St. Catherines Island

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"St. Catherine's Island" redirects here. For other uses, see St. Catherine's Island, Tenby.
St. Catherine's Island
St. Catherine's Island Salt Marsh.jpg
Salt marsh on the island
St. Catherines Island is located in Georgia (U.S. state)
St. Catherines Island
St. Catherines Island is located in the US
St. Catherines Island
Nearest city South Newport, Georgia
Coordinates 31°37′50″N 81°9′36.5″W / 31.63056°N 81.160139°W / 31.63056; -81.160139Coordinates: 31°37′50″N 81°9′36.5″W / 31.63056°N 81.160139°W / 31.63056; -81.160139
Area 22,265 acres (90.10 km2)[2]
Built 1566
Architect Multiple
NRHP Reference # 69000332[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHP December 16, 1969
Designated NHLD December 16, 1969[3]
A beach on the island

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.[2] It is owned by the Saint Catherines Island Foundation is not open to the public, aside from the beach below the high tide line.[2][4]


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.[citation needed] 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.[5]

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 (and automatically placed on the National Register of Historic Places) in 1969.[2][3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b c d John D. McDermott (July 9, 1969). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: St. Catherine's Island; Guale; Santa Catalina; St. Catherine's Island (One of the Golden Isles)" (pdf). National Park Service.  and Accompanying five photos, from 1969 (32 KB)
  3. ^ a b "St. Catherine's Island". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-05-01. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "New Georgia Encyclopedia: St. Catherine's Island". University of Georgia Press. 13 October 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-14. 

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