was the property of James Gould, a native of Massachusetts,
who came to St. Simons in 1807 in connection with the
building of the first lighthouse. He lived upon the island
until his death in 1852, and the plantation was for many
years the home of his descendants. The owners came back to
Blackbanks after the War Between the States, and there was,
still the old time hospitality as the young people of
the coast gathered for parties and dances. In later years
the property was owned by various people. Remodeled and
rebuilt, the beautiful columned house overlooks the little
Blackbanks River for which it is named.
St. Clair, sometimes known as New St. Clair, and Black Banks
were the plantations of the Gould family.
James Gould, a native of Granville, Massachusetts. built the
original St. Simons lighthouse. Descendants believe that he
arrived in 1794 in connection with the shipping of timbers
for the United States Navy. Later he operated a lumbering
business on the St. Marys River, which separated south
Georgia from Spanish east Florida. In the early 1800s he and
his wife, the former Jane Harris of New Providence, with
their children and slaves, narrowly escaped with their lives
when their house was burned by marauding Indians.
While he and his family were staying in Savannah with Jane's
relatives, Captain and Mrs. Samuel Bunch, James Gould
learned that the government was taking bids for the erection
of a lighthouse on St. Simons Island. He submitted a bid
which was accepted on May 25, 1807. The lighthouse was to be
constructed at the south end of the island on a four-acre
plot of land that had been sold to the govenment for the sum
of one dollar by John Couper of Cannons Point. Specifications
called for an octagonal tower 75 feet high topped by a
10-foot iron lantern. or light chamber, equipped with a set
of oil lamps suspended by chains. ln addition to the light
tower, the contract included a keeper's cottage with
The lighthouse was completed in 1810 and was formally
established in 1811. James Gould was appointed by President
Madison to serve as the first keeper, a position that he was
to fill for twenty-seven years. He lived with his family in
the keepers cottage at the foot of the tower. and leased
adjacent land for cultivation. Since no assistant was
appointed, James Gould trained some of his slaves to keep
the lamps cleaned and filled with oil, and to take their
turn at the nightwatch in the light chamber. One helper was
so devoted to his work with the lamps that his fellows
nicknamed him "Lamp Black."
Soon after the end of the War of 1812 James Gould bought his
first St. Simons property, a tract that included land
purchased from the Commissioners of Confiscated Estates and
acreage from the estate of Major Samuel Wright. The entire
9oo~acre plantation, known as St. Clair, or New St. Clair.
lay across the center of the island from Black Banks River
to Dunbar Creek.
Research has uncovered no record of any of this property
ever having been claimed by Archibald Sinclair, and
tithingman at Frederica, whose Sinclair tract on the
northeast side of the island was known in plantation days as
St. Clair. It is possible, however, that part of the New St.
Clair land had also been claimed by Archibald Sinclair and
that it. too. had been called Sinclair in the early years.
On the New St. Clair Plantation, James Gould built a
spacious two-storied tabby house with one-story wings at
either side. and in the surrounding fields he planted sea
island cotton. His two sons, James F. and Horace Bunch. were
sent to preparatory school in New Haven and afterward to
Yale, and his daughters, Mary and Jane, were educated at the
Moravian Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
ln 1820 James Gould's wife died, leaving Mary, as eldest
daughter, to take charge of her father's home, with the help
of her mother's sister, "Aunt Caroline." From an unpublished
manuscript written by a member of the family, we have a word
picture of the beauty brought to St. Clair by Mary's love of
roses: "The house stood on a slight eminence, and Mary
planted roses so successfully and in such abundance that the
place took the name of 'Rosemount.' Cloth-of-gold and
Marschal Neil roses covered the south side of the house, and
multiflora bloomed on the garden fence. Blossoms were cut in
the rose garden daily and sent by the basketful to the
The from approach to Rosemount, through a grove of live
oaks, magnolias, and cedars, was a winding tabby walk
bordered by century plants. crape myrtles, oleanders. and
orange trees. In the orchard were figs, pomegranates.
seedling peaches, plums, and bittersweet oranges.
