Elba Island lies at the mouth of the Savannah river, Georgia, and during the closing years of the 19th century its range lights were tended by a disabled Civil War veteran named George M. Martus. He and his sister, Florence, had grown up on Cockspur Island, where their widowed father served as keeper of a small government beacon. The romantic story that is told about Florence was that she was waiting for her sweetheart to return.
A historic sign at Fort Pulaski (third photo) says
THE WAVING GIRL
"For 44 years, Florence Martus (1868-1943) lived on nearby Elba Island with her brother the lighthouse keeper, and no ship arrived for Savannah or departed from 1887 to 1931 without her waving a handkerchief by day or a lantern by night. Throughout the years, the vessels in return watched for and saluted this quiet little woman. Few people ever met her yet she became the source of romantic legends when the story of her faithful greetings was told in ports all over the world. After her retirement the Propeller Club of Savannah, in honor of her seventieth birthday, sponsored a celebration on Cockspur Island. A Liberty ship, built in Savannah in 1943, was named for her"
After 44 years, Florence died in a hospital in 1943. The citizens of Savannah erected the Waving Girl statue of Florence Martus to honor the woman who stood by her man for all those years (even when he never returned) with a statue on the Savannah waterfront.
The Waving Girl Statue honors Florence Margaret Martus. Martus was famous in the early 1900s for waving to all shipping traffic sailing into and out of Savannah. Waving for nearly 40 years at passing ships, the legend contends she was trying to locate the love of her life -- who was a sailor.
The story is that the girl would wave to all ships coming in b/c she was looking for her beau to return. Sadly, he never did. The statue is in her honor. You can see the trolley in the background. For just a few dollars you can hop and off and see the city. The tour guide will give you a good idea of the areas you are most interested in.
The ships come in, the tide rolls out
She's there again by the old light house
The waves crash in, the winds they whirl
And still she waits, the waving girl
The sailors they don't call her name
Her lantern shines for them the same
A good luck charm, an ocean pearl
Known only by the waving girl
But in Savannah all alone
There she waits till he comes home
Beneath the waves the sea weed curls
Around the love of the waving girl
And in her place here in this world
Will always be the waving girl
The sculptor has portrayed her in the act of waving a piece of cloth. The cloth, flows over her, and on clear days it catches and reflects the sun's rays which might attract the notice of passing sailors. This story is one of Savannah's favourite legends.
The Waving Girl was born and raised on Elba. Her brother assumed charge of the lighthouse, and Florence stayed on the island for much of her life. When the ships came in the night, Florence hoisted a lantern, and sailors took notice and returned her greetings with their own. She also was a lifesaver: When a nearby river-dredge caught fire, Florence and her brother struck out into the river in their skiff, rescuing thirty men imperilled by flames.
A part of her legend has arisen from speculation that Florence fell in love with a sailor who came to port in Savannah, a man who promised to return for her but who vanished into the ocean's vast horizon. The veracity of the legend is in doubt, but it casts a romantic light over Florence. However, every ship that passed, though it did not carry her beloved, did bring dozens of sailors thrilled by her attention and wrote letters to Florence, though they did not know her name. By that time, though, her legend had spread, and the postman knew where to bring the messages addressed to "The Waving Girl."
She waved for forty years. It was said that she never missed a ship. She died in 1943. Florence Martus is buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery, in Savannah.
Savannah has a lot of statues and they all have stories...the waving girl statue is my favorite. It's on River Street and is for the sister of the lighthouse keeper on Elba Island. Apparently she spent 40 some odd years waving to ships. That's a little strange, I suppose, but the statue is nice. I also like the lion outside of the cotton exchange on Bay Street. I've included a picture so everyone can admire it:)