The town of Brunswick, on the mainland
opposite St. Simons Island, was founded in 1771 by the
Council of the Royal Province of Georgia, meeting in
Savannah. The tract of land selected for the new town
belonged to Mark Carr, the same Captain Carr who had
received large grants in the Midway area and who had deeded
land for the port of Sunbury in 1758. His plantation across
from St. Simons lay near the Turtle Rivet and was called
Plug Point, perhaps because tobacco was one of the principal
products. Captain Carr was granted other acreage in exchange
for his holdings at Plug Point. and the property was
surveyed and laid out in lots, streets, squares, parks, and
commons. The new town was named after Brunswick in northern
Germany, the seat of the reigning house of Hanover. The
names of George Street and Hanover Park honored King George
Ill; Kings and Queens Squares and Prince Street honored the
royal family. Other streets. squares, and parks were given
the names of prominent Englishmen of the day.
had hardly begun in Brunswick when the coast was deserted
during the Revolutionary War. Even in the years alter the
war, the town grew slowly, but in 1789 it was made a port of
entry, and in 1797 the county seat of Glynn was moved from
Frederica to Brunswick.
lt was about this time that
Georgia's Revolutionary War heroine, Nancy Hart, with her
husband, Benjamin and their family came to live for awhile
in Brunswick. Red-haired, cross-eyed six feet tall, Nancy
won her place in Georgia history by capturing a group of
Tories single handedly when they came to her house in north
Georgia when her husband was away at war.
Brunswick's first school, Glynn Academy, had been created by
the legislature in 1788, the first building, a "neat house
for school purposes. at a cost in excess of $10,000" was not
completed until 1819. During the next few years the growth
of the town seemed to be at a standstill. Tracts of the
surrounding land were occupied and cultivated by substantial
planters, but most of the town lots were "left to grow up in
briars and weeds." In 1826 two residents of the area, Urbanas Dart and William Davis, obtained from the state a
headright to all of the lots on which no taxes were being
paid. When the former owners protested. Dart and Davis
announced that they would not claim the property of bona
fide owners. Efforts were made to stimulate interest in the
town. The state granted a charter for the Brunswick Canal
Company to construct a canal connecting the Turtle River
with the Altamaha in order that shipping from the interior
might have access to the port of Brunswick. Work on the
canal was begun, but the project was abandoned because of
mismanagement and labor and financial troubles.
courthouse and jail had been built, as well as a scattering
of houses and a few stores. when between 1814 and 1819 the
town experienced a remarkable period of prosperity. A new
charter was secured for construction of the canal. this time
for the "Brunswick Canal and Railroad Company." Through the
efforts of Thomas Butler King of St. Simons Island,
capitalists from Boston became interested in the projects
and undertook to furnish financial support for both railroad
and canal. Loammi Baldwin of Massachusetts, one of the
country's most distinguished engineers, was engaged to
survey the proposed site of the canal.
The town of
Brunswick was incorporated in 1836; a land company was
formed, and construction was begun on a fine four storied
hotel, the Oglethorpe House. The first newspaper. the
Brunswick Advocate, began publication; the Bank of Brunswick
opened, and work was underway on railroad and canal. The
streets of the town were busy with merchants, traders.
sawmill operators, railroad and canal projectors, and the
inevitable land speculators.
ln June 1837 the Oglethorpe
House. a "new and elegant establishment, having been fitted
and furnished in a superb style," was ready for the
"reception of company." The hotel announced that its bar
would be stocked with the "choicest wines and liquors, and
the larder filled with the best the market affords" with a
"commodious Stable attached to the establishment, well
stocked with hay and grain."
Harrington's Variety Store
also opened in _June 1837 with a complete stock of
everything from gloves. hosiery. shawls, hats, boots, and
shoes to nutmeg, cloves. ginger, brandy, wines. and
In the panic of 1837, the Boston investors
withdrew their support from the railroad and canal
enterprises, but the work was carried on with local capital.
and Brunswick continued to prosper.
