis Christopher plantation was deserted except for negroes, Uncle Tom Christopher and his wife Aunt Katie and their children, George, Hannah, called Tannie, Tom, John, Lewis, and Christopher, called Christopher Lewis, remained there and Aunt Betsey and her daughter, Georgia lived near-by. On the south end of Talbot the Houston plantation was extant and Mrs. Houston, always spoken of as “Lady Houston” or “Old Lady Houston” lived there. Among her negroes were Aunt Julia and “Tiger Henry” of whom it was said that “he never was free”. Aunt Betsey was said to whip him occasionally when he “got upish”.
The Broward plantation remained at Cedar Point and a family of Grissoms lived either there or near-by and there were Grissom negroes who were related to the Christopher negroes, notably Maddie Grissom and her sister.
The plantation house of Fort George called the, Big House, consisted of the central two story building and the 4 corner rooms, the central first floor room was divided by large folding doors at a point where the hall wall now stands and the two double doors of white paneled wood were in place of the present single walnut doors which opened on to the north and south piazzas. There was another chimney and fireplace on the west of the living room exactly like the one on the east. There was a chimney and fireplace in each of the four corner rooms.
The second floor remains about as it was at that time except that the stairs entered the upper hall where now the window stands, and of course, there was no bath room.
The attic contained two prisons with iron bars in the two small windows which gave, not outside, but on to the small hall between the prisons. The doors were heavily studded with nails and had large strap hinges and padlocks. There was an oak post in the center of each prison more or less studded with nails. These prisons may be reached by opening the trap door which still remains in the ceiling of the bath room in the second story.
The stairs to the second story ran up from the south porch and the entrance to the attic was from the hall with a narrow staircase up to the look out which was said to have been used, not only to look for approaching vessels, but also to keep watch for Indians and upon all the activities of the plantation. It was said that timely warning of the approach of visitors was thus secured and that the plantation was never unprepared for either friends or foes.
The basement or cellar was dry and well lighted and was arranged for constant use. The kitchen which had a large fireplace was under the S. E. room, food being carried up a stairway which was placed under the stairway on the south piazza. Meals were probably served either on the piazza or in the living room. A large and very heavy pine table remained in the living room, it was of home construction and may have been used as a dining table.
The S. W. basement was a storeroom and had a vestibule where the servants waited to receive their rations. The N. W. room was concealed, having no entrance from the inside and having steps and a double door between the two corner rooms on the west; this entrance was so carefully concealed by oleander trees that it was not discovered for some time. This room was said to have been used for the storage of contraband goods. The old stillage now in the cellar was found there.
There was no covered walk between the two houses but a tabby pavement after 1860-1869 connected them bordered by oleanders, crepe myrtle and orange trees.
Ma-am Anna’s House was about as at present except that the roof of the piazza did not connect with the main roof but stopped under the second story windows the stairs having the usual roof over them protruding from the piazza roof. The north room was at that time divided into two rooms, probably used as parlor and sitting room.
The front south room may have been Ma-am Anna’s dining room and the room back of it the kitchen but the large size of the fireplace in the front room would suggest the reverse. On the second floor there were only two rooms with a landing between and the north room did not contain the pine cupboards. The north room was supposed to have been Ma-am Anna’s room, the one on the south being used for the children.
The stable consisted of the tabby building and the white brick building. The door of the tabby building was small and had a latticed gate somewhat similar to the gates remaining in the cellar.
The stocks were bolted to the floor in the second story of the brick building and the “whipping post” was just outside the door of this building in the angle of the two buildings, (perhaps it was only a hitching post).
There was a white picket fence all around the two houses, its extent being the line of cedars on the east, turning west about where the small garage or school house now stands, the west line was inside of the old hickory tree. On the north of the “Big House” a tabby walk ran to the river which was probably three times as far from the house as at present. In the center of this walk was a circular erection about three feet high said to be used either for smudges or for signal fires. As it was large for smudges opinion favored the idea that it was for signal fires. Probably it was used for both purposes.
