The advocate. (Portland, Or.) 19??-19??, March 14, 1931, Image 9

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    LIFE in the S t . SIMONS ISLAND
Native Islanders Have Originated a Pe-
ids Expression in Throbbing Folk Songs
an the
! of the
i cere-
ith the
tie can
ea the
T h ere are queer dances of sexual suggestion,
and weird harmonies which orchestras and com ­
posers have been unable to reproduce.
In this article is related the fantastic history of
these people, their cherished and beautiful le­
gends, their noble and royal ancestries, and the
ghostly rom ances that fill their pulsing island life.
. . . t . ' i a, i n t e st i an d “Old Q u a r t r r m a n " rr »t durin g a n in ter m issio n
n n r ' h i « » ' ^ >» t h e d a * . . m e . T h , , th e old fellow still h as
ideas la am ply sh own by th e p ic tu r e ; h e has. ho we ver passed t h e
an d te n m ark long Since. a l t h o J g h he does not know e x -
rd t o ’
»if* .
tl i
1 he
in . t r
I .ell
I Is
jin -
e Is
O n e of th e n ati ve " q u a r te r s .' a tabby s h a r k which was
o r i g i n a l i , part of (l .r I t r t r r a t IM anlallon which is still
I ns
stand in g an d n s r r a y i t 6 by t i o . i i i\ b i l e
fam ily. Lloyd h as lived his whole life on th e I-!..
" q u a r t e r s " was built, a s n ea rly as r a n be d e ­
te rm ine d. in about 17X1. an d was one of th e
old r r buildin gs o f th e p l a n t a t i o n wh en It was
ab an d o n ed a f t e r th e IVar of '<11: o th e r b uild ­
ings of (lie p l a n ta ti o n were p art ially o r
wholly de molish ed by t h e wa*.
Note, t h a t h a n g in g In I h r ditorway n e s t
to the . .n m .m am i children, there la
Hie skin n ed r a r r a s s o f a ra b b i t dr yin g
in th e su n — one r e a m pie oi t h e
m an y pr im iti v e m eth o d s w h irh a r e
still r s l a n l on I h r Island.
no paired dancing
Yet there Is a
sexual suggest Ion In most of the
movements both by the men and the
womrn, alt hour h their bodies never
touch. Each performer Is "on his
There Is a large variety of "steps,*
not only with the feet, but also with
the ru Ire body, the head and the
hands. The shoulders are held stiff
and the feel close to the floor, and
the most Intricate and fantastic
paltrrns arc woven and repeated.
Here again the ring shout of Geor­
gia corresponds to the dances of
Haiti and of one or two other places
In the United States, chiefly Florida
The Georgia islanders derive a
rare exhilaration and abandon In
their ring shout; Its significance and
Its great antiquity thrill the Imagi­
nation. W It Keabrook In Ills vivid
book on Haiti CThe M ailc Island")
covers this angle of ancient wor­
ship. and traces the origin of mnnv
of the actions directly to African
tribal rites, a number o( which find
vivid expression In the ring shout
T h e N n liv c I s l a n d e r s « r e
Z e a l o u s in t h e i r O w n W a y
Not all of the native Islanders'
time Is spent singing and dancing
They are busy and Industrious nnd
thrifty. Most of them own their own
homes nnd usually a plot of ground;
some of the most beautiful flower
gardens In the country arc about the
homes of some of the colored Is­
The almost forgotten art of “tabby'
building Is being revlvrd. Composed
of crushed oyster shell, whole shell
nnd sand and bound togethrr with
Mary C o v in gton (shown h e r e ) Is one of th e b est singe rs in th e
neig h b orh ood a n d r e m e m b e rs m a n y o f t h r old songs sh e h e a rd
. a s a child, an d which a r e now being revived.
burned shell lime this building m a­
terial Is peculiarly harmonious for
homes ami clubs. Bob Merchant
who was almost ninety-four when he
died, was one of the chief sources of
Information on this, ns well as on
old songs nnd customs.
Bob liked to recall the old days and
tales. He told ot Neptune Small
(whose son verified the story). Nep­
tune was the valet of Cnptaln ford
King, one of the wealthy planters of
Saint Simons Island in the days of
'61. Neptune, of course, followed the
cnptaln to the war. At Chancellors-
vtllc, Virginia, the captain was kill­
Weeks later Neptune appeared at
Saint Simons with the body of the
"C ap tain, wanted to lie
with his folks In Christ Church bury­
ing ground." was his whole explana­
Imagination balks at trying
to picture the labors of the young
colored man bearing the body of the
loved captain over those weary hun­
dreds of miles.
