St. Catherines Island
St. Catherine's Island
Salt marsh on the island
|Nearest city||South Newport, Georgia|
|Area||22,265 acres (90.10 km2)|
|NRHP Reference #||69000332|
|Added to NRHP||December 16, 1969|
|Designated NHLD||December 16, 1969|
St. Catherines Island is one of the Sea Islands or Golden Isles on the coast of the U.S. state of Georgia, 50 miles (80 km) south of Savannah in Liberty County. The island is ten miles (16 km) long and from one to three miles (5 km) wide, located between St. Catherine's Sound and Sapelo Sound. More than half of its 14,640 acres (59 km²) are tidal marsh and wetlands. About half of it is salt marshes, about a quarter is wooded, and it has "fine" beaches. It is owned by a foundation and is not open to the public.
The island has been inhabited for at least 4000 years, and was a Guale settlement by 1576. It was the site of the first Spanish outpost in Georgia. By 1587 it was the northernmost permanent Spanish outpost on the Atlantic Coast. Spanish colonies were planted as far north as Chesapeake Bay, but none lasted more than a year or two. During the 17th century, the mission of Santa Catalina de Guale, located on the island from 1602 to 1680, was the center of the Guale missionary province of Spanish Florida. David Hurst Thomas has focused on Spanish period mission archaeology on St. Catherine's Island. Currently, archaeology of the shell ring on St. Catherines Island is spearheaded by David Hurst Thomas and Matthew C. Sanger.
In 1766 the island was leased by Button Gwinnett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. It was run as a plantation for nearly a century, until the Civil War ended. The New Georgia Encyclopedia notes that
After the Civil War, Sherman's Field Order No. 15 awarded St. Catherines and the other islands to freed slaves. Tunis Campbell established dominion over Ossabaw, Sapelo, and St. Catherines islands as "governor," with the seat of his kingdom on St. Catherines. Under the auspices of Sherman's field order, Campbell ruled from the Button Gwinnett House from 1865 until 1867. When Sherman's order was challenged, the island reverted to its previous owner. The former slaves were forced to relocate to White Bluff, on the Georgia mainland.
The 1893 Sea Islands Hurricane caused catastrophic destruction, sweeping seawater across the entire island. Only one person who remained on the island survived, and all buildings were destroyed.
In 1943 Edward John Noble bought the island; in 1968, ten years after his death, the island was transferred to the Edward J. Noble Foundation.
The island is now owned by the St. Catherines Island Foundation, and the island's interior is operated for charitable, scientific, literary, and educational purposes. The foundation aims to promote conservation of natural resources, the survival of endangered species, and the preservation of historic sites, and to expand human knowledge in the fields of ecology, botany, zoology, natural history, archaeology, and other scientific and educational disciplines. The island is involved with the conservation of the ring-tailed lemur. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1969.
- Human History of St. Catherines, from the website of the St. Catherines Sea Turtle Program
- St. Catherine's Island, from the Sherpa Guides website
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Saint Catherines Island
- St. Catherines Island at the St. Catherines Island Sea Turtle Conservation Program
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- John D. McDermott (July 9, 1969). PDF (32 KB). National Park Service. and PDF (32 KB)
- "St. Catherine's Island". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
- "New Georgia Encyclopedia: St. Catherine's Island". University of Georgia Press. 13 October 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-14.