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Lesser traveled Skidaway Island Part 1

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Uploaded on Aug 26, 2009

Skidaway Island

[Fig. 6] Skidaway Island, an interior barrier island fronted by Wassaw Island, is home to Skidaway Island State Park, the world-renowned Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the University of Georgia's Marine Extension Center, and the largest coastal residential development in the Savannah area called The Landings. Though extensively developed by the Union Camp Corporation, the island today has one of the best state parks in Georgia, with two breathtakingly beautiful nature trails and a full complement of facilities. The Marine Extension Center has the best aquariums in the Savannah area and an excellent nature trail that follows Skidaway Narrows.

The 6,300-acre Pleistocene island is defined by the Wilmington River to the north, Skidaway Narrows to the west, the Vernon River to the south, and Romerly Marsh and Wassaw Island to the east. High ground on the island is roughly 8 miles long by 3 miles wide. Skidaway has had many different spellings throughout history. Some believe Oglethorpe named Skidaway in honor of his Indian friend Tomochichi's wife, who was called Scenawki.

Skidaway, with its rich marsh filled with oysters, mussels, clams, and whelks, had long been a hunting and ceremonial ground for Timucua Indians that lived in the area. Archaeologists have found 56 sites on the island with evidence that Indians used the island at least 4,000 years before General Oglethorpe sailed up the Savannah River. Three ceremonial shell rings, dating back to 1750 b.c., have been found on the island. These rings are a type of New World pyramid and fewer than 20 of them have been discovered, all in the southeastern United States except for one in Ecuador. The shell rings are perfectly symmetrical and uniform in height and thickness of wall. The interior centers of the rings were kept very clean and any debris found in them were left behind by later groups. The Timucua were targets of mission activities by the Spanish in the 1630s, and became extinct by the 1760s from European plagues and English-sponsored slaving. Paleontologists have also found on the island the fossils of Georgia's megafauna, such as mastodons, mammoths, giant sloths, and native horses, which became extinct five to ten thousand years ago for reasons unclear today.

Oglethorpe assigned five families and six single men to Skidaway Island, and they built a small fort at the northern end of the island (later a fort would be built at the southern end of the island as well). The fort commanded the river, with one carriage gun and four swivel guns. Methodist founder John Wesley visited the area in 1736. Despite attempts to gain a foothold, by 1740, the island was abandoned when the pioneers were unsuccessful in farming the infertile soil. The next period of settlement was from 1754 to 1771, when 29 grants of land on Skidaway were issued to settlers who were to be more successful. An early grantee was John Milledge, who established the plantation Modena, which is believed to be named for the Italian town that was the seat of the silk culture, an early industry on the Georgia coast. His son, John Jr., became a U.S. representative and senator, governor of Georgia, and founder of the University of Georgia, then called Franklin College. Modena Plantation survived until the mid-1800s, and today is the site of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and University of Georgia's Marine Extension Center. The Roebling family, whose great great grandfather engineered and built the Brooklyn Bridge, was one of the last owners of property. Locals still call the area Modena.

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