31•81, the Magazine of Jekyll Island: Vol 3, No 1

Page 1


Committed to Jekyll Island

At Ameris Bank, our customers and the community are always at the center of everything we do. From big-ticket decisions to everyday services, we’re committed to serving our neighbors on Jekyll Island.

40 The Water and the Blood

In 1858, Georgia’s last slave ship dropped anchor off Jekyll Island. This is the story of its deadly voyage and enduring legacy. By Rosalind Bentley

46 Frame Worthy

Photography is a vacation activity in its own right on Jekyll. Discover the island’s most iconic photo ops, and get pro tips on how to capture images you’ll treasure forever. By Jeanée Ledoux

56 Shades of the Past

Whether or not you believe in ghosts, you’ll feel the bewitching aura of history at these Jekyll haunts.

64 Chef’s Choice

Noted Brunswick chef-farmer Matthew Raiford shares his favorite spots to dine and drink on the island. By Osayi Endolyn


For the Birds

Thousands of migratory birds pass through Jekyll each fall, bringing tidings of the planet’s health. Meet the volunteers who track them, and unleash your inner birder with our field guide. By Margaret Evans

PROUDLY SERVING JEKYLL ISLAND SINCE 2000 31 MAIN STREET, SUITE 101, JEKYLL ISLAND • AMERISBANK.COM 1 courtesy of the jekyll island banding station Fall/Winter 2018 • Vol. 3 No. 1 THE MAGAZINE OF JEKYLL ISLAND
2 departments lifeboat: courtesy of coastal georgia historical society. beach cleanup and fern: brian austin lee Stay for a week... stay for a lifetime. Jay Kaufman Parker-Kaufman Realtors Owner/Broker SERVING JEKYLL ISLAND AND THE GOLDEN ISLES SINCE 1926 | 912.635.2512 | PARKER-KAUFMAN.COM private residences vacation rentals and sales PK traces WWII on Jekyll How it altered the island’s identity flora Resurrection Fern Never count this epiphyte out fauna Bottlenose Dolphin Fascinating and frisky, they abound on Jekyll guardian Marine Debris Initiative A local effort takes on a global problem firsts Sans Souci Inside one of the earliest condominiums artisan Tom Luse The film producer’s inspired Jekyll settings my jekyll Kevin Fannin Camping is a family affair for the Fannins paths Into the Woods Bicycling through a maritime forest 12 16 18 21 24 27 30 76 12 16 18 21

Dear friends,

executive director

C. Jones Hooks

senior director of marketing

Meggan Hood

marketing communications manager

Regan Young

creative director

Claire Davis


Sean McGinnis

editorial director

Kevin Benefield

design director

Cristina Villa Hazar

senior editor

Elizabeth Florio

art director

Katy Miller

photo director

Lisa Sparer

associate publisher

Jon Brasher

travel sales director

Jill Teter

production director

Whitney Tomasino

I had no idea there was so much here! Time and again I hear this from visitors and friends, and they’re right—there is so much on Jekyll Island that many folks never see. From its Native American beginnings to the colonial settlement to the well-known Jekyll Island Club and state park era, Jekyll Island’s rich cultural and natural history is often truncated because of how far it reaches.

For many years, pieces of Jekyll’s history were shared in an unair-conditioned working stable in the historic district. This environment made it impossible to tell the island’s complete story. In early 2019, the new Jekyll Island history museum, called Mosaic, will open in the repurposed facility. The construction will be transformational, and the exhibits will be stimulating!

Our construction and design teams have taken the building down to its studs. The stables, which once belonged to the Jekyll Island Club, are now woven into the experience and will guide visitors through Jekyll’s remarkable past. New meeting and learning spaces will allow these stories to be passed on in meaningful ways, and climate control will allow delicate artifacts to be shared with the public in a far more comfortable setting.

For the first time ever, much of Jekyll Island’s history will be displayed in one place. As stewards of this special island, we are honored to share and preserve Jekyll’s unique story through this magazine and, soon, the Mosaic. I invite you to join us in the new year, to visit the Mosaic, and to discover a piece of Jekyll Island you’ve never seen before.

Jones Hooks


Joy A. Burch-Meeks

Dr. L.C. “Buster” Evans Bolingbroke, GA

A.W. “Bill” Jones III Sea Island, GA

Hugh “Trip” Tollison Savannah, GA

Joseph B. Wilkinson St. Simons Island, GA

4 5 jeremy harwell welcome
state seashell,
the knobbed whelk.
On the cover
Photograph by Brian Austin Lee
Published twice a year, 31·81 pairs stunning photography with thoughtful articles to tell the stories of Georgia’s unique barrier island. Jekyll Island lies at 31 degrees north latitude and 81 degrees west longitude. subscribe To subscribe at no charge, sign up at jekyllisland.com/magazine. To update your subscription information, email magazine@jekyllisland.com.
about 31 · 81
100 James Road • Jekyll Island, GA 31527 jekyllisland.com Photography courtesy of Jekyll Island Authority unless otherwise noted. This magazine was published by the Jekyll Island Authority in cooperation with Atlanta Magazine Custom Media. All contents ©2018. All rights reserved.
Find us on social media: @jekyll_island @JekyllIsland
For the first time ever, much of Jekyll Island ’ s history will be displayed in one place.”

What the Tide Brings In

Last summer, a couple biking on a northern Jekyll beach stumbled upon a mysterious weathered object in the surf. Experts determined it was a remnant of a World War II–era Liberty ship, built in Brunswick (page 12). It’s merely the latest wartime relic to materialize on the island; cannon emplacements from the Spanish-American War cropped up in the forest in the 1960s.

The problems of society tend to wash up on islands. Currently the world’s coasts—along with the oceans themselves—are under siege by plastic trash. In the past six years, Jekyll’s Marine Debris Initiative has tracked and cleaned up hundreds of thousands of “data points,” aka pieces of garbage. It’s just one small effort to confront a massive global crisis, as you’ll learn on page 21.

As a state park run by a self-supporting authority, Jekyll employs a team of researchers to lead such conservation efforts and another team to study and preserve the island’s rich past, including any artifacts that might wash ashore. If Jekyll were represented by a statue, she would have one foot planted in the environmental world and the other in the realm of human history, with her arms extended to vacationers as if to say, “Come tour architectural treasures and abundant nature.” (Be sure to bring the good camera—turn to page 46 for a guide to getting the best pictures.).

But history doesn’t always leave physical traces. In 1858, a luxury yacht stole onto what is now Jekyll’s St. Andrews Beach Park. Decades after the importation of enslaved Africans was outlawed, it harbored a secret deck containing some 500 captives. On page 40, writer Rosalind Bentley tells the story of the Wanderer, the slave ship whose chief reverberation was not the headline-grabbing criminal trials of the white conspirators—as you might have guessed, they got off scot-free—but the journeys of hundreds of Africans who, wrenched from their homelands, planted forced roots that now extend across America. As far as we know, the Wanderer didn’t scatter its parts in the sand, but it surely leaves a weight.

1 Photographer Andrea Fremiotti splits his time between New York and Atlanta. On free days, he wanders through national parks with a medium-format camera or relaxes in a

vintage recliner near his wife and dog. He says shooting Jekyll Island was an outdoor-loving photographer’s ideal assignment: live oak forests, historic architecture, beautiful beaches,

and amazing sunsets all within easy reach.

2 Rosalind Bentley is an enterprise reporter at the Atlanta JournalConstitution. Previously she worked as an enter-

prise/feature reporter at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Her stories have appeared in the New York Times, Longreads, and Essence and Ebony magazines. Rosalind’s work has been anthologized in Best American Newspaper Narratives 2012. She has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for a special project on race relations in Minnesota.

The Doctor Is In, Even When You’re Out of Town.

