Darien, Georgia - Historic Sites & Points of Interst
The beautiful and historic city of Darien was settled
by Scottish Highlanders in 1736. Noted for heritage
and eco-tourism, it is a jewel of the Georgia coast.
Fall color brightens a street in
historic Darien, Georgia. The
beautiful coastal community
is just off I-95.
Fort King George
Now a state historic site, the
historic fort was built in 1721
on what once was English
America's southern frontier.
Darien, Georgia - Historic Sites & Points of Interest
A Highlander City in Georgia
|Copyright 2014 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: January 8, 2014
Colonial History on the Georgia Coast
Tabby Ruins in Darien
A fascinating array of historic
ruins line the waterfront in
Darien, which was burned by
the 54th Massachusetts
Infantry during the Civil War.
Darien is a charming and historic coastal city
on the Atlantic Coast of Georgia.
Located 62 miles south of Savannah, Darien
was founded by Scottish Highlanders in
1736. The community is a gateway to an
array of heritage and eco-tourism resources
and is famed for its spectacular scenery and
colorful fleet of shrimp boats.
Darien's location on a bluff just three miles
from Sapelo Sound has made the site an
important one for settlement over thousands
of years. Prehistoric American Indians lived
on the upper and lower bluffs long before the
time of Christ. They fished and hunted in the
surrounding wetlands and forests, while also
growing crops such as corn, squash and
When Spanish traders, explorers and slavers
arrived in the region during the 1500s, the
bluff at Darien was home to Guale Indians.
In 1600, Franciscan priests arrived hoping to
convert the Guale to Christianity. They built
Mission Santo Domingo de Talaje on the
grounds of today's Fort King George Historic
The mission was hit by a raiding party of
Indians sent south by the English in 1661.
The raid was launched to capture peaceful
Guale who could be sold to the English as
By 1720 the new English colony of South
Carolina was under threat from the French
who had established Fort Toulouse in
Alabama as well as the Spanish at St.
Augustine, Florida. To protect the colony,
Parliament authorized the building of a fort on
the Altamaha River where Darien later would
Established by Col. John "Tuscarora Jack"
Barnwell and garrisoned by the Independent
Company of Foot of South Carolina, Fort King
George was the southernmost bastion of the
British empire in America. It was held from
1721-1728, during which time more than 140
officers and soldiers died at the frontier post
Fort King George has been reconstructed
and is a major heritage tourism destination
in Darien. The park features the fort itself, an
English cemetery, the ruins of later sawmills,
the site of the Spanish mission, trails, picnic
tables and a museum.
The permanent settlement of Darien came in
1736 as Gen. James Oglethorpe worked to
establish his new colony of Georgia.
Determined to secure the frontiers of the
colony with settlers who would be willing to
fight for their new lands, Oglethorpe worked
with Hugh Mackay and George Dunbar to
recruit a band of Highland Scots from the
vicinity of Inverness, Scotland. They arrived at
Savannah in early January 1736 and were
ordered by Oglethorpe to build a settlement
on the Altamaha River at the ruins of old Fort
The Scottish Highlanders came ashore at
Fort King George on January 19, 1736. The
band of 177 people included women and
children and was led by John McIntosh Mohr
and Hugh Mackay. Cannon were placed in
the earthworks of the ruined fort and huts
were built for shelter.
When Oglethorpe visited the Scots on
February 22, 1736, they paraded with their
claymores (longswords), side arms and
shields. Oglethorpe donned a kilt as a show
of respect to them.
By the summer of 1736 it was evident that the
site of Fort King George, surrounded by
marshes filled with mosquitoes, was not
healthy. The settlement was moved one mile
west to the top of the bluff where the city of
Darien stands today.
There they built Fort Darien, mounted cannon
and started construction on their permanent
homes. They called the town New Inverness
at first, commemorating their beloved home
community on the shores of Loch Ness in
The Scottish Highlanders from Darien played
a critical role in the Battle of Bloody Marsh.
The action was fought on St. Simons Island
on July 7, 1742, and ended forever Spain's
dream of reclaiming its lost lands in Georgia.
Darien grew to become a successful port. Its
bank was incorporated in 1819 with capital
stock of $1,000,000. The wharves of the city
were used to ship out cargoes of sea island
cotton, rice and timber.
One of the most controversial incidents of the
Civil War took place at Darien on June 11,
1863. Three Union transports tied up at the
city's wharves and Federal soldiers came
Even though no Confederate soldiers were in
Darien and the only people then living in the
city were women, children and the elderly, the
Union force had shelled the city. Col. James
Montgomery then ordered the entire town put
to the torch. Col. Robert Gould Shaw was
present with 8 companies of the famed 54th
Massachusetts Infantry, a Union regiment
formed by black soldiers.
Shaw objected to the wanton destruction, but
Montgomery told him that Southerners must
be "swept away by the hand of God, like the
Jews of old." With the exception of three
buildings, the entire city was burned to the
ground. Learn more by visiting this page.
Darien rebounded after the Civil War to
become an important center for the timber
and commercial fishing industries. In 1900,
more than 100,000,000 linear feet of lumber
was shipped from the city. It also became the
center for Georgia's shrimping industry.
Today the city of Darien is a charming and
historic community that is a gateway for
heritage and eco-tourism. It is still known for
its colorful shrimp boats and the annual
blessing of the fleet.
It is appropriate that a city founded by Scot
Highlanders from the shores of Loch Ness
should have a monster! Loch Ness, of
course, is famed as the home of Nessie, the
Loch Ness Monster. The Altamaha River at
Darien, in turn, is said to be the home of the
Described as a 30-foot long sea monster,
the Altamaha-ha lives in the river and old rice
canals near Darien. Called "Alty" for short, the
Altamaha-ha is a beloved part of local culture
and has been seen many times since the
To learn more about historic Darien, please
follow the links below and be sure to visit
Darien Shrimp Boats
Historic Darien is a center for
Georgia's shrimping industry
and colorful shrimp boats line
Landmark of Black History
Darien's historic First African
Baptist Church was founded
in 1822. The sanctuary was
built in 1868 to replace one
burned during the Civil War.