Habitat Wildlife History - St. Simons Land Trust
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Habitat, Wildlife, and History

ECOLOGICAL MERIT

Located on the north end of St. Simons Island, Georgia, Cannon’s Point is linked to the lower Altamaha River delta. The Altamaha is recognized as one of the most biologically rich systems and considered by The Nature Conservancy as a coastal area of highest priority, even internationally.

  • The Altamaha was designated as a Bioreserve in 1991 and has been classified by TNC as one of the 75 Last Great Places.
  • The Altamaha delta is a major flyway for many species of migratory birds. It is part of the Western Hemisphere Reserve and has been designated by National Audubon and BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area (IBA).
    • Designated as a Landscape of Hemispheric Importance by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network in 2018.
  • The tract contains approximately 472 acres (~ 76% of the tract) of extremely important mature maritime forest, a diminishing habitat on the U.S. Atlantic coast.
  • Cannon’s Point and Jekyll Island have the largest tract of intact maritime forest on a Georgia barrier island that are publicly accessible by vehicle.
  • Cannon’s Point is important to the water quality of the area.

Cannon’s Point is part of a significant aquifer recharge area making it valuable for surface and subsurface connection to the aquifer.

  • It is considered a higher susceptibility area for groundwater pollution.
  • It appears on the Coastal Regional Commission’s Draft Area of Significant Interest maps.

Cannon’s Point is rich in plant and wildlife habitat important to native and migratory species that pass along the Atlantic Flyway twice annually.

  • The rare climbing buckthorn and Florida privet, as well as the painted bunting, a neotropical species of concern, are found there.
  • Click HERE to read a full list of birds found at CPP.


Cannon’s Point includes over six miles of shoreline adjacent to salt marsh, tidal creeks and rivers.

Associated intertidal salt marsh performs invaluable functions and services. It:

  • Reduces the impact of storm surge on adjacent upland;
  • Minimizes erosion and subsidence;
  • Provides essential habitat for fisheries as well as threatened, endangered and protected species

 

CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL ASSETS

Cannon’s Point is steeped in cultural and historical resources.

  • What makes Cannon’s Point so culturally important to the people of Georgia is that it contains many components of the region’s history and those components are protected.
    • According to the archaeologists who are currently studying the property, this is a world-class complex of archaeological sites that is of tremendous importance.
    • Since the late 19th century, archaeological investigations have occurred at various sites.
    • The Land Trust partners with the Coastal Georgia Historical Society for the curation of artifacts collected during research since SSLT’s acquisition.
    • Native Americans were living at what is now Cannon’s Point Preserve almost 5,000 years ago leaving behind numerous middens (debris sites).
    • Spanish archives document contact between the Spanish and Native Americans on the north end of St. Simons Island, probably Cannon’s Point Preserve. Evidence of contact has been documented by archaeologists.
    • Daniel Cannon (a carpenter at Fort Frederica) in the 1730s was given a Georgia Trustee Grant of 350 acres. He and his sons left in 1741.
    • A frame dwelling was built on an above ground tabby basement in the late 18th century measuring 25.3ft by 25.9 ft. It is unclear if this was built by Cannon or later owners, Neilson or Mitchell. Only tabby ruins remain today.
    • Tabby is created using a mixture of lime (derived from burnt shells), sand, oyster and other seashells, and fresh water. Learn more about tabby construction HERE.
    • In 1793 John Couper and James Hamilton purchased Cannon’s Point from the Mitchells. Couper and his wife Rebecca Maxwell Couper moved there with their family in 1796 living in the original house mentioned above. The Coupers had 5 children: James Hamilton Couper, Anne Sarah Couper (Fraser), John Couper Jr., Isabella Hamilton Couper (Bartow), and William Audley Couper.
    • While the Coupers were living in the original house, they had a larger house built measuring 35.4ft by 60ft which was connected by veranda and completed by 1804. The above ground basements were poured tabby. In addition, there was a main floor, an upstairs, and an attic space above with dormer windows. The house burned down in 1890 and only tabby ruins remain today. The ruins and interpretive signage are accessible to the public.
    • The cash crop for John Couper at Cannon’s Point was sea island (or long staple) cotton. It became renowned as one of the five most significant places on St. Simons Island, with its owner, John Couper, experimenting with citrus trees, grapes, guavas, figs, peaches, pomegranates, plums, rutabagas, date palms from Persia, sugar cane, and olive trees from France. He tried mulberry trees for silkworms, but that experiment failed. The warm hospitality of John Couper allowed for Cannon’s Point to become a destination for international travelers and American travelers alike. Visitors were educated on the well run and productive operation in place and enjoyed it as a social hub on the island.
    • At Cannon’s Point, crop rotation was practiced, and sea island cotton fields were fertilized with marsh muck and shell. Couper left the entire edge of the peninsula intact which we now enjoy as old growth maritime forest.
    • The number of enslaved people varied over the years at Cannon’s Point. Ruins of a shared chimney from cabins of enslaved people are accessible for visitors along with an interpretive sign. This cabin would have been 40ftx20ft, making each half a 20ftx20ft home. Each home had a sleeping loft, and each cabin shared a privy. Six to eight enslaved people would live in each home.
    • Enslaved people worked on the task system of labor at Cannon’s Point. Along with other positions or tasks, enslaved people cultivated 200-300 acres of cotton and 25 acres of food crops.  Each enslaved person was assigned a daily task according to age, gender, and ability. Once tasks were completed, enslaved people would then have to hunt, fish, etc. to supplement their diet and the diet of their families as the planter did not provide a wide variety of food on this system.
    • The Cannon’s Point overseer’s house, located north of the southern slave community, was larger and more substantial than most overseer’s houses. It measured 34.1ftx36.1ft, was a story and a half tall, had two chimneys and four fireplaces, a large center hall, 4 main floor rooms and a sleeping loft. The outbuildings included a detached kitchen, a privy, and a provision house.
    • Many of the Gullah Geechee who are still living in coastal Georgia are descendants of those once enslaved at Cannon’s Point and called it home. Cannon’s Point is part of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.

THANKSGIVING WEEKEND HOURS FOR CANNON'S POINT PRESERVE: The Preserve will be OPEN on Monday, November 28. The Preserve will be CLOSED on Saturday and Sunday, November 26 and 27. Thank you! Read More

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