Category Archives: Liberty County

Old Screven House at Sunbury

screven house

Old Screven House at Sunbury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Special Museum Historical Edition

Published in the Liberty County Herald Hinesviile GA on November 26, 1959

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Posted by on January 8, 2014 in Liberty County, Link, Midway Museum


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Sunbury Was Once Prominent Port in Trade with West Indies

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

SOURCE: Liberty County Herald November 26, 1959

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


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Stewart-Screven Monument / Dedication 1915

The unveiling of the Stewart-Screven Monument in 1915 — at Historic Midway Cemetery, Midway GA

The unveiling of the Stewart-Screven Monument in 1915
— at Historic Midway Cemetery, Midway GA

Stewart-Screven Monument / Dedication 1915


An event of state-wide interest is that of the unveiling, on April 26, of the handsome monument erected by the United States government at old Midway church, in Liberty county to those two gallant generals of the war of the revolution, General Daniel Stewart and General James Screven, who lie buried in this historic churchyard.

The monument, which was erected at a cost of more than $10,000, stands in the main walk which runs through the center of the graveyard, with General Stewart’s grave lying to the left and General Screven’s to the right.

Extensive preparations have been made for the unveiling. Governor Slaton and his staff have been invited; the two United States senators from Georgia, the Georgia congressmen, the members of the Georgia legislature and the statehouse officers. Adjutant General J. Van Holt Nash will accompany the Georgia Hussars of Savannah, who will attend in a body; also the Savannah Volunteer guards and other militia organizations.

Colonel W.C. Langfill, United States engineer, will formally turn the monument over to Chairman N.J. Norman, who will preside at the unveiling. Colonel A.S. Way, of Liberty county, has been selected to speak for the descendants of the old Midway society. He will be followed by Congressman Charles G. Edwards, who after a short address will introduce the national speaker. This will be some one chosen by President Wilson to represent him upon this occasion.

This tardy recognition by the United States government of the heroic reviee rendered their country in the struggle for independance by these two generals (service in which General Screven lost his life) encourages the Daugthers of the American Revolution to hope that some day, with the help of the government, all of Georgia’s important revolutionary battlefields and all of the graves of our revolutionary heroes may be splendidly marked. It is a duty we owe to those who won for us liberty and independence.

Source: The Atlanta Constitition, April 18, 1915, page 5

To be unveiled at Midway, Liberty County, Monday, April 26

Savannah, Ga., April 21. — [Special] — Every detail has been prepared for the unveiling tomorrow of an imposing granite memorial to two of her heroes of Liberty county, “the cradle of liberty” and historic old Midway. Today the monument is shrouded within the Stars and Stripes. Tomorrow, released by the fair hands of Miss Helen Quarterman and Miss Eliza Maxwell Stevens, two of the thirteen sponsors, the folds of Old Glory will fall away and reveal fitting testimony of the reincarnation of the spirit of the patriots in those which have been instrumental in erecting the memorial to two famous Georgians, that their names and deeds might be prepetuated to posterity.

The first ceremonies of the day will begin at 11 o’clock. Judge Newton J. Norman, president of the Stewart-Screven monument commission will be master of ceremonies and introduce the several speakers. With him on the platform, besides the speakers, will be seated the thirteen sponsors, practically all of whom are direct descendants of either General James Screven or General Daniel Stewart; twenty members of the monument commission; Mrs. W.L. Wilson and four others officers of the Georgia Society, Colonial Dames of America; Judge Richard B. Russell of the state court of appeals; Adjutant General J. Van Holt Nash, and Major General Walter harris, of the state military department; William harden, secretary of the Sons of the Revolution; Colonel G. Noble Jones, president of the Society of the Colonial Wars; Miss Margaret A. cosens, regent of the Lachlan McIntosh chapter, and Mrs. J.S. Wood, regent of the Savannah chapter, D.A.R., George F. Tennille, representing the Society of the Cincinnati; Captain George W. Drummond, representing the Sons of the American Revolution, and a few others guests.

