Loammi Baldwin.

Report on the Brunswick canal and rail road, Glynn County, Georgia. With an appendix containing the charter and commissioners's report online

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BY i.oam:th bald^vin, esq.




No. 18 State Street.



Charlestowit, Mass., June 6, 1836.

Sir : — Having been requested by the Brunswick Canal and
Rail-road Company to examine and survey a route for a canal
from the Altamaha River to Brunswick Harbour, in Georgia,
which was incorporated by an act of the Legislature, passed
December 20, 1834, I have executed that trust, and present the
following Report, with a Plan, showing the route I recommend
for their adoption.

The Altamaha river is navigable from Darien 200 miles, to
the forks of the Ocmulgee and Oconee, and up the Ocmulgee,
the west branch, 300 miles, to Macon, and on the east branch,
Oconee, 200 miles to Milledgeville, the capital of the state.
Steamboats are used with wheels at the sides, and take, on each
side, a boat loaded with five or six hundred bales of cotton down
to Darien from Macon and Milledgeville and the intermediate
points of the river. The ascending freight by the same means
is considered more than that descending. The amount of cot-
ton is increasing, and during the past year there were about
130,000 bales brought to Darien.

From Darien, the Altamaha is also navigable 12 miles to
Doby Island for ships and schooners drawing 11 feet, at com-
mon high water in ordinary tides. At Doby Islands, ships may
come drawing 14 feet at common high water. Over the bar at
Doby Inlet is 16 or 17 feet at high water, but an intermediate
bar or spit of sand prevents vessels drawing more than 14 feet
at high water, passing to the island.

The country bordering on the Altamaha, Ocmulgee, and
Oconeej and their tributaries, for an extent at least of SO miles



wide, and 150 miles in length, in the direction of the rivers,
abounds with pine, cypress, and white oak, which is now almost
useless for want of a good harbor at Darien. The tributaries,
the great Ohcopee, and the little Ocniulgee, have some saw
mills, from which sawed lumber of various kinds, and logs, are
rafted to Darien for country use, but none, or very little for
foreign markets. The Little Satilla, the Great Satilla, the St.
Mary's, and the St. John's rivers, are accessible from the har-
bor of Brunswick, by the inland navigation. The St. John's is
the outlet of a large portion of East and Middle Florida, and the
St. Mary's is navigable to Coleraine for steamboats drawing 10
feet of water. The Great Satilla is navigable to the head of
tide, above one hundred miles from St. Andrews' sound, for
vessels drawing 10 or 12 feet, at all seasons of the year. This
is one of the best streams in the state for the lumber trade, hav-
ing an almost inexhaustible quantity of pine timber in the coun-
try through which it flows. The Little Satilla is an arm of the
sea, and navigable to its head, a distance of about 35 miles
from St. Andrews' sound. These rivers will send to Brunswick
market cotton, rice, and lumber in great quantities.

From Darien to Charleston and Savannah, cotton, &c., is sent
by steamboats, schooners and sloops inland, and return goods for
the interior, to Darien, by the same conveyance. This inland
navigation is afforded by the passages betw-een the islands and the
main land, though sloops and schooners occasionally pass outside
the islands, but the common route for all navigation is inland.

The river Chattahoochee is navigable for steamboats to Col-
umbus in Georgia, from Appalachicola Bay, but not for vessels
over 11 feet, at the mouth. This river passes through Florida
and in that province called Appalachicola, and is the boundary
between Alabama and Georgia, for the distance of 30 miles above
Columbus and for 120 down to the bounds of Florida. A steam-
boat navigation is also afforded on its principal tributary, the Fhnt
river, to Pinderton, in Georgia, at the end of Spaulding's Rail-
road communication with the big bend of the Ocmulgee. The
town of Appalachicola has been found unhealthy, and a Rail-road
has been opened from Wimico Lake to St. Joseph's Bay,
where there is 20 feet of water, and much more healthy.

