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James Gould

by Carey C. Giudici

James Gould, born in Massachusetts in 1772, originally came to St. Simons Island to cut timber for the United States Navy. But with the invention of the cotton gin, cotton was becoming a major cash crop; he decided to stay and become a planter.

Realizing that ships coming to St. Simons for the valuable commodity would need help navigating local waters, he also decided to build a lighthouse.

In 1807 the government finally accepted Gould's proposal for a lighthouse on land donated by his friend John Couper. In 1811 it was ready to shine. Gould served as the sole lighthouse keeper (without assistants) until 1837.

Two years later Gould bought a choice 800 acre plantation he'd call New St. Clair, on the east side of St. Simons. By 1818 the skilled builder had completed a large manor house for himself and his family.

Gould and his daughter Mary made enough money from long staple "Sea island" cotton to buy an adjoining tract of 800 acres they called Black Banks Plantation. He eventually gave Black Banks to his oldest son James, who later sold it to his brother Horace.

Gould died in 1852. In February 1863 Confederate troops were ordered to evacuate the island, and General Robert E. Lee had James Gould's beloved lighthouse demolished to deny its use to incoming Yankee troops. The current lighthouse was commissioned in 1872.

James Gould's lighthouse may be gone, but his direct descendents still live in the area.

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