In September of 1996, the country was surprised to find out that John F. Kennedy, Jr., had secretly wed his girlfriend Carolyn Bessette. The locale of this exclusive event? Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island. Accessible only by boat, the island is secluded, charismatic, and full of history. These factors explain why high-profile Kennedy wanted to escape to the island to marry his love Carolyn.
The couple wed at the First African Baptist Church, which was established in 1893 and was rebuilt in the 1930s. The church is located in a region of the island called the Settlement, an area on the northern end of the island near the Half Moon Bluff cultural landscape that was established by former slaves. The church is a small, simple white chapel with worn pews and rustic charm.
The Kennedys weren’t the only high-profile couple to wed on Cumberland Island. When the island was owned by the Carnegie family, Florence Nightingale Carnegie was married to Frederick Curtis Perkins. Florence was the daughter of Thomas and Lucy Carnegie, and she was married at the Dungeness Mansion in 1901.
Photo: Florence Carnegie and Frederick Perkins wedding, 1901. (Source: Cumberland Island Archives)
Photo: Florence Carnegie and Frederick Perkins wedding at Dungeness Mansion, 1901. (Source: Cumberland Island Archives)