Altaniaha river is the medium of communication for an im-
mense tract of the interior of Georgia with Darien, which is sit-

uated on the left bank about 12 or 13 miles from the sea, but,
unfortunately, has no harbor for foreign shipping. All the pro-
duce of the country has now to be sent to Savannah or Charles-
ton, and return goods received from tiie same places by steam-
boats and small coasting vessels. No foreign trade, from this cir-
cumstance, can be carried on. It is a great state, with abundant
and increasing productions, without a good port. It is to con-
nect the immense traffic of the Altamaha with a convenient and
capacious harbor for the most extensive foreign shipping, that the
Brunswick Canal in Georgia has been contemplated.

Brunswick Harbor, Georgia.

St. Simons Light is on St. Simons Island, at the south end,
behind which, at a little distance, the island is one or one and a
half mile wide. From the east side, a wide shoal or sand-bar ex-
tends about five miles in an east south-east direction, gradually
diminishing in width to a point, forming what is called the north
breaker. A similar bar extends from Jekyl Island, opposite to
St. Simons, wide at the island, but gradually lessening in width
as far as the north breaker, and terminating at a point called the
south breaker. Between these two shoals and the two islands is
the channel, and between the two breakers is the bar about a
mile long and half a mile across it. On Saturday, the loth of
February, I went with Edmund M. Blunt, an experienced pilot,
Capt. John Anderson, of Brunswick, a good navigator, &c., in
Capt. Morgan's sloop, to examine the bar, and found at low wa-
ter three fathoms over tlie bar. All on board agreed that there
was that depth at low water, and that the tide was six feet at or-
dinary tides, so that at common high water there was 24 feet
over the bar.

If ships, coming in when six or seven miles from the light
house, make the hght bear W. N. W. they can enter. Imme-
diately on passing the bar, the channel gradually widens and
deepens to the light, so that the largest vessels and frigates may
pass into St. Simons sound above the Light, and on taking a
southerly direction they may pass up Turtle river, into the outer
harbor of Brunswick, or continue up Turtle river ten or fifteen
miles where it is a mile or a mile and a half wide, having from 4
10 6 or 8 fathoms at low water. This extensive sheet of salt

water is rather an arm of the sea than a river, the tide flows up
to the mouth of a small river, which soon diminishes to a creek,
has no navigation and furnishes no produce. It is therefore an
extensive harbor where there is ample room for the whole navy,
with very eligible situations for a naval establishment, but has no
river opening into the interior, and hence no ships are ever seen
in these waters.

Brunswick is situated on the east bank of an arm or branch of
Turtle river, separated from the main river by a marsh island
about a mile long and a mile wide. This branch is about a quar-
ter or half a mile wide, with a depth of water sufficient for the
largest merchant vessels at all times, except a shallow place or
bar between the lower end of the island, and Dennis' Folly, at
the lower end of the town. This bar is one mile long and forms
the separation between the inner and outer harbor. The town
was laid out with streets at right angles, by direction of the Brit-
ish parliament, about a century ago.

Capt. Stockton and Mr. Sherburne were appointed by the
Navy Department in 1826, to survey and examine the bar at St.
Simons and the harbor of Brunswick. Their soundings over the
bar and up the river for a distance of 10 or 12 miles are accurate
and numerous, giving over the bar from 16 to IS feet depth at
low water. The report and plans are in the office of the Navy
Department. His report and extensive soundings are very con-
clusive as to the depth of water above St. Simons bar and in the
arm of Turtle river, (on which the town of Brunswick is situat-
ed,) and on the bar. But the most definite information, and I
believe, from personal experience, perfectly correct, is contain-
ed in the Report of Messrs. Polhill, Lawson and Fort, made on
the 17th of July, 1833, to the Senate and House of Represen-
tatives of Georgia, pursuant to their appointment ; by a resolve
of the Legislature, Dec. 17, 1832, "to go and examine the
commercial advantages of the port of Brunswick, and the rail-
road avenue to the x\ltamaha, and report thereon, upon oath,
■whether or not it would be advisable for the state to render any
aid in opening Brunswick to the interior."

The valuable report of the commissioners is carefully made
and most satisfactory on all points relative to the object of their
mission, and especially in regard to the harbor of Brunswick.
The following extract shows their opinion upon this point.

