History of Charlton County
Published 1932 (Out of print)
Alex. S. McQueen
Possibly the most famous town along the St. Mary’s river, and especially as to its importance in the history of Georgia and the nation, was Coleraine, an Indian trading post in the early days.
From information furnished by students and local historians, and gleaned from old records, it appears that Coleraine was already an Indian village before a grant was made by the State of Georgia to James Armstrong and James Seagroves, two traders from St. Thomas (now St. Mary’s and Camden). These grants were dated December 1, 1786, and granted 2,300 acres of land to Armstrong and 2,000 acres to Seagroves.
It seems that the entry of these traders upon these tracts of land caused dissention among the Indians, and the United States government had to take a hand, and, later, during the year 1795 established a Government trading post at Coleraine which, however, survived only two years.
Possibly the most important historical event during the entire life of Coleraine village was the signing of the treaty of peace and friendship between the United States and the Creek Nation of Indians.
This important event was concluded June 29, 1796, and the Indians, after much smoking of the pipe of peace and drinking the white man’s rum and wine, pledged to abide the New York treaty, and pledged themselves to aid in the running of the line between Spain and the United States; but they positively refused to cede any of the territory between the Oconee and the Ocmulgee rivers to Georgia.
The commissioners on the part of the United States were Benjamin Hawkins, of North Carolina; George Clymer, of Pennsylvania; and Andrew Pickens, of South Carolina. Georgia also sent agents in the persons of James Jackson, James Simms, and James Hendricks. The parley, according to an early historian, commenced in May, 1796, and was attended by twenty kings, seventy-five chiefs, and three hundred and forty warriors, representing the Creek Indians. The commissioners on the part of the United States were also attended by soldiers.
The result of the parley was highly displeasing to the Georgians, and when the treaty was completed General James Jackson of Georgia arose and made a lengthy speech, in which he pointed out the faithless observance of their treaties with his State by the Creeks, and exhibited two schedules of the property which they had stolen. This amounted to one hundred and ten thousand dollars, and General Jackson demanded that this sum be restored to the Georgians.
The Indians listened with profound attention, and when he had concluded his long speech they adjourned for the day. The “Big Warrior,” who had lately become a prominent chief, facetiously remarked: “I can fill up more paper than Jackson has done with the list of similar outrages of the Georgians upon my people.”
The agents representing Georgia became highly offended with Seagrove, the Indian agent, with the Indians and with the Federal commissioners, and the last named were charged – and truthfully – with disregarding the interests of Georgia in this parley. The Georgians did not gain anything in these deliberations, but it was the beginning of a bitter controversy between Georgia and the Federal government which terminated several years later with the sovereign State of Georgia winning out by open and threatening defiance to the general government.
Coleraine struggled along for years as a small trading post, but the Indians gradually deserted it for Fort Alert (Trader’s Hill), several miles farther up the St. Mary’s river, and later Center Village (or Centerville) eclipsed Coleraine as a trading post for the whites.
The old landing, and beautiful grounds surrounding, with large, moss-draped oaks dotting the old deserted village streets, is still a spot of beauty, for the same beautiful St. Mary’s river continues to flow peacefully toward the Atlantic, and from the very spot where this historic treaty was concluded – an incident which changed the course of history of our nation, for it was the beginning of the end of the power of the proud Castilians to the south in Spanish Florida – a clear view of the historic St. Mary’s can still be seen.
This beauty spot has not been entirely neglected, for on the 30th day of April, 1912, the Lyman Hall Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Waycross, Ga., erected upon the very spot where the peace treaty was signed, and under the same moss-draped oak trees that sheltered the kings and chiefs of the Creeks and the commissioners of the United States on that memorable June day in 1796, when the course of history of this great nation was altered, a giant granite boulder commemorating this great event.
This boulder was given to the Daughters by Hon. Sam Tate, of Tate, Georgia, who recently served a term as chairman of the State Highway Board of Georgia. Upon one side of this magnificent boulder is the following inscription: “This boulder marks the site of the old Town of Coleraine, where the treaty of peace and friendship was made on the 29th day of June, 1796, between the President of the United States and the kings, chiefs, and warriors of the Creek Nation of Indians. Ratified March 18, 1797. The commissioners on the part of the United States were Benjamin Hawkins, George Clymer and Andrew Pickens.” On the other side of the boulder is the following inscription: “Erected April 30, 1912, Lyman Hall Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Waycross, Georgia; donated by Sam Tate, Tate, Ga.” The site of this old, deserted village is the dividing l9ine between Charlton and Camden counties, and the Coleraine tract is now owned by Mr. D.L. Hebard of Philadelphia, Pa., and a portion of the original tract is owned by Mr. M.G. White, Folkston, Ga. Only recently Mr. D.L. Hebard or Mr. Dan Hebard, (as he is better known among the natives) erected a handsome winter home within a few feet of the granite boulder which marks the spot of the signing of the peace treaty. It is, without a doubt, the finest and most expensive house to be found in this section of Southeast Georgia. It is constructed entirely of wood, mostly cypress lumber. Mr. Hebard owns the greater portion of the Okefenokee swamp, and is a wealthy, retired lumberman. He is an ardent sportsman and an excellent gentleman, and has many warm, personal friends in Charlton County.
(Note: We found one early history differing slightly with all other data found on the subject of the signing of the peace treaty and about the village of Coleraine. We have an old Georgia history published in 1856 which states that after the council met at Coleraine for a few days, the entire assembly moved a short distance away to Muskogee. This history gives it as follows: “At the suggestion of Seagrove, the Indian Agent, the council was removed from Coleraine to Muskogee, a short distance off. Here a considerable time was spent in listening to the speeches of the commissioners, and in subsequent deliberations.” If this is true the actual signing of the pact was made on the high bluff at the present home of Mr. M.G. White. After reading this account we interviewed old settlers and found that Muskogee bluff is a short distance up the river from Coleraine and is the spot where Mr. M.G. White’s home now stands, and if the above account is true then the actual signing of the peace treaty occurred in Charlton County.)