The seed to one of Brunswick’s most prolific family trees sprouted from Haddom, Conn., in 1764.
Cyrus Dart was but a boy when the Revolutionary War broke out 11 years later, but the patriotic youngster managed to finagle a position as page to Gen. George Washington in the fledgling Continental Army, as the story goes. But Cyrus’ dad would have none of it, pulling the underage lad from service.
Undeterred, Cyrus later ran away to join up with the Army’s 1st Connecticut Regiment, serving as a private in Capt. Stillwell’s Company from 1782-83. Independence attained, Cyrus became a surgeon after the war and wandered south, eventually landing on St. Simons Island.
Branches of the Dart family tree have shaped and influenced events in Brunswick and the Golden Isles ever since. That includes the very founding of Brunswick, its churches and business community. A Dart was even on hand when the marshes of Glynn’s splendor was famously put to rhyme and meter, good accounts have it. And a family member will most likely deliver a real zinger of a punchline at the next Brunswick Kiwanis Club meeting, if Bill Brown has anything to say about it. And the spry nonagenarian Dart descendant usually does have something to say about it.
You see, Cyrus begat Urbanus Dart, who begat William Robert Dart, who begat Ethel Grey Dart, who married William Hadley Brown and together they begat Bill Brown, now 98. Brown, a retired real estate agent, was born in the stately and once historic Dart House. The family home stood at 4 Glynn Ave. (U.S. Highway 17) for 137 years, from 1877 to right up until March of 2017.
Bill Brown has two brothers and three sisters. And that is just one branch; at least three of Cyrus’ eight children lived to produce offspring. Climbing through the thick foliage of the Dart’s Glynn County lineage to encompass all the siblings, parents, cousins, nephews, nieces, uncles and aunts would require a lifetime membership to Ancestry.com.
So let’s just go back to Cyrus. After completing his medical school training, Cyrus showed up on St. Simons Island in 1792, buying two lots in Old Town Frederica near the old fort. He married island native Ann Harris, then accepted a role in 1796 as a surgeon in the U.S. Army at Coleraine, a border settlement near Spanish Florida. Cyrus returned to the Golden Isles in 1802 to become quarantine officer for the Port of Brunswick.
It was in this capacity that Cyrus, his son Urbanus and a slave rowed out from St. Simons Island to meet a ship in need of a doctor on June 29, 1817. The boat capsized. Only Urbanus made it back to shore. Cyrus’s body was never found. His wife Ann lived until 1858 and is buried at Christ Church on St. Simons, where there also is a marker for Cyrus.
Urbanus Dart would lead a long and fulfilling life. Georgia’s General Assembly granted Urbanus and William R. Davis the title to a large portion of Brunswick’s undeveloped territory in 1826. Homes and businesses soon took root around a jail and a courthouse; Brunswick was incorporated as a municipality 10 years later.
Bill Brown said his great grandfather also granted lands for several of the city’s churches, including St. Mark’s Episcopal and First African Baptist. “He wound up owning a substantial amount of the property in Brunswick,” Brown recalls in the Stephen Doster’s book, Georgia Witness: A Contemporary Oral History of the State. “He gave the land to most of the churches that were in Brunswick at that time.”
Among Urbanus Dart’s many offspring was Jacob E. Dart (1843-1917), who would go on to serve as mayor of Brunswick, as well as a member of the State Legislature. But one evening back in the 1870s, Jacob was strolling down Gloucester Street when the flute jams floating from Friedlander Emporium caught his attention. Venturing inside he learned those sweet flute tunes were played by none other than Sidney Lanier, the poet. Both Confederate veterans of the still-fresh Civil War, the two men struck an immediate friendship.
Friendlander Emporium might have been a store, it might have been a saloon, and it likely was both, descendant Bill Brown said. Family lore holds that the two men bent their elbows over over a few brews before strolling down to the waterfront to rest beneath an oak tree.
And that is where is Lanier’s muse turned its attention to The Marshes of Glynn, influenced possibly by their libations.
“They chatted and then walked ... and sat on the edge of the creek on a moonlit night with a spring tide,” Brown recalls in Georgia Witness. “And Lanier got his inspiration to pen his poem ... My mother said he got his inspiration out of Friedlander’s beer barrel.”
It is believed the two rested at Lanier Oak, which folks today can visit at Overlook Park at the foot of Gloucester Street and U.S. 17.
Mea culpa, y’all: In last week’s column I wrote that Horace Gould Sr. entered into the burgeoning timber industry after returning to St. Simons Island following the Civil War. He did no such thing. I confused him with Horace Gould Jr., who did work as a bookkeeper for the Dodge family’s St. Simons Island timber operations.
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