There are five graves in this walled cemetery: three belong to members of the DuBignon family, which ran Jekyll Island for four generations, and two honor locals who drowned on the same day in 1912. Strangely, none of these five people are actually buried in the cemetery.
In 1792, wealthy French royalist Christophe Anne Poulain DuBignon escaped from his homeland during the French Revolution. He and his family sailed all the way to the Georgia coast. By 1800, DuBignon owned the entirety of Jekyll Island, where they lived in Horton House, a home made from lime, water, sand, oyster shells, and ash. There he ran a cotton plantation that relied on the labor of enslaved African Americans.
During the War of 1812, almost half of DuBignon’s enslaved workers fled the plantation to join the British, who had promised them freedom. With his business struggling, DuBignon put Jekyll Island up for sale in 1819. By the time he died in 1825, he still hadn’t found a buyer. The plantation, however, lived on under the ownership of the DuBignon family for 40 more years.
After the Civil War, John Eugene DuBignon turned Jekyll Island into a hunting club for rich and fancy New York gentlemen. In 1886, the exclusive Jekyll Island Club Corporation purchased the island, marking the end of the DuBignon family’s reign. A club and hotel for the wealthiest of the wealthy opened in 1888.
When preservationists were working on the old plantation, they found the gravestones of DuBignon family members Ann Amelia DuBignon, Joseph DuBignon, and Marie Felicite Riffault. They placed them within the walls of the cemetery across the street from the Horton/DuBignon House. The two other headstones in the cemetery belong to Jekyll Island Club hotel employees Hector DeLiyannis and George Harvey, who drowned in the nearby river on March 12, 1912. Experts believe the bodies of the family members and staff are somewhere nearby, but their exact locations are unknown.