7 contributors fremiotti: jim fiscus. bentley: bita honarvar. editor’s note 6
If Jekyll were represented by a statue, she would have one foot planted in the environmental world and the other in the realm of human history, with her arms extended to vacationers.”
Our Immediate Care Centers will help get you back to good health –so you can get back to your vacation. ©2018 SGHS 3 Convenient Locations: 15 Gable Court, Brunswick 912-466-5400 3400 Parkwood Drive, Brunswick 912-466-5800 5000 Wellness Way, St. Simons Island 912-466-5900 Hours of operation: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–7:30 p.m. Saturday–Sunday 12–5:30 p.m. Walk-ins welcome!
2 vitor lindo 1


Nov. 17, 2018–Jan. 6, 2019

It really is the most wonderful time of the year on Jekyll. On November 17, twinkling lights appear around the island, and a riverfront skating rink opens. The fun really kicks off the weekend after Thanksgiving: Friday morning, shoppers in PJs get a discount during the Pier Road Pajama Party and in the evening, the Village Green hosts a showing of The Santa Clause. On Saturday, November 24, the Jekyll Island Tree Lighting features fireworks, storytime with Santa, even a little magical snow. Festivities abound throughout the season: St. Nick makes more appearances in December at the historic Skeet House. Gussy up your golf cart for the Holly Jolly Jekyll Parade Take a Christmas Twilight Tour to see the historic district decked in lights, then explore two festive cottages during Holidays in History. Shop for unique gifts at Goodyear Cottage’s Merry Artists Market, or head to Indian Mound Cottage to build a charming Christmas craft. See the full schedule at jekyllisland.com/holidays

Island Treasures

Jan. 1–Feb. 28, 2019

Hand-blown, painted glass orbs—modeled after those used by East Coast fishermen in the 1900s—are the prize in this beloved island-wide treasure hunt.

43rd Annual Bluegrass Festival

Jan. 3–5, 2019

Kick off 2019 with three days of family-friendly bluegrass at the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

Jekyll Island Marathon & 10K

Jan. 20, 2019

Run along the coast, through the historic district, and beneath towering live oaks in the only marathon on a Georgia barrier island.

Whiskey, Wine & Wildlife

Feb. 7–10, 2019

Savor a weekend of wine and whiskey tastings, plus cuisine from acclaimed regional chefs and encounters with coastal wildlife.

Jekyll Comic Con

Dec. 8–9, 2018

Superheroes, mythical creatures, and thousands of pop culture fans descend on the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

Jekyll Island Arts Association Arts Festival

March 9–10, 2019

Watch artist demonstrations, try an interactive art activity, and see the work of more than 400 recognized regional painters, potters, woodworkers, weavers, and more.

Georgia Sea Turtle Center Shell-e-brate Festival

April 4–5, 2019

This two-day, familyfriendly event features activities and discussion around protection of the island’s inland and coastal habitats.

Jekyll Book Festival

April 6, 2019

Bibliophiles of all ages will enjoy author presentations, signings, and book character sightings on the Village Green.

Easter Egg Stroll

April 13, 2019

Enjoy a bonnet parade, petting farm, carriage rides, and continuous egg hunt for kids under twelve in Jekyll’s National Historic Landmark District.

Georgia Sea Turtle Center Turtle Crawl Races

March 9, 2019

This popular fundraiser features 5K and 10K races and a new one-mile fun run on the beach.

Movie on the Green

May 25, 2019

Bring a blanket and picnic to the Village Green for the first beachside movie of the summer season.

8 datebook Oceanfront Dining. Fresh Seafood. Southern Comfort. 912.635.9918 | jekyllislandseafood.com Enjoy the freshest seafood just steps away from the ocean. Our signature dishes include sweet Georgia shrimp and grits, seafood gumbo, crispy-seared flounder and award-winning southern fried chicken. Beachfront patio and dining room – perfect for groups of any size.
Visittojekyllisland.com/events learn more about these and other happenings on Jekyll Island.
The resurrection fern's rainy-day transformation is a marvel of nature explorer
16 brian austin lee Traces p.12 | Flora p.16 | Fauna p.18 | Guardian p.21 | Firsts p.24 | Artisan p.27 | My Jekyll p.30

WWII on Jekyll

The war brought fear and change to the Golden Isles

Sometimes, at low tide, beachcombers on Jekyllʼs northern end might stumble across a barnacle-encrusted wood-and-metal structure about sixteen feet long. This boat-like relic dates to World War II and was likely a “buoyant apparatus” that U.S. merchant sailors could cling to if their ship was destroyed. Such life-saving

devices were standard issue on America’s wartime merchant vessels, including on Liberty ships built in Brunswick’s massive shipyard—which didn’t exist when Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941.

On April 8, 1942, a German U-boat, the U-123, torpedoed two U.S. merchant ships off the coast of St. Simons. The blasts blew out glass windows in

12 721 North Beachview Drive | Jekyll Island, GA 31527 912.635.2256 | beachviewclubjekyll.com Memories for a Lifetime
courtesy of
coastal georgia historical society
Launching of a Liberty ship, J.A. Jones Shipyard, Brunswick, 1943

predawn Brunswick and set off a near panic that continued the next day when the same U-boat sank the SS Esparta off Cumberland Island, sending the ship to the sea bottom and washing its cargo of oranges and foil-wrapped turkeys ashore. All told, twenty-three crewmen lost their lives.

The attacks mobilized the region for war and industry. Some 50,000 men and women flocked to Brunswick to build the Liberty ship plant and then the ships that transformed Brunswick from a struggling Depression city of 15,000 into a boomtown of bars, restaurants, and shops. The War Department opened Glynco Naval Air Station north of town, from which a fleet of blimps based in a gigantic wooden hangar patrolled the Atlantic for German subs. The military’s new presence often required requisition of civilian property; the government commandeered the King and Prince hotel on St. Simons for a bachelor officers’ quarters and a radar training center.

The exclusive Jekyll Island Club, its membership already in decline since the Depression, ended its 1942 season three days before the U-boat attacks. With war lapping at the island’s

shores, it never reopened. “Many club employees left to serve in the armed forces or to work at the shipyards in Brunswick,” says Andrea Marroquin, the Jekyll Island Museum’s curator. “Without their services, the club could no longer function.” Army troops bivouacked on Jekyll to man watch towers and used some of the club grounds for communications and a dining mess.

The Coast Guard patrolled the island coast for U-boats for the war’s duration. Though the war struck the death knell of the Jekyll Island Club’s golden days, the state of Georgia bought the island in 1948 as a public land trust, giving it new life and eventually making it accessible to all.

Memorable cuisine, expertly prepared fish, inventive wine and cocktail list, and delightful staff. Formal dining room and extended bar seating.

Tramici means among friends and this describes our atmosphere perfectly. Inspired Italian cuisine with dining room, bar, and magical outdoor courtyard seating.

Serving homemade Mexican and Latin American foods with daily specialty margaritas. We set the clock for the best happy hour on the island.

Visit HalyardRestaurantGroup.com for lunch and dinner hours, directions, and contact information—and ask us about catering your next special event.

archival images courtesy of the jekyll island museum archives. tag and wreckage: kurt knoerl
A fleet of blimps based in a gigantic wooden hangar patrolled the Atlantic for German subs.”
Top left: a navy blimp patrols for submarines over Jekyll Island. Above: the wreckage of a Liberty ship buoyant apparatus, recently found washed up on Jekyll. Top right: a tag retrieved from the Jekyll wreckage.

Resurrection Fern

The shape-shifter accents

Jekyll’s stately oaks

The resurrection fern is a living metaphor for a kind of miracle. During dry periods, it will desiccate, shrivel, and turn brown. But just give it some rain and within twentyfour hours it becomes a lush green carpet. Look for the ferns cloaking the boughs of live oaks, especially the large ones in Jekyll’s historic district.

Resurrection ferns create their own microclimate along with the trees and Spanish moss. The mat of ferns is a haven for lizards and insects, which draw birds.