T h e O n ly L ic e n s e d W o m a n
N a v i g a t o r T e l l s I n t e r e s t in g
S tory
Captain Georgia Smith (or Skipper
Georgia) is the only licensed wom­
an navigator in the state. She wears
men's clothing and remembers the
days when boats were Just about the
only means of transportation. Cap­
tain Georgia's efforts to trace her
ancestry unearthed another interest­
ing legend.
One of the slave s h ip In the early
days arrived at an African port for
Its load of "merchandise." Much to
the chagrin of the Arabians who were
to supply the human treight. they
had to admit that they had failed
The ship captain, though. In appar­
ent forgiveness Invited the Arab
traders aboard to the usual banquet
The Arabians banqueted not wisely
tu t too well. When they awoke. It
was to find themselves In the hold
usually filled with slaves, chained
and the ship under way. Later they
were sold as they had sold so many
There Is today a definite trace of
Mohammedan influence on The Is­
lands. On one of the l: lands lives
Bilalt. who e very name Is strangely
like Bu-Allah. His appearance, as
Captain Georgia's. Is neither Cau­
casian. Indian nor African
convincing proof of the tale, though
Is In the slave diary written entire­
ly In Arabic and which is said to be
the only diary ever kept by a slave.
It has never been translated, except
a few passages, and Its very exist­
ence Is known only to a few.
Royal ancestry, too. Is In some of
the blood. Maggie Macintosh, one
of the best "sliouters" Is descended
from an African prince. Prince Dem-
bo as a young man was sold by his
father, the king of one tribe, to the
traders. What dreadful circumstance
moved the father to this act is not
even guessed at. But for certain con­
siderations. among which was a gun
the son was sold and brought to
America. The blood of leadership
flows In the veins of his descendant
still, and makes her one of the lead­
ers in community affairs as well as
one of the leading dancers.
T h e N a tiv e I s l a n d e r s ’ Loi
Is T r u e a n d E v e r l a s t i n g
Ghost stories and yarns of spirits
abound: often these stories have a
fascinating and romantic twist. For
instance I he tale of Mary Wan. and
the Mary Wan Road. One of the
oldest roads on Saint Simons Island
winds vaguely
cncath great pine
trees and stately oaks. Each oak
has Its trailing beard of gray moss
"like druids of eld." Here, under
these old trees. Mary and her be­
loved walked with arms entwined
about each other's waists as they
talked of love and made their plans
for the future.
Mary, so the story tells, was of un­
usual beauty—one of the belles of
The Islands. But. unlike so many
popular girls, she refused to find
herself another lover when death
claimed the one and only. Each day
at sunset, after he died, she strolled
down the path they had loved while
he lived. Even when old age finally
claimed Mary in death, she con­
tinued to stroll along the same mad
at dusk. And today, eyes of faith ­
ful lovers of this generation are
said to be able to see Mary Wan's
spirit on the road in the soft light o!
a young moon at nightfall, as she
strolls along the love-hallowed path
Such is the mellow romance of the
background of the people on Geor­
gia's Golden Isles Up and down and
now up again, the pem-ulum of their
fortunes swings.
Life on these islands is sweet, and
always brightly colored. (A fiction
writer, for Instance, has renamed
Saint Simons Island the Cardinals'
Island because of the great no-witir
of these vivid birds which live there
year ’round > It is never extremely
cold—last winter a thin film of ice
appeared on sweet water oniy three
mornings during the season There
is always a good market for vege­
tables and almost always work to be
found: during the summer vacation
months while the great swarms of
tourists arc present, there is good
money to be made from the m am
services they demand Many of th«
Negro natives have their own cars
which is something new for countn
It is possible, too. to make a profit­
able living in the fishing trade
Shrimp fishing is one of the big in­
dustries. Pan fish always bring a
good price, and a man who is handy
with a throw net can get himself
«11 the bait he needs to catch a nice
string of fish. But best of all, the
Negroes who have lived all their lives
on The Islands are naturally the
best guides. They are well paid to
guide fishing parties in the summer
and hunting parties in the winter.
Great turpentine camps are scat­
tered among the islands, too. This
is one of the few old Industries
which still exists along the coast.
I t Is an unusual native life on The
Islands: enough work: play; schools
for the children; enough churches;
enough sunshine—but best of all
none of the feverish rush of the
city. There's time to sing, and old
old heart-songs so sing.