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The Founding of Savannah

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At high noon on November 16, 1732, the good ship Anne spread her white sails and, like some great canvas-winged bird of the sea, flew from the shores of England westward over the Atlantic Ocean, carrying with her, British general, Parliament member, and, philanthropist, James Oglethorpe, and his 120 emigrants. She did not sail straight for Georgia, but for Charleston South Carolina, where Oglethorpe wished to get the advice and help of the Governor of that province in settling his colony. The ship reached Charleston on January 13, 1733 and cast anchor just outside the harbor bar. Oglethorpe, leaving his people on board, was rowed to shore in an open boat, and was received with great honor by Governor Robert Johnson and the Legislature of South Carolina, which was then in session.


Ship from England called Anne
Painting of the good ship "Anne".



The Governor had been notified several weeks before that Oglethorpe was coming and he was prepared to extend to him a hearty welcome. The people of South Carolina were very glad that an English colony was to be planted in Georgia, for well they knew that it would be a protection for them against the fierce Spaniards of Florida.


Governor Robert Johnson offered to do anything in his power to help Oglethorpe. He appointed Colonel William Bull, one of the most prominent men in South Carolina, to act as Oglethorpe's guide and assistant in settling his colony in Georgia and offered to take care of the emigrants until a suitable location could be found for them.


The good ship Anne was taken down to Port Royal Bay where it was safely moored in the harbor. At the head of the bay was the little town of Beaufort, where there was a fort garrisoned by 100 South Carolina soldiers. A new barracks building had just been erected for the soldiers, but, they had not yet moved into it. Governor Johnson turned this building over to the use of the emigrants, and here, they were comfortably housed until Oglethorpe could locate a permanent home for them.

Having seen his people thus comfortably provided for, Oglethorpe started out in search of a favorable spot on Georgia soil on which to plant his little colony. From studying the maps, he had already decided to locate the settlement somewhere on the banks of the Savannah River, that broad and beautiful stream which, coming down from the northwest, flows for 150 miles as a boundary line between South Carolina and Georgia, and then, as it nears the sea, turns to the left in a graceful scythe-like curve and pours its wealth of waters into the great Atlantic Ocean.


On January 16th, Oglethorpe, accompanied by Colonel Bull, left Port Royal in a little vessel lent to him by Governor Johnson and manned by four sailors. He sailed down the South Carolina coast and entered the Savannah River where Tybee Island juts out as a headland into the ocean. As he ascended the river, he passed many low-lying barren islands and flat salt marshes covered with rank sea-grass. It was an ugly country, and perhaps Oglethorpe's brave heart sank within him as he surveyed the dreary prospect. But, about 18 miles up the river, the lowlands on the south bank suddenly rose into a bold, forest-covered bluff 45 feet high. Here, the little vessel was stopped, and Oglethorpe and Colonel Bull climbed up the bluff. On top they beheld an extensive level plain covered, as far as the eye could see, with a great woods of majestic pines interspersed with broad, spreading live-oaks. For several moments Oglethorpe stood enraptured and then exclaimed, "Surely a merciful God has designed this glorious spot as a restful home for my poor, persecuted people!"


James Edward OglethorpeColonel Bull, who had visited this region before, told Oglethorpe that at the other end of the bluff, about three miles from where they stood, there was a small, isolated Indian tribe called the Yamacraw, and that they were the only Indians within 40 miles. Oglethorpe knew that it was important that he should gain the good-will of these natives before making his settlement; so, accompanied by Colonel Bull, he went in search of the Indians. He found their little town of 30 wigwams scattered about under the trees, in a beautiful spot on the edge of the bluff, in full view of the river. The chief, or mico, of the tribe was a wonderful old man named Tomo-chi-chi* He was 90 years old, but, was still strong and robust in body and mind. He was over six feet tall and stood straight as the great pine tree under which his wigwam was pitched. His immediate family consisted of his wife Seenawki and his nephew Toonahowi, a 13 year-old boy who he had adopted as his son. He had no living children of his own.

On reaching the village Oglethorpe called for Tomo-chi-chi, and the old chief stepped forth like a king. He was not surprised to see the white men. He had often seen white people before, for he had once gone to Charleston, where he spent several days while making a treaty with the Governor and the Legislature; moreover, English and Spanish traders had frequently visited his village. Indeed, at this very time there stood out in the woods, a few hundred yards from his wigwam, a log hut occupied as an English "trading post" by a white man, named John Musgrove. Musgrove's wife, Mary Musgrove, was a half-breed Indian woman who had been reared and educated among the whites in South Carolina and could speak both the Indian and the English language fluently. On the occasion of Tomo-chi-chi's visit to Charleston, she had acted as his interpreter; and he sent for her now. In a little while she came, and the interview began.

Oglethorpe told Tomo-chi-chi that he wished to settle with his colony in the woods nearby, but, that they would not interfere in any way with the Yamacraws; that they would do no harm but only good to the Indians, would give them blankets, hatchets, guns, and other things, and would help them in many ways. He hoped they might always be good friends and live as peaceful neighbors. Oglethorpe's noble countenance, kind manner, and fine promises completely won old Tomo-chi-chi's heart, and he said: "There is plenty of room here for both red men and white men. Bring your people on to our woods. As soon as they get settled, we will call to welcome them." Tomo-chi-chi was a wise statesman. He knew that the whites might be of great benefit to the Indians, and that to make enemies of them would bring certain ruin to the Indians. Such was the first meeting between these two remarkable men who afterwards became such fast friends, and who worked together harmoniously for the founding of Georgia.


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