The picket fence may have crossed the front of the house near this place.
The N.E. room of the “Big House” bore the marks of grape shot and several shot and unexploded shells were picked up nearby.
The old well was in use having a sweep and bucket. It was known and used by all the whites and negroes of the neighborhood.
Cherry-laurel trees grew on either side of the walk to the river with mulberry trees on the west, and further on a fine grove of old and prolific lemon trees. West of Ma-am Anna’s House were orange trees and the remains of a flower garden screened from the cemetery by a thick hedge of bitter-sweet orange trees.
In the cemetery grew narcissus, jonquils, old rose bushes and a very tall date palm tree.
On the south was a grove of purple and white fig trees and on the east the cedar trees had been planted as a hedge but had long outgrown their purpose.
In front of Ma-am Anna’s House was a large group of bananas, several large orange trees and crepe myrtle trees. In the yard between the two houses was the remains of a somewhat formal planting, a century plant, lantanas &c.
Outside of the fence the avenue of cedars running east was in its prime, laurel oaks formed an avenue to the stables and also towards the quarters as far as the knoll where the club gate now stands, beyond this there were no large shade trees except the live oak about half way to the quarters and another near the west center cabin. These two trees were in their prime and nearly as large as at present.
There were thirty-four cabins in the semi-circle and there was a fig tree in front of each cabin. There were several wells in front of the cabins; it was said that there was a well for each pair of cabins. There were small gardens back of the cabins.
Palmetto Avenue reached from the quarters to the first “branch” or small stream, it was plainly unfinished as the planting was incomplete at either end.
Pride-of-India trees grew about the mule yard back of the stable and about the site of the grist mill.
The crops planted up to and during the war were largely corn, cotton, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, (possibly rice,) watermelons, oranges, lemons, figs, bananas, mulberries, plums, grapes, peaches, garden truck and perhaps peanuts, guavas and indigo.
There was no road to Pilot Town on the east, the road from the house eastward leading only to the Sandfields and Cotton fields. The route through the Island, south, was along Palmetto Avenue crossing the “Big Branch” by the old dyke much further west than at present. This dyke was narrow and impassable for wheeled vehicles at this time although it may have been wider at an earlier period. This dyke or “dam” can still be seen with the old oak **trunk in place.
Note:**A trunk is a timber structure built to control water in a rice field. CHS
The following “Historical Surmises” are also by Mrs. Gertrude Rollins Wilson and are the result of her keen interest and perception of this Island, which was the place of her birth.
It is probable that the oldest buildings on the Islands are the three tabby houses, one at Pilot Town, now destroyed, one on the south end of Ft. George and one at the north end. These were probably the three Spanish missions with the village of San Juan situated between the last two.
There being almost no communication with the outside world the catholic fathers utilized the materials at hand, oyster shells, lime made from burned shell and had hewn timber from the forest. These missions with the village were burned by the British.
A glance at the two plantation houses would suggest a later period. The mixed material in the basement of the “Big House” would suggest that they were taken from some older structure, possibly the fort or other buildings of that time. The coquina was undoubtedly brought from St. Augustine either by the Spanish or by McQueen or McIntosh while the red brick may have been brought from Georgia by the British or one of the Scotchmen. Man-am Anna’s House is constructed largely of white brick as is the second part of the stable. It has been suggested that this brick was made on the place but no vestige of a brick yard has ever been discovered.
It is notable that much of the red brick is in the form of bats while the white brick is almost all perfect.
It is suggested that after the Spanish mission was destroyed the British utilized the materials for buildings connected with the fort and that afterward the planters continued this habit bringing in fresh materials when necessary.
The age of the trees in the avenues and about the place would suggest that most of the ornamental planting was done during Kingsleys time and not before.
The construction and material of the tombs is like that of the tombs at Frederica and therefore they probably belong to that period of the British occupation and contained the bodies of soldiers or even officers who were killed or died at the fort. The two marble tablets were placed on the tombs at a later period, about 1880, and are not authentic. If these persons were buried on the Island they were probably placed in the family cemetery.
