Horton House in Jekyll Island, Georgia History & Hauntings

When visiting this idyllic island, many folks find themselves driving past the Horton House at Jekyll Island, Georgia. While the island took steps in the preservation of Horton House throughout history, the home is completely gutted and presents an eerie backdrop as you learn about the history of the island. Because the home lacks a roof, you can explore the Horton House ruins and remain in the elements of nature.

Address of Horton House: North Riverview Drive Jekyll Island, GA 31527

Horton House faces the ocean, and you will pass it on the left if you are going north on Riverview. There is no street number assigned.

Images of Horton House frame on Jekyll Island

Do you have to pay to park on Jekyll Island?

Yes. You have to pay a daily fee for admission to the island, as it’s a state park. If you are a repeat visitor, there is also an annual pass to the island.

Do you have to pay to visit Horton House?

No. Admission to Horton House and the land surrounding it is free. Horton House is open 24/7 and does not close. The self-guided tour includes signs throughout to describe the history. There are interpretive panels throughout the site where you can learn about the site’s history.

Is Horton House on Jekyll Island pet-friendly?

Yes, you can bring your leashed furry friend to the grounds of Horton House. It’s also easy to access with or without your pet. Horton House has free parking next to the road and is accessible by foot and bike.

Plaque stating 'Major William Horton born in England, Came to Georgia in 1736, Died in 1748. These are the remains of Horton's tabby house. Major Horton of Oglethorpe's regiment the first English resident of Jekyll Island, erected on the north end of Jekyll a two-story dwelling and large barn. He cleared fields here for cultivation of crops which supplied the settlers at Frederica on St. Simon's Island...

Where is Jekyll Island?

Jekyll Island is a barrier island off the coast near Brunswick, Georgia. It’s midway between Jacksonville, FL and Savannah, GA in Glynn County. It is one of the Golden Isles of Georgia together with St. Simon Island, Sea Island, and Little St. Simon.

Who owns Jekyll Island?

Throughout history, ownership of the island has changed hands many times. Currently, the island is owned by the state of Georgia and run by the Jekyll Island Authority.

What is the Jekyll Island Club?

Historically, the island is best known for the renowned members of the Jekyll Island Club, a hunting and recreational club. The Club was a second home to famous families like the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and Pulitzers. The wealthy elite built mansions that were known as cottages. You can tour famous cottages like Crane Cottage, Dubignon Cottage, Mistletoe Cottage, and Hollybourne Cottage.

In 1929, significant changes occurred on the island. The Great Depression affected even the wealthy and club membership became an extravagant and unnecessary purchase. J.P. Morgan stepped up and took control of the club in 1931, but membership slowly dropped through the 1930s. As members left, many donated their cottages to the club.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, German U-boats were sighted off the coast of the Georgia coast near St. Simon Island. The president ordered the club’s closing within hours. The submarines sunk multiple ships and tankers off the coast and provided a very real threat.

The club opened for the last time in 1942, and for five more years, caretakers took care of the exquisite cottages. In 1947, the state of Georgia bought the island for $675K and opened it as a state park. In 1978, the grounds of the club were named a historic landmark. The Jekyll Island Club has been operating as a luxury resort ever since 1985.

Spanish moss from ancient trees at the Horton House property on Jekyll Island

What are the best family-friendly activities on Jekyll Island?

I recommend visiting the Jekyll Island Club, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, and other family-friendly activities on our list of the best things to do on Jekyll Island. Jekyll Island is also known for its birds and beaches. While there are hotels and restaurants on the island, 65% of the land is non-buildable and must remain in a natural state.

Sign up for our Best Jekyll Island Activities Guide FREE.

Are you looking to pair a historical tour with a visit to one of the highest-ranked beaches in the USA? Driftwood Beach is one of the top 25 beaches in the United States. The Horton House is not far from Driftwood Beach, making it the perfect place to visit on your beach day.

What is Horton House at Jekyll Island?

Horton House is the first home on Jekyll Island. Parts of the home are over 300 years old, making it one of the oldest standing structures in Georgia. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Horton House at Jekyll Island is one of the oldest tabby houses. They made the tabby houses by burning oyster shells (to create lime) mixed with sand, crushed shells, and water. Next, they pour the slurry into forms to construct the building.

The space where the chimney was at Horton House on Jekyll Island showcasing the shells in the tabby house build.

What happened to the Horton House on Jekyll Island?

In 1890, the Jekyll Island Club started preservation efforts that continued with architects hired by the Jekyll Island Authority in the 1960s. The citizens of this island have continued to fight to maintain history over the centuries. The frame of Horton House remains today.

