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Descendants of enslaved Africans, the Gullah/Geechee are fighting to hold on to their land and culture in the face of development.
Descendants of enslaved Africans, the Gullah/Geechee are fighting to hold on to their land and culture in the face of development.
48 backers pledged $7,331 to help bring this project to life.

The Geechee Community of Hog Hammock (With Photos)

NOTE: This was originally supposed to be an update exclusive to the backers of the project, but since we are not yet funded, I figured it may be best to share with everyone so others can see what the updates will be like when I make trips to the Gullah/Geechee coast next year. Of course those updates will be exclusive to supporters of this project.

I recently returned after a few days of visiting with my friend Cornelia Bailey on Sapelo Island off the coast of Georgia.

Cornelia is a life-long resident of the island and she lives in the Geechee community of Hog Hammock. Hog Hammock's inhabitants are mostly Geechee and have been living on the island for generations. The current population in the community is estimated to be around 50.

Since the island is accessible only by boat, residents must bring over all supplies from the mainland or purchase them in the small store on the island. The children of Hog Hammock take the ferry to the mainland and take a bus to school. The community's own school closed in 1978.

I left Washington D.C. for Sapelo Island on Halloween (Wednesday), flying into Savannah, Ga.. The original plan was to fly out Tuesday but hurricane Sandy delayed the trip by a day.

There is only one restaurant and a very small general store on Sapelo so I needed to stop for provisions. I would be staying at Cornelia Bailey's lodge called the Wallow, which has 6 rooms and a a communal kitchen. The restaurant on the island is run by a Hog Hammock resident but is only open when there are a lot of visitors on the island. This week I was the only resident of The Wallow. A photo of the Wallow is below.

Cornelia Bailey reads the local paper on the ferry ride to Sapelo

A teenager naps as he returns to Sapelo on the ferry after school on the mainland.

I met Cornelia at the boat at 3:30 and rode over with her and her grandkids who were returning from school on the mainland. I settled in at the Wallow and met Cornelia's husband, Frank. Helped him unload beer at the at his local watering hole called The Trough and gave him the 2 12-packs I brought along. (Dad always said never arrive empty handed)

Cornelia picking peas (removing the bad ones) in her kitchen.

I visited with Cornelia for a couple of hours as she sat and picked peas in her kitchen and once the kids were dressed for Halloween, I went out on the candy hunt with them.

The homes in Hog Hammock are not all that close together so the kids were driven around from place to place.

Cornelia's grandson on the prowl for candy in Hog Hammock.

After about a hour we stopped back at the Wallow and The Trough and I got out to hang out with the local men around a blazing fire. The Wallow and the Trough are in the same building (each end) and next to the Wallow were I was staying. This is a nightly occurrence. Everyone was telling stories, picking on each other and drinking Bud or Bud light. After a bit, a few of the guys headed inside The Trough for their nightly game of Spades.

On day two I got up early and met up with Frank who drives the school bus on the island. Frank and his grandsons came out about 6:30 and we took off to get the rest of the school kids.

Frank works for the Georgia Department of Education and had been driving the bus on the island for about 30 years. At one time he drove a 72 passenger bus. Now it is a much smaller bus. This morning he had were 6 kids, three teenagers and his three grandsons.

Frank Bailey walks back to the school bus after dropping the children off at the boat landing for their trip to school on the mainland.

I hung out with Cornelia at the general store and as we were chatting a tour bus pulled up. The tours are run by the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve. It was interesting as people got off the bus and looked around. Although Cornelia just happened to be there, it was almost like she was on display for the tourists. She graciously signed a few copies of her book, God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man, for some of the tourists.

Frank Bailey smokes mullet in his backyard on Sapelo Island.

Caught up with Frank later in the morning and watched as he smoked mullet. The rest of the day I spend exploring the island in one of the golf carts that Frank rents to visitors. Later in the evening I hung out with the men around the fire again and got to hear some really funny stories as they told tall tales on each other.

On my final day I got up real early again to go shrimping with Brandon Dixon. The early hour was required to catch the shrimp on the incoming tide. It was dark, but as the sun started to rise I was able to make a few images. 

Brandon Dixon picks out shrimp while casting off a small bridge over the marsh on Sapleo Island. Brandon did not get a lot of large shrimp this morning but he did catch a lot of smaller shrimp that he will save and use for bait fishing later.

After spending a couple of more hours with Cornelia, I packed up and headed home.


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