The ceremonies will open with the presentation of the tablet commemorating the restormation of a portion of the wall surrounding the Midway cemetery, by General Peter W. Meldrim, president of the American Bar association for the Georgia Society of Colonial Dames.

colonel J.B. Way, of Hinesville, will make the speech of acceptance for the Midway society. At the conclution of this feature, an hour or more will be devoted to a basket picnic on the grounds. Thirteen fair young sponsors will participate in theunveiling of the Stewart-Screven monument at 1 o’clock.

Source: The Atlanta Constitution, April 25, 1915, page B8


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Midway Congregational Church

Oldest Church in Georgia

The old Midway church, in Liberty County, Ga., still standing, had for its pastor between 1785 and 1791 Dr. Abiel Holmes, the father of Oliver Wendell Homes, and when President Washington paid his celebrated visit to Georgia in 1790, Dr. Holmes was made the chairman of the committee appointed by the congregation of Old Midway church to greet him. Dr. Joseph LeConte, professor of chemistry in the University of California, says a correspondent of the Boston Transcript, “is one of the products of the Midway church. So also is United States Senator A.O. Bacon, and many people will be surprised to know that Governor Theodore Roosevelt, of New York, is also of this same stock, deriving his connection with Old Midway church through his mother, who was born in Liberty County, and whose progenitors were prominent and influential members of the church.

The Marion County Patriot, August 24, 1900, Page Two


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Sunbury Colonial Cemetery

Sunbury Colonial Cemetery
Sunbury, Georgia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ann Martha Law
Death: Oct 1, 1825

Sarah Law
Death: Dec 17, 1822
16 years.

Samuel Ed
Death: Sept 28, 1820

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

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

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

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

Thomas Barrett Law
June 7, 1836
Aged 12 months.

Matilda Emma Fleming
Death Oct 5,1852
4 years

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

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

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

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

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


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Lambert Plantation

Patriarchy and Paternalism in Liberty County: John Lambert and Charles Colcock Jones

The First Great Awakening took place during the middle third of the eighteenth century, and it created an emotional, inward looking spirituality in individuals who considered themselves to be simply going through the motions of established religious worship without a sense of true salvation.  Charismatic, evangelist preachers such as George Whitefield led this awakening of the spirit and touched the souls of plantation owners and slaves alike.

In Liberty County, slaves in the tidewater planting region maintained communication and relationships with each other as they paddled along rivers and creeks and traveled over land on a network of pathways and trails, sometimes on official plantation business, other times in secret.  In this way, the local Gullah culture grew and enriched the slaves’ lives to the extent that a person’s life in bondage could be.  To further enhance his slaves’ lives and to cultivate their souls, John Lambert, spiritually awakened as so many others had been, brought religion to his plantation every week.

Map #159 GCCL, Liberty County – Lambert Plantation by William Hughes, no date.  This map shows the “Old Lambert Tract” after it was sold to the Maxwell family, ca. 1846.

Lambert moved from South Carolina and established his Liberty County plantation in 1784 for which he hired a free black named Mingo to come weekly and preach to the slaves.  More important, however, was what Lambert did upon his death.  In his will, he requested that his estate “be kept together and the yearly income applied to any good purpose at the discretion of my executors and trustees, for the relief of the poor and distressed.”  It was Lambert’s last duty as a Liberty County patriarch, a respected authority figure who, like a father caring for his children,  left the community something with which to carry on.

The original thirty-one slaves and their descendants worked for the next fifty years until the Lambert trustees determined that the plantation became too much to manage and decided to sell the land and slaves.  During that period, the slaves of Lambert worked free of white oversight except for the infrequent visits of the trustees’ overseer.  Because of this, Lambert Plantation became a center of Gullah life where old traditions, immersed in magic and superstition, thrived and mixed with Christian practice.  It was precisely this secret world that another “awakened” slave owner sought to influence with the word of God.

SOURCE: Georgia Historical Society

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Posted by on February 21, 2013 in Liberty County


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