A Captain Who Sails Through Some Truly Intriguing History!
A Captain Who Sails Through Some Truly Intriguing History!
Over the past few weeks we have been bringing you ‘tales’ from St. Simons Island. Beginning with the incredible, King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort, other businesses and unique history have been highlighted. Readers have been introduced to the ‘faces’ that make up the stunning island of St. Simons; the people who add the intensity and color that helps define this vibrant locale.
Today, we explore the life of a man whose actual lineage can be dated back centuries to this island, when his family first arrived in the 1800’s. This is resident who loves the relaxed atmosphere and knows all its history, from the Spanish and British battles to the incredible nature that surrounds him on a daily basis to the old – very true - tales of slave plantations and the background of the famous and infamous souls who are now buried in Christ Church cemetery.
His name is Cap Fendig, and he owns a company that offers everything from Trolley Tours of the incredibly rich history of the island, to boat tours where each visitor can play alongside the baby dolphin. He is the ‘island host by land or sea!’ Not only is he an integral part of one of the oldest families on the island, but Cap is also a thirty-five-year licensed U.S. Coast Guard Master Captain. Over the years, visitors have come to St. Simons Island and have had their breath literally taken away – discovering the beauty and the almost, still untouched nature that is found there. Not only are you going to meet Cap Fendig, but you will also learn all the ins-and-outs of what makes St. Simons so amazing.
One way to discover the ‘Cap’ experience is the Lighthouse Trolley Tour, a journey that takes visitors to see St. Simons, Jekyll, Brunswick, and/or Darien. History, shopping, restaurants – from the Pier at St. Simons Village to the Maritime Center.
Cap also provides visitors with his Dolphin Tours which are truly unforgettable. Taken out on the water, visitors see the abundance of dolphins and the stunning, untouched, marshlands – the richest ecosystem east of the Mississippi.
And if you are an avid fisherman, Cap Fendig also offers fishing tours where one and all can sit back, relax and experience the largest variety of fish species on the coast. From Red fish, drum, sea trout, flounder, whiting, tarpon, to many different sizes and species of shark.
The depth of the Golden Isles remains a mystery to the rest of the world, which makes for a stunning place to vacation. The only downside being, that everyone who seems to visit doesn’t want to go back home. And after spending just a short time with this incredible resident, you will want nothing more than to become a local for life.
You’ve been here all your life?
Oh, yes. I was born here. Being from one of the oldest families on the island, as well as one of the largest, you can pretty much go into any place here – restaurant, store, etc. – and you’ll meet up with one of my family members. The only hard part to that is, with this being such a small community, I certainly had to keep on the ‘straight and narrow’ because someone would find out quickly if I didn’t. (LOL)
Your family came from Germany?
Yes. In the 1800’s my family came to St. Simon’s because of the huge growth in the timbre and shipping businesses. Although cash was lost in the depression, War, etc., we’ve always been able to survive here.
And you never thought of leaving?
Not at all. This is one of the most relaxed locations on earth. In fact, it’s what some call the ‘best kept secret in Georgia’ (not to mention the U.S.). Not many people know about us, even though some truly famous people lived here, and their stories are remarkable. Also, very wealthy folks like the Carnegies and Rockefellers, people like that, had homes here in the Golden Isles. The ruins of Dungeness can actually still be seen.
I have to say, I didn’t know all this was here, and I lived in Macon for a year-and-a-half.
That’s right. People know of Savannah, Charleston, of course, but down here it’s a very unique area. It’s not like you can’t get here or that we’re inaccessible – you can fly right in – but it still remains very quiet and undisturbed. You don’t have the population intensity here, which is nice. I can go out in a small boat in the morning and I don’t see anyone – not a lot of competition at all. (LOL). But it always remains very serene, and the nature is stunning.
The birds are amazing here.
True. We have over 280 species of birds here, in fact. The Cedar Waxwings fly in a bunch; it’s almost tornadic when they migrate.
A great many species migrate here, I’ve seen.
Yes, all migratory, and they come here right around now and stay for 2-3 weeks. This is actually the best time to see them. We also have the Painted Bunting – which is said to be the most beautiful wild bird in existence. They are exotic – like little wrens; they come in all colors and show up here right about now. They are stunning to watch.
And this is the best season for the birds to arrive?
Actually this is the Season for everything right now, from the nesting to the baby dolphins. Mid-May is prime and then in the Fall they come back. The coast is so underdeveloped that the birds always migrate here.
The baby dolphins are amazing.
Everyone loves the baby dolphins. Taking visitors out in the boats and seeing those foot-long solid black dolphins all around, trying to learn how to breathe, it’s very cool.
There is so much history here. When we went on the Trolley Tour and heard the story of this island – and the plantations, etc., I was mesmerized.
