A large tract of land near St. Simons Island’s north end has remained protected from development and progress through two centuries, but history at Fort Frederica National Monument has been anything but static.

The site continues to reveal new stories from the past, as evidenced by the recognition earned at Fort Frederica recently from the National Park Service. From the staff’s top archaeologist to a pair of dedicated volunteers to a group of inquisitive high school students, staff and helpers at Fort Frederica have demonstrated that history on the site is an evolving process.

The Glynn Academy Ethnology Club earned the 2020 George and Helen Hartzog Youth Group Volunteer Award for the park system’s Southeast Region in recognition of the high schoolers’ excavations at the fort and the development of resulting educational programs.

Longtime volunteers Tom and Karen Hartley earned the George and Helen Hartzog Volunteer National Award, recognition for their willingness to remain onsite during the COVID-19 pandemic and to help develop new social distancing and prevention protocols that allowed visitors to continue enjoying the fort’s resources.

Fort Frederica archaeologist Michael Seibert earned the 2020 John L. Cotter Award for Excellence in Archaeology National Award in honor of his efforts overseeing a dig that uncovered a late 19th century freedman’s burial site on the ground. He also developed the accompanying educational programming surrounding the finds.

Seibert also earned the Freeman Tilden Award for Interpretation for the Southeast and the Appleman-Judd-Lewis-Excellece in Cultural Resource Management.

Students from the Glynn Academy Ethnology Club established a dig site beneath a tent on the grounds in 2020 and the excavations there continued through 2021. Artifacts uncovered new information about the lives of early colonists at Fort Frederica, a military base and township established in the Georgia Colony in 1736.

Scattered ruins from the original settlement remain following generations of St. Simons Islanders settling in the area from the Antebellum era into the early 20th century. The ethnology club’s findings helped identify new evidence throughout those periods, the results of which have led to new interpretive historical exhibits for visitors.

Tom and Karen Hartley are longtime volunteers at Fort Frederica, living onsite seasonally. They are popular with visitors for historical interpretation programs performed in Colonial period dress.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, the couple extended their annual commitment to assist with establishing protocols for keeping the site open to visitors.

They also helped develop the 1.5 mile nature trail at the site and assisted in organizing the African American Cultural Festival in 2020.

The festival resulted from the discovery of a late 19th century African American burial site on the grounds of Fort Frederica during an excavation led by Seibert. The 2019 archaeological project used techniques that confirmed the grave sites with minimal intrusion.

Evidence included sea shells, colored glass, pottery shards and other items customary of early Gullah Geechee burial practices of the time. It was matched with African American burial records kept at nearby Christ Church.

Seibert’s efforts resulted in the development of a new museum exhibit that soon will be unveiled at Fort Frederica.

Fort Frederica is free to the public and open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 912-638-3639, or go to: nps.gov/fofr.

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