What is becoming a biennial Cumberland Island tradition continued this month with the Stafford Family Reunion.
On Saturday, May 8th, descendants of people who lived on the Stafford plantation on Cumberland Island came from all over the country to view the place where they have their ancestral roots. Led by Pamela Stafford of Detroit, Michigan, the group toured the barrier island to see the physical remains of places associated with their family. Rangers and volunteers spent the day taking them on tours in the areas known as the Settlement, Plum Orchard and the Cumberland Wharf, all of which are sites that had meaningful connections to their personal history.
The most significant tour stop was the area known as the Stafford Chimneys. The Chimneys are all that remain of the slave quarters from the plantation of Robert Stafford, which dates to the antebellum period. Slaves tended the fields of Sea Island cotton on Cumberland before and during the Civil War. Robert Stafford and his mistress, Zabette, had children who were sent to Connecticut to be educated and some of descendants were among those who visited the seashore this year. The tour of the Stafford Chimneys included a presentation of the plans of the park to preserve historic properties, including recent stabilization projects.
This was the third visit of the Stafford family to Cumberland Island in six years. Pamela Stafford helped unite the family through their common heritage, but also initiated contact with the National Park Service once she learned of their family’s history on the island.