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Jekyl Island Club, Brunswick, Georgia 1916
PDF Document of
Photos From Book
To live on an island! Who among us
but has felt the fascination of this idea? From the youngster
playing his first game of pirates and buried treasure to the oldster
who is beginning to weary somewhat of the pressure of his
omnipresent fellowmen, we all know the lure of the romance which
life on an island suggests.
*The write of this sketch wishes to acknowledge his indebtedness to Mr. Franklin H. Head, author of Legends of Jekyl Island, and to Mr. Charles Spalding Wylly, author of Memories (of Saint Simons). From both these works he has borrowed extensively, as also from Mr. J.A. Scrymser’s Jekyl Island, which is incorporated almost entire.
By day masses of wild flowers, and at night the splendor of myriad fireflies, light up its open spaces; and always, above the song of its mocking-birds, can be heard the rolling music of the surf as it beats on the miles of hard white beach the song of the sea.
But Jekyl is more than a few square
miles of beautiful scenery. Like its neighbor island to the north,
Saint Simons, it is rich in historical associations; its soil also
“is humanized and made dear by the spirits of those who have lived
on and in its neighborhood.”
“On the 17th
we took an observation, and found ourselves in latitude 30 deg. 30
min. N., and near a large island, which we felt sure was the land
where we had information of a Spanish settlement of magnitude.
Seeing some log houses, we decided to make a landing. We unfurled
the standard of Saint George and approached the shore in
great force, that we might impress the enemy with the great
puissance of your Majesty. The accursed Spaniards, concealed behind
the trees, fired upon us, and a sore and cruel fight seemed pendent,
when the enemy, stricken with fear, incontinently fled to their
homes, with their habiliments of war. One of our men was sorely
wounded by the Spanish Captain, whom we presently made prisoner,
and, having set up a gallows, we there hanged him in a chain by the
middle, and afterwards consumed with fire, gallows and all.
Obviously the first island visited
by this gentlemanly pirate was Cumberland, to the south of Jekyl,
and the second Jekyl itself.
“The next morning, being now nearly arrived at the Florida coast, we landed upon an island in latitude 31 deg. 12 min. N. for a supply of fresh water…..
“Near the spot where we landed we found an abundance of fresh water and also a few huts, which were inhabited by peaceable savages. Much surprised were we to find that they spoke a language in which were found occasionally French words. WE soon learned that they were largely the descendants of a Frenchman who had long before lived upon the island and married many Indian wives. From him the place was called ‘Jacques Island.’ The natural depravity of the pagans appeared, as we noticed that the French words were few in their usual conversation, but that thay had hoarded many French curses and bitter profanities, which they heaped upon us as we left the island, for no other reason, as we could conjecture, except that we had taken with us their cattle, weapons, furs, provisions and other articles which might be useful to us thereafter.”
Here again we notice the cheerful way in which robbery and pillage of the harmless natives is mentioned as the most
natural thing in the world, as well as the
robber’s heartfelt surprise at the unexpected and unchristian
contumacy of his victims.
“Since your departure, my dearest husband, all the pigs have escaped into the dreadful wilderness about us, and we fear daily that thay will be captured and eaten by the savages. The Chief, Altamaha, and his band, are still upon the island, and yesterday he came and begged tobacco and sugar, and also demanded of me our maid servant Elizabeth as his wife, much to her astonishment and terror. He was dressed in all his barbaric finery, painted and bedaubed in as many colors as the coat of Joseph, and decorated with feathers, bear’s claws, and bright colored shells, as befitted a man equipped for female conquest. The wretched pagan has already three wives, whom he treats worse than beasts of burden, and I think this somewhat influenced Elizabeth, as, had he been unmarried, the prospect of being a queen, even of the wild and savage Tuscaroras, might have moved her.”
Again, in 1763, Charles Wesley writes from Jekyl to Lady Oglethorpe herself in Savannah:
“I have this day returned from the trip to the Ogeechee River, where I suffered many hardships and privations from the inhospitable weather. With my brother John, I preached to the Indians, whenever we could find them in any considerable numbers, although I fear but little impression was made upon them….
“Last evening I wandered to the north end of the island and stood upon the narrow point, which your ladyship will recall as there projecting into the ocean. The vastness of the watery waste, as compared with my standing place, called to mind the breifness of human life, and the immensity of its consequences, and my surroundings inspired me to write a hymn, commencing:
Lo! on a narrow neck of land,
“Twixt two unbounded seas, I stand,
which I trust may pleasure your ladyship, weak and feeble as it is when compared with the songs of the sweet psalmist of Israel. I feel that here, like Moses, I am a stranger in a strange land, and I pray hourly that when the night cometh, and when deep sleep falleth me, I may not be found without a wedding garment.”
and John Wesley, writing to the General at the Island, admits that he himself is not above experiencing the weakness of the flesh:
“Verily the flesh is weak, for I cannot but long for the day when again I may visit you and enjoy the flesh-pots of Jekyl Island. I can with difficulty eat the food of the savages. Insects bite and destroy my sleep. I am as a skeleton, and the evil one continually suggest that I murmur at my lot, and seek an easier way in which to server the Lord.”
