Neptune Park on St. Simons Island is named for Neptune Small, a faithful servant of the King family, one-time owners of St. Simons Island’s Retreat Plantation.
Born in 1831, Neptune was responsible for looking after the King children. When war broke out in 1861, Small accompanied one of the King sons, Henry Lord Page King, into service in the Confederate army as King’s manservant. In December of 1862, at the battle of Fredericksburg, King volunteered to carry a dispatch to another section of the Confederate lines. King completed the mission, but was killed before he could return to his unit.
When none of his comrades would risk the constant rifle fire to retrieve King’s body, Neptune did so. Neptune accompanied King’s body back to St. Simons Island where it was buried at Christ Church cemetery. Neptune, who could have chosen to remain on St. Simons Island, instead returned to the war, serving the youngest King son, R. Cuyler King, until Confederate forces surrendered in 1865.
After the war, freedman Neptune, having chosen the surname “Small” for his slight stature, purchased a tract of land that was once owned by the King family. Part of that property, now known as Neptune Park, so popular among all who love St. Simons Island, is a fitting tribute to this memorable man. Neptune Small died in 1907 and was laid to rest on the plantation grounds in the old Retreat Burying Ground. There, a bronze tablet recounts his heroism.