Jekyll Island

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Jekyll Island
Map showing the location of Jekyll Island
Map showing the location of Jekyll Island
Location Glynn County, Georgia, U.S.
Nearest city Brunswick, Georgia
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Established October 7, 1947
Governing body Jekyll Island Authority

Jekyll Island is an island off the coast of the U.S. state of Georgia, in Glynn County; it is one of the Sea Islands and one of the Golden Isles of Georgia. The city of Brunswick, Georgia, the Marshes of Glynn, and several other islands, including the larger St. Simons Island, are nearby. Its beaches are frequented by vacationers and guided tours of the Landmark Historic District are available. Bike trails, walks along the beaches and sandbars, and Summer Waves, a water park are a few of the many things vacationers can do. The historic district consists of a number of buildings from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The island is also full of wildlife, consisting of many different mammals, reptiles, and birds living and breeding in the island's inland marshes.

Physical setting

Jekyll Island is one of only four Georgia barrier islands that feature a paved causeway to access the island by car. It features 5,700 acres (23 km2) of land, including 4,400 acres (18 km2) of solid earth and a 200-acre (0.81 km2) Jekyll Island Club Historic District. The rest is tidal marshlands, mostly on the island's western shore. The island measures about 7 miles (11 km) long by 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide, has 8 miles (13 km) of wide, flat beaches on its east shore with sand packed hard enough for easy walking or biking, and boasts 20 miles (32 km) of hiking trails.

Like the other Golden Isles, Jekyll is mostly made of older Pleistocene land mass and smaller sections of younger Holocene land.[1]

Northern end of the Island

The north end of the island is the main area that has been impacted by human development over the past few hundred years. Early settlers and the loggers that came afterwards developed plantations in this area and made fallen trees to be used for extra-strong ships during wartime. In later years, much of this wilderness has been developed into golf courses.[2]

Clam Creek Picnic Area

A short winding road leads to a parking lot and one of the three picnic areas on the island. To the west is a vast marsh hammock and an astounding view of the Sidney Lanier Bridge, a 480-foot (150 m) tall cable stay bridge on Hwy 17. There is a large fishing pier that extends northwest from the picnic area. To the east, a bridge crosses Clam Creek in front of an inland marsh to connect the picnic area to the North End Beach and Driftwood Beach. These beaches are characterized by another tidal creek emptying into St. Simons Sound and a boneyard of pine and live oak tree roots.

Horton House

File:Horton House ruins.JPG
The Horton House ruins in 2007

A two-story structure built from tabby in 1742 stands in ruins along N. Riverview Rd. The house was occupied by Major William Horton during the British colonial period, who also brewed beer in Georgia's first brewery (the ruins of which are a few hundred yards down the road). This structure has been meticulously preserved over the past 100 years as an example of coastal Georgia building techniques and as one of the oldest surviving buildings in the state. Across the street from the Horton House ruins is the du Bignon cemetery, a tabby wall surrounding the graves of five people who all died in the 19th century.


Just across the street from the entrance to the Clam Creek picnic area is the campground, an 18-acre (73,000 m2) facility in a cleared maritime forest. The campground has running water for restrooms, showers, and laundry, as well as a store and bike rentals.[1]

Southern end

The southern end of the island was virtually unused by settlers and visitors until the 20th century. The multiple parallel dunes on the southernmost tip are a result of the eroding north beaches traveling southward and being deposited in a recurved spit.[2]

South Dunes picnic area

This picnic area on the ocean side of the island features plenty of picnic tables, a full bathroom with showers and a boardwalk to traverse the 20-foot (6.1 m) high dune ridge that protects this wooded area from sea breezes. This area was repaired in 1983, with bulldozers pushing new primary dunes into place to correct the damage caused by 30 years of beachgoers trampling over the enormous dunes to the beach.

Glory Beach

Access to this beach is by way of a long boardwalk built in the mid-1980s by the producers of the film Glory, and it can be accessed from the soccer complex at the north end of the Jekyll Island 4-H center property. The boardwalk passes through a variety of natural habitats ranging from ancient dunes to freshwater sloughs.

