Works of Annie Fields


Diary of a West Indian Island Tour
by
Annie Fields
1896

Part 1 -- January 7 - 11

Boston, MA
Brunswick, GA
Jupiter Inlet, FL


 Page 2  Title page of what almost certainly was a bound journal book.


Diary of a West Indian Island Tour

[ Tuesday January 7 - Friday January 10]

Page 25*

On the 7th of Jan. 1896 we left Boston to join the ^steam^ yacht Hermione at Georgia.*  The thermometer had been ten degrees below zero on Monday but on Thursday night we reached Brunswick.  The cool evening air was most sweet and refreshing -- like that of early spring.  As the rumble of the cars stopped a few moments at a way station before reaching Brunswick we heard the Hylas* and welcomed the tiny note with joy.

On waking the following morning at Brunswick the sun was shining.  The sea lay smooth and softly blue before us.  The masts of the Hermione which had arrived soon after dawn were seen from the windows and a general sense of a long holiday took possession of our spirits.  Her commander soon came ashore to breakfast with us announcing the wonderful beauty of the day and hearing our tales of bitter cold and whirling snows which we had left behind with half a look half of wonder.*

            In walking about Brunswick the features of the ordinary southern town were to be seen -- and yet the superiority of those places which have a fine good harbor and the freedom which the great sea gives is not lacking.  There is not only an added sense of health and opportunity.  There is an absence of that deadness which settles down upon inland towns where things do not happen!  The surprises of a sea-ports as well as its opportunities are inspirers to thought and action.*

            How quiet the place is this morning however!  Thought and action are far away indeed.  The Hermione fired a gun as she came in;  The railroad puffed a little as it went out; otherwise silence surrounds us.  The roads are all of soft dirt -- except so far as I can see whe one broad shell side-walk covered with soft earth which I never should have discovered

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except I had asked my way during my ^last^ wanderings and had been told to go as far as the "shell road" in order to find the school house.  I found the school house but did not recognize the shell road until later!

I walked for half a mile inland under the beautiful live oak-trees with its ^their^  [pendant gray moss ?].  The house doors stood open frequently.  the chrysanthemums drooped their heads in the front gardens as if an ^autumnal^ frost had lately touched them; the soft voices of the negroes were occasionally heard singing or laughing; now and then I passed a few children, but the quiet of the place was unbroken until I drew near the public school house and the grammar school grounds where the children were having 'their" recess and were at play.  There were no colored children there; they, it appears, have a "free" school of their own but many of them prefer to send their children to private schools.*

            I went in to the lower room of the large brick building where I was kindly received by the teacher.  She asked my name and introduced me to the children; whereupon they all rose and said in the sweetest and most gentle way "good morning Mrs. Fields" rising as they spoke and sitting down again immediately.  They were just finishing an examination in mathematics but soon a grammar lesson was begun.  Oddly enough to me the lesson was upon "The modifier of the verb" and the old experience of a lesson learned by rote of which the pupils understood very little was rehearsed; the odd part of it was that this modification of the verb lesson was one which I have always remembered in dudgeon because it was a lesson in which I won my way to

Page 27

the top of my class once by sheer verbal memory and I resented my ill-won laurels.  So when the lesson was over I said a few words to the children and tried to make them understand by illustration.  I hope I succeeded but at least I felt happier for the opportunity of trying to make the little group understand what nobody had yet explained to them and my feelings grew stronger as I sat there against those old futile methods of education -- Alas! They are to be found elsewhere than in the South, but I trust the time is not far away when methods which have little to do with books and everything to do with true development of the mind shall be considered imperative.  I found however general good behaviour and gentleness and with these of course climate and homogeneity of race have much to do;* [a much revised and unreadable sentence follows, containing these readable words: ^These things^, qualities they, ^favorably^]


Notes

- Page 25:  The first 24 pages of the manuscript file for this document contains a miscellany of pages, most of which appear to be earlier drafts of some diary entries.

Boston:  Boston, MA to Brunswick, GA is nearly 1100 miles.  Fields and Jewett made this journey by train.  In 1896, there were express trains with Pullman cars from New England to the major east coast Florida destinations.  Brunswick was one of several important resort towns on this route.

- Hermione:  The following description of the Hermione appears in The Marine Engineer (July 1, 1891) p. 206.  The yacht was built in Paisley, Scotland.

hermione


According to "The Yacht Photography of J. S. Johnston," the Hermione was sold to the United States Navy in 1898, converted into a gunboat, and renamed the Hawk; she then provided service in the Spanish-American War.

yacht

  Photo of the Hermione from ClydeBuilt Database.
Note the electric launch hanging behind the stack.


Hylas:  A hyla is a tree frog.

to breakfast with us:  A Sarah Orne Jewett letter of 10 January confirms that the party stayed at the Oglethorpe Hotel, then the premier hotel in the town.  From the front of the hotel, located at the highest point in the area, one commanded a full view of the harbor.

Oglethorpe

Oglethorpe Hotel, Brunswick GA
Courtesy of the Glynn County Public Library, Brunswick.


Brunswick

Map of Brunswick, GA
Courtesy of Google Maps
Locations mentioned or implied in the diary.

Oglethorpe Hotel (1888-1958) -- then located at the corner of Newcastle and F streets, north of the "Historic Ritz Theater."

The harbor in Oglethorpe Bay:  Counter-intuitively, the harbor is west of the hotel.  The bay provides an inlet from the Atlantic, southeast of the town.  Probably, the Hermione was anchored near what is now Mary Ross Waterfront Park.

Brunswick harbor

Brunswick harbor area from Mary Rose Waterfront Park
2015

The public school:  Fields visited what is now the Annex Building of the Glynn Academy, on Mansfield St., lower right of this map.


