Tag Archives: savannah

The Savannah San Francisco Connection

Matthew Hall McAllister

Hall_McAllister_by_Robert_Ingersoll_Aitken_-_San_Francisco,_CA_-_Wikipedia DSC02820.jpg

 

        McAllister in San Francisco

 

In 1850, and few yards offshore from the eastern end of Savannah’s Yamacraw Bluff, forty-nine-year-old Matthew Hall McAllister sailed down the river on his way to the boomtown of San Francisco. In five years, a street less than one-half mile away would carry his name.   The smell of salt air and marsh mud hanged on the air as he saw visions of shining gold nuggets beyond Savannah and beyond the horizon three-thousand miles to the West. He had given up on the city of his birth. For the Georgian and local leader, it is time to move on. Fifteen miles to the south, on the Ogeechee River at Strathy Hall, were his cousins who would make history later, That branch of the family would be known for Fort McAllister and the end of the Union Army’s march through the state. Hall, as he was known, would stay in touch and for the meantime, the family ties will reach over a continent and remain.

After serving in the State Senate, Hall ran as a candidate for Governor of Georgia. He lost. He had served as mayor of the city a few years earlier, and as far as credentials go, his were admirable. In 1799 his father had been mayor and had presided over the dedication of a new Exchange Building at the end of Bull Street, a milestone in the city’s history that ushered in an age of prosperity. On his mother’s side, his grandfather, Thomas Gibbons, had also served in the office. Savannah was Hall’s birthright, a part of the genetics of his family. McAllister’s family roots may have tangled and interwoven through the city’s history, but now they were balled up, stashed aboard ship, migrating to California where a new life beckons.  The West had called,  His golden illusion wasn’t in the placer and hard-rock, yellow metal that others were seeking. For him, it was in the law and litigation and legislation that controlled legal tender. Gold may be where you find it, but law books and their content are where you find the real riches, power, and influence. His wife and children traveled with him to settle in the new boomtown on the bay but Georgia politicians convinced him to sail home for one last attempt to gain a US Senatorial seat. But, again, he lost.

By that time of his first voyage Savannah’s edge-of-the-river, War-of-1812 ditch and parapet at Trustees’ Garden had eroded and had filled with sand and discarded household debris. In the layers of trash and litter were fragments of butcher-cut bone, glass and ceramic shards, unrecognizable decayed nodules mixed between carbon lenses that tell of the firing of tossed household trash and plant clippings. At the top of the slope on the West, the British Revolutionary War trenches had filled with discarded bricks, metal, and trash. Times of war were behind. The need for defenses was out of mind and slowly filling out of sight.

As he sailed past, demolition work was underway to dismantle old Fort Wayne, a stronghold named for General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. Shovel by shovel, portions of the earthen stronghold disappeared the same way others on the site had in years past. As it stood, it’s a sickle-shaped earthen structure stretched one-hundred yards long arcing from the southwest to the northeast along the edge of the bluff. The “handle” section stood halfway down the slope in the center of the Trustees’ Garden, pointing to the intersection of Randolph and Broughton Streets. The blade-shaped structure led from the handle, around the bluff northward, arcing toward the intersection of Bay and East Broad Streets. The partial demolition of the fort was for progress, to take the city into the future with Savannah’s new manufactured gaslight plant. Some of the earth from the fort would fill a small terrace to hold a Gasometer tank that would rise and fall, expand and contract, regulating pressure and distributing fuel to the homes of the area. Reynolds street, laid out three decades prior to the American Revolution, was being rerouted around the bulkhead before it proceeded north to intersect Bay Street below the bluff. Gas was the modern way, the progressive way, the future for lighting, for cooking, and for heating. It epitomized the birth pangs of the industrial revolution, and Savannah is on the crest of the wave.

