As with so many properties on Georgia’s barrier islands, these environmentally important tracts of land show evidence of human occupation for nearly 5,000 years. Located just south of Cannon’s Point Preserve on St. Simons Island’s Lawrence Road, they are part of the former Oatland Plantation. During the Civil War era, Oatland was owned by Dr. Robert Grant, a Scottish immigrant who became a wealthy planter-physician. Dr. Grant also owned Elizafield, a river plantation on the mainland between Brunswick and Darien.
What we now call Oatland was once part of a 300-acre tract owned by Captain Douglas Taylor. Taylor was the caretaker of Little St. Simons Island between 1908 and the 1960s. He and his wife, Alberta Gould Taylor, acquired the property in exchange for property that is now part of Fort Frederica National Monument.
The property was subsequently purchased by Buddy and Jackie Hasell, who built their retirement home on the property. Buddy, a St. Simons native and pre-World War II manager of the McKinnon St. Simons Airport, also had a long career as a Miami-based Eastern Airlines Captain. After his and Jackie’s deaths, the property was divided into three separate parcels and inherited by their three children. That included their daughters, Jackie Hasell Davis and Barbara Hasell Murrah, and their youngest child, Nathaniel Hasell.
The northern most of the three parcels was inherited by Bascom Murrah, widower of Barbara Hasell Murrah. This 35.7-acre tract is contiguous with Cannon’s Point Preserve and has been rolled into the Conservation Easement that is held and monitored by The Nature Conservancy. It runs from Lawrence Road east to the marsh. The Farm at Oatland North, a not-for-profit animal rescue farm, is an inholding and will continue its operations as a totally separate entity from the Land Trust.
In February of 2021, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the 35.7 acres of Oatland North, as well as a little more than 63 acres of marshland, were added to Cannon’s Point Preserve. This additional acreage brings Cannon’s Point to more than 700 acres of permanently protected maritime forest, salt marsh, tidal creek and river shoreline that provides habitat for coastal wildlife such as oysters, birds, fish, and manatee and is part of the globally important Altamaha River corridor. The addition to CPP was made possible by a $1 million National Coastal Wetland Conservation Grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and administered by Georgia DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section.
The Oatland South property is another nearly 35-acre tract with two one-acre inholdings that include two existing homes. Closings on both Oatland North and South took place in May 2018. Final funding for these tracts of land, as well as the Middle Oatland property, is being raised through Phase II of the Land Trust’s Canopy Campaign and by contributions from Pennies for Preservation, the organization’s voluntary 1% giving program. Determinations about public access, trail systems, and infrastructure initiatives for the Oatland properties will be made once the Canopy Campaign is completed.