The Clothes Hanger

It was an old almost antique looking wooden clothes hanger, the Wanderer Resort Motel inscribed on one side and  Jeckyll Island Georgia on the other. I’ve never been to Georgia.

Intrigued that we even possessed a clothes hanger from a resort so “special” its name belonged on a wooden coat hanger, I began my search.

According to The Wanderer Resort Motel on Jeckyll Island Georgia is the, “Largest and most luxurious resort motel on Georgia’s Golden Isles. Miles of beach, protected yacht harbor, airstrip, golf course, 2 swimming pools, 2 wading pools, just off Route #17 near Brunswick, Georgia.”

Nice to know, but doesn’t answer all of my questions, where is Jeckyll Island being one of them.

Turns out that Jeckyll Island is off the southern coast of Georgia, the US state. According to an article in Wikipedia,

“Jekyll Island is one of only four Georgia barrier islands that feature a paved causeway to access the island by car. It features 5,700 acres (23 km2) of land, including 4,400 acres (18 km2) of solid earth and a 200-acre (0.81 km2) Jekyll Island Club Historic District. The rest is tidal marshlands, mostly on the island’s western shore. The island measures about 7 miles (11 km) long by 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide, has 8 miles (13 km) of wide, flat beaches on its east shore with sand packed hard enough for easy walking or biking, and boasts 20 miles (32 km) of hiking trails.”

Historically the Island was home to the Native American  Muskogian tribes, who were indigenous to the south-eastern states of America. They called the area their chiefdom of Guale.

The first Europeans arrived from Spain in 1510 and renamed it Isla De Ballenas or  Whale Island. In 1562 French explorer Jean Ribault claimed the Island for the French and renamed it  Ille de la Somme. Shortly afterward Ribault was executed by the Spanish and so began the war between the two colonies along the Georgia and Florida coasts.

The English arrived in 1681, allying themselves with the Cherokee, Creek, and Yuchi tribes, and armed them with English weapons. The Spanish were driven out by 1702.

General James Oglethorpe established Georgia as a colony in 1733 and renamed it in honour of his friend Sir Joseph Jeckyll; An excellent speaker of the House of Commons and a Whig, the most conservative party in England at the time.

Jekyll was born in 1663 and died in 1738 due to  “a mortification in the bowels,” whatever that is, on second thought, I don’t want to know.

It was his donation of $600, ” to fund the colony at Jekyll Island,” according to Wikipedia, that resulted in having the Island named after him. Another notable fact about Sir Joseph Jeckyll; he thoroughly disliked intoxication and spoke so adamantly against it in the House of Commons, “which annoyed the public so much that he was forced to have a guard at his house at all times.”

Oglethorpe, the man who established Georgia as a colony appointed William Horton to set up a military post. Horton made Jeckyll his home and by 1738 had established a profitable plantation. By the time of his death in 1748 he had already lost and rebuilt his home and the plantation due to Spanish attacks.

By 1800 the property was back in the hands of the French. Christophe du Bignon, who had left France to escape the French revolution made the area his home. DuBignon was also the man who introduced slavery to Jeckyll island, which of course, made his plantation that much more profitable than in the era of William Horton. The main crop at this time was cotton.

“On November 28, 1858, fifty years after the importation of slaves to the United States was made illegal, the ship The Wanderer landed on Jekyll Island with 465 slaves. This was the next-to-last successful shipment of slaves to American soil from Africa.,” according to Wikipedia, on November 28, 1858, “When the Wanderer reached Jekyll Island, Georgia from Africa, approximately 409 of the enslaved Africans had survived.” The captain and crew were prosecuted but the courts failed to win a conviction.

The Wanderer was built in Port Jefferson, New York  in 1857 as a pleasure craft yacht for Colonel John Johnson. The Wanderer was one of the fastest ships of the day. Johnson sold the Wanderer to William C. Corrie, who was a partner with a wealthy businessman and cotton planter, Charles Augustus Lafayette Lamar, from Savannah, Georgia.

Lamar hired Corrie to transport slaves from Africa. Corrie managed conversion of the Wanderer so as to enable it to carry a large number of slaves. Corrie and Lamar were both opposed to the legal  restrictions on importing slaves, which hampered their trade significantly.

According to a Wikipedia article,

“The Wanderer was returned to New York to undergo preparation for a long voyage. Some observers accused the shipyard of preparing it as a slave ship. The ship was inspected and cleared on its voyage out. Public rumors of the ship’s being involved in the slave trade persisted and were permanently associated with her name.”

How sad that a “pleasure craft” ended up becoming a slave ship?

Wikipedia continues,

“In his ship’s log, Corrie noted arriving at  Benguela in present-day Angola on October 4, 1858. Wanderer took on 487 slaves at this port on the Congo River. After a six-week return voyage across the Atlantic, the Wanderer arrived at Jekyll Island, Georgia around sunset on November 28, 1858. The tally sheets and passenger records showed that 409 slaves survived the passage to arrive at Jekyll Island, which was owned by John and Henry DuBignon, Jr., who conspired with Lamar. These figures present a slightly higher mortality rate than the estimated average of 12 percent during the illegal trading era. Hoping to evade arrest, Lamar had the slaves shipped to markets in Savannah and Augusta, Georgia; South Carolina and Florida. As the federal government investigated, news of the slave ship raised outrage in the North. On the other hand, Southerners continued to press for re-establishment of importing slaves. The federal government tried Lamar and his conspirators three times for piracy, but was unable to get a conviction. It failed to convince the jury of a connection between Lamar and the ship.”

DuBignon and the Wanderer were connected. He made a fortune out of using slaves to farm his cotton. Lamar and the Wanderer supplied him with these slaves.

My last question is; Why would anyone name a motel after a Slave ship? Is it a case of silent racism and pride in being slave owners? Or like the movie Amistad, does the name The Wanderer signify hope and strength to overcome hardship?

I lied, I have one more question; How the heck did I end up with this hanger anyway? Hopefully no one in my family has connections with The Wanderer, Lamar, Corrie or DuBignon, that would be sad, but also another part of history. Hopefully this wooden hanger is a left over from the previous owners of this house. Maybe they visited the motel and brought the hanger home as a momento.

Either way, that is the story of the wooden hanger I found today inscribed with the words The Wanderer Resort Motel, Jeckyll Island, Georgia. Who knew a hanger would be so interesting.

The Wanderer, The second-to-last slave ship to bring slaves from Africa to America.