There are a number of dynamics that swirl around St. Marys - some beneath the surface waiting to emerge, some finding their way to the surface and a few that are readily seen. One of the things the town is known as is the gateway to Cumberland Island - an island just off the coast that is known as the jewel of Georgia's sea islands.
A ferry runs to and from the island a couple of times a day except on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. We are going to come back and visit this island in a week and a half, so for now we will just look at how it impacts St. Marys.
It is estimated that upwards of 50,000 people a year pass through St. Marys and back while they visit Cumberland, a boon to the local economy.
The town is situated on a spur off of the major roads, so it has retained its small town charm. I always love the riot of color that a rack of kayaks brings to the scene.
There is a good mix of shops, parking is ample and the look is exactly what you would expect.
A few of the yards even have orange trees heavy with fruit. This is the last town before Florida, and there have bee a few mentions of orange groves further north that here, but this is the northernmost place we have seen them growing and the first place that has named a local landmark after them (St. Marys Orange Hall Museum.)
Several bed and breakfasts compliment the old hotel downtown - this is the Goodbread House, built in 1870 and purchased by its namesake, Walton Goodbread, in 1901.
I had the opportunity to trade my picket-fence painting skills for a few nights here - the first time I have stayed in a bed & breakfast. It was a pleasant experience - the rooms large, there are numerous large sitting areas, kitchen and laundry facilities to use and the feeling you really are a guest. And it has a really long picket fence !!
Meet Mardja Gray, owner of The Goodbread House. Mardja is a great cook and an attentive host. She came here over a decade ago to meet a childhood friend for a couple of days. The two of them decided they loved St. Marys that they would like to live here.
A month later, her house in Wilmington NC was sold, and she and her friend bought the inn. One of her friend's contributions - a pirate that sat on her pier in Fort Lauderdale Fl.
That friend is Barbara Ryan, who has a couple of decades experience as a publisher.
Not long after they arrived, Barbara got the St. Marys magazine going, and it now is widely distributed from Savannah to well into Florida. Both ladies have been very active in St. Marys - in fact Barbara wrote, directed and produced one of the town's plays this last year.
She pours a lot of love, time and energy into the magazine, and it shows. She enlisted me to proof-read a number of articles for the upcoming issue - my first gig as a proof reader.
There is a saying here that "You may leave St. Marys, but St. Marys will not leave you." These two came and have not left yet - and the community is better for their contributions. I am too - I also got a bit of work from them fixing up a bay window that the dog's claws had torn up a bit. Here is a before shot -
. . and an after. I would show the picket fence, but I have a bit more work to do on it when I return to write about Cumberland Island. The work was timely - I just had several renewals come due on the website and the anti-virus software. Thanks ladies !!
One more picturesque old church - these old small town churches are so pretty I have trouble not photographing them.
This one is a Catholic church, established in the 1840's.
And, of course, we have to visit the cemetery. Some of the neatest stories about a town are found through the cemeteries.
One of the great stories of St. Marys is that of the Tragic Acadians. France originally owned Acadia, but it was ceded to England in a treaty. The English renamed it Nova Scotia,
The population of Acadia - or newly minted Nova Scotia were hard working French settlers who had prospered in the area. They also happened to be Catholic - a combination that the English couldn't stand. So, the governor of Nova Scotia petitioned the King of England to send ships and 2,000 troops to help in what he referred to as a "Great and Noble Scheme."
When the troops arrived, the Governor called all the Acadian men to the local church to "read a decree." The church was surrounded by soldiers, and the Acadians were informed they were being deported. The soldiers then went to all the farms, rounded up the women and children and burnt the farms. This was the first ethnic cleansing that Europeans performed on themselves in the New World - they had previously held this tactic for the North American natives.
They were held in a large fenced compound for weeks, and finally ships began arriving to carry them off. They were then randomly dispersed wherever they could be gotten rid of. Some of where their populations were disbursed remains a mystery, although modern scholars contend that the ones who were dropped off in Louisiana created the nucleus of what is now known as the Cajun culture. The ones who ended up here had originally been dropped off in Haiti - and then had to flee there a few years later. It is an interesting enough story that I will be watching for references to the Acadians from now on. And they made enough of a contribution to society here that they are remembered in this graveyard.
In 1954 the US Army began digging in a large wharf here to be used as an ammunition shipping terminal. However, the facility was never really utilized.
In 1975 Spain decided that they didn't want our nuclear submarines operating off of their turf anymore, and the USA needed another operations point on the Atlantic.
So, one of Jimmy Carter's first acts as president was to sign legislation to move the base here, in his native state of Georgia. In 1979 the first ballistic missile submarine was serviced here.
Today, six ballistic and two guided missile subs call this home. These submarines each carry 24 missiles, each missile has eight independent bombs on it, and each bomb has about 30 times the explosive power of the bombs we dropped on Japan in WWII.
That means that each submarine can blow up 5,700 times what we blew up in Japan. Six of these subs here, that means we can blow up 34,000 times more than Hiroshima - just from this one base. I hope someone has a leash on our war-mongers. . .
The submarine positioned at the entrance appears as it would emerging from the water. Supposedly 2,000 of the base's 6,000 acres are set aside as protected wetlands. There is a submarine museum in downtown St. Marys, but it was closed this last week.
At the entryway I met Lieutenant V.M. Pacheco, who serves as Patrol Watch Commander for the Jacksonville Florida Sheriff's office.
V.M. Pacheco III
Lieutenant Pacheco is the founder and the national commander of VEMA - Veteran Enforcers Motorcycle Association.
The mission of VEMA is to raise awareness of the sacrifices that military, police and fireman have made for society. "VEMA" is a loose Latin variation with the meaning "saw more." They have organized and participated in events for The Fraternal Order of Police, Fallen Fireman's Foundation, Wounded Warrior Project and other groups including victim's advocate groups.
There are now 14 VEMA chapters, with groups as far away as Connecticut.
Here is a new one on me.
This fellow was working hard at dragging this sled with weights on it around a parking lot. It must be an off-shoot of the new cross-fit craze.
Today, when I left St. Marys and hit the Florida State line, it started snowing - what's up with that? I talked to a couple from northern Florida who is in their early twenties, and they said this is the first time they have seen snow in their life. Kinda cool - pardon the pun
And today's parting shot, seen hanging on a wall in Southern Georgia:
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