Wormsloe Plantation
County:Chatham
City:Savannah
Type:State Park, Home, Fort
Entrance to Wormsloe Plantation
Entrance to
Wormsloe Plantation
Noble Jones was a man on whom James Oglethorpe could depend. Jones, who had served as carpenter, constable and doctor to the colonists was also the man who laid out the city of Augusta, when Oglethorpe ordered him to do so in 1736. That same year Oglethorpe and the Trustees leased 500 acres to Jones, who began work on a combination plantation/fort along the Skidaway River, one of a myriad of Georgia's coastal rivers. Two other colonists, John Fallowfield and Henry Parker, joined Jones on this "Isle of Hope."

Boats coming from the South Georgia coast and West Indies would frequently use the Skidaway as a shortcut to Savannah, putting Jones in an ideal spot to observe a potentially devastating "back-door" attack on Savannah. Work on a guardhouse, the initial structure at the site, began in 1739, after three years of clearing land, digging wells and trying to grow enough food to feed all the mouths on Wormsloe Plantation. On Septermber 29, 1740, approval was received to built a more suitable structure, made of tabby. About the time work on the home began, George Whitefield started Bethesda Orphan's Home, which is nearby.

Wormsloe Plantation house map
Layout map of
Wormsloe Fort/house
Building a fort in coastal Georgia was not an easy task. While land-based forts of wood held up well, a fort near water would have to withstand adverse conditions as well as Spanish cannon, so once approval was received, Jones built Wormsloe out of tabby, a mixture of limestone, sand and water with shells thrown in for good measure. The compound was a small enclosure, with a house built on the same spot where the current ruins are. The house actually shared a wall with the fort, probably to reduce the cost. It was 32' by 24', about twice the size of homes being built in Savannah at that time and similar in size to those being built in Frederica.

Above the tabby walls of the structure, a wooden structure provided additional height to the home, probably to provide cover for soldiers returning fire to any attackers, although the wooden structure also had day-to-day uses, the most important being an air pocket to insulate the tabby dwelling. The rough-surfaced tabby would have been covered with plaster and painted with "whitewash." Within the compound was an outhouse and servants quarters were outside.

Tabby walls of Wormsloe Plantation
Tabby walls
Inset:close-up showing shells
In 1740, war with the Spanish (The War of Jenkins Ear) broke out and Jones spent much of his time fighting alongside General Oglethorpe. He organized a marine patrol, which used Wormsloe as headquarters. When hostilities came to an end following the Battle of Bloody Marsh in 1742, Jones returned home and began a career as both a businessman and horticulturist.

When the Trustees relinquished control of the state Jones applied to the king for a grant of land including the 500 acres on Skidaway. The land was granted to him in 1756. In 1765 John and William Bartram described Wormsloe Plantation in detail on a journey to the Southeastern coast.

One of Jones' sons, Noble Wimberly Jones, played a pivotal role in American Revolution. He led the Patriots in the General Assembly, twice elected as House leader and both times rejected by the royal governor. All this occurred while the elder Jones was on the royal governor's council. When Noble Jones died in 1775, his son did not inherit Wormsloe. In a will date June 17, 1767, Jones left the plantation to his daughter Mary. After the start of the war Jones served as a line officer, being captured in the fall of Charleston, SC. and serving time as a prisoner of war.

In 1793, work began on a new tabby home at Wormsloe, the remains of which can be seen today. It is doubtful that Mary, sick and bedridden in Savannah, ever saw the home. She died in 1795, and Noble Wimberly Jones received the estate. Jones continued to play a role in Savannah city government until 1803, when he quit the council in disgust. In 1812 he returned to become mayor of the city.

Lightly defended at the end of the Civil War Wormsloe, now owned by the DeRenne's (a Jones by marraige) fell into Union hands after a contingent of 176 troops were removed from Fort Wimberly on December 19, 1864. Two days later the city of Savannah fell. DeRenne worked hard to restore Georgia while working to improve the lives of former slaves, passing away in 1875. In a complex will he left Wormsloe to his wife so long as she did not remarry.

In 1890, the road to Wormsloe was lined with live oak, creating the stunning, mile-long "Avenue of Live Oak" entrance so frequently associated with the plantation. Family members gave a portion of the original tract to the state of Georgia, for use as a state park. Descendants of the Jones family still live on site, although their living quarters are separated by a fence.

Visiting Wormsloe

Tree-lined entrance to Wormsloe Plantation
Tree-lined boulevard leading to Wormsloe
The entrance to Wormsloe Plantation is probably just what most Americans think of when talking about a Southern Coastal plantation. The picturesque arch leading to quiet country lane lined with live oak tress. One person commented that the drive down this road was worth the price of admission alone.

Just inside the park there is a gatehouse, where visitors may pay admission, or continue on to the Visitor Center. Here is the entrance to the trail you will follow to get to Wormsloe, plus a small museum and gift shop. The trail (total walk 1.0 miles), when walked in a counter-clockwise direction, takes you first to an intepretive area where many of the demonstrations and reenactments are held. A "wattle and daub" house, typical of early Georgia, is in this area.

The path then follows near the river bank to the remains of the 1793 home. This is the site where Jones built his first home and fort. There is also a scenic overlook of the Skidaway River and a small family graveyard that may be visited.

A interesting highlight is a "shell midden," common along Georgia's coast. Although frequently called "mounds" these shell middens are the product of aboriginal Indians of the Late Archaic period (around 2000 BC) and not the later Moundbuilders, which also inhabited Georgia's coast. These middens are small, but are a major indication of the evolution of the Archaic Indians, who discovered the resources of the Atlantic Ocean and spread along the coast of the Southeastern United States.

Location: Isle of Hope, South of Savannah
Directions: Take I-16 to exit 164A (I-516 / W. F. Lynes Pkwy). Take I-516 to the end, where it becomes S.R. 21, then continue on to Skidaway Rd, a total of 6.6 miles. Turn right on Skidaway and continue for 2.8 miles to the entrance to Wormsloe on the right.
Additional information:
Address:
7601 Skidaway Rd
Savannah, GA 31406
Phone:
912 353-3023

Date added: January 9, 2004
Last update: August 11, 2004

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