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Glynn County: History and Lore: Ed Green Book:

St. Simons History


In 1961 two authors from Chicago, Eugenia Price and Joyce Blackburn, were on an autographing tour of the south when enroute they visited St. Simons Island. Charmed by its beauty and rich history, they immediately fell in love with it. Later, they were to move here, Eugenia Price writing a trilogy of novels spanning the history of the island. Most of her characters in the Novels - Lighthouse, New Moon Rising, and The Beloved Invader - were real people, whose graves may be visited in Christ Church cemetery. Those lovely stories brought widespread attention to the history and the beauty of St. Simons Island. Visitors flocked here to see the sights and to visit the graves. Many fell in love with the island and its gentle climate, and they too decided to stay.

The author of this little book first visited St. Simons Island in the spring of 1953. It was a chance visit for sightseeing, but discovering camping permitted in the park just north of the village, we put our belongings in a pup-tent, allowing Mrs. Green and me and our three month old baby, Tom, to sleep in the bed prepared in our car. Fond memories of this place included it on our "search list" in 1978 as we sought the best place of all to retire. St. Simons Island won first choice, and we moved into our new home in the summer of 1980. Within a few weeks the three month old baby of 1953, now an adult, returned for a visit bringing his own 3-1/2 week old baby, Daniel, with him. On October 9, 1980, we all gathered in the front lawn of our home for a ceremony, planting a live oak tree in honor of the visit of the baby in his first weeks of life. The baby will be instructed to return in 80 years as an old man to see how the "Daniel Ross Green Live Oak Tree" is doing as it reaches toward maturity.

This enchantment with the beauty, the history, the loveliness of it as a place to live has attracted hundreds of families. With people living to a more advanced age, and with social security and pensions providing a means of livelihood, it was now possible for the retired to move to a more gentle climate, escaping the bitter cold and the snows of the northlands.

Who can say exactly when this Residential Era began, but it reached something of a floodtide in the seventies. The island population grew from 5,346 in 1960; to 6,818 in 1970; to 9,328 in 1980. Some of these new residents are people with a great deal of talent, adding to the educational and cultural life of the island. Many retirees have spent years in business, medicine, law, the military, and other professions which makes them valuable resource persons for the community.

A symbol of the "new south" and the "Residential Era" of the island was very visible on Saturday, December 13, 1980 when all of Glynn County, Brunswick, St. Simons, Jekyll, gathered for "Mack Mattingly Day". Mr. Mattingly, a resident of St. Simons Island, had just been elected United States Senator from Georgia. He is the first Republican to be elected to the Senate from Georgia since Reconstruction days. He had defeated the incumbent, Herman Talmadge, a family long entrenched in Georgia political life. Coming from Indiana twenty years before, a business man in Brunswick, active in Republican politics, he was now becoming the first U.S. Senator from this area. Of course his election was in the wake of the Ronald Reagan presidential landslide and partly as a result of ethics questions about his opponent who seemed to have an overcoat with a magic pocket that "never ran out of money." Fluke or not, St. Simons Island and the entire area felt honored to have a resident in the U.S. Senate. So, organized by the Chamber of Commerce, and supported by almost everyone, Republican and Democrat alike, there was a great parade, speech making, and a barbecue on "Mack Mattingly Day". This, I think, is a symbol of the changing south, and new attitudes which come by an influx of population, and therefore of the Residential Era.

The "developers" have taken advantage of this southern migration as addition after addition of real estate has been platted into residential lots, lovely homes constructed, apartments and condominiums planned. The price of land has kept up with inflation, sparked with this kind of demand. In the 1924-26 first development on Sea Island, an undeveloped corner lot on the beach sold for $200, with an interior lot going for $100. In 1980 the summer real estate folder lists a 150 foot ocean frontage lot at $325,000 and interior lots on the Sea Island Drive at $150,000. "Cottages" at Sea Island have a unique numbering system. Numbers are not according to location, but in chronological order of when they were built. Those with low numbers date back into the late twenties. Those under construction in 1980 include #376 by Judge Griffin B. Bell and #381 by James R. Hewell, Jr., who at 25th Street and the Ocean is building the largest "cottage" on Sea Island. Development is continuing northward of 36th Street and also on St. Simons around the Sea Island Golf Club and the St. Simons Island Club. 1980 prices of these lots were generally in the forty-five to fifty-five thousand dollar price range.

Growth is most likely to continue at a rapid rate as the southern migration continues. There are still miles and miles of wilderness areas on the north end of St. Simons Island ready for development. Hampton Point at the extreme north end on the Hampton river has already been platted and is for sale. A large condominium unit is also projected in this area. With this the residents of the island express concern for the orderly growth, proper zoning, and the preservation of the history and beauty of St. Simons. There are projections for improvement of the causeway. There are those who express the need for a second causeway to the north end of the island. There are those who debate the features of a Master Plan for Development.

Yet, who can really fortell the future? When will this present Residential Era be replaced with another? What will it be? Only those of you who are reading this sometime in the 21st century may know.

As to the far future, we even more "look through a glass darkly". If some scientists are correct that a warming trend of the earth began about 1920, a gradual melting of the glaciers may cause the island to disappear in a thousand years or so. If the cycles within cycles of weather make the trend the other way to be colder, we may then be part of the mainland with other emerging islands to the east.

None of us can know this, for a thousand years or so is a long time in our span of life; yet we know that:

"A thousand years in Thy sight, are but as yesterday when it is past. "

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