Midway, a small city of little more than 1000 people, has a lot of history and makes for a surprising and interesting stop-off on the way to a visit to Fort Morris or further along the coast.
The town was founded by European settlers, who moved to the area in 1752. British colonists, hoping that populating the area would help in its defense against the local indigenous Creek, granted land to Puritans from Dorchester, South Carolina.
The South Carolina settlers, who were mostly rice planters, brought 1500 slaves with them to the new St John’s Parish (St John’s Parish was combined with the adjacent St Andrew’s and St James’s parishes in 1777 to form Liberty County). Slavery, initially forbidden in the colony of Georgia, had only recently been legalized, allowing the settlers to establish plantation agriculture in the lands around Midway.
Several men from the Midway area would play influential roles in the creation of an independent American nation: Lyman Hall and Button Gwinnett, both from St John’s Parish, signed the Declaration of Independence.
Midway’s initial prosperity was threatened during the Revolutionary War, during which many of its houses and its church were burned by the British under Lieutenant Colonel Mark Prevost. The structures were rebuilt, and the town became affluent once more. For many decades more, Midway occupied an important position within Georgia’s economic, political and religious life.
Midway’s wealth, however, was largely derived from the profits made from slave labor on the surrounding plantations. With the Civil War and the emancipation of the slaves, the agriculture upon which the town’s economy was based was no longer possible on the same scale. Midway began its decline.
491 North Coastal Highway (US 17), Midway, GA
The highlight of Midway is its Colonial Museum, a small but interesting space dedicated to preserving the history of the city and local area. The building itself, constructed in 1959 according to the design of Thomas G Little, is based on examples of 18th century lowcountry architecture from around nearby Sunbury and Riceboro.
Adults $10, seniors/military $8, children/students (5-19) $5. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-4pm. The last tour begins at 3pm. For more information, visit the official website or call 912-884-5837.
Midway’s Congregational Church, adjacent to the museum, is one of the oldest church buildings and congregations in Georgia.
The church was founded in 1752, when Midway was first settled; the building was completed in 1756. That first building survived only a little over two decades, until 1778, when it was burnt by the British during the Revolutionary War.
A new church, on the same site, was completed in 1792. This is the building that stands today, although its location now is slightly different: the structure was moved 40 feet to the east in 1956 to allow for the widening of US 17.
The design of the church, a plain white clapboard building with tower, is typical of the late-18th-century Protestant architectural style. Historic features include separate slave galleries against the side and rear walls (necessitating a double tier of windows), accessed by a flight of stairs leading from an outside door.
Attached to the Midway Church (located across the road) is a small, colonial-era graveyard, enclosed with a brick wall. The cemetery was laid out in 1756, in the same the year that the original church building was erected, and extended in 1800. Most of the oldest grave markers are lost, but a few from the 1760s and 1770s survive, along with others from later periods.
The Midway Cemetery is the final resting place of two Revolutionary War officers, Generals Daniel Stewart and James Screven (the latter killed in a skirmish very close to the church, on November 22 1778). The monument in the center of the cemetery, placed in 1915, is in their memory.
Also of military interest is the iron gate on the east of the cemetery, presented by the Liberty Independent Troop, a volunteer militia that survives to this day. It was completed in 1813.
Just over three miles from Midway’s Historic District is the Cay Creek Wetlands Interpretive Center, where you can experience the salt and fresh water tidal ecosystem of the lowcountry region, with boardwalk.
The park is currently closed and expected to reopen in spring 2017. Regular hours are 9am-7:30pm daily. For additional information, visit the park’s Facebook page or call 912-884-3344.
8787 East Oglethorpe Highway, Midway, GA
Dorchester Academy is a historic school, established in the 1870s to educate African-American children and later becoming an important site in the Civil Rights movement. A small museum outlines the history of the school; tours of the building are also available.
Open Tuesday-Friday, 11am-2pm and Saturday-Sunday, 2pm-4pm. For more information visit the official website or call 912-884-2347.
Midway is located in lowcountry Georgia, a few miles inland. It is around 30 miles southwest of Savannah. See on map
Driving Driving is currently the only convenient way to get to Midway. Get directions
Approximate distances and travel times, each way (assuming traffic is not heavy), are as follows:
– From Savannah: 32 miles, 35-45 minutes.
– From Tybee Island: 50 miles, around an hour or so.
– From St Simons Island: 55 miles, around an hour or so.
– From Jekyll Island: 65 miles, around 1 hour 15 minutes.
– From Hinesville, GA: 12 miles, 15-20 minutes.
– From Brunswick, GA: 50 miles, around 1 hour.
Bus Midway is not currently served by scheduled public transport. The nearest inter-city bus service is provided by Greyhound, which stops at neighboring Hinesville on services operating from Savannah. The route also includes a stop at Brunswick.