The YouTube video below reminds me so much of my visits to McIntosh County, Georgia, specifically historic Darien with its charming homes and church buildings snuggling centuries old Oglethorpe-designed town squares. It also offers a taste of traveling by ferry to time-lost Sapelo Island. That is where my new historical novel, The Last Laird of Sapelo, the story of Randolph Spalding, the acclaimed master of the island’s plantations following his famous father’s death in 1851 until his own untimely death in 1862.
What makes his particular, almost forgotten, story compelling? The resettling of Sapelo following the Civil War. Virtually all the relocated Geechee former enslaved workers and their families who spent the war years inland in Georgia returned to the island.
Following their emancipation and newborn freedom and seemingly able to go anywhere, why did they enmasse return and risk everything including their very lives. Sapelo was not only the only home they and their families ever knew but the land promised to them by the Spalding family. After a tumultuous first couple of decades during the early Reconstruction years, Randolph Spalding’s widow and family settled onto Sapelo, not Darien or their former home near the Ridge. If Randolph or his father before him had been cruel and abusive would the Geechee residents have welcomed the family members and worked with them?
We know the Geechee community of about four-hundred members prospered on Sapelo into the 20th-Century, but after ownership of the island changed hands, their lives were disrupted and they got slowly squeezed off the island until only about three dozen Geechee descendants still live on Sapelo today.
My novel hopes to shed a little light on the past to understand the present. May we not ignore nor attempt to forget or erase the grayness of history. Too often we focus on the black and white issues (figuratively and literally) and overlook the total picture of our past. History claims many victims. The present is one of them. It defines life as we know it today. It shapes our attitudes and aspirations.
Enjoy this video and hopefully you’ll be inspired to visit historic Darien and Sapelo Island on a future vacation. But please do so with an open mind and thirst to explore the past. And, please book a stay with Zach and Carrie Rath, owners of Open Gates Bed & Breakfast in Darien. Tell them I sent you… Then visit Ashantilly Center before catching the ferry to Sapelo Island for a tour of the island (you’ll need to book ahead).
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Please be sure to stay in touch to receive updates on the upcoming release of The Last Laird of Sapelo historical novel, July 18th by Koehler Books. If you plan to visit this summer, check back for my book tour places and dates all along the Georgia and South Carolina coast. I’d love to meet you. I also hope to hear back from you as well.
So where is Sapelo Island and Darien?