The fern does not harm the tree because it’s an epiphyte, meaning it derives its nutrients from the air.

For other plants, losing as much as 8 percent of their hydration proves catastrophic, but a resurrection fern can relinquish 97 percent of its water and still bounce back.

The Aztecs used resurrection ferns medicinally as a diuretic and a liver healer.

Astronauts on a Discovery shuttle mission took the fern into space to see if it would resurrect in zero gravity. Indeed, it did.

flora 371 riverview drive, jekyll island, georgia 31527 912.635.2600 | jekyllclub.com 80 ocean way, jekyll island, georgia 31527 912.635.5234 | jekylloceanclub.com IN THE HEART OF THE HISTORIC DISTRICT OR AT THE EDGE OF THE OCEAN, WE WELCOME YOU TO THE BEST OF TWO WORLDS! 16
brian austin lee

Bottlenose DOLPHINS

Bottlenose dolphins have upturned mouths beneath their outsize snouts, giving them a perpetual grin befitting their collegiality. These marine mammals socialize in small, ever-changing groups, but they demonstrate an admirable loyalty to each other.

“When a male decides to mate, he brings along a buddy—kind of a wingman—who helps select the female,” says Clay George, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

“Once pregnant, females cluster with other females who are undergoing gestation, or calving, which lasts a year.”

Their families are close-knit and their life-spans long—fifty years or

more. Calves nurse for three years and stay with their mothers for up to six years while another single female lingers with them, acting as a sort of spinster governess.

“They’re beautiful, highly intelligent, inquisitive animals,” says Ben Carswell, director of conservation for the Jekyll Island Authority. They aren’t endangered, but they are federally protected.

Visitors of a certain age recalling a fictional bottlenose dolphin, the intrepid Flipper, might feel tempted to stroke or feed dolphins, but experts caution against extending your hands. “They do bite,” Carswell says. They also whistle at

each other and use echolocation to stalk fish, crabs, and shrimp. Bottlenose dolphins on this part of the coast have a spectacular way of dining out called strand feeding. They herd schools of fish out of the water and onto mud flats and banks of tidal creeks, then gorge, flopped on their sides in a kind of chorus line. “It’s something to see!” says Carswell.

Dolphins can be sighted anywhere around Jekyll, but the observation deck at St. Andrew’s Beach Park is a prime viewing spot.

“The best way is to get on the water in a fishing boat, which dolphins trail,” George says. Several Jekyll businesses also offer eco-tours; find them at jekyllisland.com/activities.

illustration by amy holliday fauna Jekyll Island’s Award Winning Hotel 60 S. BEACHVIEW DRIVE JEKYLL ISLAND, GA 31527 888-635-3003 DAYSINNJEKYLL.COM Come along with us and “Coast Awhile”!
There are two local dolphin stocks, migrating coastal dolphins and estuarine" permanent residents.
The world’s most abundant marine mammal puts on a lively show around Jekyll
photo credit Discover Darien, where history meets the sea. Shrimp Boats Take a short drive up I-95 and spend a day in Darien! VisitDarien.com Thousands have participated in the effort to safeguard Jekyll’s beaches BY JOSH GREEN PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRIAN AUSTIN LEE Marine Debris Initiative 21 guardian Plastic items like the ones pictured here take 400 years or more to break down in the environment, while an aluminum can takes 200 years and a Styrofoam cup 50, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Even cigarette butts take years, not days, to break down.

Jeannie Martin, AmeriCorps and volunteer coordinator with the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, wonders which was more bizarre: a lost love letter with a marriage proposal on it, or the piano discovered on Driftwood Beach, wedged up in the tree line. Both were found by volunteers bagging and logging trash with the center’s Marine Debris Initiative, which launched in 2012 with grants from the broader Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative. Its aim is to protect shorebird and sea turtle nests while saving myriad other wildlife from untimely deaths by unnatural objects. “No species is immune,” says Martin, “not even the tiniest little filter feeders.”

From cocktail straws to truck tires, the world’s oceans are littered with plastic and other human-made

material that might break down but doesn’t biodegrade, creating deadly hazards for animals. Martin applied for grant funding six years ago when she noticed both a growing desire among the general public to help and a lack of educational outreach aimed at gradeschoolers in the Glynn County area. What started as a small initiative with 6,500 data points (that is, pieces of debris recorded in a phone app) has swelled into a multifaceted, collaborative approach along Georgia’s coast. Some 200 regular volunteers are on the books, and about 5,000 others—family groups, churches, corporate teambuilders, Scout troops, various government agencies— have chipped in. The data points, meanwhile, have climbed to more than 300,000 across Jekyll’s marshes and ten miles of beaches, representing tons of discarded tires, plastic bottles, beer cans, and especially cigarette butts, which are commonly mistaken by animals for food.

Globally, ocean debris has become a hot topic—especially as related to the purportedly Texas-sized Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the so-called Straw Wars urging restaurants to nix the tubular plastics. Thanks in part to media coverage by the likes of National Geographic, public awareness has grown. Jekyll is fortunate, Martin says, in that local government leaders have been proactive for years in safeguarding wildlife through various initiatives, and that “convergence zones” where currents collide and trash accumulates are far away (unlike in, say, India). That’s not to say the problem doesn’t need to be addressed at the root. Marine debris isn’t just an issue for coastal towns; it drifts downstream from cities via rivers. “The amount that keeps entering the ocean—about 13 million metric tons of plastic each year—you’re not going to clean that up,” says Matt Khan, an AmeriCorps Marine Debris member with the center.

“So if we get out to the public, make them aware of the issue, we can at least curb some of that debris that enters in the first place.”

For anyone eager to help, Martin advises visiting the center in person or the website (gstc.jekyllisland.com), and staff will help match volunteer availability to cleanup needs. The website also offers a how-to for downloading and using the tracker app. To help thwart the problem of ocean debris before it begins, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center recommends buying fewer single-use plastics, such as water bottles and food containers, or recycling those that are used.


More than 700 documented marine species have ingested plastic.

An estimated 52 percent of sea turtles have eaten plastic. Debris entanglement, however, is the number one killer for sea turtles.

Albatross frequently mistake plastics for nutritious foods and feel full until they starve to death.

Oysters and blue mussels can ingest microplastics, which have been found in supermarket offerings.

Even sea salt is likely to contain microplastics.

22 23
32 Pier Road 912-635-2643 www.thecottageji.com
A curated selection of American and fair-trade handcrafted jewelry and gifts that are sure to evoke precious Jekyll Island memories for years to come.

One of the nation’s first condominiums is still a genteel retreat

The French name means “worry-free.” That’s just how the early owners of Sans Souci, including the banker J. P. Morgan, intended to spend their winter getaways on Jekyll Island. In 1896, members of the Jekyll Island Club completed the apartment building, characterized by stately turrets and moss-colored cedar shingles, at a time when their exclusive organization owned Georgia’s smallest barrier isle.

Sans Souci was originally divided into six units and is considered, along with the Rembrandt building in Manhattan, to be one of the nation’s first condominiums. The associates broke ground 100 yards from the bustling Jekyll Island Clubhouse, where they relished rounds of billiards and meals cooked by a French chef. In their private condos, they valued views of oyster-rich waters and above all, it seems, some peace and quiet. “They didn’t want kids running around the hallways,”

says Taylor Davis, a historic preservationist with the Jekyll Island Authority, so they turned away potential buyers with young children.

The owners visited their vacation homes throughout the Depression, but they were forced to abandon them during World War II, when the Atlantic coast was being patrolled for foreign submarine activity. Sans Souci, still stocked with fine oil paintings and imported carpets, sat mostly vacant until 1986, when two friends embarked on a historically accurate renovation as part of a hotel venture.

Today, Sans Souci is a twenty-four-room property operated by the Jekyll Island Club Resort, which continues to preserve original features such as leaded glass windows, a winding oak staircase, and the octagonal skylight above it. Now anyone can enjoy this time capsule built by millionaires. Guests can even—gasp! bring their children.