St. Andrews picnic area

The farthest point on the beach from Clam Creek, St. Andrews is a picnic area on the river side of the island, facing the marsh and mainland. This beach is very popular with fishing birds and dolphins, surfacing for air, can commonly be seen to the south of the north.[1]

In 2008, the Jekyll Island History Museum, the Jekyll Island Authority, and the Friends of Historic Jekyll Island commemorated the survivors of the slave ship Wanderer, the last slavery vessel to transport slaves without repercussions. On November 28 of 1858, nearly 50 years after the legal importing of slaves was outlawed in the United States, The Wanderer anchored near the southern portion of Jekyll Island, transporting 465 enslaved Africans ashore.[3] The historic site includes 12-foot (3.7 m) tall steel sculptures of ship sails, signifying the cold hard reality of slavery.

Jekyll Island Club Historic District

Jekyll Island Club Hotel

In the midsection of the river side of the island is a 240-acre (0.97 km2) Historic District where most of the buildings from the Jekyll Island Club era still stand, most in remarkable preservation. The centerpiece of the grounds is the enormous Jekyll Island Club Hotel, a two-winged structure that contains numerous suites for rental, including a beautiful presidential suite that contains the three-story turret on the front of the building. Thirty-three buildings from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries surround the hotel, with many being mansion-sized cottages. Rooms in some of these cottages are for rent, while others exist as museums, art galleries, or bookstores. The hotel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The historic district itself has been listed as a National Historic Landmark District since 1978.[4]

Tram tours originate from the Jekyll Island Museum located on Stable Rd. directly across from the historic district several times daily and detail much of the history of this area.[1]


Native American settlement

In the mid-2nd millennium, the island now known as Jekyll was part of a coastal Georgia Native American chiefdom called Guale. Muskogian tribes, who comprised a majority of the Creek Nation, were the inhabitants of this territory.[5]

The surrounding creeks yielded fish that were speared easily by hunters, and the tribes utilized native vegetation for food and drink, gathering nuts and fruit, even making a type of tea from parched holly leaves. These settlers also allegedly grew pumpkins, beans, tobacco, sunflowers, and corn among other crops.[5]

Arrival of Europeans

Explorers from Spain were the first to make an official claim to Jekyll Island in 1510, giving it the name Isla De Ballenas (Whale Island) and later Juan Ponce de León served as the civil governor of this and Spain's other claimed North American territories.[6] In 1562 French explorer Jean Ribault claimed the island for France and renamed the island Ille de la Somme.[5] Ribault later surrendered to the Spanish and was executed, an event that began a conflict between the two countries along the Georgia and Florida coasts. After his army swiftly defeated the French, Philip II of Spain immediately had a colony established on Jekyll.

More brief conflicts between these two countries along the coastline followed, and Spanish priests had established missions with the intention of converting Native Americans to Christianity. Upset that their culture, including dances, banquets, and bonfires, was being suppressed, natives from the modern area of Darien began destroying the missions and slaying the priests in a southward journey; however, Father Xander Davilla on Jekyll was spared, and kept as a slave (though he was later released to the Spanish in a prisoner exchange).

In 1663–65, England established grants to land stretching southward from their Jamestown colony to an area below St. Augustine, Florida. The English allied themselves with the Cherokee, Creek, and Yuchi tribes, and sent members of these tribes armed with English weapons to attack the Spanish and Native American settlements on Jekyll in 1681–83. By 1702, the English had driven the Spanish from the entire area.[5]

The English occupation

File:Horton House image from 1927.jpg
Major William Horton's tabby-structure home. Structure built in 1742; this image taken in 1927.

General James Oglethorpe established Georgia as a colony in 1733. Jekyll Island was named shortly thereafter by Oglethorpe in honor of his friend, Sir Joseph Jekyll,[7] For many years, including the "Club Era", it was misspelled as Jekyl Island. The additional "L" was later re-added by the Georgia legislature in 1929 to correctly spell the name of the former sponsor of the colony. Prior to English settlement along the coast of Georgia, the Spanish had established missions in the coastal Georgia area. No mission is known to have been established on Jekyll; however, the Spanish influenced the island from the mission that was established on St. Simons Island before the English settlement.

In the late 1730s, General Oglethorpe appointed William Horton to set up a military post in the area to protect Fort Frederica on St Simon's Island. By 1738 Horton had set up permanent residence on Jekyll Island, near what is now called DuBignon Creek. At his residence, Horton established a plantation prosperous enough to supply the population at Frederica with beef and corn.

Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island

Horton continued to make improvements on Jekyll throughout his years on the island. Even after his property was destroyed in 1742 during Spanish attacks, he rebuilt his home and worked on new experimental crops on his plantation, including barley and indigo. Horton’s wood residence was soon burned and ravaged by the Spanish, forcing him to rebuild his home and plantation after the Spanish attacks with the uniquely native material, Tabby. A mixture of lime, oyster shell and water, this strong building material withstood the test of time and the external structure of William Horton’s home is now one of two remaining two-story colonial-era structures in the state of Georgia.[8] William Horton died in 1748–1749 and his property on Jekyll passed through many hands until, just before the year 1800, the entire island became the property of Christophe du Bignon.

Plantation era

Inland marshes of Jekyll Island

Christophe du Bignon and his family arrived here in 1792. The family came to the United States in order to escape the French Revolution, which devastated provincial families like the du Bignons. The plantation that du Bignon owned on Jekyll was very prosperous. Christophe du Bignon also introduced slavery to the island. Christophe died in 1825 and ownership passed on to his son Henri Charles Du Bignon. Under the new ownership of Henri Charles the plantation continued to prosper, as evidenced by the 1850 census.

On November 28, 1858, fifty years after the importation of slaves to the United States was made illegal, the ship The Wanderer landed on Jekyll Island with 465 slaves. This was the next-to-last successful shipment of slaves to American soil from Africa.

However, by 1860, there was a great decline in the productivity on Jekyll. By 1862 when Union Army troops arrived, the Du Bignon plantation was completely deserted. After the American Civil War ended, the Du Bignon family returned to the island. Henri Charles divided the island up among his four children.

In the late 1870s John Eugene Du Bignon became owner of property on the island. He had bought the southern third of the island from his uncle’s estate, intending to establish a home there.

The Jekyll Island Club

duBignon Cottage
Rockefeller Cottage

Du Bignon, who had inherited the southern third of the island from his father, purchased the rest of the island from his siblings with the help of his brother-in-law Newton Finney and an investor. Their plan to sell the island as a winter retreat for the wealthy came to fruition on February 17, 1886, and the clubhouse was completed in January 1888. Fifty-three members purchased shares for $600 each, and a limit of 100 members was imposed to preserve the club's exclusivity.[6]

From 1888 to 1942 the club opened every January, except a few because of yellow fever outbreaks, to accommodate some of the world's wealthiest people. Members and their families enjoyed activities such as biking, hunting, horseback riding, and tennis, and frequented the north beaches. Some of the more esteemed members built mansion-sized cottages that still stand in excellent condition today. During the Great Depression the club experienced financial difficulties, and by the time the United States entered World War II the era of the Jekyll Island Club was over. The State of Georgia bought the island in 1947.

Planning of the Federal Reserve System

At the end of November 1910, Senator Nelson W. Aldrich and Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department A. Piatt Andrew, and five of the country's leading financiers (Frank Vanderlip, Henry P. Davison, Charles D. Norton, Benjamin Strong, and Paul Warburg) arrived at the Jekyll Island Club to discuss monetary policy and the banking system, an event that led to the creation of the Federal Reserve.[9] According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the 1910 Jekyll Island meeting resulted in draft legislation for the creation of a U.S. central bank. Parts of this draft (the Aldrich plan) were incorporated into the 1913 Federal Reserve Act.[citation needed]

Development of the Jekyll Island Authority

Initially, Jekyll Island was part of the State Park system. However, by 1950, as costs associated with getting the island ready for visitation began to mount, the island was taken out of the state park system and organized into a separate authority in order to become self-sustaining.

The Jekyll Island Authority was created in February 1950 under the direction of Governor Herman Talmadge, and was designed to be a governing board. This board consisted of nine gubernatorial appointed members and was charged with the operation and care of the island.

The authority placed a convict camp on the island in 1951, and the prisoners readied the island for public use, executing landscaping for drainage and for the foundations of motels and neighborhoods and building the perimeter road. From September 1951 to December 1954, the island was primarily closed to the public. Upon completion of the six-year causeway project and drawbridge erection on December 11, 1954, Jekyll Island officially re-opened to the public.

Because the post-WWII plan for Jekyll was for the island to become self-sufficient, and because the Authority was receiving negative publicity in the mid-1950s, the Georgia Legislature restructured the Authority in 1957. Board members became elected officials and included the attorney general, state auditor, public service commissioner, state parks department director, and secretary of state.

