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Thomas Spalding

by Carey C. Giudici

Thomas Spalding, the only son of an important local family, made his name as a signer of the Constitution, biographer of James Ogelthorpe, planter and owner of nearby Sapelo Island.

Spalding's father James had come to St. Simons from Scotland in 1760, settling on land acquired through a grant. As a partner in the trading firm of Mackay and Spalding (and according to one visitor "President of the island"), he became prosperous by trading with Indians to the west and south.

But along with others loyal to Britain he moved to Florida during the Revolution. Returning to St. Simons Island he found his storehouses and properties in ruins. He helped his son Thomas establish a plantation and focused on politics, dying in Darien in 1794 on his way to a meeting of the state's General Assembly in Augusta.

Thomas was born March, 1774 in James Ogelthorpe's former home at Frederica--Georgia's first Governor's mansion. In 1794 he married Sarah Leake, the daughter of another prominent planter family. He was provided live oak timbers for the U.S. Navy, thus helping clear land to grow cotton and other crops. Profits from being one of the earliest to plant the profitable Sea Island cotton made him "the wealthiest man in Glynn County."

Having recouped his father's lost fortune, in 1800 Thomas Spalding moved to Sapelo Island and lived in grand style. He represented McIntosh County in the Georgia Senate between 1803 and 1814, and passed away at the age of 77 in 1851.

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