StMarys exterior

First Presbyterian Church of St. Marys

camden-oak-grove-exterior

Oak Grove Baptist

Providence Methodist

Burnt Fort Chapel

 

Churches of Camden County

Click thumbnail above to go to church page with additional photos and history

The first recorded European to visit what is today Camden County was Captain Jean Ribault of France in 1562.  Ribault was sent out by French Huguenots to find a suitable place for a settlement. Ribault named the rivers he saw the Seine and the Some, known today as the St. Marys and Satilla Rivers.  Competing British and Spanish claims to the territory between their respective colonies of South Carolina and Florida was a source of international tension, and the colony of Georgia was founded in 1733 in part to protect the British interests.  In 1763, Spain, under a treaty of peace with England, ceded Florida to Britain.

Largely due to security issues arising from proximity to powerful Indian groups and British Florida, Georgia was the last state to join in the War for Independence in 1775.  In the Georgia Constitution of 1777 St. Thomas and St Marys Parishes were formed into Camden County, named for Charles Pratt, Earl of Camden in England, a supporter of American independence. Camden County was the site of many trading posts with the Native Americans, who by the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries consisted mainly of people of the Creek Nation. From America’s earliest years and even after Indian Removal in the 1830s, the county was a site of significant conflict between settlers and Indians, leading to a small series of local Indian wars.

The primary economic enterprise of the county was rice planting, particularly along the Satilla River.  Sea Island cotton was grown on Cumberland Island, and short-staple cotton was grown on the mainland along with sugar cane.  Various forest products including turpentine and timber were produced, mainly for consumption in the naval industry and the West Indies.  Camden County also served as a hub of backcountry trade with American settlers and various Indian groups, and as a shipyard and shipping center centered around the town of St. Marys.  The land in Camden County was owned by fewer than 300 people throughout the colonial and antebellum eras. 

Most of the white population worked in trades or as tenant farmers, while nearly all black residents were slaves. At the beginning of the Civil War, the population was 5,482 of which only 1,721 were white.  During the American Civil War, Camden sent out two companies of infantry to fight in the Confederate Army.   After the war, Camden County land fell under Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15. which dictated the distribution of parcels of land to freedmen.  However, by 1868 Camden County’s freedmen found themselves dispossessed of land they had lived and worked on since emancipation or earlier.  Confiscated lands were returned to former landowners.

In 1923 the county seat of Camden County was moved from St. Marys to Woodbine, a reflection of the shift from the water transportation to railways.  In 1927 U.S. Route 17 was constructed through Woodbine and Kingsland.  The U.S. Army began to acquire land south of Crooked River in 1954 to build a military ocean terminal to ship ammunition in case of a national emergency.  In November 1976 the area of Kings Bay was selected for a submarine base.  Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay not only occupies the former Army terminal land, but several thousand additional acres.  Camden County’s population grew enormously after the military took an interest in the area, and during the 1980s was the fourth fastest growing county in the United States.