*' When you approach within half a mile of the town, there is a
small salt marsh island which divides the river into the northern
and eastern branches, the main channel running southward of this
island. Between Brandy-point on this island, and Dennis' Fol-
ly, on the Brunswick shore, there is an inner bar, upon which
there is about 12 feet at low water, and as the tide rises ten feet,
it gives the same depth of water that we find on the outer bar,
with this advantage, that the bottom being soft mud creates no
damage to ships, and may be very easily deepened if it were ne-
cessary. But no such necessity exists, as any ship that crosses
the outer bar can run over this at high water, and find the best
anchorage near the bluff along the whole extent of the town, in
from 20 to 40 feet water at the lowest time of tide. This we as-
certained from careful soundings at low water, and after having
finished the soundings for ourselves, ascertained that Stockton's
report and diagram confirmed on our survey."

Brunswick is healthy, surrounded as it is on the west, south
and east by the ocean. It is situated on a plain, generally eight
or ten feet above high water, and very convenient for wharves.
On the south part of the town, this point terminates in an exten-
sive salt marsh, which extends to St. Simons sound. St. Simons
light is eight miles from town, and the bar thirteen miles. Be-
hind the town, and within the distance of half a mile, are several
small holes or ponds, which contain shallow water, which may
be drained at very small expense. There is no other stream or
resting place for fresh water within many miles. These swamps,
as they are called, are low places in the sandy plains, where
water in rains collect, and in time have given rise to the growth
of trees, shrubs and plants of an aquatic kind, thick and malted
together, so that it is very difficult to pass between them ; but
the water is often dried up in the summer, and as they are not
boggy, the foundation is sand, clay or hard earth, so that they are
passable in any direction when the water is dried up and the
bushes are cleared.

Upon the healthiness of the place, the State Commissioners
are also decided. " In regard to health, we consider Brunswick
superior to any sea-port on the southern coast. It is a high and
dry bluff, wnth the total absence of lagoones, swamps of stagnant
fresh water, and rice fields, and with a broad sheet of clear ocean
water, almost as salt as the sea, and its pure sea breeze setting in


regularly from ihe ocean, make it not only a delightful situation
in summer, as wo experienced it to he, hut give the strongest
assurance of the health and comfort of seamen and navigators,
and of ihe inhabitants of the town. We found tiic wells of water
as good as could i)e exj)ected in so low a latitude. Though not
very cool, we believe it to be pure, and that which we found in
town was belter than the wells in the immediate vicinity. The
extensive marshes are overflowed at every tide with pure salt
water, and are not considered at all injmious to health. The sea
breeze sweeps delightfully over them, and we found some of the
most healthy families in the vicinity living immediately upon their

From my examination and experience in February, 1836, I
fully believe in the truth of the Commissioners' Report, and from
the absence of all natural causes of unhealthiness, and the cheap
and easy removal, by draining, of the collection of fresh water
within several miles of the town, Brunswick may become one of
the most healthy and pleasant residences, in summer and winter,
within the southern sea board of our country. If once the build-
ings become convenient, I believe it will become a resort for
people from the northern states, in winter especially, for health
or for pleasure.

The above account of the great extent and width of the Turtle
river, after passing St. Simons sound, affords a complete land-
locked anchorage ground for the largest merchant ships and any
class of ships of war, as well as eligible and healthy sites for na-
val establishments. There appears to me no doubt, that Bruns-
wick harbor will attract the attention of the navy, if the passage
of the bar does not forbid. Upon this point the Georgia Com-
missioners hold the following language in their report :

" The object of Congress in ordering the survey having been
the establishment of a naval depot on Turtle river, it is to be pre-
sumed that the officer made his report with a view to the strict
safety of our ships of war, and therefore preferred being rather
under than over the depth of water. We draw this conclusion
from the fact, that we found the soundings on the bar to be gen-
erally about eighteen feet, at as near low water as we could judge;
our shallowest sounding was seventeen feet, but we found more
water on the same tack. As we found Stockton's report, very
accurate in every respect, and as he had spent some time in the