The cemetery contained graves that were understood to be those of white persons who died on the Island and possibly some from Batten Island. It was probably the private burying ground of the different owners of the plantation. The Houston Family have a similar cemetery on the Houston plantation on Talbot which has been used up to a very recent date.
All marks and stones remaining about the cemetery were carefully buried on the site by Mr. Rollins. It might be instructive to excavate them.
The following “Fort George During 1869 and Afterward” was also written by Mrs. Gertrude Rollins Wilson.”
FORT GEORGE DURING 1869 AND AFTERWARDS
Upon taking possession of the property Mr. Rollins made certain changes; adding two rooms to the Big House by connecting the corner rooms on the east and west removing the chimney on the west and also several other chimneys erroneously believing that the mild winter of that year was typical of all Florida winters.
The latticed walk between the two houses was built at this time and the clapboard addition to the stable for a carriage house.
The north room in Ma-am Anna’s House was converted into a dining room and the other rooms into kitchen and laundry respectively. It was at this time that the house lost its name of Ma-am Anna’s House and became the Kitchen House.
The upper, north room of this house became the plantation office and the pine cupboards were built, while the south room was reserved for the white foreman.
On the waterfront a dock was built with a boathouse and bathing place, most unfortunately the tabby from the most ruined quarters houses on the west side of the semi-circle was used to build this boathouse. No one regretted this in later years more than Mr. Rollins nor did he cease to regret the strap hinges and wooden latches that, in the first rush of repairs and improvement were replaced by modern hinges and white china knobs.
A double row of cedar trees were planted in a wide sweep to make an approach to the north porch of the house. A few of these trees remain but most of them have fallen into the river.
“Home Avenue” from the house south to the quarters was planted and also a windbreak of cedars from the house west to the marsh.
The cemetery was leveled and all landmarks buried. The land on that side of the place was planted in nursery stock for the orange groves up to the line of bittersweet orange trees which defined the cemetery. The site of the cemetery was left undisturbed and beyond it was placed a garden for small fruits and vegetables.
All the land south of Cedar Avenue was planted in orange trees to a line drawn from the most easterly quarters house to Home Avenue where a windbreak of pine trees was placed. South of this windbreak sweet potatoes and corn was usually planted.
The pecan grove was planted and, the land on this side being very moist at that time, the remainder was devoted to sugar cane and watermelons.
South of the Quarters, on the east, several acres were planted in grapes and mulberries and all the rest of the fields on the west side of the Island were planted to larger crops of corn, cotton, sweet potatoes and sugarcane.
The young orange trees in the nursery were budded from the old tree found on the place and these became the “Fort George Orange” which was well known and for many years brought especially good prices. These trees maintained the plantation from the time they came into bearing until the great freeze destroyed them.
A flower garden was made west of the walk between the two houses. A path was made from each of the two doors meeting some distance away forming a triangle these paths were bordered on either side by rose beds and an arbor of cedar wood was placed at the apex of the triangle over which were trained Macartney and Perle-des-Jardens roses. In this garden grew Paul Neyron, John Hopper, Bon Silene, Zelia Pradel, Safrano, General Jacqueminot, Marechal Niel, and several old moss roses that may have been survivors from an older garden. Narcissus was brought from the cemetery, and jonquils and fairy lilies and snow drops (Snow flakes). Gardinias were planted along the Kitchen House wall and English ivy soon covered the wall and twined about the lattice of the walk.
In the Autumn of that year Mrs. Rollins came south with her two small sons Paul and Onslow riding to the plantation from Pilot Town on horseback. The family arranged to occupy the west rooms but during the first night a wildcat jumped from the branches of a large mulberry tree, which grew close to that side of the house, onto the roof disturbing all the new arrivals with its frightening crys. The family moved into the east rooms the next morning, the S.W. room was made into a storeroom or as it was called “pressroom” and the other rooms were reserved for masculine members of the family.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Rollins were keen horticulturalists and experiments were made with many new varieties of plants, among them, the then new, Mandarin orange and the Shaddock which was afterward to become the grapefruit. An apple tree was planted which survived many years and became almost evergreen, blossomed at strange times of the year and finally bore one withered little apple which Mr. Rollins, oddly enough, carefully packed in cotton and sent to his mother who lived in the veritable home of apples in New Hampshire.