One of the
outstanding social events of this period of prosperity was
the Regatta of the Aquatic Club of Georgia. held in
Brunswick January 16. 1858. on an "extremely fine day which
permitted the attendance of a large number of ladies."
the first race, the Goddess of Liberty, owned by Henry
duBignon of Jekyll Island, was defeated by the Devil's
Darning Needle, "a blackamoor with a skin as dark as
Othello's." owned by Richard Floyd of Camden County. Other
boats from Glynn and Camden counties competed, and "Charles
Floyd's green Lizard was on the ground but was thought too
slippery a customer and was not allowed even to creep over
the race course."
Following the races. the "Club
with their guests to the number of 50 or 60 sat down to an
elegant dinner at the Oglethorpe House and the evening was
spent in the due observance of the rites of conviviality and
ln 1838 another general store, Dart.
Barren & Co.. opened with a "large and well-selected stock
of Foreign and Domestic goods of every description." The
Brunswick and Darien Stage announced that a two-horse coach
would leave the Oglethorpe House at 7 A. M.. weekdays for
Grants Ferry near Darien. leaving for the return trip at 4
P.M. "Fare $2. each way. luggage extra." This made a
convenient connection with the regular stagecoaches which
came down the coast as far as Darien.
There was great
excitement in the county when a deposit of fossil bones of
extinct animals was uncovered by laborers working on the
canal. James Hamilton Couper of Hopeton Plantation identiﬁed
the fossils and sent specimens to museums in Charleston,
Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
In 1839 business began
to decline in Brunswick. Before the end of the year the bank
and newspaper had "suspended operations" and the town's
charter of incorporation had been returned to the state.
Work on the railroad had come to a halt, and the canal
project was abandoned, although it was almost finished.
new building for Glynn Academy was completed in 1840, but
there was no further construction in Brunswick for many
years. The 'boom' days were followed by a long depression.
Newcomers moved away. and the bustling town dwindled to a
quiet village of only four hundred people.
The town began
to prosper again in the 1850s. According to a notice in
Savannah's Daily Morning News of June 1, 1854, the Brunswick
and Altamaha Canal was opened on that date. Construction was
resumed on the railroad. The town was reincorporated in
1856: a second newspaper. the Brunswick Herald, started
publication; the Bank of Brunswick reopened. The town's
first drugstore, Massey and Hillman. was opened in 1857. In
that same year the economy of the area was stimulated by the
purchase by the United States Government of Blythe Island,
near Brunswick, as a proposed site for a Navy depot.
1858 the First Methodist and First Baptist churches were
built. and St. Marks Episcopal Church was organized. By 1860
Brunswick's population had more than doubled. The town was
building on a solid foundation when its growth was
interrupted by the War Between the States.
1860 the young men of the area organized the Brunswick
Riflemen. The following May they were mustered into the
Confederate Army as part of a regiment of Georgia Volunteers stationed at Camp Semmes near the town. The Ladies
Sewing Association was organized to make garments for the
soldiers, and when an Army hospital was established in
Brunswick the ladies lent sheets, blankets, and other
necessary items from their own household supplies.
December 1861, when the coast was blockaded by Federal
gunboats, residents of Brunswick were ordered evacuated.
Most of the families refugeed to Wayne and Ware
counties. Two months later, when Confederate troops
guarding Brunswick were ordered withdrawn, the railroad
depot and the wharf were destroyed and the Oglethorpe
House was burned by accident. On March 10 the town was
occupied by Federal troops.
In the years following the
war some of the coastal planters moved to Brunswick;
former citizens returned; new families established
residence, and the town began its permanent growth.
temporary resident of the town in these postwar years was
General John B. Gordon under whom some of the former
Brunswick Riflemen had served in the Confederate Army. The
general was especially interested in attempting to
reorganize the First Baptist Church, but the people were
too impoverished to undertake the expense of a church and
the support of a minister. However, a Sunday School was
organized with General Gordon as superintendant.