survey, we conclude that the water on the bar may be set down
at from sixteen to seventeen feet at low water, and twenty-two or
twenty-three at high water, striking a medium between his survey
and our soundings. The pilots and coasting captains on board
the vessel we employed in this service, seemed to be of opinion
that there was still deeper water, as they stated that they would
risk their nautical skill and reputation in undertaking to bring the
largest class of merchant ships, trading to the south, across this
bar, at any time of tide. An experienced pilot, whose services
we had engaged, assured us that he had been intimately acquaint-
ed with this bar for about twenty-three years, and its breadth and
depth had not varied the least in that time. We judge the ex-
tent of the bar across it to be about a quarter of a mile, and from
half to three quarters in width, between the north and south
breakers, to be navigable for large vessels. One of the great
excellencies of the bar is, that ships can pass over it in a direct
line with a favorable wind, and if the wind should be ahead, she
has a ])lenty of room for beating up. Mr. King, the intelligent
and enlightened Senator of Glynn (county,) who lives immedi-
ately on St. Simons sound, assured us that it was by no means
a rare occurrence for coasting vessels of heavy burden, entirely
unacquainted with the bar, and without a pilot, to put into the
sound in stress of weather for safety, and that this is done at night
as well as in day. This we consider as the most conclusive evi-
dence of the superior excellence and perfect safety of this bar,
and the protection aiforded to ships that run into the sound in bad
weather. Of the entire safety and excellence of this bar, for the
navigation of ships drawing from twenty to twenty-one feet of
water, we can therefore speak in terms of the highest approba-

For the purpose of connecting the immense and growing trade
of the Altamaha river, which opens an interior navigation within
the State of five hundred miles on the Ocmulgee as far as Macon,
and four hundred miles to Milledgeville on the Oconee, with the
capacious and beautiful harbor of Brunswick on the Turtle river,
the Legislature of Georgia has incorporated a company, with
very liberal privileges. The State has also been so well con-
vinced of the utility of the plan to unite the Altamaha, which has
no good harbor, with the harbor of Brunswick, which has no
navigable river, that it has authorized ^50,000 of the stock to be


taken in its behalf. The act of incorporation of December 20,
1834, authorizes the company to niako a canal or rail-road, or
both, between the water of the Altamaha and Turtle river, and
secures them in the perpetual enjoyment of their privileges, and
against the erection of a rail-road or canal within twenty miles of
either. It gives the company also a right to establish any toll it
may think expedient, provided that the amount received shall not
exceed, for any successive twelve months, twenty -five per cent.,
net profit, upon the amount expended in establishing the canal
and rail-road, and keeping them in good repair. The capital
stock provided by the act is $200,000, which may be increased
one-third, in one hundred dollar shares. The act of the com-
pany provides, also, that in the subscription to the stock, $5 a
share shall be paid down at the time of subscribing, and in its
own subscription the $5 per share shall not be paid until the com-
pany have paid their portion of the first instalment. This first
payment both by the individual subscribers and on the part of the
State, have been already made, and $10,000 are now ready, in
the hands of the treasurer, to meet the expense of surveys and
other preliminary measures for commencing the work.

Instead of a canal with locks at both ends, it has been sug-
gested that a thorough cut would accomplish the object without
locks. But this would be injurious to the country, ruinous to
every kind of navigation, and probably lead to a total stoppage of
the canal. It would also carry into Brunswick harbor, a vast d n.l
of sand and mud, during freshes, from the Altaai; ha, and fi ally
fill the harbor so as to destroy navigation. For which reasons, I
think it would be policy for the State to forbid the executio.i of
such a plan, from the Altamaha, or from any other river discharg-
ing into Brunswick harbor, without a lock navigation in common

Proposed Route of the Canal.

Several lines were surveyed for the canal. The first was be-
gun at Powell's landing on Gibson's creek, and carried through
the pine woods over the sandy plain nine miles from the south
branch of the Altamaha river, as marked on the plan x\ B C.
This line, as seen on the profile No. 1, is very unfavorable,
being about twenty-five feet average depth of cutting to high


water mark in Brunswick harbor, besides having a circuitous
route by the creek and Turtle river, of about eight miles to
Brunswick. Any line west of this will be more unfavorable,
while a better route may be found on the east, along the swamps
forming the head of Gibson's creek, which enters into Turtle
river, and those which form the head of Six-mile creek, dis-
charging into the Altamaha, between the plantations of Mr.
Charles Grant and Mr. Hugh Grant, as shown on the plan. It
was impossible to carry the survey through those swamps, and it
was conducted most of the way along the sides, on hard and dry
land, and extending offsets into the swamp, from different points
along the main line of the survey. The crooked line O N M L
K F was thus surveyed, as that also marked L P Q R, and the
profile of each is marked with the same letters, Nos. 2 and 5.