Visitors love it because, like I said, a majority of people don’t know that St. Simons and these stories even exist. On one end was Retreat Plantation, owned by the King family. Anna King was a writer and her husband, Thomas, was a member of Congress and very prominent in politics at that time. This was a true “Gone with the Wind” plantation with galas and balls, but Anna King truly cared for the slaves. There’s a slave hospital on the plantation, and a bloc of land was even given to a slave when Anna passed. She wrote down everything in her book: Anna: The Letters of a St. Simons Island Plantation Mistress.
Amazing…and there was another plantation?
At the other end of the island was a plantation owned by Pierce Butler. He married a British actress who truly hated the way slaves were treated. She wrote about slaves and their conditions during the Civil War, and it’s because of her book that England would not support the South during the Civil War. So she actually changed history from here; she turned England against the Confederacy with her words – meaning, she most likely changed the course of the whole War.*
So we’d be living in a divided country if she hadn’t written the book?
That’s right. Of course, England had servants, but in a whole different way than the South. The King and Prince property and Golf Course is actually located on that plantation’s ‘grave.’
Yup, there’s nothing left of the plantation – demolished – but some of the ruins can be seen inside the fenced-in area.
Now, Eugenia Price is another author who lived in St. Simon’s?
Oh, yeah, I sat with her a lot. She used to ask questions like, if I paddled from this place to that how long would it take to get there. A good lady, a good friend and an amazing author. Her books are actually available at the Lighthouse here. They’re collector’s pieces – not really in print anymore. She wrote a great deal of books after becoming sort of obsessed with this area and the families that were buried here. She has a trilogy that went right up the charts, too. She didn’t speak much…of course, she was a writer (LOL) and they don’t, but she owned the property beside Christ Church – which has the cemetery holding all the original families, and she loved to do research on all of them.*
I have to say, walking through the graveyards and seeing the dates and hearing the stories put me in awe.
Well, you have a traceable lineage in that graveyard. Indians buried there, the British, plantation families are in there – all of them captivated Eugenia’s mind. So basically we had writers at both ends of the island, in their plantations – one who actually changed the course of a War – and then we had another right in the middle of the island named Couper,* who Eugenia also wrote about. He created the very first rice mill, as well as the first dike system at the Altamaha plantation.
Really? The first in the U.S.?
Yup. It seems like all the visionaries came here.
People who were ahead of their time?
That’s right. Everyone who came here, to me, was a visionary. And look at the history of Jekyll Island right next to us. There you had members of The Millionaire’s Club – the really wealthy and powerful people came here. It wasn’t until the Great Depression hit that the Jekyll Island Club and the families sort of fell apart. In 1910, the country’s leading financial men even came to the Club and ended up forming the current Federal Reserve. So, suffice to say, the history is amazing!
That’s an understatement. Not only does St. Simon’s and the surrounding islands offer quiet, beauty, the best in fishing, golfing, hiking and biking – but also the best in dining, as well as accommodations at the King and Prince. Add to that the incredible history that is truly awe-inspiring, and you have a location that MUST be explored (or even the spot to relocate).
The only thing a ‘novice’ archaeologist needs is a guide, and Cap Fendig – whether it be by land and or by sea – is the ONLY man for the job!
Until Next Time, Everybody,
For more information on Cap, head to:
(*Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839 did, in fact, turn England against the Confederacy. Fanny Kemble spent four months on Butler and St. Simon’s Islands. During that time she and her new husband clashed frequently over the issue of slavery. Fanny recorded her experiences and told of the moral injustice she witnessed.) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p1569.html
(*In 1961 Eugenia Price visited St. Simon’s Island on a book signing tour. In the Christ Church cemetery, she saw a tombstone for the Reverend Anson Dodge and his two wives. This inspired her to research the area, including history and famous figures. She would spend the remainder of her life writing detailed historical novels set in the American South, many of which were critically . acclaimed. Her early works, particularly the “St Simons Trilogy” – which consists of: The Beloved Invader (1965), New Moon Rising (1969) and Lighthouse (1972), were extensively researched and based on real people.) ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenia_Price
(James H. Couper’s family immigrated from Scotland in 1775, settling on Georgia’s Atlantic coast, where Couper’s father bought land on St. Simon Island and formed a plantation. Couper’s scientific diking and drainage system at the Altamaha plantation was soon copied by others. In 1829 he built the most complete, modern sugar mill in the South, and was also the first American to build and operate a cottonseed oil mill.) http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/James_Hamilton_Couper.aspx
To make your reservations now, go to:
The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort
201 Arnold Road
St. Simons Island, Georgia 31522
(912) 638-3631: Phone
(800) 342-0212: Reservations
(912) 638-7699: Fax