This year marks the tricentennial of a turning point in North American colonial history. Three centuries ago, British soldiers established their first fort on land that was to become the colony of Georgia. Called Fort King George, it protected a low bluff on the mighty Altamaha River from French and Spanish explorers, as well as Guale Indians.
From 1721 until 1727, Fort King George – now a state historic site – served as the southern boundary of the British Empire in North America. After a fire damaged buildings, General James Oglethorpe brought Scottish Highlanders to the site in 1736. Their settlement was called Darien, eventually becoming a bustling seaport that rivaled Savannah for shipping lumber.
Today, this 18th-century frontier settlement is open for tours where visitors can explore numerous reconstructed buildings. Overlooking a scenic tidal river are officers’ quarters, barracks, a guard house, moat and palisades. Guests are welcome to climb ladders inside the blockhouse, lay on soldiers’ bunks, peek out musket holes and even ring the dinner bell. Actively exploring the fort helps guests, especially children, imagine life 300 years ago. A museum highlights the Guale Indians, 1580s Santo Domingo de Talaje mission, British colonists, the Scots of Darien and the 19th century timber industry. The remains of three sawmills, soldier graves and tabby ruins are still visible today.
To celebrate the tricentennial, rangers will host a series of presentations and celebrations throughout 2021. The next virtual speaker presentations will be February 28, spotlighting Gullah Geechee heritage, and March 28, covering the Scots of Darien. Plans for future presentations include local historian Buddy Sullivan, archaeologist Dr. Richard Jefferies and former site managers.
Fort King George Historic Site is open Tuesday through Sunday, and admission is $4.50 for children and $7.50 for adults. To learn more, visit GaStateParks.org/FortKingGeorge or call 912-437-4770.