Through the friendship of Dr. George Hall many rare plants from Japan and China were imported, azaleas, palms, conifers, and it is probable that the honey-suckle, Lonicera halliana, named for Dr. Hall was first planted here. This plant has now become naturalized all over the Eastern States.
A group of Swedes under a native interpreter was imported at no little expense in the hope of establishing a colony but these people all ran away one after another without working out their passage money again exhibiting what has so often been proved in the past that this method of settling the state is impracticable.
General farming proving a failure and the orange groves not yet in bearing Mr. Rollins turned to other methods of developing the property.
A company was formed called the Ft. George Hotel Company the members being three friends Mr. Porter, Dr. Hall and Mr. Rollins. Two hotels were built, one on the site of the Ribault Club and one on the beach facing the St. John River. A dock was built at Pilot Town and another in front of the Beach House and a comfortable steamer, the Water Lily, made daily trips between Jacksonville and the Island.
A bridge was built over Haulover creek near the Ft. George Hotel and carriages were able to pass between the hotels along a beach as fine as that now on Little Talbot. Little Talbot beach ended in a slender point about opposite the Ft. George Hotel, therefore the hotel was nearly opposite the bar of the Inlet and Ft. George beach swept in a curve towards the St. Johns bar.
The avenue called Edgewood was cut through the east side of the Island and most of the avenues now in existence were made at this time. The Sidney map was made and many lots sold, several houses were built that were considered very fine. The lots were large ranging from 4 up to 50 acres in extent. These places were planted extensively in orange groves, vineyards or other income bearing crops, gardens were planted about the houses and the little colony took on a most flourishing aspect.
The owners of the new homes beginning at the hotel and looking southward were first Mr. John Stuart with his wife and two daughters Ellen and Marion, The next house was built by Capt’, afterward Admiral P.H. Cooper and his wife and son, Mrs. Ward built the third house for a son by a former marriage, William Stuart, Mr. Stuart was married and had one son, also named William, Mr. Stuarts brother Robert, unmarried at this time lived with him. The next house belonged to Dr. and Mrs. Robert E. Turner who were also relations of the Stuart family.
Dr. Hall bought next to the Turners and determined to build an exact copy of the old plantation house teasingly informing Mrs. Rollins that in time to come it would be impossible to determine which was the original place. He actually built one room exactly like one of the corner rooms of the old house but in deference the earnest protestations of Mrs. Rollins discontinued building and the house was never finished. This room now forms a part of Mrs. Manning’s house.
Mr. Francis Weston a nephew of Mrs. Rollins built a small house on his place called Tanglewood and Mr. Parker built next to him for his daughter Eunice and her husband William Lownes. The Barkers were friend of the Westons and came from Upland Penna’ Miss. Anna Lownes spent the Winters with her brother and was said to be engaged to Mr. Weston but neither of them ever married.
Mrs. Ward built and endowed the church and Mr. Porter reserved all the land south of the church on Edgewood Avenue for himself although he never built on it.
Mr. McIntyre bought the lots on the S.W. of the Island facing on Palmetto Avenue and built a small house. Most of the property owners bought lots on Palmetto Avenue and built quarters houses for their servants. The last member of the colony was Mr. George Fletcher who built a small house near the hotel and bought his two sisters Ellen and Annie down to live with him.
An observatory, a structure three stories in height, was built on Mount Cornelia from which an extensive view of the ocean and the surrounding country was secured.
A photograph of the Hotel, as it then appeared, is extant and there is also a pamphlet issued by the company.
A man named Randlet was manager of the hotel, he also managed a hotel in Bethelem in the White Mountains.
Mr. and Mrs. Keeler lived at Mayport with their son “Eddie” and daughter “Lizzie”, the Keelers were friends of the Rollins family and frequently visit the Island.
