Monday, August 13, 2012

Southern history comes alive

by Kim Van Sickler

Savannah, GA. Home to fascinating locales chock full of stories, many within easy walking distance of one another. I just spent a week there with my Girl Scout troop. I didn't do much reading during this trip, but boy did I hear a lot of tales.

While traipsing in and around the largest historic district in the United States, we heard about:

Workmen fleeing the second floor renovation of Moon River Brewing Company, after a disrespected ghost tried shoving the foreman's wife down the stairs.

Jim Williams, the antique collector and owner of Mercer House, who was tried four times for the murder of his male lover. His story is chronicled in John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Robert Louis Stevenson visiting the pirate inn in Savannah (now the Pirate House restaurant) and using it as inspiration for Treasure Island.

Growing up in the isolated, but idyllic, Tybee Island as a member of lightkeeper George Jackson's family in the 1930's and '40s.

At Fort Jackson, learning soldiering duties manning cannons and communicating via bugles and flag semaphoring (visual use of Morse code with flags) to neighboring forts and the City of Savannah during the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

What it was like for African-Americans to band together in a community growing corn and rice, pressing sugar cane, and learning lessons in a one-room schoolhouse, in post-Civil War Seabrook Village.

The birth of Girl Scouts of the USA movement spearheaded by Juliette Gordon Low.

Beatings and public humiliation suffered by Andrew Bryan, the first pastor of First African Baptist Church, who declared in the midst of one particularly harsh thrashing that he'd rather die than stop preaching freedom.

Salty, a loggerhead sea turtle, rescued and looked after by the folks at Tybee Island Marine Science Center until it was determined it would be more humane to euthanize him. First diagnosed with bubble butt, a condition where air collects between the body and the shell, making it difficult to submerge, he flunked out of weight therapy. Turns out he suffered from a misdeveloped skeletal structure, resulting in both of his lungs being pushed into one cavity, which would eventually cause his lungs to burst as he aged.

It's these individual stories that made the history of Savannah and environs come alive for us. It's these stories that made our time down south such a memorable adventure.
Sergeant Claire--last girl standing after a rapid fire test of "About Faces" Right Faces" and "Left Faces" at Fort Jackson. 


  1. What a great thing for you to do! To introduce these young ladies to such a rich historical area! I love Savannah & Tybee Island. Did you see the waving girl statue & make it to Fort Pulaski? I've been there several times, but apparently I missed a few things. Your post makes me want to go back.

    1. I've got the girls waving along with the waving girl statue. We saw her before our visit to the Pirate House for lunch. We didn't tour Fort Pulaski, just Fort Jackson. Mt co-leader kept talking about returning with her husband. I think it sounds like a great idea, with the right husband. (Not mine. Not his cup of tea. So I'm glad I got to see it anyway.)

  2. Looks like an awesome trip! It's on my list for sure.