When Hall returned to run for the Senate, he sailed back by the site, the gas plant he saw had expanded to meet the need of the booming cotton and naval stores port. A new wall engulfed the first, looping from Bay Street, around and into the heart of the Garden intersecting with Wright Street that would become a drive and parking area for the Pirate’s House Restaurant a century later. Fort Wayne’s earthen mass was shoveled into the terrace and surrounded by a masonry wall, erasing the fort with only one brick-structured bombproof to tell of its existence though partially hidden. Except for the protective wall, the old fort is completely gone, recycled into a new fortress-looking bulkhead. During the excavation, crews found three discarded cannons from the Revolution era. Years later, gas workers would place them along the parapet creating an unintended prank that confused future generations into calling the wall, “Old Fort Wayne.” Paradoxically, the fort does remain composed of the sand-layered fill in the elongated, square enclosure. Two additional gasometers had sprung up, dominating the skyline of the bluff.

For Hall, the return was frustrating. After his loss, he again pulled his stakes and sailed for California. As he again passed Trustees’ Garden, the Savannah Gaslight Company facility is running at maximum output providing gas for cooking, heating, and especially lighting. The shanghai-prone waterfront of his embarkation was a priority for the City and for gas.  Wharf lighting was universally embraced in an attempt to stop the epidemic problem of the kidnapping of citizens and drunken sailors that awoke to find themselves aboard ships, miles from home. When Hall entered the Golden Gate of San Francisco Bay on the other side of the continent, he found that three Irish immigrants, the Donohue brothers, had built gasworks there as well.  Their venture formed the first manufactured gas company on the West Coast using imported Australian coal to fire the ovens.  San Francisco, like Savannah, was growing.

In two years, Matthew Hall McAllister left his impression on his new home and became revered in San Francisco’s history. Few know of his connection to Savannah and his family history in the east. That historical mark was made when he was named the first judge of the Federal Ninth Circuit Count. His likeness is now enshrined in a bronze sculpture that stands near front steps of San Francisco’s City Hall. A few yards away is statue commemorating Abraham Lincoln. During the first year as a Federal Judge, he would meet and work with a young banker and Major-General of the California State Militia. They would help put down the San Francisco Vigilance Committee, a group of revolutionary elites formed to defy the law and take power in the city. The young banker-general would visit Hall’s hometown a few years later. Generations will remember and revile the day when William Tecumseh Sherman marched across Georgia and came to town.

 Bibliography

Survey of footing-soil stratification at Trustees’ Garden, J Byous Company/A.T. Dowd Research, 2015.

Remediation of Former Manufactured Gas Plants and Other Coal-Tar Sites, Allen W. Hathaway, CRC Press, 2012.

The Story of the Ninth Circuit Court, San Francisco Call, Volume 78, Number 35, 5 July 1895.

Law in the West, edited by Gordon Morris Bakken, Brenda Farrington, Garland Publishing, 2000.

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Oglethorpe: Between Heaven and Hell

westminster.-old-palace-yard-in-1796-from-a-drawing-by-miller-.-london-c1880.jpg

                                                         Oglethorpe’s tree-fronted home is shown at the right on the northeast edge of Old Palace Yard.

He lived halfway between Heaven and Hell, Georgia founder James Edward Oglethorpe. His front steps on London’s St. Margaret Lane were downwind of the King’s fish yard that occupied a courtyard that opened a few houses to his right. The subsequent air often fogged his parlor and bedrooms with acrid, pungent punctuated smells that mixed with the sounds of morning-barking fishmongers, street merchants, and neighborhood workers. Around them, the clatter of knocking, squeaking wagons and carts rolled along the lane, bouncing over sparsely patched islands of free-stone pavers that dotted the long-furrowed thoroughfare.

At the far end of the market behind the rows of salmon, trout, and eel-laden stalls was the location of Hell, an eatery and watering hole once frequented by poet Ben Johnson and ridiculed by diarist Sir William Pepys.  The main entrance lured its customers down a stairway from the interior of Westminster Hall the way hookers call salesmen from an Amsterdam window — liquor lubricates opposition tongues.  It was known for being a “petty-tavern,” a gathering spot frequented by parliament’s lowly law clerks who boozed in a basement hollow that once housed the Kings’ torture chamber, thus warranting the Hadean label.

Old Palace Yard 1746 from Roques map w red.jpg

The Old and New Palace yards with Oglethorpe’s home marked with the red dot.

According to Pepys, the tavern was a “resort of disreputable characters and the most raffish of lawyers’ clerks.”  South, across the street to left of Oglethorpe’s house was Heaven, a more, but little more, up-scale tavern in a line of ramshackle brick and Tudor buildings running from west to east.  They blocked his view of the greater part of the Old Palace Yard like listing and leaning hung-over sailors lined across a deck of an outbound schooner. 