1874 Georgia's beloved Sidney Lanier visited with relatives
in Brunswick as he sought to regain his health. The poet
enjoyed long restful hours beneath a great live oak
overlooking the sea marshes made immortal in his Marshes
In 1876 Brunswick suffered a yellow-fever
epidemic that took the lives of a number of citizens, but
by 1878 the town had recovered and had become a busy
shipping center. A visitor at the time wrote that there were
two railroads and a fine harbor and that
the "ships, barks, brigs and schooners in port give a marine
atmosphere to the town" which had a population of "upwards
of 3,000 to which every day was adding."
In the decade of
the 1880s Brunswick's population tripled, and a number of
substantial business and residential buildings were
erected. New stores were opened and there were drydocks,
lumber mills, a barrel factory, a foundry, a plant to
manufacture turpentine stills. and the beginning of a
seafood industry. Shipping of lumber and naval stores
increased enormously, and steamship companies operated
out of Brunswick to New York, Boston, Havana, England,
The pleasant climate and proximity tn the sea
drew visitors to the coast town as a year-round resort.
The Oglethorpe Hotel, built on the site of the old
Oglethorpe House, was the center of social life for
townspeople and vacationers. and the L'Arioso
Opera House, seating eight hundred, added to the cultural
life of the city. In I889 a large brick building was
completed to accommodate the growing student body of Glynn
Academy and construction was begun on a handsome
Also in 1889, the Brunswick Harbor and Land
Company was organized to develop nearby Colonels Island
into a residential, industrial, and shipping community.
Docks, wharves. warehouses, and at cotton compress were
built, and lots were sold for a settlement to be called
A second epidemic of yellow fever and
the panic of 1893 not only halted business in Brunswick
temporarily, hut put an end to the Colonels Island
development. Brunswick recovered, and the early 1900s
were some of the port's busiest shipping years and a time of
continued prosperity for the city. A fine brick Post Ofﬁcc,
reminiscent of Independence Hall, was completed in 1902,
and an impressive new Glynn County Court House was built
In World War l shipyards along the Brunswick
waterfront constructed ships and barges and attracted a
number of new comers to the region. With the increased
population, a larger plant was necessary for Glynn Academy:
therefore a new building was constructed in
1923, with an auditorium dedicated to Glynn County men
who had lost their lives in the war.
As the long-leaf
pines were cut out, lumbering and shipping declined, but
the wealth of other forest products available in the
region brought industrial plants and mills into the city and
county. A growing seafood industry also added to the
In I924 Brunswick and St. Simons
Island were connected by the Torras Causeway, named in
honor of its engineer, Fernando Torras of Brunswick.
the Second World War, shipbuilding again brought new residents to the port city. since many families who came for
the duration of the war stayed or returned to live
permanently. The Glynco Naval Air Station. commissioned
in 1943, expanded in the postwar years. and
its personnel became part of the civic and social life
of the area.
As the city's population continued to
increase, Brunswick Junior College, a unit of the
University System of Georgia, was opened in 1964, its
enrollment growing steadily over the years.
passed, the Naval Air Station grew into a large complex
known as the Naval Air Technical Training Center; to
be followed in 1975 by the Federal Law Enforcement
Training Center which meets the training requirements
of thirty-four United States Government Organizations.
In spite of its growth, Brunswick retains much of the charm
of earlier days. Reluctant to part with its ancestral
live oaks. the city has left many of the
venerable trees to spread their shade over the streets
with their English names. its parks, squares, and gardens
bloom with azalea, poinsettia and hibiscus, with camellia, dogwood and
roses, with redbud, wisteria, clematis and
coral vine. The Court House lawn, known for a beauty unsurpassed
by any public grounds in the country, is a spacious garden of almost
every true, shrub, and flower
indigenous to the region.
To the regret of older
residents, the gabled. turreted and porticoed
Oglethorpe Hotel, at landmark since the 1880s, was razed
to make way for more modern structures, but still standing
arc the old City Hall and the columned Court House; a new
Federal Building has replaced the 1901 Post Office, which
serves as the 'new' City Hall. A number of residences
constructed around the turn of the century still grace the
wide streets of "Old Town Brunswick," now listed on the
National Register of Historic Places.
celebrated its two-hundredth anniversary in 1971, a
progressive modem city with an indefinable atmosphere of