James Holmes (who was born in 1804) mentions in his journal, Dr. Bullie’s Notes (edited by Delma E. Presley), that as a boy, he visited St. Catherines Island with his father to see George Waldburg’s new cotton gin.
At around 200 years ago, Dr. Bullie (Holmes) saw some of the same buildings that are in use today by the St. Catherine’s Island Foundation. They are the Button Gwinnett house, carriage house (archaeology lab), tabby barn (which is used to store research and teaching equipment), Button cabin for guests, and smokehouse that houses a backup generator for the Gwinnett house.
The Waldburg family grew cotton on St Catherines Island. Slaves were housed at three different settlements. The settlements were North End settlement (today’s Compound), Middle settlement near Cemetery Road, and Waldburg (called South End settlement today). The Waldburgs obtained ownership of the entire island in 1852. It has remained under single ownership ever since. The river running west of the Compound is called Walburg Creek, revealing just how fluid 19th-century spelling could be.
At the end of the Civil War, freedmen converted an old tabby building in the south-end settlement of Waldburg into a church. The descendants of that congregation now worship at the church on White Bluff Road in Savannah that was built by their ancestors from St. Catherines Island. Three buildings stand on the White Bluff property. The smallest and eldest building is a copy of the building they used on St. Catherines.