24 archival image courtesy of the jekyll island museum archives firsts Beachcombers welcome. . . 70I North Beachview Drive | 9I2.635.22II holidayinnresorts.com/jekyllisland
Dawn of the Condo Sans Souci under construction, 1896
OEG R G I A SEATUR T LE CENTE R JE K Y L L ISLA N D Get up close and personal at Georgia’s only coastal wildlife rehabilitation hospital. 912-635-4444 • gstc.jekylli slan d.com REHABILITATION • RESEARCH • EDUCATION 27 artisan
long career has included memorable stops on Jekyll
joy richardson/amc
BY WENDELL BROCK Film Producer Tom Luse

As the sun rises on Jekyll Island, the Atlantic Ocean laps at the gnarly, twisted trees of Driftwood Beach. Just another day in paradise—until you see a zombie writhing in the wet sand and the credits roll for The Walking Dead.

When the storyline of the AMC horror series required an otherworldly oceanside locale, executive producer Tom Luse knew just the spot. Stark, evocative, and strewn with toppled trees, the island’s isolated northeastern tip was the ideal location for an episode of the apocalyptic zombie thriller that begins its ninth season in October. In season seven, episode six, a young woman washes up on a beach and is found by a group of isolationists, who abduct and later try to recruit her. “Surreal” is how the Atlanta-based producer describes the setting—not just the driftwood formations but the timeless hush: “There are no planes, trains, automobiles. There are no steamboats, there are no motorboats, there are no Jet Skis. It’s a world that has stopped in many ways.”

stands on Jekyll’s south end, in the area now known as Glory Beach Park.

Back then, the Jekyll Island Club Resort had just opened in the century-old clubhouse, and many of the famed millionaires’ cottages were in ruins. “Now it’s spectacular,” says Luse, who is fond of biking the island. Unfortunately, that rules out the historic colony as a future Walking Dead location. “It is manicured and beautiful and has no place in the zombie apocalypse,” he jokes.

That doesn’t mean the show won’t be back. “Last time I was there, we stayed at Jekyll Island Club and took some photographs of some things that we like there. You never know when The Walking Dead might just pop up.”


Besides The Walking Dead and Glory several films and shows have used the island as a setting. Here’s a look at a handful.

View From Pompey’s Head (1955)

Jekyll stood in for fictional Pompey’s Head, South Carolina, in this film about a Manhattan attorney (Richard Egan) who returns to the South to investigate a mystery.

The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000)

The Robert Redford–directed movie starring Will Smith and Matt Damon featured the Jekyll Island Club Resort.

X-Men: First Class (2011)

For the superhero flick’s fifth installment, a plane crash was faked on a spot between Beachview Drive and the ocean.

Magic Mike XXL (2015)

Jekyll’s convention center was used in scenes of a Myrtle Beach strippers’ convention in this Channing Tatum–helmed flick.

The Leisure Seeker (2017)

Helen Mirren received a Golden Globe nod for her work in this film, partly shot on Jekyll, about a terminally ill couple that takes a road trip in a vintage camper.

In addition to the raw beauty of the place, Luse praised the leadership and infrastructure of the state-owned island.

“From the marina people who helped us get a boat to the Jekyll Island Authority, the Department of Natural Resources folks, the people from the Army Corps of Engineers, everyone worked with us beautifully, and that’s the kind of cooperation you want when you are shooting a show like ours.”

For Luse, who earned a master’s degree in film at Georgia State University in 1981, the only downside of filming on Jekyll may be the tides. He learned this back in 1988, when he arrived to work on Glory, the Oscar-winning film about the Civil War battle of Fort Wagner, starring Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick. “I was instrumental in setting up the boardwalk that led to the beach on Glory,” says Luse, who served as assistant unit production manager on the project. The boardwalk— used to transport hundreds of actors playing soldiers to the waterfront—still

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artisan walking dead : gene page/amc. tom: courtesy amc. glory : © 1989 tristar pictures, inc. all rights reserved. courtesy of tristar pictures
Clockwise from top left: Tom Luse with actor Andrew Lincoln on the set of The Walking Dead season eight; a scene from the movie Glory; Luse on Jekyll.
912-319-2174 ★ 1 Harbor Rd, Jekyll Island, GA 31527 ★  Located at Jekyll Harbor Marina JOIN US FOR LIVE MUSIC & HAPPY HOUR

“At our peak we had seventy-five people; usually it’s around fifty-five. We have the same campsites every year. Some tent camp; others have popups, RVs, or sleep in hammocks in the trees. When we get there, we start a campfire the first night and keep it burning all week. I always bring the rope swing, which I made myself. We hang it on a giant live oak and the kids swing on it all week long.” —kevin fannin

30 31 my
the fannin family (pictured: patriarch robert with a young family member, kiai james) began camping on jekyll island with the family of wink and marie smith in 1967. this past april marked the fifty-first fannin/smith camping trip on jekyll. As told to JENNIFER SENATOR • Photograph by BRIAN AUSTIN LEE

SANDHILL CRANE Antigone canadensis

Mated pairs of this extraordinary species engage in “unison calling,” singing a complex, synchronized duet. When you hear their loud, distinctive call, look up; their migration high above Jekyll is a spectacle to behold.


a close-up of the winged wonders that sweep through this barrier island each year—and the people who flock to them.

Bbirders are a curious breed. even the most practical and science-minded among them seem vaguely possessed; they exude a sense of wonder that borders on mysticism. Ask them why they do what they do, and some are lost for words.

Take American novelist Jonathan Franzen, who recently wrote in National Geographic, “When someone asks me why birds are so important to me, all I can do is sigh and shake my head, as if I’ve been asked to explain why I love my brothers.”

Chris Pitman elaborates in the 2017 short documentary A Bird in Hand: “What’s it like to hold a bird for the first time? For me, it was total exhilaration. You have this very tiny life form in your hands that you’re responsible for protecting. I was hooked the first day.”

The documentary tells the story of the Jekyll Island Banding Station (JIBS), an organization you could call the Pitmans’ “family business,” though nobody’s getting paid. After volunteering for years, Chris and his wife, Jan, began running the station in 2000, then handed the reins to their son Evan in 2011.

Today, Evan Pitman runs JIBS with his wife, Heather, and a devoted group of volunteers. Each year during peak fall migration, they set up mist nets in the dunes and spend four weeks trapping songbirds, banding their legs (yes, holding those delicate creatures in their hands), and collecting data for the North American Bird Banding Program. It’s a precise operation that requires training and a federal permit.

Pitman says the southern tip of Jekyll Island is an ideal place to study birds, since thousands pass through on their harrowing migration south each fall.

“They follow the coastline as a guide, hopping southward from one island to the next. When they reach the south end of Jekyll, they see the expanse leading to Cumberland Island; they stay a few days to refuel and rest before con-

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courtesy of the
jekyll island banding station
The Jekyll Island Banding Station registers and gently bands more than 1,000 songbirds (such as this yellowbilled cuckoo) each fall. Evan Pitman holds a western palm warbler A female Baltimore oriole

tinuing.” Most will fly thousands of miles before reaching their winter destination. The red knot, for one, travels more than 9,000 miles from the Arctic to the southern tip of South America.

Founded by Don and Doris Cohrs in 1978, JIBS has a remarkably long banding record. The information it gathers helps determine the health of migratory bird populations, which, in turn, sheds light on the health of our environment. Over the years, scientists have observed population declines in many bird species. The Pitmans’ work seems to bear this out. In the 1980s and ’90s, JIBS was banding between 2,000 and 3,000 birds a year. Today, only 1,000 to 1,500. Banding stations such as JIBS provide glimpses of the devastating impacts of climate change, habitat destruction, and other shifting patterns that threaten these world travelers.

