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A review of Coastal Georgia's history
400 years in the making
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Buddy Sullivan covered nearly 400 years of Coastal Georgia history on Thursday evening. - photo by Photo by Magdalena Bresson

You can’t tell where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been,” said Sarah Volker, former president of the Richmond Hill Historical Society — that’s where Coastal Georgia historian Buddy Sullivan comes in.
The author of 17 books on coastal Georgia history sat down with a handful of Richmond Hill’s most curious residents Thursday evening to review nearly 400 years of local history.
It was no easy task even for the most seasoned of lecturers, but Volker was confident he’d come prepared.
“He’s a very entertaining speaker, and he usually brings a PowerPoint to help people follow along,” Volker said.
And follow along the budding historians did for nearly an hour as Sullivan covered major points in Bryan County’s history.
For those that couldn’t get enough this time around, Volker revealed plans for Sullivan’s return in March to teach a six-week course based on the same content of Thursday’s lecture.
Among other specialties, Sullivan is known for his lectures on the history of the Spanish settlement on the Guale coast, James Oglethorpe and the founding of Savannah, the Scottish settlement in Georgia, the 19th-century timber and shipping industry and the commercial shrimp and oyster fishery.
But no matter what topic he addresses, Sullivan said he always makes sure to examine the impact of past events on the current way of life.
“It’s always important to remember the tie-in between our history and our culture,” Sullivan said as he prepared to begin his lecture. “And it’s also important to remember the political circumstances of the time.
“To me, this is a salient theme of where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going — especially in the next 100 years.”
More importantly, Sullivan’s lectures also touch on how three centuries of ancestors were forced to adapt to a wilder, harsher environment than exists today.
“We need to consider the factors of our ecosystem and how they relate to what people have done over the last 400 years and, of course, what people have done for thousands of years before that with the Native Americans,” Sullivan said.
For people like Volker, who love Richmond Hill and Bryan County but fear the area could soon lose its charm to development and industry, Sullivan’s lecture is about preserving as much of the past as possible.
“It’s important to impress upon people the importance of remembering our history,” Volker said. “Buddy’s lecture is especially important because most of the history we can actually relate to took place over the last 400 years.”
Each year the Richmond Hill Historical Society sets a theme. This year’s theme is “historic preservation.”
Over the course of the next few months, students from Savannah College of Art and Design will continue to help preserve the Richmond Hill Museum building, a project that’s been in the works for about a year, while Sullivan’s class will help people reconnect with the people, the places and the architecture of coastal Georgia’s history.
For more information on Sullivan’s Class, contact the Richmond Hill Historical Society at 912-756-3697, check their Facebook page or visit the website at

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