From these lines of survey the offsets were occasionally made
into the swamp, at places where the level of the water standing
in them indicated a general level of the ground. From these
offsets, or cross levels, have the two lines through the swamp
been drawn, either of which may be adopted for the canal. The
first, beginning at F, on the left bank of Gibson's creek, below
the bridge ; thence the line F straight to G, thence straight to
H, thence straight to I, where it opens into the Six-mile creek,
and follows the creek to the Altamaha river. The second direct
line is the same to G. Here is an angle at the creek, from
which point to the Altamaha river at J the course is straight.

It will be seen that both these lines, on the profiles Nos. 3 and
4, through the swamp, are much alike as to expense of excava-
tion for about four and half miles to S, and having a mean depth
of about twelve feet to the level of high water in Turtle river or
Brunswick harbor. The north end of the first line crosses the
Six-mile creek, twice between the Messrs. Grants farms, then
passes over Mr. Hugh Grant's rice field, and enters the creek
about half a mile above its junction with the river. On exam-
ining the profiles, Nos. 3 and 4, from S to I on the first line,
and from S to J on the second, some advantages are obvious in
the excavation of the first over the corresponding part of the
second line. But the claim for damages by Messrs. Grants, for
injury to their plantations, disturbing their use of the creek, cross-
ing the rice fields, and the inconvenient mode of entering the
Altamaha, render it doubtful whether it is not expedient for the


company to encounter tlie greater expense of excavation on this
part of (lie second line, ratlier than to incur the risk of claims for
damages on the first. It will be seen, also, that the place of en-
tering into the Altamaha on the second line is much more advan-
tageous than into the Six-mile creek. The length of these two
lines, from G to J on the Altamaha, and on the first from G to
the mouth of the creek, are much alike, and making a circuitous
navigation of the river more than a mile and a half from the
mouth of the creek to the termination of the second line at J.
If the second line be adopted the navigation by the canal to
Brunswick will be one and a half miles shorter than by the first

The second line passes straight from G to the river, and over
the west side of Mr. Hugh Grant's rice field, to avoid which,
and keep the canal still straight, the line may be turned on the
point G, so that it may be laid along the edge of the swamp on
the western side of the rice field, and thus lessen the damage he
may claim, enter the river in a better position, and the cost of
the work be no greater.

From S on both lines, the one through the deep cutting will
cost about $40,000 more than for the other along the creek, and
the part through the rice field or both w^ill be nearly the same.
From I on the first to J on the second is two miles of crooked
navigation by the creek and river, which is lengthening the canal
nearly for that distance more than the straight line. The course
may be turned along the foot of the high land towards T, and
then fall into the river, unless it goes in a direct line to J.

I propose also to drain the swamp by the Six-mile creek, as
the waters of Gibson's creek, where I propose to let it into the
canal, is now almost fresh during many seasons of the year. All
the w^ater may therefore easily be sent the other way to the Alta-
maha, and leave the little that is allowed to collect at the other
end to run into the canal, and Gibson's creek will then be salt.
As no fresh water ever ought to be admitted into the canal in
great quantities, some inconvenience for the drain by the creek
will arise from making the canal on that route.

I present these views to the consideration of the company, be-
cause Messrs. Grants are the only persons on the whole route,
who can have any claim for damages, and in no case have I es-
timated the value of land taken, as I believe all the adjoining


owners, even Messrs. Grants will be greatly benefitted by the

The line I shall therefore recommend for the canal, on account
of the much better and shorter route, is as follows : — beginning
about a mile from Brunswick, on the Academy creek at D,
thence the surveyed line to E near Ellis' bluff is 3.2358 miles.
The first part of the line across the marsh from D to V to be a
canal and the remaining part to follow the creek, deviating but
little from the line surveyed, as laid along the edge of the marsh

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Online LibraryLoammi BaldwinReport on the Brunswick canal and rail road, Glynn County, Georgia. With an appendix containing the charter and commissioners's report → online text (page 1 of 5)