New arrivals to the Georgia colony faced a myriad of challenges, including the harsh environment, disease, conflict with Native Americans, and the difficulty of making a living. Their daily lives were characterized by constant struggle and hard-earned self-sufficiency, as Georgia developed into a thriving and important state within the fledgling nation.
The first English colonists faced a wilderness plagued by insects, heat, and disease. Of the original 144 colonists, nearly one in three died. Wormsloe Plantation near Savannah presents a recreation of the colonists’ way of life with demonstrations of the skills needed to face the challenges of settling the new colony.
David Gurnsey of the Ships of The Sea Maritime Museum in Savannah explains how Georgia’s coast and coastal islands were havens for pirates during the colonial period.
Arriving from the highlands of Scotland, one group of settlers came to help defend Georgia from Spanish invaders and to make a new home for themselves. A reenactor portrays Scottish colonists that shared many characteristics with the Native Americans.
Rabbi R. A. Belzer tells the story of the arrival of Georgia’s first Jewish settlers. The city of Savannah can boast that it is the home of Congregation Mickve Israel, Georgia’s oldest Jewish congregation and the third oldest in the country.
Just a short ferry boat ride away from the Georgia coast lies Hog Hammock, an African-American community on Sapelo Island with cultural traditions that tie it to Africa. Cornelia Bailey, a descendant of slaves who worked the plantations on Sapelo, imagines the terrible sadness her ancestors felt knowing they were so far away from home with no way to return. Today the residents of Hog Hammock are recognized for the African cultural traditions they pass on, such as making baskets, cast nets, and the unique music of the Sea Island Singers.
According to David Schaller of the Georgia Ports Authority, Georgia products travel and are used around the world. Ships bring in containers loaded with goods from blue jeans to televisions. Author Rusty Fleetwood, and John Duncan of Armstrong State University discuss Georgia’s earliest exports when Savannah was international port city since the days of the Georgia colony. Kirk Johnston, a reenactor with the Charles Town Landing State Park, explains how mercantilism made Great Britain a rich nation.
In the early 1760s the area north and west of Georgia’s coast previously inhabited by Native Americans was opened up for settlement. It was a wilderness where few whites lived. Steve Froehle, a frontier reenactor talks about settlers pouring south from Virginia and the Carolinas seeking economic opportunities in the Georgia colony while Betty Slaton of the Washington Historical Museum demonstrates cooking techniques.
Kirk Johnston, a Charles Town Landing State Park reenactor, discusses a replica 17th century sailing vessel and describes how saltwater, wind, and sun took a toll on wooden ships. In the late 1800s, the naval stores industry, byproducts of pine trees, grew to become a major Georgia export. John Johnson of the Agrirama and James Gainer, a naval stores worker for more than 30 years, explain how pine resin is collected, some of the products early Scottish colonists made with it and how colonists came from around the South to work in Georgia's budding pine industry.
Anchormen and reporters imagine a television newscast from Savannah in 1734: The Colonial Evening News.
Amy Lebey, the Salzburger historian, tells why Lutherans moved from Salzburg, Austria to the Georgia colony in the 1700s. Georgia was very different from Salzburg, and it took a lot of adjusting to make their home in New Ebenezer, Georgia. The church they built still stands today.
According to Dennis Sodomka, executive editor for The Augusta Chronicle, his paper is a descendant of the original Georgia newspaper from 1763: The Georgia Gazette. He discusses how a newspaper can make a difference in a community and help make democracy work by giving people the information they need to make informed decisions. In colonial days, the king forbade Georgia colonists to publish a newspaper for the first 30 years of its existence. Instead, people relied on news from traveling visitors, friends, and through letters and newspapers from other places.
In colonial days, rice was Georgia’s number one export. Richard Schultz Jr., talks about helping grow rice, Jackie Edwards, a reenactor at Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation demonstrates how slaves would separate rice from its hulls, Faye Cowart, tour guide at the plantation, lists other potential disasters in growing rice, and Robbie Harrison, whose family has grown rice at Fife Plantation, discusses the dangers of the coastal climate.
When the British attacked Savannah, Mordecai Sheftall was captured in a skirmish when he refused to abandon his son. Marion Levy Mendel, a Sheftall ancestor, Professor Harvey Jackson, and John Sheftall, Esq., another ancestor, recall the costs and high price of waging war.
Known as Coosaponakeesa by the Creek Indians, Mary Musgrove’s mixed heritage, linguistic skills, and intimate knowledge of native culture made her a unique and influential character in early Georgia history. She interpreted communications between Georgia founder James Oglethorpe and the Yamacraw chief Tomochichi, negotiating treaties and land secessions and her efforts laid the groundwork for the establishment of Georgia as a colony.