Jekyll Island Authority conservation director Ben Carswell says this work is critical: “Birds are part and parcel of the magnificent biosphere of our planet. Our responsibility as stewards of a gift that precious cannot be taken lightly.”

Jekyll Island birding guide Lydia Thompson echoes that thought: “The most important thing I’ve learned from birding is that ecosystems matter. Take one thing out, and the whole thing unravels.”

Despite their dire warnings, bird people are notoriously optimistic. Ask Thompson about her grand scheme for saving the planet, and she doesn’t miss a beat: “Make more birders.”


Break out the binoculars—or just sit and take it all in—at one of these birding hot spots

Amphitheater Area

Located behind the fire station near the historic district, the old amphitheater is off the beaten path and no longer used for entertainment, but the resident committee of vultures—some folks call them “the critics”—often perches on the benches as if waiting for a show to begin. Just beyond, the amphitheater pond is a favorite hangout for egrets, wood storks, anhingas, roseate spoonbills, and night herons, and the surrounding woods are often full of colorful warblers during migration.

Bird Sanctuary at Jekyll Island Campground

Local lore credits “Anna the Bird Gypsy” with founding this magical haven when her wanderings brought her through Jekyll in search of feathered friends. Here you’ll see painted buntings, northern parulas, yellow-throated warblers, and other colorful, tuneful perching birds.

St. Andrews Beach Park

Located at the end of South Beachview Drive overlooking Jekyll Sound, this park provides beach access, a walking path, picnic facilities, public restrooms, and a two-story wildlife observation platform. Here you might spot a great crested flycatcher or, at night, hear the haunting call of the great horned owl. When the tide is not high, you can also access Jekyll Point, which is the best spot for watching shorebirds on the island.

brian austin lee courtesy of the jekyll island banding station Clockwise from top left: Evan bands a gray catbird while data is collected; a girl holds a common grounddove; a northern mockingbird is banded.


Hundreds of bird species migrate through Jekyll Island each year. Here are some of our favorites.


Passerina ciris

With its vivid mix of blue, green, yellow, and red, the flashiest bird on Jekyll nests here in abundance and is iconic to the coastal maritime forest. Even the bright green female is an unforgettable sight.

SCARLET TANAGER Piranga olivacea

A stocky little songbird, the male is among the brightest, most eye-catching of the passerines. His female counterpart is equally lovely, though her buttery yellow plumage belies her name.

YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO Coccyzus americanus

Fairly common but hard to observe, its croaking call is often heard on hot, humid afternoons. People sometimes call this bird the “rain crow,” imagining it’s calling for rain.

WOOD THRUSH Hylocichla mustelina

An Audubon Society “priority bird,” its numbers have plummeted in recent decades. Among other threats, cowbirds keep laying eggs in their nests. Sadly, thrushes often raise cowbirds instead of thrushes.

RED KNOT Calidris canutus

Deemed “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, these long-distance travelers nest in the high Arctic, some flying more than 9,000 miles to their wintering grounds in South America. Some 23,000 red knots—more than half the species’ total population in the Western Hemisphere—pass through coastal Georgia over a period of a few weeks.

PIPING PLOVER Charadrius melodus

Piping plovers are very sensitive to disturbance, so they’re an “indicator species” for the barrier beaches. Jekyll’s southern beaches are considered a “critical habitat” for this bird according to the Endangered Species Act.


Elanoides forficatus

This gorgeous bird is a delight to watch. It hangs on the air, swoops and glides, rolls upside down, then zooms high. It’s skilled at catching flying insects such as dragonflies and eating them mid-flight.


Icterus galbula

This brilliantly colored songbird was named for Lord Baltimore, whose seventeenth-century coat of arms was the same blazing orange and black. While it only migrates through Jekyll, its bag-shaped hanging nest is a familiar sight farther inland.


Tachycineta bicolor

Unlike other swallows, tree swallows eat berries, allowing them to muddle through cold periods when other insect-eaters might starve. These feisty little survivors can be seen in huge migratory flocks on Jekyll in the fall, fattening up on wax myrtle berries.


Falco peregrinus

One of the world’s most spectacular birds of prey is also one of its fastest. When power-diving from great heights to strike, the peregrine may reach 200 miles per hour.


Antrostomus carolinensis

You’re more likely to hear this bird than see it. On summer nights the chuckwill’s-widow chants its name through the woods. By day, its leafy pattern serves as camouflage, especially important since it nests on the ground.

Swallow-tailed kite

For more information on JIBS, visit them on Facebook at JIBS - Jekyll Island Banding Station.

Tree swallow

Peregrine falcon


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Baltimore oriole
Painted bunting Scarlet tanager Yellow-billed cuckoo Piping plover Red knot Wood thrush



for as long as michael higgins could remember, the old hickory walking cane stood sentinel at his grandmother’s house in Aiken, South Carolina. Sometimes, when his grandmother would touch it, she’d tell Higgins about her grandfather, Ward Lee, the man who carved it: he’d cradled the curved handle in his hand as he walked for so many years that the wood was burnished from the caress of his palm.

Lee’s skin was dark as molasses. He was a skilled artisan who took pride in his creativity. But above all, Lee believed in the importance of family and having a place of your own. “She said he always talked about how we had to keep the family together,” Higgins said. What Higgins' grandmother never told him was the reason Lee wanted so desperately to keep his descendants close.

Lee knew what it was to be ripped away from his family when he was a boy. He knew the ache of young muscles that could not be stretched out because they were chained in place. He knew the stench of nearly 500 bodies, including his own, packed like spoons in a cramped, stifling ship hold for six weeks. He knew the chill of ocean water against raw skin in November as he, still a child, trudged barefoot and naked onto the south shore of Jekyll Island with about 400 other Africans. Lee, whose real name was Cilucängy, and the other captives had been part of one of the most notorious chapters of American history, one that left a lasting mark on Jekyll Island and the nation.

On November 28, 1858, more than 400 enslaved Africans arrived on the shores of Jekyll Island, leaving behind one deadly journey and beginning another. This is the story of Georgia’s last slave ship and its enduring legacy.
painting of the wanderer by warren sheppard, 1901. image courtesy of the jekyll island museum. Let the water and the blood From Thy riven side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath and make me pure.
the spiritual "Rock of Ages"

example of elegance and luxury. Built in New York, with brass fittings, gleaming exotic woods, and bespoke details all the way down to the leather-bound volumes in its library, the Wanderer was the talk of the town. It was every bit as fast as it was stately. It was faster than just about any vessel in the New York Yacht Club.

After purchasing it, Corrie had a secret deck added to the yacht and a 15,000-gallon freshwater tank installed— necessary additions for the gruesome task ahead.

There were whispers that the Wanderer was being turned into a slave ship, but time after time, from the harbors of New York to the mouth of the Congo River in Africa, Corrie and his crew eluded authorities who were on the lookout for yachts and ships suspected of being part of the illegal slave trade.

In October 1858, the Wanderer made its way down the Congo, where an elaborate network of traders had set up barracoons to house captives meant for sale: men, women, boys, and girls. Some had been captured in raids by rival tribes. Some had been tricked into bondage. They hailed from points across the sub-Saharan portion of the continent. “They enticed kids with sweets and trinkets, and some were snatched out of their mother’s arms,” said researcher April Hynes, who has an upcoming book on the Wanderer saga.



John Johnson commissions the building of the luxury pleasure yacht the Wanderer

He pays $25,000 for its construction.


Lee and the others had been the human cargo on the Wanderer, the last ship to bring enslaved Africans to Georgia. It was also one of the last such ships to drop anchor on American shores before the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863—but long after the United States Congress outlawed the importation of enslaved Africans in 1807.

The story of how Lee and the other Africans came to Jekyll on November 28, 1858, is a journey that began in the minds of some of the South’s most vocal proponents of slavery, including Charles Lamar, one of Savannah’s most influential businessmen.

