By Michael Scott, Director of Historic Resources
Research provided by Andrea Marroquin, JIA Museum Curator
While talk about the Jekyll Island Club era often revolves around the Club members and guests, there is an entire other side to the club’s history – a side that prepared the meals, stocked the game, maintained the lawns and spent their time at the Jekyll Island Club not in a state of leisure, but in labor. A group of people that were here in the service of others. Thanks to the dedication of descendants, researchers, and volunteers, JIA Historic Resources staff can connect stories and families, and tell the history of the people who made Jekyll such a haven for Club members.
By the 1930s, over 77% of Club employees were African American. Of those employees, Charlie Hill was at the heart of their working world of relationships. Hill, the oldest of the original employees of the Jekyll Island Club, brought the first group of millionaires to the Jekyll by way of a rowboat to inspect the island for possible purchase. Hill worked as an island employee for 51 years – almost exclusively for the Maurice family of Hollybourne Cottage. Angie Hill, Charlie Hill’s wife, was a laundress for the Maurice family and their daughter, Anna, became the schoolteacher for the African American children living on the island.
Other local workers consisting of an extended network of friends and family, were also hired to work at the Jekyll Island Club through Charlie Hill’s connections. His nephew Ray remembered, “We were mostly related by blood or marriage on Jekyll Island. The Hills were pretty much the linking family. They either married into other Jekyll families while on the island or had married into them before they arrived on Jekyll.”
A large number of the Club staff’s descendants still live in the area today and have been an invaluable resource to the Museum, providing information about Club members, landscaping, the appearance of the buildings, and life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Stop by the Mosaic, Jekyll Island Museum in February and learn about Charlie Hill, his family, and their many contributions to the island’s history. Every Saturday and Sunday in February a special 90-minute tour – In the Service of Others – is your chance to walk through some of the spaces where Charlie and his relations worked and built a community legacy, and explore the lives of the men and women who worked behind the scenes to keep the Jekyll Island Club running. Click HERE to purchase tickets online.
The Mosaic Museum is open daily 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. For more information, call Mosaic Guest Services at (912) 635-4036.