In the decade following this restructuring motels, houses, the convention center, and a shopping center were constructed, as well as the towers at the entrance to the causeway. In the 1970s the Authority began renovating the cottages and club hotel in the historic district, and the 1980s saw construction of bike paths and the re-opening of the clubhouse in December 1987. Two more reorganizations of the Authority in the 1970s and 1980s changed the board to consist of the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and eight citizens of the state.[10]

Some of the later advancements made by the Jekyll Island Authority include the Soccer Complex, the Jekyll Island Tennis Center, a Historic District registered with National Historic Landmark Status in 1978, Jekyll Island 4-H Center opened in 1983 to connect children to the island's ecosystem and most recently, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.[11]

In 2006, plans to revitalize the island were put into place after years of significantly declining visitation numbers. In 2007 the Jekyll Island Authority selected Linger Longer Communities LLC to be its private partner in redeveloping a portion of the Island. After a year of planning and hosting public forums throughout the state of Georgia, the Authority and Linger Longer developed a revitalization plan that included a renovated Convention Center and mixed-use public Beach Village to occupy a very similar footprint to that of the current Convention Center, beach deck, and adjacent asphalt parking lot. The Beach Village is also set to include an area for new retail shops as well as a public beach-side promenade.

A once-per-day toll has been charged for several decades to enter Jekyll Island. The rate was $1 in 1985, but has increased since then and became $5 in August 2009, and later to $6.[12]

By legislative mandate, sixty-five percent of the island is and will remain in a mostly natural state (including parks and picnic areas).[1]

Use as a filming location

Scenes from the films X-Men: First Class, Glory, The Legend Of Bagger Vance, Jekyll Island, and The View From Pompey's Head were filmed on Jekyll Island.[13] On October 27, 2014, Red Zone Pictures filmed a scene on Jekyll Island for Magic Mike XXL (2015) which stars Channing Tatum and is the sequel to Magic Mike (2012).

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Lenz, Richard J. (1999). Lonstreet Highroad Guide to the Georgia Coast and Okefenokee. Longstreet Press, Inc. pp. 255–272. ISBN 1-56352-542-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Schoettle, Taylor (1996). A Guide to a Georgia Barrier Island. Watermarks Publishing.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Calonius, Erik (2006). The Wanderer: The Last American Slave Ship and the Conspiracy that Set Her Sails. St. Martins Press. ISBN 0-312-34347-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Staff (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Ford, Elizabeth Austin (1960). Jekyll Island. Wommack Quality Printing Company. pp. 5–22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Jekyll Island Club History". The Jekyll Island Authority. Retrieved 2008-03-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Wilkins, Thomas Hart, "Sir Joseph Jekyll and his Impact on Oglethorpe's Goergia", The Georgia Historical Quarterly, vol. XCI, #2, Summer 2007.
  8. "Major William Horton" March 27, 2009. Jekyll Island Museum Vertical File: Horton, William (Major). Jekyll Island State Park Authority Archives, Jekyll Island Museum, Georgia.
  9. "The Jekyll Island duck hunt that created the Federal Reserve". Retrieved 2015-05-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Bagwell, Tyler E. (2001). Images of America: Jekyll Island - A State Park. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 6–8. ISBN 0-7385-0572-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Activities at Jekyll Island Club Hotel". The Jekyll Island Authority. Retrieved 2008-03-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Visitors concerned over Jekyll Island's increased entrance fee". The Florida Times-Union.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Titles with locations including Jekyll Island, Georgia, USA". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2008-03-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Research and further reading

  • Bagwell, Tyler (1999). The Jekyll Island Club. Arcadia.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Condominium Hotel & Conference Center, Jekyll Island, GA see
  • Jekyll Island Photo and Information Booklet Jekyll Island Museum & Jekyll Island Authority
  • McCash, June Hall. Jekyll Island's Early Years. University of Georgia Press. 2005. ISBN 0-8203-2447-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • McCash, June Hall. The Jekyll Island Cottage Colony. University of Georgia Press. 1998. ISBN 0-8203-1928-7.
  • McCash, William Barton and June Hall McCash. The Jekyll Island Club: Southern Haven for America's Millionaires. University of Georgia Press. 1989. ISBN 0-8203-1070-0
  • The Jekyll Island Museum and archives, Jekyll Island, Georgia
  • Wilkins, Thomas Hart (2007, XCI,2). "Sir Joseph Jekyll and his Impact on Oglethorpe's Georgia". Georgia Historical Quarterly. pp. 119–134. Check date values in: |year= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links