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History of the Cassina Site

Hamilton Plantation at Gascoigne Bluff



Hamilton Plantation, ideally situated on the southwest side of St. Simons Island along the bluff overlooking the Frederica River, is the history of Coastal Georgia in microcosm: Indian occupation, Spanish exploration, British settlement, the Plantation era, Civil War, the lumber industry and today, tourism.

In 1733, James Edward Oglethorpe founded the Colony of Georgia in Savannah.  Later, in 1736, he established Fort Frederica to defend the colony against a Spanish invasion.  The Spanish were forced to withdraw after the decisive British victory at the Battle of Bloody Marsh.

Hamilton Plantation, owned by James Hamilton, a native of Scotland, was located on Gascoigne Bluff near Fort Frederica.  The Bluff was named for Capt. James Gascoigne, commander of the British sloop “Hawk”.  The Bluff became a storehouse for marine supplies, ship repair facilities and in effect, was Georgia’s first naval base.  Hamilton Plantation was a working plantation, producing long staple Sea Island cotton and oak and pine timbers. 

Of the several tabby slave cabins built on the plantation, two remain today.  They were constructed of tabby, which is a concrete-like mixture of lime, sand, water and oyster shells.  The mixture is poured into wooden frames to harden.  The cabins were divided in the center by a fireplace, thus creating two rooms that housed two families.  Glass windows and wooden outside doors indicate that these cabins were probably living quarters of slaves that were high in the privilege hierarchy.

Cassina Garden Club began meeting in these cabins in 1932 and was deeded the property in 1950.  As owner of this beautiful historic site, the Cassina Garden Club has carefully restored and preserved the integrity of the cabins and has on display many artifact and graphical histories.  Archeologically, the grounds of the cabins are undisturbed and offer the potential of former middens, providing untold quantities of artifacts, the keys of life of earlier days.

The cabins are located adjacent to Epworth-by-the-Sea, a Methodist Conference Center.  General Oglethorpe’s secretary, Charles Wesley and his famous Anglican clergyman brother, John, considered by many the founder of the Methodist Church, trod these grounds.  All of this property was formerly part of Hamilton Plantation.

Not surprisingly, this beautiful historic property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of Interior in 1988.


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