Archives of Camden County

Archives of Camden County
From the editors of
Roadside Georgia

One of the earliest settlements in Camden County was known as Berrimacke, and the first Dungeness was built near their village. It was conceived as a hunting lodge and abandoned at the end of the War of Jenkins Ear. Later a new Dungeness arose, a four-story tabby home built by the widow of Nathanael Greene. When the Carnegie family built a palatial estate on Cumberland Island it was also called "Dungeness." This burned in 1959.
Photo credit:John Wehner
Created as the Parishes of St. Thomas and St. Mary in 1765, from the Creek Land Cession of 1763. One of the "Original Counties" created in the 1777 Constitution, Camden County was named for Charles Pratt, the Earl of Camden, who was an early, vocal supporter of American Independence.

First area residents were the Mocoma Indians, a predecessor to the Creek confederacy that controlled this land until 1763. On San Pedro Island the Spanish built 2 missions and had a presidio, at least for a while. By 1690 the Spanish were gone.

The St. Marys River played an important role in the early development of Camden County, and although Jean Ribault sailed inland here in the 1500's, it would not be until well Georgians began to officially settle the land after 1763 that Camden could be considered safe. Unofficially, though, some settlements had arisen, including a large one on the coastal island of Cumberland. During the American Revolution settlers were frequently leaving because of the almost constant threat of Loyalist raids on the county closest to British East Florida. Thomas Brown, a Loyalist Florida Ranger, would frequently target the few settlers for crops and meat.

Near the navigable end of the St. Marys a small outpost known as Coleraine or Colerain became a popular trading site for Creek Indians and outlaw traders looking to skirt the laws of English Georgia and Spanish Florida. They could sail up the St. Marys to Coleraine and sell illegally obtained goods at quite a profit to the Indians, if they were willing to accept skins in exchange. Trading significantly decreased in 1763, when the British began to control Florida as well as Georgia. The King's Road, which ran west of Coleraine (to "Trader's Hill" in Charlton County), had a short cut to the trading post that was not heavily used because crossing the St. Marys here could be more difficult than further upstream. This road represented almost all of the early commerce in Camden County.

In 1787 the city of St. Marys was founded on a low ridge about 3 miles from the coast. This was the first county seat of Camden County. It would transfer to Jefferson (Jeffersonton), just west of Woodbine on the Satilla River, from 1801 until 1870. It returned to St. Marys until 1923 when the state once again moved it to Woodbine, the current county seat.

The arrival of the railroad was a major economic coup for the county. New York Industrialist Bayard Cutting built a 138 mile connector from Savannah to Jacksonville and created the Florida Central and Peninsular Railroad (now Seaboard Coast Lines), which officially opened for business in January, 1894. Trains did run on the completed tracks prior to this date. A spur from Kingsland to St. Marys was completed in 1924.

In the late 1960's the United States and the state of Georgia began work on I-95, which bisects the county from north to south, roughly following the Seaboard Rail lines. Along its route the county has witnessed some growth, particularly in the towns of Woodbine and Kingsland.

One of our nation's key naval stations, the King's Bay Submarine Base, is located along the coast of Georgia in Camden County. It is a major area employer and driving force in the county's economy.

Birding is a popular pasttime in the county, with two stops on the Colonial Coast Birding Trail, Cumberland Island and Crooked River State Park.

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Camden County links


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