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Neptune Small

by Carey C. Giudici

Neptune Small's life and legend spans the history of St. Simons Island--perhaps more than any other individual.

Born as a slave on Thomas Butler King's Retreat Plantation (today the site of Sea Island Golf Course), Small was raised in the plantation society of antebellum Georgia. He accompanied his master's son Lord to the Battle of Fredericksburg, and after Lord was killed in battle brought the body back to Retreat for burial in Christ Church cemetery. He then insisted on returning to Virginia's battlefields with Lord's brother Cuyler.

After the war, a grateful Thomas King gave him beachfront land at the southern end of the island to build a home.

After Emancipation Small worked for the King family as a free man until his death in 1907, when he was buried in a small graveyard on Retreat Plantation. His family property became one of St. Simons Island's most valuable pieces of land, and his memory preserved since the park adjoining St. Simons Island's pier was named Neptune Park in his honor.

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