From there a few feet to the left and diagonally across the lane was another tavern, the Naked Boy and Star, which held the ground beside Westminster Abbey.  It served a slightly-more upscale clientele, Members of Parliament, poets, businessmen, lobbyist, and the occasional well-known Londoner.  Other Taverns in the area carried the trend with the names, Purgatory and Paradise.  A few doors away from the Star, at the corner of the Abbey, Geoffrey Chaucer had once lived in an upstairs flat near “The Poet’s Corner” where he was later interred.

Stepping from his portico, Oglethorpe’s route was “incommodious” as writer Henry Miles penned, noting that the lane in front of his home had “a paling of four feet high… placed between its single foot path and the carriageway, to protect the passenger from the carriages and the mud which they splashed on all sides in abundance.”  The wealthy in London, like everyone else, existed in a world of noise, foul smells, dust, mud, filth, and strewn garbage.  James held that rank in society — wealthy.

– Excerpt from the upcoming book, The Most Historic Ground, by JD Byous

 

Sources

William Maitland et al, The History and Survey of London From Its Foundation to the Present Time: in Two Volumes, Book II, 1756, p 793: Rev. Mackenzie E. C. Walcott, M.A., Memorials of Westminster the City, Royal Palaces, Houses of Parliament, Whitehall, St. Peters’s College, the Parish Churches, Worthies, Streets, Modern Buildings, and Ancient Institutions, 1851, p 221.

Henry Downes Miles, The Life of Richard Palmer: Better Known as Dick Turpin…, London, p 79, 1839.

John Thomas Smith, Antiquities of the City of Westminster, London, 1807 p 68; Henry Downes Miles, The Life of Richard Palmer Better Known as Dick Turpin the Notorious Highwayman and Robber, 1839 p 79.

Henry Miles, The Life of Richard Palmer, London, p 78, 1839.

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Relax and wait for the photo to cook – Tybee Island

It was a great morning, predawn with a chance to relax and wait for the photo to cook.  At least that’s what it feels like – baking an image.  Use the recipe .  Wait for the clock.  I had been planning this shot for weeks.  Tybee Island, Georgia’s North Beach is the perfect place; tranquil, cool, quiet, and a great jetty for creating wispy, foggy waves in long-exposure images.  Over the exposure the waves “stack” and create the illusion of fog, ice, or in some cases, glass.  The sea looks as if a fog machine has pumped its haze across the surface leaving stationary items like rocks, poles, sharp.  Everything is peaceful as I push the shutter button.  Small waves split as they reached the rocks. The occasional large swell crashes into the granite quay sending salt-water sheets into the air… but only a few inches or feet.  The calming scent of salt and sea water drifts by.

Pelican and Shrimp Boat at Sunrise

The Beckster’s Pelican and Shrimp Boat at Sunrise photo. I’m jealous, still.

The ocean is relatively calm on this edge of the Atlantic. Seabirds fly over.  Some land and peck the sand searching for a sea-washed breakfast morsel.  Others fly on toward Hilton Head Island across the sound.  A pelican roosts on a marker pole several-dozen yards out in the water.  At low tide the wooden perch stands high and dry.  At all times of the tide it welcomes winged visitors, usually pelicans and maybe this same bird.  It’s worth a photograph, but The Beckster beat me to the best one several years earlier.  She, Kate and Tare, our granddaughters, play in the sand a few yards away.  She gets shots when I’m not looking.  She did back then too.

While shooting a small wedding at sunrise I noticed she was missing.  She had spotted the photo unrelated to the bride and groom, ditched us and went for it.  I’ve been jealous ever since that time.  The sun had lifted from the edge of a cloud bank just above the water and was directly behind the bird.  In the distance a shrimp boat headed to deeper water, in just the right compositional place.  It’s a great shot and I give her the best compliment that any photographer can give another, “I wish I had taken that one.”  Leaving the wedding, however?  She can get away with it.  She’s The Beckster.

 

Jetty and Pelican Before Sunrise

The test shot of the jetty and pelican before sunrise. 60 second exposure at f11. I like it so I kept it.