Annex

Annex Building, Glynn Academy
Brunswick, GA. 2015.


The "free" public school for colored childrenNot on the map, this was at 1800 Albany St., which appears at the top right corner.  The school was a few blocks off the map, to the north, near I Street.
 

Free School

inspirers to thought and action:  Throughout this diary, Fields explores contrasts she sees between the activity and engagement she associates with New England and its bracing climate, on one hand, and on the other, the indolence and moral laxity she finds in warmer and tropical climates.

no colored children ... they, it appears, have a "free" school of their own but many of them prefer to send their children to private schools:  Fields indicates her understanding that the "free" school for African American students is not without its costs and that local parents are less than happy with their segregated public school.  At the time Fields visited Brunswick, the public school for African American children was the Colored Memorial School and Risley High School at 1800 Albany Street, where a marker stands today before the current Risley High School.

homogeneity of race:  What Fields means by this phrase will prove difficult to determine.  As the previous note on "colored schools" suggests, Fields seems aware that African Americans in Brunswick are not satisfied with the so-called free school provided for their children.  Implicitly, she appears to ask what price is paid for the gentleness and good behavior of the white children.




[ Saturday January 11]

Saturday. Jany 11th*  Brunswick was bright and yet with a cool wind blowing this morning when at [ten?]* o'clock we steamed away on a little boat The Howland for Jekell Island,* a place peculiar to this period of our American life.  It is one of the hunting islands but probably the finest of the group of bearing that name.  It is about eight miles from Brunswick and has a beautiful green ridge of live-oak trees along the horizon.  As we approached, -- the yellow marsh grass -- [dark ?] gold in the blue waters -- was evidently the wide abode of  marsh birds of every variety.  A delicate white heron* was standing among the reeds just where we could see him, but when the stir of the waves touched him he rose and flew away.  I [several unreadable words] birds were to be seen everywhere -- Innumerable smaller birds were also to be seen everywhere.  The place bears the 

Page 28

mark of the wealth and civilization of the people ^negroes^ who may be said to have discovered it.  It is a kind of luxurious hermitage, to which the rich and great of this world resort.  Long roads have been laid out through the woods fragrant with bay and sparkling with holly, roads for horse back wandering{,} for walks, or for delicious drives through the fresh air like the one we took with two fleet horses in a light carriage.  The length of the Island from the open sea is a magnificent beach hard where we drove over it, the tide by good fortune being low{,} like  ^as^ an oaken floor [several unreadable words deleted]  ^and^ the slope toward the sea ^was very^ so slight.  Coronado beach is longer, although this has eight unbroken miles, but nothing could be more beautiful and when the luxuries of civilized existence are added to such sport and such untameable natural beauty, it must be considered one of the most interesting places now in the world.  What energy it shows for the building of this large Club house and its maintenance!  The planning of these pretty houses, the fine roads -- and the many details necessary to have made such a resort for city-worn persons during these months of the year!  We steamed away [two unreadable inserted above in pencil, possibly by another hand] in the soft light of a southern afternoon on the Club steamer which had hospitably been sent for Mr. Pierce and his party towards ?] the "Hermione" where we spent such time* as we had before sleeping in trying to get to housekeeping.  It was fortunate because the next morning [deleted word] we started away for Palm Beach* or Jupiter Inlet which we reached indeed in about

Page 29

fifteen hours of seasickness and general discomfort but the strong waves were beating high inside the bar and it was dangerous to try to anchor or to land; so somewhat disappointed we steamed away again and the following morning we dropped anchor in the beautiful harbor of Nassau.*

Notes

Jany 11th: The Jany 11 date has been altered in pencil, seemingly by another hand.  11 is deleted, and 9 is inserted.  If Saturday is the correct day, then January 11, 1896 would be the right date.

ten:  Though difficult to read, looking as much like four as ten, it seems more probable that Fields meant ten.

The Howland for Jekell Island:  The Howland was a small steamer providing service from Brunswick to the Jekyll Island Club.  In 1896, Jekyll Island was a private club, established in the 1880s, where the world's richest people built houses or rented rooms in winter.  Only members and their guests could stay on the island.
   
Howland

Images of steamers serving Jekyll Island from
The Jekyll Island Club (1998) by Tyler E. Bagwell, Jekyll Island Museum


Jekyll

Jekyll Island is south of Brunswick, GA.
In 1896 it was accessible only by steamer.
Oglethorpe Bay opens into Saint Simons Sound near the US341 sign (in Brunswick), upper left of this map.  The map below shows the location of the club house on the island.  The long beach along which Fields and company took their drive forms the east coast of the island.  The 1896 residences of wealthy owners surrounded the Club hotel, on the west coast of the island.

Maps courtesy of Google Maps.

Jekyll
                                                    Island

Jekyll Club

Jekyll Island Club
2015

delicate white heron:  It is likely Fields observed a great egret.

where we spent such time:   It appears Fields may have intended to delete some of the lines from "where we spent" to the end of this page, with a single slanted line across the text.

Palm Beach or Jupiter Inlet:  Presumably, the Hermione sailed to the area of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, about 20 miles north of the current city of Palm Beach, FL.  By land, Jupiter Inlet is about 340 miles south of Brunswick, GA.

NassauWikipedia says that Nassau is the capital, largest city and commercial center of the Bahamas.  It is about 215 miles from the Jupiter Inlet in Florida.


Edited by Terry Heller, Coe College.

The original of this diary is in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.  My copy is from a microfilm, available courtesy of the University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence, Kansas:  Annie Adams Fields Papers 1852-1912. Folio PS 1669.F5 Z462 1986, Reel 2.


 
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