Who were the Hortons of Jekyll Island?

The trustees of the colony of Georgia granted William Horton the land of Jekyll Island in 1735. He paid one pound and one shilling for 500 acres of coastal land and promised to improve the land with ten indentured servants. Horton came to Georgia in 1736 without his family and was the first English resident on Jekyll Island.

When he arrived, William Horton cleared the land, built a two-story home, and erected a barn. Initially, he was responsible for feeding the troops nearby. Eventually, William Horton was in charge of the troops stationed at Ford Frederica on nearby St. Simon’s Island.

An image of the original tabby house when it was built.

During his time on the island, he was General Oglethorpe’s top military aide in the fledgling colony. He was an English Major in the war and fought the Spanish in the Battle of Bloody Marsh at nearby St. Simon’s Island.

In short, he immigrated to this island before his family, and it took him three years to return for his wife and two children. Times must have been different then because I would not be very impressed if I were Mrs. William Horton.

What is the history of the Horton House?

Horton House at Jekyll Island has a fascinating history. The land was ideal for farming, so he grew several crops to supply himself and the local Frederica Settlement. Among these crops were hops and rye, so William Horton built the first brewery.

This land was where he also brewed Georgia colonists’ first beer at his Jekyll Island plantation. Curiously, the brewery thrived despite the prohibition of alcohol by Georgia’s founders. However, beer was safer than water, so it became a staple for the colony.

Two children at Horton House on Jekyll Island near chimney

Interestingly, the Horton House you can visit is not the original. As the Spanish retreated from the Battle of Bloody Marsh on St. Simon, they burnt the original Horton House to the ground. After the Spanish attack destroyed his first home on the island, Horton used indentured servants to rebuild the home in 1743. That home still stands today, thanks to preservation efforts.

Is the Horton House haunted?

It’s hard not to wonder if the ruins at the Horton House are haunted- the looming structure and grounds feel eerie. I am not sure I’d want to get caught on Horton’s grounds alone at night. Horton House features whispers that make you question what spirits are swirling around.

Following the Hortons, the DuBignons owned Jekyll Island from 1790 to 1886. They occupied the Horton House from 1790 to the middle of the 1800s. The site at Horton House includes the DuBignon family cemetery. Locals describe periodic cemetery hauntings, including lights and shadows that appear and vanish just as quickly.

The patriarch of the DuBignon family, Christophe, is believed to be elsewhere on the property in an unmarked grave. There are five graves in total, with three belonging to members of the DuBignon family and two employees of the Jekyll island club.

  • Ann Amelia (Nicolau) DuBignon: Ann (from Bordeaux) married Henri Charles DuBignon in 1808 and gave birth to nine children.
  • Joseph DuBignon: One of Ann and Henri’s children, born on Jekyll Island.
  • Marie Felicite Riffault: Joseph’s mother-in-law was born in the French colony Saint Dominique.
  • Hector DeLiyannis: A hotel employee drowned in the river on March 12, 1912. Hector was from the ancient Greek city Smyrna.
  • George F. Harvey: A Jekyll Island Club hotel staff member drowned on the same day as DeLiyannis. He was from England.

If you love ghost tours, check out our visit to Haunted Denver.

Are there Jekyll Island ghosts elsewhere?

Of course, there are! Jekyll Island has been home to pirates, a hunting club, and wealthy visitors over the years. Travelers have even seen a ghost ship sailing along the Atlantic shore. There are many other ghost stories, particularly featuring the Jekyll Island Club.

  • The president of the Southern Railroad Company haunts the Jekyll Island Club. Samuel Spencer was a former guest at the Jekyll Island hotel who would have the Wall Street Journal delivered to his room to read while drinking his morning coffee. He died in a train accident in 1906, but the legend is that he continues to partake in his newspaper and coffee ritual. When left attended, guests in Spencer’s room describe their newspaper being moved or folded and coffee may be poured or drank.
  • A former bellman also makes appearances at the Jekyll Island hotel. Particularly, he visits the second floor of the building and knocks on the door of soon-to-be grooms.
  • If you’re looking for a friendly ghost who loves to help, visit room 3101 of the Annex. Charlotte Maurice haunts this room and wants you to live your best life.
  • Suite 2416 on the second floor of the Clubhouse features doors that blow open with a bright light and slam shut.

Can you rent out the Horton House at Jekyll Island for events?

Whether you’re dreaming of hosting your wedding or family reunion, you can create a dream event underneath the sweeping trees at Horton House. Believe it or not, the venue costs only $1000 to rent for seven hours (2023).

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Horton House in Jekyll Island, GA: history and hauntings
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