This morning the old bird sits in the same spot, in the same position.  But that’s not why I’m here.  I’m here for long exposures and I haven’t made one in years… thirty-five years.  Back then I had a Toyo 4×5″ view camera that I carried to the bottom of a canyon to capture the North Fork of the Tuolumne River near Twain Harte, California.

Jim taking photos by Bec

A photo of me by The Beckster as I shoot the pre-dawn test images. She’s sneaky, but then, she’s The Beckster.

Long black and white exposures were not a problem in the shadow of the surrounding mountains.  The extended shutter opening captured the flowing stream as if it were ribbons of glass.  One second, two, three, four, I counted off the time.  Around four shots and I’m finished.  Sheet film isn’t cheap.  It wasn’t then either.  Afterward I developed and printed my favorite image and painstakingly oil tinted two.  One went to my Uncle Roy in Savannah.  It was a Christmas present.  The other I kept.  Over the years mine was destroyed while in storage.  Then later, sadly, my friend and uncle died.  The photo stayed with aunt Dot, his wife, until her death.  Now I have it back.  I cherish the copy and the memories that it represents.

Tuolumne River, 1982

This is the image I made in 1982. It took a bit more effort and I love it. But, boy, do I love digital!

Those cameras take more thought and preparation.  But today I still go down the checklist.  Tripod?  Check.  Filters?  Check.  Correct lenses?  Check.  Oh, yeah.  Camera?  Check.  Now, find the exposure and wait for the sun.  I have the filters that cut light, ND16 and ND8 stacked in front of the lens.  Boy, I love digital.  Good black and white images can’t be beaten.  But I do love the ease of computer aided photography.

Jetty And Pelican with Sun

The jetty and pelican as the sun breaks above the horizon, the color version.

I compose the image.  What’s the exposure?  It’s time.  The sun should be coming up, but I need a test.  I take one shot.  It’s overexposed so I stop the lens down to a smaller aperture to cut down the light.  Snap again.  One-minute exposure at f11.  Got it.

The first one is perfect.  All of the images made are perfect.  Did I say I love digital?

Not bad for thirty-five years in  long-exposure hibernation.

Now the dilemma.  Which one… and…  color or black and white?

Leave a note below or email me and tell me your think.

– Jim

Visit our main website at SoutheasternBound.net. We post history/travel every Tuesday, then occasional photos/photo tips on Thursday.  Please click the Follow button (right) for updates on Southeastern Bound.

© J.D. Byous 2018, All rights reserved.

 

 

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Doughnut Dreams and Maple-Bar Wishes

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To some the glow of the moon inspires. A glowing sunset beckons along the beach then fades slowly into the night.  So starts my obsession to find the holey grail – the perfect doughnut.  Not just glazed, or sprinkled or custard filled, but the best. For me it’s the neon moon – the yellow-orange, heart-stopping-full-of-love-and-warmth beacon that cries “HOT NOW” wrapped around those savory words, “Krispy Kreme”.  THE electric moon. The siren song of pulsing neon. The lady of the evening calling, “Hey sailor!” – hanging, winking at the vulnerable passing by. It grips the lobes of the brain like the talon-gripped digits of a Yankee tourist on a Paula Deen pork chop. There are other kingdoms our city, Savannah, Georgia.  Other vistas of white, sugar-glazed ridges… of golden brown islands floating in a sea of grease… of golden maple plains that crank a glucometer like a tac on a 450 supercharged engine. The best of the best… if there is such a thing to be found. Yes, Krispy Kreme is king. Later in the evening with the after-glow of heartburn, a Tums or two comforts as I’m tucked into my warm bed, visions of floating circles in mirror-rippled grease. My grin is steadfast. I fade into peaceful slumber.

But I awake… all a dream.  Gluten intolerant.  I cry myself to back to sleep.

The siren sign.  The solicitor of more pedestrians and driver than... well... nevermind.

The siren sign. The solicitor of more pedestrians and drivers than… well… nevermind.

