James Edward Oglethorpe founded the colony of Georgia in 1733 to be a place for people seeking a second chance. Slavery, strong drink (rum) and lawyers were outlawed as part of Oglethorpe’s attempt to establish a moral society.
John and Mary Musgrove who lived and ran a trading post a few miles upriver from where Oglethorpe founded Savannah were asked to be Oglethorpe’s interpreters with the local native tribes. Mary was part Creek Indian and was born into a prominent Creek family in Coweta Town on the banks of the Ocmulgee River (modern-day Macon, GA). John Musgrove died shortly after the founding of the colony and Mary became Oglethorpe’s lead ambassador and interpreter to the Indians.
After establishing and naming the towns of Savannah and Augusta, Oglethorpe led a contingent of settlers, soldiers and mercenaries to St. Simons Island. While on their way to St. Simons Island, Oglethorpe’s people camped on St. Catherines Island. John Wesley, who later returned to England and helped to start Methodism, was with Oglethorpe that night on St. Catherines. While Oglethorpe was in residence on St. Simons, Spaniards from St. Augustine landed on the island in an attempt to remove the British from the area. As the Spanish soldiers were seeking the English settlement, the Georgians ambushed them. A number of the Spaniards were killed and a few were captured. The Spanish left St. Simons within a few days of the ambush. The place on St. Simons where the battle took place is still called Bloody Marsh. Oglethorpe went home to England in 1743 and never returned to Georgia.
Shortly after Oglethorpe’s departure for England, the moratorium on slavery was lifted. Lawyers were allowed into the colony and of course strong drink followed. Rather than becoming a place for second chances, Georgia became a place for second sons who would come in search of land.
Thomas and Mary (Musgrove) Bosomworth took up residence on St. Catherines Island sometime in the 1740s.Bosomworth, an Anglican minister was Mary’s third husband. Several Yamassee Indian families were also living on St. Catherines Island at that time.
In 1753 Jonathan Bryan, the son of a South Carolina planter led a party through the environs of coastal Georgia. His stated purpose for the journey was to look for land. A few years earlier, Bryan accompanied Oglethorpe during a failed attack on St. Augustine. Adam Bosomworth (Thomas Bosomworth’s brother) greeted Bryan’s group when they arrived on St. Catherines Island. They landed at 8 o’clock in the evening of August 10th. The next morning Adam Bosomworth, took the travelers on a 3-hour walk across the island to the beach and back. Bryan wrote in his journal, “This island is one of the most pleasant and agreeable place(s) in all Georgia”. He also mentions “the middle of the island appears a perfect Meadow being a large Savanna” (Wood and Bullard). Today – Bryan’s perfect meadow is called the Central Depression. Pine trees have, for the most part, replaced the grass. A team of scientists from two museums, three Georgia universities, two out-of-state universities and members of the St. Catherines Island staff are working together to understand the origins and workings of that mysterious (scientifically) part of the island. They call themselves the Central Depression Consortium. Bryan also saw “springs and… crystal streams.” There are no springs or streams on the island today. Bryan County, Georgia is named for Jonathan Bryan. One of the men on that voyage with Bryan was William De Brahm, a German engineer, surveyor and mapmaker.
Mary and Thomas Bosomworth gained legal title to St. Catherines Island in 1760. William De Brahm (who had accompanied Bryan in 1753) and Henry Yonge surveyed the island for the colony and made a map from that survey. A photocopy of the Yonge and De Brahm map hangs in the living room of the Button Gwinnett House today. Upon Mary Musgrove’s death five years after she gained title, Bosomworth sold the island to Button Gwinnett. Gwinnett was to become a signer of the Declaration of Independence and Georgia’s first “President of the Assembly” (a title later called governor). Gwinnett resided on St. Catherines for 11 years. He was killed in a duel during the Revolution. After the Revolutionary War, the title to the island was in debate and the courts apportioned the island. The 18th century ended with St. Catherines Island being divided into several different tracts with multiple owners.