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Artist, naturalist Abbot left lasting legacy in Bulloch
Bulloch History
roger allen
Roger Allen

Note: The following is one of a series of articles looking at events in the history of Bulloch County.

Certificates for John Abbot's Revolutionary War service and his bounty warrants are stored in the Georgia Department of Archives and History in Atlanta.

And, the plat of Abbot's 575 acres on the Oconee River, the plat surveyed for the heirs of John Abbot, and the 200-acre plat of land given him as a headright in Burke County are kept there.

Documents reveal that when Abbot came to Georgia in 1776, Screven County had not yet been formed. It was formed from Burke and Effingham Counties in 1793.

In fact, the old town of Jacksonborough, with which Abbot's name is most frequently associated in the Georgia histories, was situated on Beaver Dam Creek, a branch of Briar Creek.

According to historian George White, the town was first in Burke County, and then became part of Screven County. After 1820, Abbot is described in legal papers as being from Bulloch County.

Howell C. Cone of Savannah remembered that his grandfather Aaron Cone collected specimens for Abbot, as a boy.

An article in the Savannah Morning News issue for May 1, 1925 told the story of Abbot through the memories of Bulloch resident W.H. Cone, proprietor of the Ivanhoe Farms in Ivanhoe.

Cone had said, "In the early part of the 19th century there lived in Bulloch County an Englishman by the name of John Abbott, who seemed to represent some society in London."

And, "He was an expert painter and taxidermist and collected specimens of all the insect and bird life of this part of Georgia usually a pair of each kind."

So, "With each specimen he wrote a description. (This) work was forwarded to England (to be) preserved in the British museum in London, (as) one of the finest works on American ornithology."

He said, "Abbot seemed to live the life of a hermit in a little log hut and was well supplied with funds to pay his expenses in collecting (and) shipping his collection to London."

According to Cone, his father was "employed by Abbot to collect specimens for him. My father made quite a bit of pocket money (and) saw much of Abbot's work which interested him greatly."

"He had specimens of several kinds of birds not now in existence here, such as the ivory-bill woodcock, the sandhill crane, six varieties of wild ducks, wild pigeons, and perhaps others."

In addition, "he saw an extract of a letter written by John Abbot to his connections in London, the last information which was ever received by them from him, when he was 85 years old."

The letter "was as follows: "I am living on the west side of the great Ogeechee River about a day's ride from Savannah, Ga." Cone told the newspaper, "Evidently, he died soon after."

He continued, "The tradition in the Cone family is that John Abbot died on the Slater Place, three miles from the home of Aaron Cone and his son, W. It. Cone."

And, "That (was) where he lived when Aaron Cone collected for him as a boy. (A) gift to William E. McElveen in 1839, however, authentically links John Abbot (to) the McElveens."

It was "John Abbot's friend William E. McElveen (who) owned a 1400-acre tract of land bordered by Black Creek and its tributary, Pole Branch."

He said, "Black Creek flows into the Great Ogeeche River from the west near Meldrim, Georgia. Mr. Barber McElveen lives on the old place."

"Miss Vera McElveen's uncle, Paul R. McElveen, (stated) "father did let a man named Abbott and his slave live in a house in the Hudler field in the fork of Stone and Iric branches."

Asked where Abbot was buried, he said, "I remember distinctly hearing father say that Abbot was buried in the old family cemetery on your father's place."

He added that "I also remember that on one occasion (I) saw some of (father's) children standing around Abbott's grave and heard them calling to Abbot, 'Grandfather, Get Up.' "

He revealed "These were, of course, William E. McElveen's oldest children who knew John Abbot, and these records are from reputable people."

"Uncle" Paul declared, "Whatever marker was placed for him has long since disappeared. Perhaps John Abbot preferred (his) monument (to) be his beautiful paintings of butterflies and birds."

Roger Allen is a local lover of history who provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email him at

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