Its unmatched beauty has been around for millennia, but the largest of Georgia’s Barrier Islands only became a national seashore on this day in 1972.
Cumberland Island is the southernmost of Georgia’s Sea Islands. This magical place is noted for having several unique ecological systems: beaches and dunes, inland maritime forests, and saltwater marshes. The 57-square-mile island is home to wild horses, sea turtle nests, and a variety of other wildlife. Native Americans visited the island for thousands of years before the Spanish built a fort and mission there in the 16th century.
In the 1760s, 13 Georgians received the first land grants on Cumberland. Those grants would be the foundations of the slave-based Sea Island cotton plantations of the 19th century.
The Carnegies of Pittsburgh bought land on Cumberland in the 1880s as a private hunting reserve, but in the 1960s, the Carnegies and other landowners worked with the federal government to convert Cumberland into public land. The result is one of Georgia’s great natural treasures, the Cumberland Island National Seashore, established by Congress on October 23, 1972, Today in Georgia History.
The father of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was originally buried on Cumberland Island. However, it was later re-interred at Virginia. The gravestone remains.