But perhaps the most illuminating and amusing of all the documents extant bearing upon Jekyl Island, is a letter from Lady Oglethorpe to her father-in-law:
“Dear and Honored Parent:
“I take my pen in hand to inform you that my dear husband and myself are well and I hope these few lines may find you in the enjoyment of the same great blessing. We are now established in our new home on Jekyl Island, and I would fain give you a picture of this abode of the Governor of this promising colony. The mansion is built of pine logs, plastered, where plastered at all, with clay, and surrounded by a dense forest. The house is very large and commodious, but lacking many of the conveniences of our pleasant home in Surrey. We sleep on beds made of pine leaves, which are most comfortable and exhale a
balsamic fragrance supposed to be conducive to health. Our floors are of split pine logs, and about the walls are wooden pegs upon which to hang our gowns. Much of our china was broken on our journey hither, and we use instead the pewter mugs and plates brought for our servants. A few red savages are near us, living in wigwams, who beg often for tobacco, but bring us in return an abundance of venison and fish. The secretary of the colony, Charles Wesley, dwells with us upon the island, and is zealous to save the souls of the Indians who come hither to hunt and fish. He baptized a week since one Indian and made him a part of Christianity, but later, for what reasons we cannot divine, though certainly through evil temptations of the father of idolatry, the devil, he suddenly cast off the Christian religion and abandoned the true, divine worship. Mr. Wesley has also the gift of verse, and has written many sweet hymns, which we sing in our family worship….
“From what I have written, you must not infer that we live altogether a lonely and quite life. We have twice visited Charleston, the principal city of South Carolina, where we have been sumptuously entertained by the governor and principal citizens, whom we have, of course, invited to visit us in return. Recently we received word that our invitations would be accepted. We had informed them of our primitive mode of life, which they fully realized, having been in similar conditions themselves. Last Wednesday we were startled by a long blast from a conch shell, and on going to the beach saw a large party approaching in a flat-boat, men, women, negroes, horses and dogs. They were soon disembarked and at the house, where General Oglethorpe made them welcome with an abundance of rum made by the Puritans in that part of America called New England. They then told us that not to
overtax our hospitalities, they had brought with them an abundance of food and servants, and proposed to go at once to some suitable place upon the shore and roast oysters. We set out for a cove about a mile distant from our home. The progress towards it was a striking and curious pageant. First, marched as trumpeter, a stalwart negro, blowing a conch shell and producing a dismal and incessant blare. Then General Oglethorpe on horseback, with myself behind him on a pillion, and a negro on a mule, carrying my best hat in a box, lest it be destroyed by the trees and bushes. Then our family coach, with one wheel missing from an encounter with a stump, the axle being held up by a pole, and, within, the family of Governor Pickens, his wife, sister and a niece, Miss Mercy Pickens. Then two open wagons with the other ladies of the party, and some jugs of rum and boxes of food. About these rode the gentleman on horses and mules, among them Mr. George Moultrie, a gallant young man who is soon to wed Miss Mercy, before named. Around the cavalcade swarmed the negroes, shouting and laughing, rolling their white eyes, and showing their white teeth in contrast to their shining black skins, and singing songs full of melody and pathos.
“The road to the beach, while rude and rough for vehicles by reason of roots and stumps, is of wonderful beauty, bordered with great growths of evergreen, oaks and magnolias, with thickets of myrtle and bay, and a carpet of dwarf palmetto, all of most lustrous green, and the trees often festooned or bound together with trailing garlands of pale, gray moss. The most perfect art could devise nothing more beautiful than the tropical glories of this forest drive. When we reached the cove the negroes waded into the water and brought ashore great baskets of oysters, which they roasted in a fire kindled from branches of the
fragrant pine. General Oglethorpe brewed a large tub of rum punch, while I made a bowl of delicious sangaree with wine from your own cellar, which has been with us from the time of our leaving dear old England. No one neglected these beverages, and with the oysters, the cheese and other viands with which we were provided, a royal banquet was enjoyed. Many of the gentlemen were nearly overcome with the rum punch, although insisting that it was the roasted oysters which made their legs unsteady, and this had nearly led Mr. Wesley into serious trouble with Mr. Moultrie, whose almost maudlin attentions to his sweetheart, Miss Mercy, were constant and even annoying to her.
“As Mr. Wesley drank no punch, they insisted he should sing, and he commenced one of his hymns which is a favorite with us:
‘Depths of mercy, can there by
Mercy still reserved for me?—
“’Hold,’ shouted Mr. Moultrie, ‘none of your damned presumption. Mercy is not reserved for you or any of your kind. She is mine and mine alone.’ General Oglethorpe interfered and endeavored to explain, but Mr. Moultrie would listen to nothing, and proposed to give the Secretary a drubbing on the spot. I succeeded in quieting him, and asked Mr. Wesley to substitute another hymn, whereupon he commenced:
‘The day of jubilee is come
Return ye ransomed sinners home.’
