Savannah - America's Youngest Colony
|King George II|
|General James Oglethorpe|
Oglethorpe and a small band of settlers then crossed the Atlantic and reached what is now the mouth of the Savannah River early in 1733. They then sailed 18 miles up river to the site of what is today the City of Savannah. Oglethorpe selected the site as being easy to defend and had soon erected a circle of forts to protect the new city, some of which stand to this day. The King had not turned over to Oglethorpe a land flowing with milk and honey. The area was far to the south of the nearest British colonies in the Carolinas. The land was swampy and, for much of the year, the climate was humid and unhealthy. To make matters worse, Oglethorpe needed to spend much of his time and resources fighting with the Spaniards who controlled Florida. It is greatly to Oglethorpe's credit that the new colony of Georgia survived and that he founded the City of Savannah.
|Savannah laid out in grid pattern|
It can be said that Savannah was the first "planned" city in North America. Oglethorpe laid out the roads of Savannah in the shape of a series of 24 squares. In fact Oglethorpe seems to have been a very decent man. He fiercely opposed negro slavery. He worked for good relations with the local Creek Indians. He fought against "the press gang", which forcibly conscripted civilians into the Royal Navy. Finally, he retired to England and enjoyed a long and happy marriage before dying at the age of 88 in 1785. He therefore lived to see the birth of the new nation, including Georgia as the thirteenth and youngest colony. He much approved of this turn of events and was very happy to welcome John Adams, when he arrived in London as the first US ambassador.
|How Cranham Hall looked when Bob purchased it|
Oglethorpe married Elizabeth Wrighte, who brought into the marriage a property named Cranham Hall, Essex, which she had inherited from her father and brothers. Cranham Hall lies only 20 miles to the east of Central London. Oglethorpe lived there for the final 30 years of his life. In fact, he died there. The story of James Oglethorpe made a big impact on me. I had learned all about him when I was passing through Savannah in 1963. Fourteen years later, in 1977, I was therefore intrigued to read in the press, when I was living in London, that Cranham Hall was for sale by auction. I attended that auction. There were plenty of people there, but few bidders. I was one of the bidders and the property was eventually knocked down to me at a low price. I had become the owner of a historic mansion and six acres of land. It was my plan to restore Cranham Hall as a museum telling the story of Oglethorpe's eventful life, and then to open it to tourists from Georgia. Perhaps the State of Georgia would even help finance it. There were two major obstacles to my idea. Firstly, Cranham Hall had fallen into disrepair and the costs of its restoration would be huge. Secondly, it was not the actual house in which Oglethorpe had died. The original Cranham Hall was built prior to 1600. It had burned down soon after Oglethorpe's death.
In 1800, the present Cranham Hall was built on the same site and incorporated a small part of the old house. Yet that is not quite the same thing as being the house in which Oglethorpe had died. All Saints Church is adjacent to Cranham Hall. Oglethorpe and his wife are buried under the center of its chancel, but I still needed the original Cranham Hall to make my scheme credible. Fortunately, I was quickly able to sell the property to a local millionaire at a good profit. He made it his own home and restored it beautifully. The Oglethorpes, resting peaceful in the church next door, must surely approve.
|Cranham Hall after renovations|
|Birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low|
|Juliette Gordon Low|
This piece, written by Bob, was originally posted on our website on November 10, 2008.