By: Arlene Angwin
While George Galphin is not featured on the Savannah Holy Ghost Tour, he played a pivotal role in the life David George, a runaway slave who had found refuge with Native Americans. Galphin’s trading agent bought George to save him from his master’s revenge. The trader and David worked for months purchasing pelts before returning to Galphin’s plantation, located on the Savannah River.
Galphin was a fascinating man. Born in Ireland, he left behind a wife when he sailed to America in 1737. He never returned to her or his home country. He settled in South Carolina. Like James Oglethorpe, he admired, trusted and respected the Native Americans. He quickly earned their respect in return.
Galphin accepted, even embraced the native ways, including polygamy. He took multiple wives and is known to have at least one native, one black and one white woman as wives (besides the wife he’d abandoned in Ireland). The children from these marriages were treated as equals, even those born into the institution of slavery. All learned to read and write. After David George arrived with Galphin’s trading agent, he allowed his children to teach him reading and writing as well.
As tensions increased between the colonies and Great Britain, the Continental Congress appointed Galphin as a commissioner, to serve as a liaison between the Americans and Natives. At that time, the French, Spanish and English continually vied for loyalty of the Natives, desiring their braves to fight for each country’s individual interest. Because of their great trust in Galphin, who told them the coming conflict (American Revolution) was a white man’s dispute, the Natives agreed not to fight for either side.
This upset the British enough to form a plot to assassinate Galphin. Warned by his Native allies, he escaped the ambush.
Savannah fell to the British late in 1779. Galphin, a patriot, knew the army would be marching through his land to capture Augusta. He fled with his wives and children, leaving 50 slaves unattended, with the promise to return soon for them.
The very next day, the slaves walked from Silver Bluff to British-held Ebenezer. The army transported them to nearby Savannah, where they lived under British protection until the end of the American Revolution.
After settling his family in safety behind Patriot lines, Galphin returned to his plantation. In a very short time, the British arrived and placed him under house arrest. He died there on December 1, 1780, before the war had ended.
Today, the Silver Bluff Audubon Society sits on the ground where Galphin’s trading post and plantation once stood.