European-influenced history on Jekyll Island began with General James Oglethorpe, who led a British ship in 1732 to found the colony of Georgia. Major William Horton was Oglethorpe’s second-in-command. He built his first house on the island in 1736, but the Spaniards destroyed this wooden structure. Horton, who was in charge of troops at Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island, used tabby construction for his second home. Tabby is a type of concrete. It comes from burning oyster shells to create lime and then mixing it with broken oyster shells, sand, ash, and water. Horton House is the oldest standing structure in Georgia, though only its shell is intact.
Horton’s plantation on Jekyll produced hops and barley. He made beer near his home at what was, in effect, Georgia’s first brewery. You can see the remains of the brewery across the street from the house. The beer and other plantation crops supplied Fort Frederica.
The house and island passed through several hands before being bought by the DuBignon family. The Horton Historic Site incorporates the remains of their family graveyard. The Jekyll Club Era of the island began with John DuBignon selling the island to a group of wealthy New Yorkers for use as a hunting club.
Today Horton House makes for an interesting stop along a bike or car tour of the island. You can read more of its history on the plaques outside the structure or just catch your breath while viewing this piece of the island’s past.
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