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"History of Charlton County," Page 47-49; Printed in 1932 (Out of print)

CAMP PINCKNEY

By

Alex. S. McQueen

During the early history when the territory of Florida was owned by the Spanish king and when the territory between the St Mary’s and Altamaha rivers was, by mutual consent, neutral territory, a highway was constructed, running north from the ancient city of St. Augustine, Florida, called the “Kings Road,” named in honor of the king of Spain. This road crossed the St. Johns river at Cow Ford, now the city of Jacksonville, and crossed the St. Mary’s river at Camp Pinckney. This road was later extended to the city of Savannah, and during the early Colonial period was the main highway between the settlements of Georgia and Florida, and upon this then magnificent highway the old stage coaches made regular trips, carrying passengers and mail. Old Center Village, in Charlton county, was one of the designated places for stops for meals and other refreshments. The old “King’s Road” is still plainly discernible and a portion of it is yet in use, running north from Jacksonville toward the Georgia line and now a paved highway and is yet called the “King’s Road.” This road, as stated, crossed the St. Mary’s river at Camp Pinckney – about three miles from Folkston – and passed through the old and now deserted town of Center Village.

As stated before in these sketches, Center Village achieved prominence as a trading center on account of its proximity to Camp Pinckney, an old boat landing on the St. Mary’s river and also the place of crossing of the “King’s Road.”

During the early days when the King’s Road was the only highway from Georgia to Florida and when water transportation was the only means of transportation of freight and supplies for the pioneers, Camp Pinckney, on the St. Mary’s river, was an important place, and a ferry was maintained there for generations, until the railroads came through and the consequent decline of water transportation for freight and supplies.

It is not definitely known how Camp Pinckney obtained its name, but an old pioneer told the author several years ago that a Captain Pinckney, with a body of troops, camped there for some time during the periodic Indian wars. Thomas Pinckney, history records, did take a part in the Indian wars. He was the son of Charles Pinckney, Governor of South Carolina, and was born at Charleston, S.C., in 1750. He was sent to England to be educated and was later admitted to the English bar. He returned to South Carolina in 1772, and upon the outbreak of the Revolutionary War entered the army and became an aide to General Gates. He was later Governor of South Carolina and again took up arms against England in the War of 1812. When the periodic Indian wars broke out he took part in the expedition against the lower Creeks, and it is entirely possible that he did camp at this old landing place, for generations called “Camp Pinckney.”

At Camp Pinckney was located one of the first turpentine plants in this section, or Georgia, and a plant was operated there until long after the close of the Civil War. An old negro named Frank Jones, who died in Folkston a few years ago, told the writer he was brought to Camp Pinckney from Virginia when a lad of 15 to engage in this work, and the boat that brought him together with other negroes from Virginia, ascended the St. Mary’s river and landed at Camp Pinckney, and that it was a sail boat that brought them all the way from the coast of Virginia. He told us about his trip and about how the country looked to him, one night while we were at his shad fishing camp at this same spot – Camp Pinckney. He was old and feeble then, but said he remembered the day he landed as a lad of 15 as well as he ever remembered anything. He stated that this country was then covered with a dense growth of magnificent yellow pine timber.

When the Civil War broke out a turpentine plant was being operated at Camp Pinckney by a firm composed of Buck and Venters, and it is told that these men, fearing the coming of the enemy, dumped hundreds of barrels of rosin into the St.Mary’s river at and near Camp Pinckney, and dug vats or large holes in the ground and buried all the crude gum not manufactured. These vats are still plainly evident, and after the close of the war the crude gum was dug up and distilled. It seems that a good portion of the rosin was left at the bottom of the St. Mary’s river, and some of it is still there. During the year 1924, about 60 years after it was dumped into the river, Messrs. Joe May, Tom and Boots Lloyd dug up and reclaimed about 100 barrels of this rosin and sold it to Mr. B.F. Scott, who was then operating a turpentine plant in Folkston, and Mr. Scott run this rosin through the still again and sold it for a handsome price. Mr. Scott says that this rosin stilled about 60 years previous and which lay at the bottom of the St. Mary’s river for over a half century, was the finest grade of “waterwhite” rosin he ever saw.

After the coming of the railroad, and after the abandonment of a portion of the old “King’s Road” and the decline of Center Village, the old ferry at Camp Pinckney was abandoned, and now nothing is left but the old site, but showing yet that there was an old ferry landing in years gone by. The site is now owned by Mr. W.L. Thomas, who has recently constructed two or three camp houses near the old landing on the bluff under moss-draped trees. {It is one of the most beautiful spots to be found along the historic St. Mary’s, and its chief claim of distinction in recent years lies in the fact that it is also an ideal place to hang a net to catch the justly famous St. Marys river shad fish.)

Charlton  County Archives