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Leigh Hill, Coleraine, Sawpit Landing

A Letter From Rev. W.O. Gibson

Charlton County Herald

April 27, 1934

Dear Editor of the Herald,

Instead of telling you about the sawmill at Coleraine I have something I prefer to write about at this time.

Through the courtesy of L.E. Mallard I visited old Leigh Hill a few days ago. This old historic place is near the St. Marys River one mile above Coleraine. I say historic, for such it is to me. I spent the first 21 years of my life near its foot where my mother was born and lived and died. In January 1830 my grandfather James J. Leigh moved from Nassau County, Fla. to make his home in Georgia, his native state. He was born and reared in Liberty County and went to Florida in 1823. He stopped at Coleraine in order to select a location on which to build a home. He was at first attracted to the natural beauty of this hill and decided to make a home there but before building he changed his mind and selected a location near the public road one mile above Coleraine and opposite Leigh Hill and where he died in 1839.

I had not seen the old hill in nearly sixty years and naturally my emotions were stirred when I saw it. Instead of house and fields as I used to see it, Nature had been at work as time passed and had placed there a forest of oaks, pines and other trees that no hands beside hers could equal in beauty. The situation of the hill is not clearly seen on account of the dense undergrowth covering it. I could not venture an estimate of its altitude though it rises to a considerable height above the flat woods or pasture lands surrounding it. It is circular and formed with a gradual slope to the base which is something like one-fourth of a mile in each direction. The soil was very fertile when in cultivation and the finest peach orchard I have ever seen in South Georgia was on Leigh Hill when I was a boy.

What a wonder it is that this place has escaped notice for so long a time. With the proper clearing of undergrowth and the pruning of trees, Leigh Hill could almost rival Bonaventure in scenic beauty.

Another fact that might make the word historic admissible is that on the river half a mile away is an old landing called the Sawpit Landing. I wonder how many of your readers know what the name implies. Many years ago an arrangement was made there for the sawing of such lumber as necessity really demanded, mostly for making coffins. A pit was made in the ground about ten feet long and four feet wide with a depth of about five or six feet. Across this pit two logs were laid and the log to be sawed was placed on these and lengthwise the pit. Two sides of the log was slabbed and hewn with axes. It was then put in place and was of whatever length the boards were desired. With a “straight edge”, a line was made with a piece of chalk where the saw was to run to make the board. If chalk was not convenient charcoal was used. One man stood on a frame above the log and another stood in the pit and with a common crosscut saw a board was made. It was slow, hard work but it was better than to have no lumber.

The old pit is there yet but the men who worked and sweated in it have long been gone and most or perhaps all of them were buried in coffins made of lumber that was made by more modern methods, though it is safe to say none of them were put in what we now call caskets.

If we could go backwards to those good old days when the tooting of an automobile horn would have alarmed us, fewer coffins and caskets would be needed, and the morals of the people would no doubt be several grades higher than they are.

-- W.O. GIBSON

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