This week marks the 285th anniversary of the founding of the town and fort Georgia’s earliest settlers named “Frederica”, for the Prince of Wales, Frederick Louis (1702-1754), son of Britain’s reigning monarch King George II.
General James Oglethorpe selected this location on the outer edge of George’s dominion, often referred to as the “debatable land”, years earlier while surveying the Georgia coast for suitable locations for a defensible settlement. Buffering the presence of the Spanish in Florida, and the French to the west, Frederica would play a pivotal role in the struggle between empires.
Oglethorpe returned with a troop of thirty men to this mostly clear “Indian field” overlooking the Frederica River by February 18, 1736. Construction was begun on an earthen fort with four bastions and hasty temporary shelters for Oglethorpe’s men. The provisional palm thatched huts for the soldiers marked the landscape until future settlers arrived to construct more permanent English style homes. Frederica town was divided by a 75-foot-wide “Broad Street” and eighty-four regularly spaced lots covering forty acres, within the star-shaped design of the fort.
Frederica came under threat in 1742 during the War of Jenkins’ Ear when Spanish forces from Florida and Cuba landed on the southern end of St. Simons Island. Oglethorpe’s attack on a Spanish reconnaissance party advancing towards Frederica at Gully Hole Creek led to the battle at Bloody Marsh and the successful defense of the settlement.
Following a de-escalation of tensions between Great Britain and Spain, Oglethorpe’s regiment was disbanded in May 1749. Frederica’s population began to disperse into the surrounding area. Within the next decade, a devastating fire swept through of Frederica, prompting further abandonment.
Fort Frederica was recognized as a National Monument in 1936, under the Roosevelt administration and its remains stabilized by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. As a historic area under the National Park Service, the National Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
Fort Frederica is open to the public and admission is free.