Chesser Island, Okefenokee Swamp
Charlton Co., GA

Chesser Homestead FrontI, Tara Fields, took the following pictures.  Feel free to copy the pictures as long as they are used for non-profit reasons and proper credit is given.  All indoor pictures were taken with no flash or any type of electrical light - the only light source was what made it through the windows.  I've attempted to lighten them up somewhat.

Although we live only about an hour from the park we have not made this trip very often; three times, I believe.   We made this trip in the fall of 1996.  The bugs were bad but the heat was tolerable.  I think the bugs were attracted to my bug spray...

The vast majority of the people living in this area were good, hardworking, honest, god-fearing people.  They loved, respected, and took pride in the swamp for they knew it was special.  Many attended the Primitive Baptist Churches that dotted the area.  Based on everything I have read and all the people I have talked to, the people of the swamp were intelligent, wise people.  Contrary to some popular stereotypes, the people of the swamp were NOT ignorant, barely civilized people.  You see, if they were not intelligent and wise, they would not have been able to survive in the Okefenokee. Chesser Homestead Front

In the early 1900s, Francis Harper, a naturalist, began collecting information on not only the swamp but mostly on the people who populated the swamp.  One of the families he spent time with was the Chessers.  Since the Chesser house that still stands on the island was built in the 1920's, chances are he at least visited it.  Information on Harper's book is listed at the end of this page.  I am not sure, but it could very well be the same one whose pictures are included in the book.  The island was deserted sometime around the late 1940's.  The Chessers were members of the Sardis Primitive Baptist Church.

Chesser Island: Indian MoundTo the side of the house is a large Indian Burial Mound.  Apparently, this was left by a race of Indians that came before the Seminoles.  The Indians buried in this area are said to be over 6 feet tall.  It is hard to tell, but this mound was at least 2-3 feet high.  Locals tended to leave alone the mounds that dotted the swamp.

Chesser Island was the home to the family of the same name for around a century.  Most people living in the swamp lived off hunting and/or fur trading, making honey and syrup, raising animals, and farming.  The families of the swamp, including the Chessers, finally had to move off the island when the Okefenokee became a refuge.


Chesser Island: Sand YardIn this photo, James and Robin are walking away from the mound into the front yard of the house.  The house is to the left and to the right is a large open area.  Straight ahead is the shed/buggy garage with a fenced in pen around the back.
Chesser Island: Outbuildings

Dirt yards were common.  Straw brooms were used to keep the sand clean.  Weeds were pulled as needed.   View down the left side of the house when facing the front.   Yes, the building in back and to the far left is an outhouse.

Chesser Island: My boysRobin sitting on a fence to one of the pens with James standing nearby.
Chesser Island: CarriageThe carriages that are in the "garage." Chesser Island: Carriage Chesser Island: Side of house

This is the left side of the house - to the right is the front porch.

When you enter the house through the front door a bedroom lays to the right and the living room is to the left.  The living room was much to dark to get a good picture.

Once through the living room is another bedroom on the left.  I was able to get a decent picture of part of it here.

While the parents had their own room, which may be shared from time-to-time with a baby, the children generally shared rooms.

Chesser Island: BedroomAfter passing the bedroom shown in this picture, it is only a few steps to the back of the house where the kitchen is.

Chesser Island: KitchenThis is the kitchen.  There was no "formal" dining room.  I have no idea who is signing the guest book - so I blurred out her face.

Chesser Home Fireplace

Fireplace in the main, front, room.

Chesser Island: Stove.This stove is against the back wall of the kitchen.  The dining table is to the right when entering the kitchen.  Robin is standing next to the wood burning stove.  Robin was about 3 feet tall at the time.  The stick is holding the door closed.

Outside, the bugs kept us moving quickly along!  While the windows had screens over them, there was some small spaces between the floor, wall, and ceiling planks.  However, I never noticed any bugs inside.

All indoor pictures were taken with no flash or any type of electrical light - the only light source was what made it through the windows.  I have attempted to lighten them up somewhat.

Chesser Island: Pump and TubWhen facing the front of the house, the porch is on the left side.  You would enter the porch from the kitchen.  There is no indoor plumbing so bathing was done in the bathtub on the screened in porch - notice the hand pump.

Chesser Island: Back of HouseThis is the back of the house.  To the very left is a bedroom, in the center is the kitchen (with the chimney), and to the right is the back porch.  The house is in relatively good shape.  All of the walls are unpainted.

Chesser Island: Lizard on GateThis little fella was sunning himself on the gate to the fence that surrounds the backyard.  I didn't see many animals on the island.  A few reptiles and some birds.  While I'm sure there are probably still deer out there, they kept well away from the homestead!

Chesser Island: Sugar ShedThis is the view from the back yard of the house.  Inside this sugar cane shed it's dark but clean.  Inside this building the Chessers would boil sugar cane to make sugar cane syrup.  Every October folks gather at the homestead to eat, drink, and make cane syrup!

Chesser Island: Iron PotThe cast-iron pot was used to make once-famous Chesser Island Sugar Cane Syrup.  In the shed are other farming tools - long unused.

Shed Water PumpBoth water pumps - the one in the house and the one in the shed, still work.

Chesser Island: Meat ShedAfter entering the backyard from the kitchen, there is a smokehouse on the right side of the house.  Meat was hung from the ceiling to cure.  These outbuildings also held tools of all sorts and jarred goods.

Chesser Island: Side of houseWhen facing the back of the house this would be the right side.  The back porch (where the bathtub is) and the living room chimney are visible.  The object to the right is a whetstone used to sharpen blades.

Chesser Island: Grinding StoneA better picture of the stone - handsomely displayed by my one and only!

Chesser Island: Sugar Cane GrinderThis device is used to grind sugar cane.  A pair of horses were attached to either end of the long, horizontal, pole.  The turning causes the cane to be ground between stones.  Carl Mobley said that the barrel caught the juice.  It was then boiled down into syrup.

Chesser Island: Well


The hand-drawn well with pulley system.

Chesser Island: Well

The hand-drawn well with pulley system.

Cut Wood Pile



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