Located on the banks of the historic Frederica River, Epworth By The Sea is a ministry owned and operated by the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. The property was purchased on October 29, 1949 and the gates opened in 1950.
One of the finest Christian Retreat Centers in the Southeast, Epworth is open to all whose goals are consistent with its mission, which is "to provide a Christian place for worship, study and fellowship."
The 100-acre Christian Retreat Center has 6 motels, 12 family apartments, and 13 youth buildings accommodating up to 1,000 persons. Three auditoriums accommodate groups of all sizes. One auditorium seats 900 and two seat 300 persons each. Audio/video equipment available for 31 meeting rooms. Four dining rooms. Pre-school/nursery building with fenced playground.
All rooms are climate controlled. All motel rooms have phones. TV in all rooms except youth buildings. Specially equipped rooms for the handicapped available. Wireless internet is available throughout Epworth's campus.
Recreation options include: 70 x 40 ft. swimming pool, lighted tennis courts, basketball court pavilion, open field for baseball, football and soccer. Football and volleyball equipment, bicycles for rent, two fishing piers.
Minutes away from ocean beaches, horseback riding, boating, offshore fishing and other island activities. See Recreation Facilities for further information.
Epworth By The Sea proudly serves a diversity of groups, individuals, denominations, private and government agencies, Armed Services, civic organizations and others whose goals are consistent with Epworth's mission, which is to provide a Christian place for worship, study and fellowship.
"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15
This large mural hangs behind the Front Desk in the Walker Lobby at Epworth By The Sea. Seen left to right are: The Red Lion Hotel, John Wesley preaching from the steps of the old Market Cross, The Old Rectory, John Wesley preaching from horseback, The Parish Church of St. Andrew.
The one-mile riverbank tract from the causeway bridge to the bend in the Frederica River at the Robertson Inn is called Gascoigne Bluff.
Named for Captain James Gascoigne, commander of the sloop-of-war Hawk who escorted the first British settlers to Georgia to establish Fort Frederica in 1735, the bluff offered vessels the first landing place after entering the harbor. Gascoigne Bluff is rightfully called "The Gateway to St. Simons Island."
The Revs. John and Charles Wesley were on this voyage. John had charge of the religious affairs of the colony. Charles served as secretary to Oglethorpe and as minister for the Frederica settlement. After returning to England, they began the Methodist movement.
From Indian occupation, Oglethorpe's military era, plantation days, the Civil War and lumber mill days to Epworth By The Sea, this small tract of land has played an important role in the history of coastal Georgia.
During the Revolutionary War live oak timbers were cut on St. Simons and loaded at Gascoigne Bluff for shipment to be used in building of the U.S. Frigate Constitution—better known as "Old Ironsides"—and other vessels.
Following the war, great plantations were developed on St. Simons, with Sea Island cotton as the major crop. Gascoigne Bluff became the property of Alexander Bissett. After his death this area became the property of Richard Leake, then James Hamilton.
Hamilton built a large tabby home near the riverbank. He died in 1829 as one of the few millionaires in the country. The plantation was managed by Captain John Fraser, an officer in the British Marines.
Though the home burned in about 1890, a slave cabin remains and is used for meetings at Epworth By The Sea. Near total collapse, the cabin, called the Tabby House, was completely restored by Epworth in 1995.
During the war, Gascoigne Bluff became headquarters for vessels of the United States Navy.
When the war ended, the former way of life was over and a new day had begun. Residents grew crops for food. Life was hard. However, it was not long before the Hamilton Plantation brought a new industry—lumber mills—to the island.
When the lumber mills came to Gascoigne Bluff, they offered an opportunity for every man to work regardless of race. In 1876 a mill was built at the upper end of Gascoigne Bluff by the Dodge-Meigs Company. Captain Francis A. Boyle built a mill on Gascoigne Bluff in 1890 to cut cypress timbers.
In 1880 Norman W. Dodge built St. James Union Chapel, renamed Lovely Lane Chapel by the Methodists when they purchased the property for Christian Retreat Center in 1949. The mills cleared operations in 1903.
The causeway connecting the mainland and St. Simons opened on July 11, 1924. Automobiles brought visitors from around the world.
In 1927, the Hamilton Plantation was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Eugene W. Lewis of Detroit for a winter home. They established beautiful gardens and a thriving farm operation. Home movies of the family have been placed on video and may be viewed at the Arthur J. Moore Museum and Library by request.
During the war years, Brunswick drew plantation employees away for better wages. The Lewises closed the plantation and left the island.
In 1949, the South Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church purchased a prime part of the Hamilton Plantation to establish a Christian Retreat Center.
On July 25, 1950, the formal opening took place on the banks of the Frederica River. Bishop Arthur J. Moore led the dedication and shared a barbecue picnic (75 cents a plate) with over 800 Methodists from across Georgia.
The Methodist Center was named Epworth By The Sea in honor of the boyhood home of the Wesley brothers, Epworth, England. Epworth is a fitting memorial which links the past with the present.
A Superintendent, a United Methodist minister in full connection to the South Georgia Conference, is nominated by Epworth Trustees and appointed by the Bishop.
Epworth's vision for the future is to meet the physical and spiritual needs of those coming for a time apart. The founders of Epworth desired to provide a Christian place where one might come and feel the same "reviving of the spirit" felt by the Wesleys so long ago.
The strong, well-defined purpose of Epworth's ministry remains the same, "to provide a Christian place for worship, study and fellowship."