Historic Markers Across Georgia

The First Lighthouse -- 1810

Marker ID:  
Location: at the St. Simons lighthouse museum, on 13th Street, St Simons Island, GA.
County: Glynn
Coordinates: N 31° 08.039    W 081° 23.616
  31.13398333    -81.3936
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: WMAKKB
The First Lighthouse -- 1810 Marker  


The First Lighthouse -- 1810

In 1804, Scottish born plantation owner John Couper sold four acres of land for $1 to the United States government to build the first St. Simons Light Station. James Gould was hired to design and build a lighthouse and keeper's dwelling in 1807. It was constructed of tabby -- a mixture of oyster shells, lime, sand, and water. It was first lit in 1811.

The first lighthouse was 75' tall, octagonal, 25' at the base and tapered to 10' at the top. The 10' iron lantern room had oil lamps suspended by chains as the illuminant. James Gould was also appointed head lighthouse keeper from 1811 -- 1837.

In the summer of 1861, 1500 Confederate troops were stationed on this site at Fort Brown. In 1862, Confederate troops destroyed the first lighthouse before evacuating the island so that federal forces could not use it as a navigational aid. The occupying troops were the African American Union soldiers known as the 1st South Carolina Volunteers.

The Plantation Era

The plantation Era began in late 1700s and thrived on the grown of long staple cotton, known as "sea island cotton" and other crops such as indigo and rice. Cotton grew bigger and more plentiful here on the Georgia sea islands, and soon plantations relocated from one tip of St. Simons to the other. Although slavery was outlawed in early colonial days, it became legal in 1757 in Georgia.

There is a strong connection between the Coastal sea islands in the Windward Coast of West Africa due to the slave trade that played such an important role in the success of the area plantations. Slaves from West Africa were highly prized for their ability to cultivate rice and then cotton. The War Between the States brought on the virtual demise of this era. The loss of slave labor made cotton growing and harvesting unproductive and not profitable. What remains is a cultural linkage between the "Gullah/Geechee" descendents of slaves in the sea islands and the African countries of their ancestors.

A few tabby ruins remain of this era at Hampton Point, Cannon's Point and Retreat Plantation. Most of the old plantation lands have been covered by growth or converted to residential or commercial properties.


The First Lighthouse -- 1810


Wikipedia - Gossypium barbad, Sea Island Cotton
Wikipedia - Gullah
Wikipedia - 1st South Carolina Volunteers (Union)