Although unconfirmed officially, there's a story that Vice President Aaron Burr visited Waynesville in early 1800s. It's a story that has the makings of a hero-villain movie. The very fact that a Vice president of the United States visited South Georgia in the early 1800s creates interest. Throw in the personality of a notorious duelist who had faced-off with another highly respected statesman, with "real guns," and you have the plot.
The realism is Alexander Hamilton was a fatal victim; a signer of the United States Constitution, the first Secretary of the Treasurer and a member of George Washington's first cabinet. How did two highly talented, influential men get involved in a duel? Who was Aaron Burr? Did he, in fact, spend time in Waynesville? Why was he allowed to roam Georgia after killing a man?
World Book Encyclopedia had this to say about Aaron Burr (1756-1836): "Vice President of the United States from 1801 to 1805 under President Thomas Jefferson. His brilliant career and promising future ended disastrously when he killed Alexander Hamilton in a gun duel in 1804. Afterwards, he became one of the most controversial figures in United States history.
Burr was born in Newark, N.J., and was graduated from Princeton College in 1772. He fought with the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1779, starting as a private and rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. After the war, he became a lawyer in 1782 and practiced in Albany, N.Y., and New York City. Soon, he became one of the nation's leading lawyers. He served New York as a state legislator and as attorney general in 1789. He was elected to the U. S. Senate in 1791, defeating Alexander Hamilton's father-in-law, General Philip Schuyler. This might have been where the personalities of Burr and Hamilton began to clash.
Burr ran with Thomas Jefferson for Presidency of the United States, both in 1796 and 1800. Burr was the Republican party's choice for Vice president, but the constitution was written in such a manner that both men were technically running for the first office. Never the less, John Adams won the election with 71 electoral votes, and Thomas Jefferson became Vice President with 68 votes.In the 1800 election Burr tied with Jefferson in votes, and the House of Representatives took 36 ballots before choosing Jefferson over Burr.
It was during this ballot process that Alexander Hamilton voiced strong opposition to Burr. While Hamilton had clashed with Thomas Jefferson many times on political issues in the past, on this occasion he used his influence to help Jefferson defeat his old enemy Aaron Burr.
After that, supporters of Jefferson never quite trusted Burr. They believed that Burr should have withdrawn his name from consideration of the presidency since he had run on the party ticket as their selection choice for Vice President.
Vice President Burr ran for Governor of New York in 1804, but lost. Hamilton had successfully opposed him again. The angry Burr challenged his enemy to a duel. On July 11, 1804, the two men faced each other with pistols in Weehawken, N.J. Burr's shot being quicker and more accurate than his political foe, fatally wounded Alexander Hamilton with one shot.
A coroner's inquest "found a verdict of willful murder by Aaron Burr, Vice President of the United States." When the N. J. grand jury returned a murder indictment against Burr, he fled to safety in the south, visiting friends. It was during this period that Burr's visits to Waynesville are alleged.
A number of historian's comment on Burr's alleged visit to south Georgia. 1. Bernice McCullar, in "This is Your Georgia," records that "Aaron Burr visited St. Simons while "fleeing from the ghost of Alexander Hamilton whom he had killed in a duel." 2.James T. Vocelle, in "History of Camden County Georgia," states that Aaron Burr spent a night with Major Archibald Clark and his wife, Rhoda Wadsworth Clark. 3. Nancy Rhyne, in "Touring the Coastal Georgia Back Roads," states that Aaron Burr visited Hampton Plantation on St. Simons Island. It is said Burr wrote his daughter that Hampton "affords plenty of milk, cream abundance, figs, peaches, melons, oranges, and pomegranates." Rhyne also states, "while at Hampton Plantation, Burr went by boat to St Mary's to visit Archibald Clark." 4. "Aaron Burr: Portrait of an Ambitious Man", by H. S. Parmet and M. B. Hecht states, "..after the duel, he immediately completed plans which he had already initiated to go to St. Simons, an island off the coast of Georgia." 5. Jonathan Daniel's, "Ordeal of Ambition" states, "Burr secretly embarked for Georgia. There on St. Simons Island at the Hampton Plantation of his friend, rich former Senator Pierce Butler, he found refuge..." Daniel comments further that, "Burr could make any forays into Georgia or Florida he wanted to make, and that he traveled under the name of Roswell King."
An article by Doug Brisco, published in The Brantley Enterprise on October 5, 1988, makes the following comments. Georgia Senator Pierce Butler, was one of America's most prominent citizens. He owned vast amounts of land around Waynesville and St. Simons Island. He was very influential with friends from the north, one being Vice President Aaron Burr. After the duel, Aaron Burr decided to visit the plantation of his old friend, Pierce Butler on St. Simons. He stayed about a month until a hurricane hit the coast.
There is no written proof that Burr visited Waynesville, but there is a high probability that he did. Senator Butler also owned lands located around Waynesville, along with all his relatives whose homes were near the Great Satilla and Waynesville.
It is said that Vice President Burr was a draftsman, and that he made a big impression upon the relatives of Pierce Butler, including a youth named Roswell King. Roswell grew up to be a famous draftsman, and is credited with drawing up plans and blue prints for the city of Waynesville.
Later the Roswell King family moved to north Georgia, and became one of Georgia's most notable citizens. The town of Roswell, Georgia was named for Roswell King. the draftsman from Waynesville Georgia.
In the "Magic Wilderness", Robert L. Hurst concludes, "…although no definite proof has this researcher found to substantiate that Aaron Burr visited Waynesville, it is believed that a strong possibility exists."
In those days, Waynesville was a place of retreat and resort for plantation owners residing on Georgia's Coastal Islands. It was not uncommon for plantation owners to have in-land homes and take refuge there during hazardous conditions, such as storms, and summer flies. So, until proof is discovered to the contrary, we the people of Brantley believe the tales of our ancestors, and claim the fame of a visiting dignitary, regardless of his notoriety.
Information was assembled from various sources by, Thomas Earl Cleland, 12564 Dunraven Trail Jacksonville, Florida, 32223.