Sapelo Island lightkeeper’s house rediscovered

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

SGA leadership touring Sapelo Lighthouse area.

Remember back in February 2010 when the SGA leadership held the winter retreat near Darien? We even had this photo lead the story of our next-day visit to Sapelo Island…. However, this photo better shows the lighthouse area.

Sapelo lighthouse 2010 Feb SGA leadership

Recently, archaeologists have discovered the buried remains of the original lightkeeper’s house, which the SGA group may have walked over during their visit. According to a February 2011 press release from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Historic Preservation Division:

A team of volunteer and professional archaeologists have discovered the site of the original lightkeeper’s house on Sapelo Island, Georgia. The structure housed generations of lightkeepers and their families starting in 1820 until its collapse in a hurricane in 1898. Since the collapse of the ruins, probably in the early 1900s, its location had been lost.

Twelve volunteers shoveled, screened, and trowelled through hurricane-deposited sand under the guidance of archaeologists from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, West Florida University, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Several inches into the sand, they discovered the foundations of the house, as well as a scatter of artifacts including glass from the lighthouse windows, which were blown out by the storm. Built in 1820, the lighthouse was in service until 1905 when it was deactivated. Following its 1998 restoration, it once again became a working aid to navigation.

State archaeologist and Historic Preservation Division Director Dr. Dave Crass said, “This is a great example of how volunteer archaeologists working hand-in-hand with professionals can contribute to the preservation of Georgia’s unique heritage.”

For more on Sapelo Island’s history and visiting the island, click here. To visit the DNR website, click here.

Where to find it