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The Box

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Not long ago Becky (Rebecca Harrison Byous) and I had the opportunity to visit a friend here in Savannah who allowed us to view a family heirloom that has been passed down through four previous generations. It was a small leather-covered box about 12 inches by 9 inches by 4.5 inches deep. A small medallion highlighted the lid with an eagle and an inscription, “E Pluribus Unum.” The box served as a desk secretary for General Robert E. Lee and was carried by him through his early career and during the years he served and commanded troops during the War Between The States. It was a gift from his mother upon his graduation from West Point. I’d had the honor of viewing it once before late last year and was able to touch and handle it. But today it was an extra thrill for me to watch Georgia-girl, Becky as she was able to see, touch and feel history. For an Okie cowboy who grew up in history-sparse North-Central California, living here in Savannah has been exceptional and exciting experience… being the history nerd that I am. But watching others discover history is an equally fantastic event. Here, each footstep and conversation treads on and teaches of things historical. How cool is that?

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Gliding Through Savannah

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Recently I had the opportunity to glide around our beautiful city on a Segway tour from Segway of Savannah. Fantastic!  After a short safety video three novices – two young ladies from Delaware and me – climbed aboard.  Wobbly at first, it soon became second nature to glide, turn, stop and roll along the cobbled streets of Savannah.

Our tour guide, Kathie, was knowledgeable on our city’s history and made the day enjoyable.  Currently SoS is providing 1.5 hour tours of downtown along with a tour of Bonaventure Cemetery which is just outside of the Historic District.  Talk is they will be adding other tours in the future after moving to their new location at West Boundary Street and Oglethorpe.

      

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The Trustees’ Garden in the beginning

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If cotton was once king of the South, then the royal cradle was the sandy plot of land along Savannah’s eastern bluff called Trustees’ Garden. The role of the Garden changed over the years following the modes of history along the currents and courses that progressed from agriculture to industry to tourism. Events there helped form the face and destiny of Savannah, of Georgia and the world.
Cotton was first introduced to the New World in Virginia and Florida but was first nurtured for the commercial market at Trustees’ Garden in 1734. Joseph Fitzwalter, the caretaker of the Garden, wrote James Oglethorpe in January 1735, “I have met with some cotton seeds from Guinea, which from it I have raised… [a] thousand plants, some of which have shot eight feet… and a second season will come to their bringing forth fruit [of] cotton to the Trustees’ use.”
From the beginning, silk was the desired product to be produced in Georgia. Modeled after London’s Chelsea Botanical Garden, silk production was the goal. Cotton was seemingly a second thought for the Trustees and to founder James Oglethorpe.
Though the Garden fell into disuse after only a few years, the advancements achieved there were wide-sweeping. The short time when cotton plants were nurtured at the end of Broughton Street was an instrumental step in the development of a product that shaped the politics, the culture and the events of a growing region, nation, and eventual world power.
The bluff at the Garden was more than an agricultural nursery. It was situated with a strategic military overview of the Savannah River. Many forts and cannon batteries occupied the spot that also served as an anchor spot for fortification walls that ringed and protected the city from advancing armies, real or projected. On a map entitled “Savanna Town” a diamond-buttressed fort just outside of the Garden area entitled “Castell” can be seen. A battery of cannon was located on the bluff of the Garden.

The Gas Works Wall

The Gas Works wall at Trustees’ Garden is often mistaken as Old Fort Wayne because it stands on the same spot.

Later in 1759 Fort Halifax occupied the bluff. The fort was named for the Earl of Halifax, the godfather of the second royal governor of the colony, Henry Ellis. The bluff was an emblematic location during the days before the Revolution. Demonstrations against the Stamp Act by the newly named “Sons of Liberty” erupted in the city on December 1765 when two hundred protesters mustered around the fort to destroy the loathed papers. Governor James Wright reported, “The Liberty Boys, as they call themselves, had assembled to the Number of about 200 & were gathering fast and that Some of them had declared they were determined to go to the Fort & break open the Store & take out & destroy the Stamp’t Papers &c”. The Governor and fifty-four Rangers moved in to protect the stamps. When the crowd of protesters grew to three hundred Governor Wright spirited the stamps aboard the ship Speedwell that was docked at the base of the bluff. They secreted to Cockspur Island and the protection of Fort George at the mouth of the Savannah River. Wright had reason to be concerned since the fort was in a state of disrepair from neglect over the years.

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