Lamar associated with a band of proslavery advocates, which author Erik Calonius dubbed “the fire eaters” in his book The Wanderer: The Last American Slave Ship and the Conspiracy That Set Its Sails. These were Southern men of high station who hated the idea of the North dictating anything to the

South, especially regarding the institution of slavery. Slavery had long existed in the North, but it drove the Southern economy. Lamar and his group believed the South had every right to expand its economic power by importing more Africans directly from their home continent. The domestic supply of enslaved African Americans was not growing fast enough to support growth, they reasoned. And importing Africans was profitable, given that brokerage houses that supported the slave trade flourished up and down the East Coast.

In Tom Henderson Wells’ book The Slave Ship Wanderer Lamar’s voice on the matter was clear: “‘What is the difference between going to Africa and Virginia for negroes. And, if there is a difference, is not that difference in favor of going to Africa?’”

So, from 1857 through early 1858, Lamar twice tried and failed to smuggle Africans to Georgia’s shore. But later in 1858, he had a hit. He partnered with William Corrie and others who had ownership stakes in a yacht called the Wanderer. The yacht, originally built as a pleasure boat, was commissioned by its first owner as the ultimate

Lee, who then was called by his real name, Cilucängy, and 486 other Africans were loaded onto the ship. Misery awaited them. “They set the 487 as if they were spoons in the available space, allowing twelve inches of width, eighteen inches in height, and less than five feet in length per person,” Calonius wrote.

Food was a mush of cowpeas or corn. They had to relieve themselves where they lay, for there was no privy for captives. Sickness was rampant. During the six-week journey, some eighty of the Africans died. As they expired their bodies were thrown overboard.

Arrangements had been made with the DuBignon family, which owned Jekyll at the time, for the captives to be brought first to the island and from there smuggled out for sale across the South. But within days of the Wanderer’s landing, word spread of the piracy and the cache of Africans. Many had distinctive markings and tattoos that easily set them apart from African Americans who’d lived here for generations. Within weeks, many of the Wanderer’s number were sold across the South from Florida to Texas. Some—like Lee—were sold to families in Aiken

June 18, 1858

The Wanderer leaves New York bound for Charleston on the first leg of its illegal voyage to Africa.

Sept. 16, 1858

The Wanderer arrives at the mouth of the Congo River.

Nov. 28, 1858

The ship lands on the southern end of Jekyll Island.

The Wanderer is sold to William Corrie of Charleston for a reported $30,000. To transport the enslaved Africans, Corrie and others had the yacht retrofitted with a hidden deck. A 15,000-gallon freshwater tank was also installed.

Oct. 18, 1858

The Wanderer departs Africa bearing its human cargo.

Dec. 18, 1858

A hearing is held in Savannah for Corrie and his crew in federal court.

April 15, 1859

Charles Lamar is indicted in the Wanderer conspiracy. A week later, John Couper and Henry DuBignon are indicted.

May 28, 1860

Prosecutors file a nolle prosequi order, effectively ending the case against Lamar and others.

Jan. 21, 1871

After service as a Union Army vessel and a subsequent change of ownership after the Civil War, the Wanderer sinks off the coast of Cuba.

42 survivors: courtesy of the jekyll island museum. lamar: courtesy of the georgia historical society
This photograph of Wanderer survivors, printed in the journal American Anthropologist in 1908, shows Cilucängy, known as Ward Lee, at left Charles Lamar


Wanderer Memory Tail at

St. Andrews Beach Park d

At this permanent multimedia installation, you’ll find panels that tell the story of the Wanderer and replicas of African dwellings and work spaces. 100 St. Andrews Circle

Mosaic, the Jekyll Island Museum

When the new museum opens in 2019, visitors will be able to learn more about the ship and its survivors. One significant artifact the exhibit will include is a cooking pot said to have been on the yacht during the middle passage.

100 Stable Road

Horton House / DuBignon Cemetery

John Couper DuBignon was part of the conspiracy to bring the Africans to Jekyll. His tabby house, which was built by Major William Horton in 1743, was where the Wanderer’s owner and crew sought aid after landing. Members of the DuBignon family are buried in the nearby cemetery.

North Riverview Drive


The Wanderer: The Last American Slave Ship and the Conspiracy That Set Its Sails, by Erik Calonius

The Slave Ship Wanderer, by Tom Henderson Wells


and Edgefield County, South Carolina. Some remained on Jekyll and became property of the DuBignons.

The federal government swiftly brought charges against Lamar, Corrie, and their crew for their roles in the Wanderer episode. There were three trials in Savannah that made headlines all the way to New York. This was something of a test: would the South be punished for breaking an anti-slavery law? Ultimately, Lamar, Corrie, and the others beat virtually every charge and moved on with their lives as free men. But men such as Ward Lee remained in bondage.

Within three years of that clandestine arrival of the Wanderer on Jekyll, the South and the North went to war. The Wanderer by then had been seized and turned into a Union warship. And within five years of their journey, Lee and the others who’d been enslaved were declared free. But what was freedom if you couldn’t return home?

Years later, perhaps around the time Lee carved that hickory walking stick, he wrote a public letter. It began with the words, “Please help me.” Lee, who remembered what it was to be a boy named Cilucängy, wanted to return to Africa before he died. He asked for donations to

help him return. “I am bound for my old home if God be with me,” he wrote. He never made it.

A copy of that letter is now part of a permanent multimedia exhibition about the Wanderer in St. Andrews Beach Park on the southern end of Jekyll, where Lee touched ground 160 years ago. His great-great-grandson, Michael Higgins, is now fifty-five years old. Higgins has visited Jekyll with other relatives to pay homage to their ancestor. But it is Lee’s walking cane that sticks in Higgins’ mind.

When he was in elementary school, Higgins was cast as an old man looking back on his life. The day of the play, his grandmother handed him the hickory cane. Higgins walked onto the stage propped up by the legacy of Cilucängy.

Higgins, who now lives in New York, didn’t learn about the Wanderer until he was in college. He doesn’t know where the cane is now, but he knows the story of how his family came to be in this land. Thinking of what Cilucängy went through and who he became, Higgins said, gives him strength to endure.

This diagram of the British slave ship Brookes which shows 454 captives crammed into the hold, offers a close approximation of how nearly 500 slaves spent their six-week journey on the Wanderer
The story of the Wanderer, the last ship to bring enslaved Africans to Georgia, is part of Jekyll’s history. Here’s where to learn more about it.
gregory miller ©trustees of the british museum Scenes from the new Wanderer Memory Trail



Driftwood Beach is otherworldly, a sculpture garden scattered with the bones of oak trees wrung out by saltwater and sand. You can capture sunrise and sunset at this iconic location on the isle’s northern tip. Arrive early to scout your shot and claim your spot, since the beach is popular with photographers.

With its historical structures, pristine beaches, and abundant wildlife, Jekyll is the ideal place for a vacation that’s all about photography. To capture the prettiest pictures, make “wait and see” your mantra as the island quietly invites you to slow down and tune in. If you pause and observe it closely, your senses will sharpen. Shapes and patterns that elude you when your mind is hurried—an arc of driftwood framing the ocean, a band of clouds shifting from blue to gold— will suddenly grab your attention. In other words, you’ll begin to see like a photographer.

With your enhanced vision, a willingness to wait for the right moment, and a little guidance from the professional shutterbugs in these pages, you can leave this Golden Isle with fantastic images of nature, artistic family photos you can frame, or just envy-inspiring snaps for social media.


From nineteenth-century ruins to jaw-dropping sunsets, photo ops are everywhere on Jekyll Island. Here are six of the most popular or arresting locations, with tips on how to approach each subject.

On Jekyll, inspiration awaits the photography-loving traveler at every turn. A little inside knowledge will elevate your shots from good to art.


When you turn onto the Jekyll Island causeway, you’re welcomed by fountains spraying into crescent-shaped ponds and twin signs surrounded by palm trees. To get a shot that includes the Sydney Lanier Bridge, use a long lens if possible, and stand on the high ground east of the road.

