RV Trip 6.5 – Pin Point Heritage Museum, Fort McAllister, Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation – Dec 26-28, 2019.

We crossed Moon River (yes, the one from the song) from Skidaway Island and decided to stop to see the Pin Point Heritage Museum. We were lucky on our timing as a guided tour was about to begin and we got a guide that had lived most of his life in the community. The museum shows you an oyster and blue crab processing factory as well as giving you background on the Gullah/Geechee community who worked at the factory and lived in Pin Point. The sequence for the guided tour included the following:

  • The Crab Boiling station where they would put 500 lbs of crabs into a large steel container with a small amount of vinegar and salt. He said after they finished drinking some rum and beer then the boil was done😉 He also explained how to distinguish between the male and the female crabs.
  • Next we went to the Picking and Cooling house. The boiled crabs would be placed on ice on tables overnight and then the ladies would do the picking the next morning to put the crab meat into small circular jars with glass tops. They were paid based on the number of pounds of crab they picked in a day.
  • The oyster factory was down by the marsh edge and we saw the flat-bottomed Bateau boats that the fishermen used to bring in the oysters. They would use pitch forks to load the oysters into troughs that would use gravity to send the oysters inside where the women would do the shucking. The empty shells would drop through another shoot under the troughs and then they would take those shells back out to marsh to be used as base for subsequent oyster growth.
  • The shucked oysters would be passed in buckets through to the washing area and the women were again paid by how many buckets they had shucked. After washing the oysters were soaked in ice water to “plumb” them up before putting them in the cans again with clear tops.
  • Lastly, they were put into the cooling an storage area for shipment. Their ice was shipped to them from Savannah until later on when they eventually got their own ice making equipment.

You really got a good understanding of the process steps as the guide was so knowledgeable. The plant was eventually closed in 1985 and then it was made into a museum in 2011. Here are a few fun facts about Oysters:

  • They grow 1 inch per year, the Georgia harvesting size is 3 inches.
  • A Female oyster can lay 100 million eggs per season.
  • An oyster can filter 2.5 gallons of water per hour.
  • 80% of the Oysters weight comes from the shell.

After seeing the factory areas they had a separate building that described the Gullah/Geechee community. These were two tribes that came from West Africa as slaves and once free they were able to buy land which created the community of Pin Point.  The oyster and crab business that Algernon Varn established employed people from the community.  It was a very hard life for the people, but they had a tremendous community spirit. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas grew up in this community and the people are very proud of that.

Our next location for two nights (in two different campsites) was Fort McAllister. After we checked in, we had a short walk around the campground before it got dark. The campground was on Savage Island which was across a causeway from the main office. We walked the Magnolia trail in the morning after moving to our new campsite. We absolutely love the Spanish Moss on the trees in this area, it’s also known as grandpa’s beard. It’s actually a member of the pineapple family and is not a true moss but instead an air plant or epiphytic flowering plant. It grows on any tree that the wind carries it to and gets its nourishment from the air, sun, and rain. You will often see it on the Live Oak and Cypress trees. This trail would have been fun for kids as they had exercise stations where the kids were supposed to do some animal like exercises, we tried a few of them😉

In the afternoon we setup the bikes so we could ride back over to the museum and Fort McAllister. The civil war history of this fort was quite interesting. Fort McAllister was the southernmost and most active Confederate fortifications in Savannah’s defenses. The interesting thing was that the fort was of earthenwork construction, walls with mounds of sand and mud instead of concrete or other formed walls and in fact this was much better suited to surviving canon blasts. The earth mounds could absorb the impact of cannon fire and simply be filled back in overnight to protect against the next attack.

The Civil War began in April of 1861 when the Confederate states troops (for slavery) fired on the US Union troops (against slavery) in Fort Sumter by Charleston. Joseph McAllister was the owner of the Strathy Hall plantation and offered his property on Genesis Point as a fort location due to its elevated position on Bryan’s Neck leading up to the Ogeechee River. One of the Confederate “runner” supply boats the C.S.S. Nashville tried to get away from the Union ships and actually led the Union ships to the location of Fort McAllister. In 1862 and 1863 many Union ships came up to Genesis Point and bombarded Fort McAllister and eventually the Union forces even sent their ironclad ships like the U.S.S. Montauk to attack the fort with their 13” mortars and 15” smoothbore cannonballs and nothing was able to defeat the Fort from the water side. The Montauk was however able to sink the Nashville as it tried to escape through the Intracoastal. Garrison life was quite quiet at Fort McAllister from February 1863 until December 13th 1864 when General William T. Sherman’s army was trying to reach Savannah and attacked Fort McAllister from the land side and was able to defeat the Fort in just 15 minutes with 134 casualties on the Union side and 48 on the confederate side. Fort McAllister is one of the best preserved Confederate earthwork fortifications. Henry Ford purchased the site in the late 1930’s and did extensive restoration work. In 1958 the International Paper company had purchased the land from the Ford estate and then donated it to the state of Georgia. The earthworks and bombproofs have now been restored to their 1863-1864 appearance. After going through the museum area we continued onto the grounds and did the self guided walking tour.

On the move to our next booking at Jekyll Island, the playground for the rich in the early 1900s.  Since we were going to be at Jekyll Island over New Years we stopped to stock up on some libations and groceries.  We certainly had service at the Publix grocery story, they packed the groceries, pushed the cart to the RV and even put the bags into the RV!!  Is this normal Publix service or are we getting old??

We stopped at the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, a State Historical Site enroute.  Now that we’re Georgia State Park card holders we need to take advantage 😊.  Hofwyl-Broadfield has a long history, starting in 1806 as a rice plantation and in 1849 there were over 357 slaves working the plantation.  In 1850 the house that still stands on the property was built.  During the Civil War the production and sale of rice took a downturn, when the war was over the family was in debt and had to sell some of the property.  They continued to grow rice until 1913 but it wasn’t profitable since they now had to pay the workers (mostly freed slaves).  The family members now running the planation changed to dairy farming which they continued until 1942.  The last remaining family member Ophelia Dent died in 1973, donating the property and building to the state. The Live Oak trees on this plantation were amazing with one being estimated as 800 years old and it had a girth of 28’! We made it just in time to take the ranger guided tour of the house with all it’s original furniture still inside and even the 1970 Olds Cutlass in the garage! After we toured the out buildings and then walked the trail along the marsh area which used to be the rice fields.

Next blog will cover Jekyll Island.

 

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