Eliza McQueen Mackay of Oatland Island

It’s the Smith Family again. They will not let me be.

Footnote 30

Oatlands, a small island about a mile from the Cottage, was the only part of John McQueen’s estate in Georgia that his family had been able to keep from his creditors. It was here that the youngest John McQueen, on his return from Florida, tried his hand at planting Sea Island cotton. The various members of the McQueen and Smith families spent much time in the comfortable dwelling on Oatlands, and took pride in their extensive kitchen garden.

In “The Letters of Robert Mackay to his Wife”, we find copious information about this family. Walter Charlton Hartridge compiled a beautiful introduction and set of notes to explain who is whom.

Page 34


Cottage 14th Sepbr 1804

When in Town last week I wrote a few lines to you my Dearest Friend just to say that we were well & longed to hear from you–the next day we came out here which I considered very fortunate for soon after we had a most violent Storm or rather hurricane–& I should have been more frightened tho’ perhaps in less danger at home than here where my good Grandmothers example of composure extended itself to all around her–On the morning of the eighth the wind blew high from the North East but we apprehended nothing uncommon & past our time in the usual way–at ten oClock we perceived the tide to have covered the whole of the marsh between this & Jacksons at twelve it should have ebbed but to our great disappointment & surprise it continued to rise–the wind at the same time encreasing till it became so loud we could scarcely hear ourselves speak–it was with great difficulty we kept the doors & windows shut for the salt spray dashed against them with great force–& so much came through the cracks that we were obliged to bail it out–the Stable & every tree fell to the ground also part of one Chimney–this little dwelling shook with such violence we were in great dread of being crushed–I will not attempt to discribe our feelings–you can imagine what they were–I thought perpetually of what you must have suffered in the Oglethorpe & proposed your activity & resolution as an example to myself–but here there was

nothing to be done but to remain quiet & endeavour to bear with resignation the evil whatever it might be & it has kindly past off without injury to any one of us–the Children were unconscious of the danger & in as good spirits as usual–every thing looks dreary–the bluff washed away almost up to the doors the small trees that remain withered & many without a single leaf–the accounts from our Neighbours & the plantations are dismal many lives lost but none among our people–I have not yet heard from richmond–but the crops in general have suffered extremely at some places I fear entirely destroyed–at Oatlands there is scarce any thing left–no appearance of a garden or fence–they say if the water had been tweo feet higher there would not [have] been a spot of the Island uncovered by the flood–We hear from town that much damage has also been done there the particulars I suppose you will hear from Mr. Scott & many others–I have taken the first opportunity of telling you how well we have fared in this general calamity as I know you wd be anxious about us–there is no Vessel in a condition to sail from this port but I dare say Mr Scott will find a way of sending this–I hear Mr Mein is still in Charleston & that the storm has not been near so bad there–I have had two letter from Anne Mine since you went if you are with her give my best love & say I will write soon–The Eliza cannot be very far from here now by her perhaps we may hear from you indeed I expect that pleasure & shall be disappointed if I do not receive the congratulations of our friends on your safe arrival–Robert continues to be troubled with Boils Mary Anne & him often speak


of you & say you have been gone long enough & it is time you should come home–Adieu believe me always

Yours affectionately

E Mackay

Mr Robert Mackay



[Savannah, October 10, 1804.]

My Dear Mackay

You must prepare your Mind to bear up under a most severe affliction for I never took up my Pen to address you with so heavy a heart And how to disclose to you the Cause of my distress when it must affect you more severely. My hand shakes, my Pen trembles And I want language to impart to you My feelings Would to God I could take you by the hand & mingle my Tears with yours for the Loss (how shall I name it) of your oldest & Darling Son. Yes! my dear friend Poor Robert is no more & you are bereaved of the finest child I ever beheld–He was the pride of our City And I had flattered myself would long have been spared as a Comfort to his Parents and an ornament to his Country But alas! it has been otherwise decreed by Providence And We must bow with Submission to the omnipotent hand who gives & takes away–His Mother your amiable & affectionate Wife bears the Loss with more fortitude than I could have expected. Every thing is doing & will be done by your friends & her own family to Solace her Mind so as (if Possible) to mitigate this severe afflicton till your return which I trust is near



