Byline: ERIC CURL
SAVANNAH - The discarded oyster shells along Algernon "Algie" Varn III's waterfront property are part of a century-old story.
Piled high enough to form new land masses, the shells were placed there by the residents of Pin Point, a small community founded in 1890 on the Moon River by freed slaves from Ossabaw Island. Many of today's residents fondly recall shucking the shells and picking crabs at Varn's grandfather's seafood cannery until it closed in 1985.
Others remember making the nets and wooden boats required to harvest those crabs and oysters.
Still others, members of Pin Point's Sweetfield of Eden Baptist Church, reminisce about being baptized in the river from which those crabs and oysters were harvested.
To make sure Pin Point's story is preserved, the residents have petitioned to become the first designated historic district in unincorporated Chatham County.
The crab and oyster factory is closed, although the two buildings where the shucking and picking took place remain. Residents now work jobs outside of the community.
The original church was torn down in 1961 to make way for a more modern building with electricity and plumbing.
But, the story of Pin Point remains. All one has to do is talk with the people who helped craft it.
Lifelong resident Abraham Famble, 61, recalls when the community had no electricity or running water, and residents used kerosene lamps for light, wood stoves to keep warm and outhouses to heed nature's call. At the same time, the community was unified in a way that's hard to find today, Famble said.
"We were poor, but, when I look at it, we were rich," he said.
Viola Martin, 60, another lifelong resident, reminisces about singing with other parishioners as they walked down to the river for baptisms. She will tell listeners about picking from 10 to 15 pounds of crab-claw meat a day at the factory with her friends.
"It was fun," Martin said. "I wish it was still open."
Martin's brother, Isaac Martin, 61, used to bend and nail timber to boats that were used to troll for crabs caught in the nets he weaved. The sea and its resources were a way of life, Martin said.
"We always had a job," he said. "You always had something to eat."
The Chatham County Historic Preservation Commission has recommended county commissioners approve the designation.
Instead of selling their property - much of it waterfront - for condominiums or commercial developments, residents want to retain Pin Point as it is for their children and grandchildren, said Bishop Thomas Sills, pastor of the Sweetfield church - an offshoot of Ossabaw's Hinder Me Not Baptist Church. …