Savannah Town, South Carolina
Savannah Town, South Carolina was first observed in the 1670s as a Westo village, located on the Savannah River below the fall line in present day Aiken County. The Savannah (Shawnee) displaced the Westos in a 1679-1680 trade war, and the town bore their name on a 1685 Joel Gascoyne Plat of the Province of Carolina (Cumming #101). Savannah Town became important to the growing colony for its profitable Indian trade, and for frontier defense.
A thriving business developed around Indian traders who with their pack horses spread throughout the western wilderness. In 1692 the Proprietors hoped for traders to reside at "Savannah town" (McCrady p. 237). In 1698, Colonel Thomas Welch reached the Mississippi River on a trail that came to be the Upper Trading Path to the Chickasaw homeland (Atkinson p. 25). Iron and woolen goods were offered in exchange for skins which came to be shipped by the thousands from Savannah Town via oared 'periagoe' to Charles Town, and thence Europe. Fort Moore was established immediately nearby in 1715 and garrisoned with perhaps twenty-five soldiers, and a cross-river ferry began service in 1740.
The restless Savannahs seem to have found Englishmen not to their taste and slowly departed. In the early 1720s Chickasaws living in northern Mississippi were invited by the South Carolina Assembly to occupy the area. Seeking to strengthen ties with the English as a source of guns, a group led by so-called Squirrel King came to Savannah Town in 1723 and settled along nearby Horse Creek. These Chickasaws actively collaborated with the English in defense of this area until returning to their Mississippi homeland about the time of the Revolutionary War.
In 1730, South Carolina organized eleven frontier townships to buffer the more genteel low country. Savannah Town was incorporated into the Parish and Township of New Windsor. In 1737, 200 settlers from Appenzell, Switzerland colonized New Windsor, leaving the names of Tobler, Zubly, Nagel, Sturzenegger, and Meyer to local history.
Savannah Town gained a competitor with the 1735 founding of Augusta, five river miles upstream on the Georgia side of the river. The new Colony of Georgia took good advantage of its superior position - closer to the bulk of the Indian settlements - to intercept traders at Augusta, and in one way or another deflect commercial traffic to its own seaport at Savannah. By 1740 the prospect for Savannah Town was at least a matter of dispute. Fort Moore played a role in the Cherokee war of 1760 by harboring militia and refugees, but by 1765 the town as such had disappeared and the fort was closed.
Savannah Town, variously called Savano Town, Savanaton or Old Savannah, was located at 33°26'18"N, 81°54'32"W (NAD83/WGS84), 225 river miles above the port of Savannah. The closest modern town is Beech Island, South Carolina. (Savannah without qualification would be the Georgia town founded at the mouth of the river by James Oglethorpe in 1734, and New Savannah would be the Chickasaw town further downstream on the Georgia side of the river.)
Notable people and places
The ferry at Savannah Town, later called Sand Bar Ferry, continued until construction of a road bridge in the 1920s. Due to uncertain jurisdiction over Savannah River islands and sand bars, this area became a popular dueling ground in the early 19th century.
George Galphin operated a trading post at nearby Silver Bluff that remained prosperous until Galphin's death in 1780.
- Maness, Harold (1986). Forgotten Outpost: Fort Moore & Savannah Town, 1685-1765. ISBN 0-937229-01-6.
- Cumming, William (1998). The Southeast in Early Maps, 3d Ed. ISBN 0-8078-2371-6. The 1685 Joel Gascoyne map is a manuscript at the British Library.
- McCrady, Edward (1897). The History of South Carolina Under the Proprietary Government. OCLC 64286006.
- Atkinson, James R. (2004). Splendid Land, Splendid People. University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0-8173-5033-0.
- Henry Schenk Tanner, A New Map of South Carolina with its Canals, Roads & Distances from Place to Place along the Stage & Steam Boat Routes, 1833 showing river miles as encountered by original travelers and prior to Corps of Engineers improvements
- TopoQuest topographic map
- Beech Island, SC History
- Province of Carolina by H. Moll, 1730 Map showing location of Savannah's and Apalathas. Island shown upstream is possibly Stalling's Island
- Discussion of Savannah River Chickasaws