The boys, four - Hugh, Patrick, James, and Charles, landed in Darien, south of Savannah in 1732. They had few prospects of fame and glory at home. The clan had lost the family lands and seat, Stathnaver, in repaying debts incurred during the the 30 Years War supporting the Protestant cause. I can't imagine how hostile, yet fertile, this land must have seemed at first sight. Vegetation grows like jungle canopy here, and the heat and biting insects must have been a shock to bare legs under woolen battle kilts. Still, many Scots came seeking religious freedom and free land.
Hugh and James traveled north to the southern bank of the Ogeechee River to begin building Fort Argyle while others remained behind to establish Fort Frederica on the Island of St. Simon. Would they have traveled through virgin lob-lolly pine forests and dense, wooded acres of wild Magnolia and majestic Live Oaks?
We are struggling with the impending loss of our second Magnolia tree in the last fifteen years. Originally, this house was built to nestle between two rows of these established trees. The first drawing, dated 1838, of the current house shows these trees, already mature. One tree was struck by lightening and fell early in our time here, scattering a family of raccoon nestled in the hollow of the old trunk. All survived, walking away dazed and confused as we humans circled the tree, thankful it had spared the house. It was protected by a sister tree that accepted the brunt of the damaging fall. This is the tree over which we wrestle. It is dying, but slowly. One trunk is hollow, a new home for the annual family of coons; the leaves are becoming smaller; the tips of branches bare. Still, we resist. These trees are at least 200 years old, as old as those at Mt. Vernon. They have witnessed great struggle and ease under their canopy. I have given thanks for their beauty, even as I curse the constant mess. We pick up leaves spring and autumn, and cones fall in the winter. Still, it is hard to destroy a living thing.
This tree will come down. Soon I guess. It leans over the house. If it falls, we will be crushed. Yet it didn't fall the night before last, when the tornado alarms came over the Noah radio, and we went downstairs to wait out the worst of the storm.
|This is the dying tree. The lean and bare trunk are visible|
We have no record for when the trees were planted. We do know, however, they were planted for the first house that stood here. It might have been a simple log cabin built by James before he could establish a more permanent home. Or, the first home may have looked much like the one now standing, a simple four-over-four with lean-to rooms at the rear. This was a standard style for colonists. The trees have witnessed the return home of a victorious soldier as well as the invasion by Sherman, who visited and stayed here while on his march to the sea. It is a difficult decision to fell this tree. I pay tribute to its great majesty and grandeur.
|This one shades my office, the last slave cabin, "Cook's House"|
|The largest healthy tree shades the chicken coop|