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“When you’re shooting landscapes, observe your surroundings patiently and watch for patterns to emerge, including wildlife. You can’t make nature change, but it will if you just wait,” says Fremiotti, the photographer behind this story.


Photographers prize sunrise and sunset not only for the painterly pastel skies, but also for the soft and even natural light on the land—no dark shadows or bright highlights. Some of the best spots to stake out the sun on Jekyll are eastside beaches such as Great Dunes and Driftwood (sunrise) and the wooden bike path just north of the airport (sunset). Timing is crucial, so arrive early. “You’ll have pretty light thirty minutes before and after, but the right moment is about two minutes long,” says photographer Andrea Fremiotti.


This wooden bike path hugging the Jekyll River is on the island’s west side, just north of the airport, so plant yourself (and a tripod, if you have one) before sunset for the best shot. While you wait for golden rays to make the weathered wood glow, shoot the passing fishing boats pursued by flocks of birds.



The Horton House ruins seem made for Instagram. Actually, this tabby home with apricot-colored stucco on Riverview Drive was built in 1743 by the Englishman

Major William Horton for his family of four, but the symmetrical windows and doorways make great frames for you and your fellow travelers.


To snap the best photos of people, don’t ask them to say “cheese.” Instead, “get them engaged in something and follow with your camera,” says Atlanta-based photographer Pat Molnar. “Have fun and don’t stress about making a classically perfect picture. If it means something to you, it’s perfect.”

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To create postcard-perfect images of island life in the Gilded Age, point your lens at the “cottages,” the luxurious winter retreats built by families with names like Goodyear and Rockefeller, in what is now Jekyll’s National Historic Landmark District. Explore the surrounding footpaths to capture these giant dollhouses from many angles, and incorporate the oaks and palms into your compositions.


If quintessential photos of waves breaking on a serene beach are what you’re after, visit South Dunes Beach Park on the island’s southeastern side. The boardwalk connecting the parking area to the beach soars twenty feet over the dunes and makes a great vantage point for shooting a sunrise on this pristine stretch of sand.


“I don’t take pictures of things. I take pictures of feelings,” says Clyde Butcher, a renowned landscape photographer based in Venice, Florida. Keep in mind that whether you’re shooting with a professionalgrade camera or a smartphone, you can capture breathtaking photos as long as you feel something when you push the shutter.


shades of the past

past residents of jekyll island revisit us in stories— and maybe a passing scent, a set of footprints, or a pair of eyes carved in stone

Archival images courtesy of THE JEKYLL ISLAND MUSEUM ARCHIVES


It was almost midnight when i pulled my car off the deserted causeway and onto the shadowy roads of jekyll island.

The Spanish moss hung over the lane like a tattered veil through which I pushed on to the historic district. The air was still and thick with mid-July humidity, creating a haze that nearly smothered the incandescent street lamps, casting the quiet village in an otherworldly glow. I had never been to the island before, so whatever the darkness concealed was a complete mystery to me. Every moan of an old toad, every rustle in the brush tugged at my imagination. Chills on a stifling Georgia summer night.

Car parked, I slung my bag over my shoulder and made my way toward the brightly lit Jekyll Island Club Resort. As my footsteps creaked up the wooden steps, echoing down the long halls of that 130-year-old building, I felt a jolt of excitement shoot across my nerves. It was the electricity of history—the thrill of sharing the structures and the soil beneath them with generations

of souls who have built up, lived on, and visited the island. Suddenly the atmosphere felt heavy with more than just moisture.

Reading up on the island’s past and talking to locals reaffirms the sense that we are sharing this Golden Isle with lingering spirits. In fact, I found that many of these ghosts—to say the word outright—have faces and names and stories behind them. For instance, while searching for a parking spot, I passed Villa Ospo without suspicion that the spirit of oil tycoon Walter Jennings, who died in the house after a car crash in the 1920s, might be watching. I never waited around outside to catch the scent of cigar smoke from Sans Souci cottage, on the opposite side of the historic district, where the specter of financier J. P. Morgan is said to smoke on the balcony of his former residence on the middle floor.

One of the island’s most famous ghost stories involves Jekyll Island Club member Edwin Gould, a railroad magnate. In 1917, his son, Edwin Gould Jr., was hunting with a friend near Latham Hammock, where the Jekyll tollbooth stands today, when he found a raccoon in one of his traps. He did not want to ruin the coonskin with buckshot, so he quickly dispatched the animal with the butt of his shotgun. The gun went off accidentally, shooting Eddie Jr. in the lower abdomen. His friend panicked and nearly capsized the boat on the row back to Jekyll. But it didn’t matter for the young heir, who succumbed to his wounds. His devastated family abandoned their lavish residence, Chichota Cottage.

Villa Ospo (top two images, present day, and above, circa 1928) was the home of Standard Oil director Walter Jennings. An automobile enthusiast, he died in the house from wounds suffered during a car crash. Visitors have claimed to have had encounters with Jennings over the years.

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J. P. Morgan brian austin lee

Today, all that remains of the structure are entrance steps guarded by two stone lions, whose unblinking eyes watch as if waiting for the son’s return. A whiff of the tragedy also lives on at Cherokee Cottage, where his grandmother resided. “Eddie Jr. would always bring his grandmother Cherokee roses,” says Cheltsey Vann, education coordinator with the Jekyll Island Museum. “Now, around dusk, the time he passed, you can smell the flowers around the Cherokee building.”

The historic district does not hold the monopoly on island hauntings. To the north stands the Horton House, the gutted remains of the oldest structure on the island, a setting that could have been the backdrop for any classic Gothic horror film. Built in 1743 by Major William Horton, a top military aide to General James Oglethorpe, the building’s shell is

weathered and time-scarred. There is no roof, and as the sun sets over the mainland, the tabby walls seem to close in. Shadows fill the empty windows and doors, inviting you to do a double take to make sure no one or thing is watching you leave.

Directly across the road is the DuBignon Cemetery, named for the family that owned Jekyll from 1790

to 1886 and once lived in Horton House. The walls of the graveyard are the same tabby as the house, protecting only five graves. Three are large brick and marble tombs dedicated to members of the vaunted namesake family—Anne Amelia DuBignon, Marie Anne Ruffault, and Joseph DuBignon—all of whom died in the 1850s. Two smaller headstones stand in the

back of the cemetery, behind two tall and twisted pine trees. The stones mark the burials of two hotel employees who drowned while the waitstaff was swimming off the island in 1912. Waiters sharing their final resting place with aristocracy would seem like poetic justice. However, a local story has it that when scientists scanned the cemetery with earth-penetrating sonar,

Hunting Ghosts on Jekyll

You don’t have to wait for spirits to make contact. Seek them out on these adventures.

Folklore, Rumor & Myth

Held the last two Fridays each October, this evening outing features campfire stories, lantern-lit walks, and a tour of a Gilded Age cottage. jekyllisland.com/history/ folklore-rumor-myth

Jekyll Island Club Resort

Ghost Hunt Weekend

none of the five graves were found to contain bodies. Whether that’s true or not, Vann says that something seems to call these hallowed grounds home. “Several photos have been taken that contain ghost orbs in and around the cemetery,” she says.

Ghost hunters shouldn’t skip the beach. A story from the 1910s centers around William J. Hart, an

The historic hotel gets in the spirit every October, inviting guests to stay at the property, take a class on ghost hunt fundamentals, and apply what they’ve learned around the island. jekyllclub.com/events/ event-packages


Trolley Ghost Tour

This narrated nightly trolley tour includes stops to explore Horton House and the DuBignon Cemetery. lighthousetrolleys.com/ jekyll-ghost-tours

gould: courtesy of the library of congress
"Today, all that remains of the structure are entrance steps guarded by two stone lions, whose unblinking eyes watch as if waiting for the son’s return."
This page: Chichota's stone sentries then and now. Opposite page: Edwin Gould Sr.
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assistant superintendent in charge of maintaining and protecting the island’s wildlife for hunters. Hart was patrolling the beach early one morning when he came upon two poachers stealing turtle eggs, a valuable delicacy. Hart confronted the men and a scuffle broke out.