“’What,’ shouted my husband, ‘are you ordering away my guests on their very arrival? None of your foolishness!’ ‘Sir,’ said Mr. Wesley, ‘I was not addressing your guests. I do not consider them as ransomed sinners.’
“’What do you mean?’ said Governor Pickens; ‘go and drum your nonsense into the wooly heads of the negroes.’
“The riot was presently at an end, Mr. Wesley returning to the house, and was forgotten after the gentlemen had slept off their potations.
“The party remained with us for three days, until the rum was exhausted.”
With all sympathy for the reverend gentleman whose taste in sacred song led him into such unexpected troubles, it is hardly possible to read this artless narrative without a smile, and the concluding words of our quotation seem to give a singularly human touch to the whole affair.
Whitfield built and
Orphanage on Jekyl while Oglethorpe was still there, and we
have two letters on the subject from him to General Oglethorpe,
written at dates some thirty years apart.
But these patriarchal times in
Jekyl were soon over, for in 1742 came the Spanish invasion; and
5,000 regular soldiers and 29 vessels of war approached to answer
Oglethorpe’s attack on Florida.
and Noble’s Scouts; but in the
extraordinary victory of Bloody Marsh, on Saint Simons, the enemy
was defeated with a loss of over a thousand men; and the invasion
The French Royalists
The French Revolution was not
without its effects even on so remote a shore as that of Jekyl.
What unwritten history, what
unknown tragedies were consigned to oblivion when his house was torn
down, and bundles of records thrown into the fire by a carpenter who
could not read French, only the imagination can conceive.
From this time on the story is one
of dwindling resources and of an estate increasingly reclaimed by
wild nature, until the war between the States gave the finishing
touch, and turned all the flourishing plantations of the
neighborhood, rice, cotton and cane, into desolation.
Associations of the Neighborhood
Though the literary associations of
Jekyl itself are principally concerned with the Wesleys and
the Oglethorpes, the neighborhood is one of unusual literary
spell of sister island Saint Simons. There
also Audubon stayed, and on the occasion of his second visit
to America in 1846, Sir Charles Lyell, the famous English
geologist, wrote in praise of its life and its people. Miss
Bremmer, author of Homes in the New World, and Miss
Amelia Murray both visited it and recorded their impressions,
and here it was that Aaron Burr drew out the plan of his
“Phantom Empire,” though the house in which he wrote on Saint Simons
was undermined in 1824 by a freshet and carried away.
one service; the dessert was simple, tartlets
of orange marmalade, dried fruits and nuts. The dishes disposed of,
amid general gossip and talk, and the cloth drawn, the great
punchbowl with its mixture of rum, brandy, sugar, lemon-juice and
peel, was brought in. The wine glasses were pushed aside and stubby
pottle-shaped glass mugs were handed around; and the chairman of the
meeting, rising, announced that the health of the President of the
United States would be drank, standing and with cheers. After this
opening of the evening, there was much filling of mugs, nodding of
heads, one to the other, with short words of good wishes, such as
“Happy days to you,” “Here’s to you,” and the like.
The Island Today
Since that time, good taste, energy
and wealth have turned beautiful Jekyl into a little paradise of
comfort and health-giving relaxation.
The island embraces, altogether,
twenty-two square miles or fourteen thousand acres. On its eastern
side are eleven miles of beach as hard as a shell road, and on the
western side is a landing which is reached by a pleasant sail in the
Club Steamer, from Brunswick.
A fine vegetable garden supplies
the Club with early and delicious vegetables.
and clumps of Bayonet palmetto. Wild orange
trees, loaded with fruit and fragrant blossoms, are plentiful.
“I thank you for my two weeks at Jekyl Island. They were most enjoyable and how could they be otherwise, surrounded as I was with charming, well-bred people, with an interesting golf course, and men to play with whose keen interest in the game and spirit of fun made eighteen holes a real treat.
“Then came a drive
through those woodland groves, along that wonderful beach, and,
after a good dinner, an evening before the wood fire in the smoking
room, listening to men who have seen and done things; men with war
experience and stories of hunting and yachting and traveling, here
and in other lands, interspersed with wit and humor, and, think of
it, no gossip. I, for once, did not miss the band and music and the
dancing which are found in so many of our Southern watering-places.
Those beautiful moonlight nights and the days when the air was
filled with a perfume of flowers and the mocking-birds were singing
in the trees, were much more to my taste, and when it came to
Sunday, the services in the little Chapel, were eminent bishops and
divines discoursed upon things which every thoughtful man is
thinking about, suited me.
come there, restored to health and strength, you fell that there must be some combination of circumstances that makes the place so attractive and restoring. The real spirit of comradeship, which makes all, old and young, feel that they belong to the family, stimulates one to give of their best for the pleasure of others.”
It can readily be seen from the foregoing that the Jekyl Island Club is what its projectors planned, a Southern home, free from all the noise and convulsion of a fashionable watering-place. The whole environment is one of refinement, and the Club to-day is one of the most restful places in America.
Original Members—Jekyl Island Club
Members Alive and Dead—Also Resigned
Present Membership 1919
ALBRIGHT, J.J., Buffalo, N.Y., November
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