The daily gathering at the dock when the mailboat came in was the fashionable hour of the colony, the residents drove over with the fastest horses and the finest equipment they could muster, in “double carriages,” in pheatons with fringe around the top, in high yellow dog carts, in single traps, with pairs of horses, with single high stepping trotters and on horse back, while their negroes brought two wheeled dump carts with brightly painted wheels, their fine mules wearing shining harness decorated with brass buckles and ornaments.
As soon as the mail was distributed there began a wild race for home each of the gentlemen drivers striving to pass his neighbor and the negroes hastily piling their freight in their carts, followed suit, in a race, if not as swift, equally as exciting. The hotel sent a “carryall” or omnibus to meet the boat and also kept carriages and saddle horses for rent so that many of the guests joined the evening throng. Mr. William Stuart hitched his fine pair of bays tandem, to a bright yellow dogcart with harness to match much to the chagrin of his rivals, especially Mr. Lownes who had been rather in the lead with a particularly fine carriage and pair of greys.
Many of the old negroes remained at the “Homestead” as the plantation was now called, as house servants and fieldhands. Dilsey Warfield was sent north to be raised in the home of Mr. Edward Rollins where she remained until grown when she returned to Jacksonville. George Christopher was taken by Dr. Sibal of Jacksonville and remained with him until his death, Tannie Christopher was taken by Mrs. Rollins at the Homestead and remained with her until her Tannie Married. Annia her sister was sent to the Missis Rollins at Rollinsford N.H. and remained with them until she married. Other negroes found employment either at the new house or at the hotel.
It was a time of youth, gaiety and prosperity which soon ended.
A period of depression set in, possibly caused by one of the occasional epidemics of small pox or yellow fever which at that time visited the State, northern visitors did not come south in sufficient numbers to support the enterprise and the two hotels remained closed for several years.
In 1886 a new hotel company was formed in Boston, this company assumed the mortgage held by the Rollins family and purchased about 650 acres of land on the Island including a part of the Outer Beach.
This company built a large addition to the old hotel which was spoken of as the “new hotel” thus giving rise to the belief that there were two separate hotels built on the main Island. A picture showing the new building with the old hotel on the left can be found in Golds History of Duval County. The addition was larger than the old building which was utilized as diningroom and office in the new construction.
The Beach House was not included in the purchase and was not occupied.
The new hotel was opened with great enthusiasm and a brilliant season ensued. Mr. O.S. Marden, afterward editor of Success Magazine, was manager and every plan was made to reopen the following year. Unfortunately during the summer the caretaker, Tom Christopher who lived in the rear of the hotel, by some accident, upset his stove and the whole structure burned to the ground. It was discovered that the insurance had been allowed to lapse and therefore, the company having expended its available funds, did not rebuild but held the property intact until it was purchased by the Ribault club.
At the time of the formation of the second hotel company the property called the “Homestead” consisting of about 217 acres, the site of the Beach House and several other parcels of land were reserved by the Rollins family.
A fence was placed around the Homestead and three gates erected which were locked occasionally to maintain rights over the avenues. These gates were placed, one at the extreme north east of the property on what was called the Sandfield Road, another on Moss Avenue, the present entrance to the Ft. George Club, and a third at the end of Palmetto Avenue. No right-of-way was ever allowed through the Homestead until after the sale to the Ft. George Club.
The Hotel Company placed a fence along the southern boundary of the Island with a gate on the causeway to Batten Island and kept this gate closed at all times as long as the hotel was in operation. This gate was closed occasionally to maintain possession of the road until some years later when, at the solicitation of property owners in Pilot Town the road was taken over by the County. This road ran along Edgewood Avenue and Moss Avenue up to a point a few yards from the Homestead gate where it turned north and ran along outside the Homestead line to a landing on the north shore of the Inlet where a public landing was made for persons wishing to go to Talbot Island.
