- Sea Islands
a group of islands in the Atlantic, along the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia, and N Florida.
* * *▪ islands, United Stateslow-lying chain of sandy islands off the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, U.S., between the mouths of the Santee and St. Johns rivers and along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The Spaniards claimed and partly occupied the islands in 1568. By the end of the 17th century, the English had made them part of the Carolina colony. In 1717 they were granted to Sir Robert Montgomery, who included them in his Margravate of Azilia on the mainland; he termed the group Golden Islands in a promotional booklet (1720). The Battle of Bloody Marsh (1742), fought on St. Simons Island, saved the Georgia colony from the Spaniards.The Sea Islands were early looked upon as private kingdoms. St. Catherines was awarded to Mary Musgrove, an Indian princess, in payment of a debt claimed against James Oglethorpe; it later came into the possession of Button Gwinnett, one of Georgia's three signers of the Declaration of Independence. In the antebellum period, almost all of Sapelo Island became the domain of Thomas Spalding, a prominent Georgia slaveholder, planter, and legislator. In the last half of the 19th century, Jekyll Island was made an exclusive winter playground for members of the Jekyll Island Club; the Carnegie family also secured most of Cumberland Island for the same purpose. Jekyll Island was bought by the state of Georgia and since 1947 has been the site of a state park (see photograph—>). Amelia Island, first settled by Oglethorpe in 1735, became part of East Florida; it became Spanish in 1783 and was ceded to the United States with the rest of Florida in 1821.Rice and cotton were cultivated, especially on St. Helena and Port Royal (the most important of the islands), and the fine, long-stapled Sea Island cotton was developed in the islands. After the American Civil War, abandoned plantations were confiscated, and land was given to freed slaves. The Carolina islands retain a predominantly black population that has developed distinct customs and dialects, notably Gullah (q.v.). In the 1920s, because of boll weevil infestation of the cotton, a more diversified agriculture was developed, and shrimp, crab, and oysters were harvested. Several wildlife refuges and parks have been established on the islands, the more important of which are linked to the mainland by causeways and bridges. Fort Frederica National Monument, authorized in 1936, is on St. Simons.
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