The Story of Jekyll Island

The Story of Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island is located in Coastal Georgia. Frist discovered by Native Americans who inhabited the area in groups of thousands when the French arrived in 1562, it wasn’t permanently settled until the English came and claimed the land for their country. General Oglethorpe founded Georgia in 1733 and named the territory Jekyll Island, named after a prominent sponsor named Sir Joseph Jekyll.

Major William Horton was assigned to build an outpost there, to protect nearby Fort Fredricka on St. Simons Island. While there, Horton had indentured servants build a plantation. It was a prosperous endeavor, and went through many owners after his death. Eventually, it was purchased by Christopher Poulain DuBignon.

For nearly a century it was passed down through the DuBignon family, until Christopher’s great-grandson had the idea to market the island as a prime hunting spot. What is now known as the Jekyll Island Club took notice of the property and purchased it in 1886. Club members included big names like the Rockefeller's, Pultizer's, Vanderbilt's and J.P. Morgan. At the end of World War II, the club disbanded and the Sate of Georgia took over ownership and made the island into a State Park. 

Throughout Jekyll Island’s time as private property, it went through a number of historical moments.

  • British ships attacked the island many times throughout the War of 1812, raiding the home of Christophe DuBignon four times.
  • In 1910, Senator Nelson Aldrich brought a group of financial leaders to Jekyll Island to discuss the idea that would eventually become the Federal Reserve.
  • A national phone call took place for the first time in 1915 between five locations: Washington DC, New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Jekyll Island!

In 1947, the state of Georgia bought the island from the Jekyll Island Club for $675,000. It was turned into a resort accessible by drawbridge. In 1961, history was made on the island, with the first black-owned motel opening. The Dolphin Club was the only place in Georgia where Black people could come and enjoy the beach without fear of hate or segregation during this time. Jekyll Island was a safe haven for locals then and continues to be a beautiful vacation spot today.

Several new attractions have been built within the last two decades, including the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and Jekyll Island Convention Center. Most recently, the Beach Village Shopping Center opened, inviting tourists to walk the streets and window-shop the many stores that line the block.

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