At this time certain changes were made in the houses at the Homestead. (1886) The central room in the main house was divided as at present and the stairs were moved inside, the walnut doors were substituted for the large folding doors in the hall. A windmill was erected with an octagon shaped tank house three stories high. The supply of water from the old well was so plentiful at that time that not only was there ample water for the houses but fountains were placed on the lawn and connections made for watering the garden and lawns.
The little school house was built. This was one of the early portable houses and, as it was used on Sundays when the Bishop visited the Homestead, Bishop Weed consecrated it. It has been suggested that as this building is now used for secular purposes it would be advisable to dismantle it.
It was about this time that the first jetty was built on the St. Johns bar which has materially changed the contour of the Outer Beach, the contract for this jetty was secured by Capt. afterward, Major Charles Holmes and Capt. Ross who had made mattresses of the boughs of trees towing them to the site of the jetty and sinking them with stones brought from the north.
Some years after the hotel was burned the brick from the foundation was bought by Mr. Millar Wilson and placed on the river bank in front of the Homestead as a breakwater.
Palmetto Avenue was completed from the quarters to the Southern gate of the Homestead soon after the gate was erected at that point.
The marble tablet in Paul’s Tree was placed there by his Father at the time of Paul’s death at the age of 20. Paul was Mr. Rollins eldest son. Each of the Rollins children had a tree which they claimed as their own and about which a small park was maintained. These trees were, in each case, live oaks.
The “Notes” which follow were also made by Mrs. Gertrude Rollins Wilson and shed more light upon the interesting people, places, happenings and changes on Fort George Island and nearby sites.
During the Spanish occupation the Inlet was known as Chico Bayou. The name was changed by the British to Fort George Inlet.
Mud River bore the name Talbot Creek until a very late date. It was named Mud River by some young surveyors who did not take the trouble to ascertain the local name, or possibly consulted passing fishermen or others unfamiliar with the place.
The name of Myrtle Creek was changed in the same way, the old name being Teecoon Creek and the Island on the west bank a short distance from the mouth of the creek was called Teecoon Island. The origin of the name is not known to the writer.
The small creek opposite the Ft. George Club was often called Walker’s Creek, this name was also applied to other creeks, especially one near Amelia Island.
The little creek on the N.W. of the Island was called Fish Creek and the larger one Garden Creek, possibly from its close proximity to the old garden.
Haulover Creek between Fort George and the Outer Beach was so called because there was a divide where the waters of the Inlet met the waters of the St. Johns River and at this point there was a shoal where it was necessary to haul the boats over; hence the name.
The Indian mounds were the burial grounds of the Timuqua Indians who made annual pilgrimages to the Island for oysters. During the long years they heaped up vast piles or oyster shells wherein were found many interesting relics, broken pottery, stone implements and the remains of long dead campfires, while in the two burial mounds, one on the property now owned by Mrs. Blue and the other on that of the Ribault Club were buried many of their dead. These two mounds were opened during the period when the hotels where in operation. Certain authorized persons from the Smithsonian Institute were present when the mound on the Ribault property was opened and many interesting relics were presented to them; notably a necklace of chalk-like beads faintly colored in blue and red.
On a date about the year 1880 an elderly man and his daughter came to the Island in search of the graves of two of their relatives. They brought with them two marble tablets ready to put in place. Mr. Rollins took them to the site of the old cemetery explaining the circumstances and expressing his regret that he could not show them the exact spot where their relations were buried. They were much disappointed and learning of the two tombs in the woods determined to place their tablets upon them.
Mr. Rollins feeling sorry for their disappointment acceded to their request and allowed them to place their tablets on the tombs and to place a barbed wire fence about them. The two visitors went away quite satisfied but Mr. Rollins regretted his complaisance for it caused a great deal of talk which goes on to this day.
The Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials is greatly indebted to the late Mrs. Gertrude Rollins Wilson for her interesting observation and for many other favors having to do with fascinating Fort George Island. Although this material has not been checked historically (1957), it is, nevertheless, very interesting and informative.
Transcribed on March 13, 2009 by Emily Palmer at the National Parks Service’s Kingsley Plantation.
Return to Rollins Family and Recreation Era.