I am the CVA ambassador at Cumberland Island National Seashore. During my first month at my park the YCC kids were working on our island, cleaning up the trails and doing other maintenance. Every Monday they went on a field trip to see how Cumberland Island’s history relates to other parks in the area.
The first week we went to Brunswick, Georgia. the first stop was Fort Fredrica, which was established 1776 by James Oglethorpe to protect the new colony of Georgia from the Spanish. There are very few remains of the fort where the soldiers from the Battle of Bloody Marsh were based. Oglethorpe also established two forts on Cumberland Island.
The next stop was Jekyll Island. First we went to the Museum/ visitor center. Jekyll Island Club was built in 1886 as a hunting and recreational club for America’s wealthiest socialites. This is the same time period that the Carnegie’s inhabited Cumberland Island. The Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll island was next on the itinerary. There we were given a tour of the hospital and met “Rhino”, a loggerhead sea turtle rescued off Cumberland who had a huge barnacle on his nose when he first arrived. Next we went to the 4-H enrichment center on Jekyll and saw several snakes, fish, and crabs that also inhabit Cumberland.
Here is a video of a 1-year loggerhead who was rescued and will be released to grow up in the Sargasso Sea.
The second week we went to St. Augustine. The first place we visited was Fort Mose Historic State Park. This was a Spanish owned fort. The soldiers and residents who inhabited the fort made up the first free African settlement in America. Many of the residents had escaped from the British colonies who converted to Catholicism and learned Spanish to become Spanish citizens. The soldiers here are the ones who fought the English in the battle of Bloody Marsh.
The next stop was Castillo de San Marcos. This fort was built by the Spanish in the oldest town in America, St. Augustine. The fort was built from coquina, a shell like material that absorbed cannonballs when hit. The British tried evading several times and could never take over the Fort. During the American Revolution it was signed over to England, then went back to Spain, and eventually became under American jurisdiction, becoming under Confederate rule during the Civil War and a training camp for the Coast Guard during World War 2.
The third and last week we went to Kingsley plantation in Jacksonville, Florida. We learned the story of Zephaniah Kingsley who married his slave Anna, and had four children. His relationship with her mirrors the relationship between Robert Stafford and his slave, Elizabeth Bernardey on Cumberland Island. Even though Cumberland and Jacksonville are very close, the lives of Africans were very different. In Spanish Florida, free African citizens had all the same rights and could even own slaves. Anna Kingsley was one of those citizens after being freed by her husband. On Cumberland Island, an American Island, the African people had no rights and couldn’t own property. Robert Stafford never married Elizabeth and after he died all his property went to his white nieces and nephews although he did educate all of his children and moved them up North.
The trips with the YCC taught me that to really #findyourpark you have to discover the surrounding area. The community and the area’s history play an integral part on what each park stands for and what makes up your park’s personality.