In addition to the management of his plantation and his
duties as lighthouse keeper, James Gould was active in the
parish of Christ Church. Frederica, and was one of the first
wardens when the church was built in 1820, an ofﬁce to which
he was elected time and again over the years. During one of
his terms as warden, his two sons. James F. and Horace B.,
served as vestrymen.
Adjoining St. Clair to the south was a tract known as Black
Banks. which before the Revolutionary War had belonged to
loyalist John Graham. By purchase from the Commissioners of
Confiscated Estates. James Gould added this tract to his
holdings, making his entire property more than 1,500 acres.
Black Banks was later deeded to the eldest son, James F. or
Jim, who had married in New Haven after his graduation from
Yale. On his plantation Jim Gould built a
two-and-a-half-storied tabby house surrounded at the second
floor level by a broad columned piazza. His New England wife
was not happy on the island. and eventually Jim sold Black
Banks to his brother, Horace, who was married to Deborah
Abbott, niece of George and Mary Abbott of Orange Grove.
As James Gould grew older, he suffered greatly from
rheumatism, and in 1837 he was forced by ill health to give
up his position as keeper of the St. Simons light. He died
in 1851. The younger daughter, Janie, was married and living
The St. Clair Plantation was left mainly to Mary Gould, who
proved to be as capable at managing the cotton fields as she
was at growing roses and managing household affairs at
Rosemount. She was so devoted to the plantation that it was
difﬁcult for Horace and Deborah to persuade her to leave
when the island was evacuated in 1861.
Like other residents of St. Simons, the Goulds packed boats
and flats with a few choice pieces of furniture, with boxes
of clothing and foodstuffs, with a pen of hogs and coops of
chickens. Then Mary, Aunt Caroline, Horace, and Deborah,
with their children and a few house servants, set out for
the safety of the mainland. Half way across the sound one of
the flatboats capsized, sending hogs, chickens, and
furniture overboard. Perhaps the hogs saved themselves by
swimming to a nearby island, later given the name of Hog
Island, and perhaps the timbers of a wreck, visible when the
water of the sound is clear, are those of the Gould flatboat
that overturned in t861.
On the mainland Horace was not able to find quarters large
enough for the whole family, but he found a dilapidated
cottage in Burneyville for Deborah and the children, and a
small furnished house in Blackshear for Mary and Aunt
Caroline. who were later joined by Janie when her husband
went into the Confederate Army. Although Horace Gould was
almost fifty years old, after the women and children were
safely housed he. too. joined the Confederate Army. where he
served under General Joseph E. Johnston, and as captain of
infantry under General Hood in the Battle of Atlanta.
When the war was over Horace Bunch Gould was one of the ﬁrst
planters to return to St. Simons Island. He found the St.
Clair house, Rosemount, burned to the ground and Black Banks
in the possession of a group of freedmen. He managed to buy
back the Black Banks property, and with the help of some of
the former Gould slaves part of the land was cleared and
cultivated again. With her beloved Rosemount gone, Mary
Gould lived with relatives in New York until 1870. when she
returned to St. Simons, two years before she died. A carved
granite rose marks her tombstone in Christ Church cemetery.
During the postwar years, when the communicants of Christ
Church parish had no house of worship, Horace Gould held
services each Sunday at Black Banks. He died in 188I, a
short time before his young friend, Anson Dodge, rebuilt
Christ Church. In the following years, Horace's daughter,
Anna, became Anson Dodge's devoted second wife.
Most of the St. Clair and Black Banks property passed, over
the years, into other hands. The St. Clair residential
development and the Sea Palms Golf and Country Club were
located on the acres that were once St. Clair Plantation.
Part of Horace Gould's land was eventually divided into
building lots for the Black Banks subdivision, while part is
still in the possession of members of the Gould family.