at hand And Time & Good Sense with the attention which the other Children daily require must be the blunter of feelings & regret for him that nothing in this World can bring back to us–Poor little fellow It was soon over with him but it was a severe fever while it lasted–About eight days previous to his being attacked Mrs Mackay came to Town from the Cottage for some medical assistance to Mary Anne & William who were rather unwell. And Robert had been Complaining for some time previous but on the Wednesday before his Death he was uncommonly playful & to me appeared in the finest Health–I did not call the next day for you must know I had Just got out of bed from a little attack that I had on leaving Charleston. On Thursday he was taken & Dr. Jones was sent for but no Danger was apprehended till Saturday Morning when Dr. Cuthbert was sent for–He was not at home & not to be found–Dr Irvine was called in but neither he nor Dr. Jones could avert its Progress. It was a case allmost as violent as Penns And I do not think it was in the Power of the faculty to save him–On Sunday Evening his little Soul left his earthly Abode for Mansions of Bliss where I hope we shall one day Join him–You must my Dear friend bear up under this most sever affliction It is the first of your Trials in the Relation of a Parent but such as all who are blessed with a family must lay their account with–If it can give you any Consolation I do assure you all your friends share & have partaken in your distress–The Inclosed from your Dear Wife I once thought of ordering to be sent to LIverpool but on second thought, I considered, it was too cruel in me to be the forwarder of News that was to distress & dwell on a Mind during


perhaps a long Passage where there were few objects to divert it & more particularly as on your Meeting with Mrs Mackay the whole Scene of affliction would be renewed–This is my excuse if I have erred My Dear Mackay it is the error of a friend who most Sincerely loves you & yours–

W: Mein

When I mentioned Oatland Island to Leslie, he said that he had been there years ago. This sounded bizarre to me, but it turns out that Oatland Island is a nature preserve.

So what do we do? We go to Oatland Island. We had to wait a couple weeks to get good weather on the weekend. It just so happened that the day we went was my birthday! We both got senior admissions even though we didn’t get carded.

We got a map of the nature trail at the admissions gate. The hiking trail was 1.75 miles, and I was highly doubtful that I could do it, but I had to try. What could happen, right?

The trail was not very well marked and we went back and forth a few times, because we kept missing a turn, making the total hike almost 4 miles.

The entrance from the parking lot. Behind us is the river.

The back of the building

Part of the marsh walk

The birds and animals live here because they can’t live in the wild. Some were injured and rehabilitated, some were orphaned, some can’t live in the wild.

This was part of the Heritage Site. I thought this meant the former home of the Smiths and McQueens and Mackays. Nope. Wrong again.

There had just been a cane grinding event the day before. Late to the dance once again.

The cane juice goes into the vat pictured below where it is heated until it turns into syrup. It takes a lot of juice to get a little bit of syrup.

From the rear you can see the fire box.

Leslie added to the photo for scale and local color.

The Delk cabin was built in 1835 by David Delk in the Taylor’s Creek Community of Gum Branch, Georgia.

After leaving the Heritage Homesite, we headed to the final portion of the trail. Wolves, bison, butterflies, the marsh awaited.

Past the parking lot was a new dock with a surprise.

This fabulous thing is an outdoor classroom.

In the distance is the highway that we drove in on from Savannah. You can see the section of bridge that is under construction.

So where was the original house? Perhaps looking toward the river. I would suppose that a boat was their major form of transportation to get to Savannah.

Before we headed home, I took a look at the step counter on the iPhone. No wonder my hips hurt.

There is also a gift shop in the main building with gifty type things. Leslie offered to buy me a sweatshirt because after all, they had one in an extra-large. Apparently he wants to be a comedian or has a death wish.

So while I’m not quite finished with these folks, this finishes my immediate curiosity with Oatlands.

They are having a sheep-to-shawl event in the spring which I am interested in. Maybe we’ll go back to the gift shop in case I need to buy an extra large shirt for a friend.

Because whoever thinks I need an extra large shirt doesn’t really need to say that out loud.

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