The Liberty County GAGenWeb: James Hamilton Couper Biography


James Hamilton Couper was born in Sunbury, Liberty County, Georgia, on March 5, 1794. His residence while in College was St. Simon's Island, about thirty miles south of Sunbury. At the age of nine he was sent to school in New Haven, and five years later was transferred to St. Mary's College, a Roman Catholic institution in Baltimore, whence he came to Yale at the opening of the Sophomore year.

He spent a year at home after graduation, and in 1815 went to Europe for study and travel. On his return he settled on his plantation, near the mouth of the Altamaha River, in Glynn County, with his summer residence about fifteen miles distant on St. Simon's Island.

He was married early to a Miss Wylie, of that vicinity. His plantations were models of good government; Sir Charles Lyell, in the account of his visit to the United States in 1846, describes them with high praise.

He labored, not without success, to improve the cultivation of cotton and rice. He engaged in the experiment of pressing oil from cotton seed, but abandoned it after a year's trial.

He was one of the contractors for the construction of the Brunswick Canel, between the Altamaha and Turtle rivers in 1838-39, and his scientific knowledge preserved large numbers of fossils then unearthed, which he presented to public institutions.

He was a man of varied culture, and his private library was one of the largest in the South. Christ Church, Savannah, which was built after his plans in 1838, is a monument of his taste and skill in architecture. The honorary degree of Doctor of Laws was given him by Mercer University in 1848.

He preferred to keep aloof from public life, and on only two occasions did he consent to assume office. One of these was when, in consequence of an effort to defeat the collection of debts, the office of Sheriff of Glynn County had become difficult and dangerous, and he accepted and executed it. Again, during the excitement on Nullification, he helped as a delegate to the Georgia Convention, to defeat the plan of disunion. He was also opposed to the movement of secession, and during the Civil War lived in close seclusion, on the confines of Florida.

On the close of the war, he returned to his home, but failed gradually, and died at his temporary residence, Carteret's Point, Georgia, on July 3, 1866, in his 73d year. His wife survived him, with two daughters and three sons. A son who was graduated here in 1849 died before his father. All his sons were in the Confederate service.

Dexter, Franklin Bowditch, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College: With Annals of the College History, New York: H. Holt and Co., 1885-1912, Volume 6, pp. 637-638

Submittted by Bob Franks

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