One of the poachers pulled a gun and shot Hart dead. His spirit is said to still patrol Driftwood Beach at dawn, any spectral footsteps quickly wiped clean by the waves. For every spooky tale established in local lore, there are countless others that have not been recorded. Happenings or sightings can last for a mere instant and be shrugged off or explained away. Every Creek Indian who once roamed these woods, the wealthy blue bloods of the Gilded Age, and all the tourists and residents who have come since have left part of themselves on this island. And whether you believe in the supernatural or a connection between this world and the afterlife, it’s hard to ignore the shadow you spot moving in the trees at dusk, the faint passing smell of a cigar or a Cherokee rose, or just the feeling that when you are walking on Jekyll Island, you are not walking alone.

Left: Horton House cemetery. Upper right: Horton House. Portrait: Anne Amelia DuBignon. Above: Driftwood Beach.
“Several photos have been taken that contain ghost orbs in and around the cemetery.”


Get a taste of the Jekyll dining scene with help from noted local chef and farmer

Matthew Raiford

chef and farmer matthew raiford grew up in brunswick, georgia, but jekyll island is where the james beard award semifinalist spent much of his early childhood. This was the early 1970s and his mother, then a domestic worker, would bring Raiford along to her jobs. “I’d head to the pier with my fishing pole or my crab bucket and hang out until her day was done,” Raiford says. For him, the island’s natural habitat was its biggest draw. It still is. Even with recent development efforts, he continues, “[the state] has kept nature at the forefront of everything. It’s amazing.”

As Raiford entered his teenage years, that island shine began to wither under the gaze of adolescence. He dreamed of leaving coastal Georgia and all the familial history his cozy community held at the ready— his great-grandfather was the bird keeper at Crane Cottage at the Jekyll Island Club; his grandmother worked in the home of a renowned chef on the island; their farmland in Brunswick had been in the family since 1874. So he left. After nine years in the Army and a close encounter with a would-be career as a physical therapist, Raiford eventually found himself as executive chef of catering for the House of Representatives in

Washington, D.C. His grandmother, anxious to continue the lineage of the family farm, invited Raiford and his sister to take it up. By 2010, Raiford was back home, his flag firmly planted.

Raiford doesn’t have much time for crabbing on Jekyll these days. He is chef and co-owner (or “CheFarmer,” as he likes to be called) of the Farmer and the Larder, the Brunswick Southern-style restaurant he runs with his partner, Jovan Sage. They offer Sunday brunch, cooking classes, and special events and tastings. Their recently opened second restaurant, Strong Roots Provisions, celebrates the myriad cultures that touched down in the historic port city—West African, Dutch, German, Portuguese, among others. When he's not running his restaurants, Raiford manages the family's Gilliard Farms. But when he can, Raiford still squeezes in quality island time. For the last three years, he’s emceed the cooking competition for the annual Jekyll Island Shrimp and Grits Festival, where professional chefs compete for the best interpretation of the dish. “It’s probably the premier event on the island next to things that have to do with turtles,” he says. And over time, he’s managed to expand his list of must-dos beyond casting a line out from the pier.

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“I’ve been there for brunch, and it’s like your hair is blown back with the amount of food that comes out. But you’ve got to do the fresh seafood and oysters on the half shell.”


The waterfront location is spectacular, and the menu puts a spotlight on Southern specialties, from peel-and-eat Georgia shrimp to local white quail served with collards and red rice. Enjoy an edible tour of the region while taking in views of the marsh and Jekyll Creek. 371 Riverview Drive, 912635-3612, jekyllwharf.com

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What’s a beach bar scene without an Irishinspired pub? Plenty of Guinness and brown liquor flow in this green-hued space, but Raiford comes to get a pulse on what’s happening. The bread pudding is legendary. 20 Main Street, #100, 912-574-2337, theweepub.com



Even a chef who crafts his own gelato and desserts like chocolate-coconut pot de crème still gets a hankering for grade school–era treats. 50 Ben Fortson Parkway, 912-635-2573, dairyqueen.com


“I’m a wings guy. I get the wings just shy of super hot, that sweet spot just before my lips are about to fall off.”
brian austin lee
“If I’m having dessert, I’m having ice cream. Normally I’m a vanilla-chocolate dude, but here I get the Blizzard with bits of Heath bar.”


Located in the Jekyll Ocean Club not far from bustling Beach Village, this open-air dining room is a popular spot for vacationers. The view of the Atlantic is hard to resist—as are the raw bar, their solid offerings of classic cocktails, and bites such as a pimento cheese ball served with housebaked naan. 371 Riverview Drive, 855535-9547, jekyllclub.com/jekyllisland-restaurants/eighty-oceankitchen-and-bar

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“Here, I like to drink a Negroni. And then the conversations at the bar are amazing—the bartenders are so personable.”


For a hint of Baja, Mexico, with a splash of tiki party, this festive atmosphere pairs well with a cerveza or salty margarita, especially when the cover band is jamming. 201 North Beachview Drive, 912-3422600, tortugajacks.com


You’ll have to compete with locals for a table at this low-key spot inside the Villas by the Sea Resort on Jekyll’s quieter north end. The menu specializes in homey classics such as pot roast and peach cobbler, with plenty of Lowcountry seafood to satisfy. 1175 North Beachview Drive, 912-635-3588, driftwoodbistro.com


Jekyll Island is home to twenty-eight restaurants and specialty eateries, many of which are located in historic buildings or just off the water. Browse a complete list of food and drink options—coffeehouses, sweets shops, casual family spots, fine dining, and more—at jekyllisland.com/dining.

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“The catfish dinner is gluten-free, and they use sustainable catfish, which is amazing. And the wild Georgia shrimp cake—oh yeah!”
austin lee
- RAIFORD SAYS“My go-to is the taco salad. It’s served with a corn/bean salsa dip that I just love—it’s like ‘whoa.’”
CheFarmer Matthew’s JEKYLL ISLAND PICKS CheFarmer Matthew’s JEKYLL ISLAND
Conserve. Preserve. Educate. JEKYLL ISLAND FOUNDATION | P.O. BOX 13002 | JEKYLL ISLAND, GA 31527 (912) 635-4100 | JEKYLLISLANDFOUNDATION.ORG jekylli slan d.com/campground Claim Your Perfect Campsite 158 spots for your tent or RV, 18 wooded acres, and all the s’mores you can eat.



Coasting down the smooth pavement along Ben Fortson Parkway, you try to wave at the oncoming cyclists. But you decide to keep hold of both handlebars and steady your own wobbling bicycle as you turn to cross the road and enter the forest. Gravel crunches beneath the tires. A tunnel of leaves and branches closes behind you. The breeze sweeps the sweat from your brow as you pick up speed. A squirrel scampers alongside, as if to join the joyride. Suddenly adrift in a maritime wilderness, you are twelve again. You stop and reach for the map. Unseen beasts rustle in the brush; crickets harmonize with their rhythmic whir. You leave the map in your pocket and press on, lost in the heart of the island, pushing forward without fear.

Fresh, local cuisine and lively entertainment on a fabulous riverfront setting

JEKYLLWHARF.COM | 912.635.3612
andrea fremiotti
St. Simons Island • Sea Island • Jekyll Island • Little St. Simons Island • Brunswick Goldenisles.com | (800) 933-2627 Find each of the famed St. Simons Island Tree Spirits as you explore the wonders of all the Golden Isles. Pick up the official Tree Spirit map at the Golden Isles Welcome Center at 529 Beachview Drive, St. Simons Island. a whole world of adventure. One destination,
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