Ruins of Chocolate Plantation, Sapelo Island

Chocolate is a collection of tabby ruins, begun circa 1810, constructed by enslaved people on Sapelo Island. Most of the structures are in a state of very bad disrepair; the 1831 barn on the Mud River, restored in the 1920s, is falling to ruin, as well. The best description I’ve been able to find about the area is from archaeologists Ray Crook’s essay “The Living Space of Enslaved Geechee on Sapelo Island”, published in the March 2008 newsletter of the African Diaspora Archaeology Network: During the late 1790s, the Chocolate tract was farmed by Lewis Harrington with the labor of 68 slaves. In 1802 that property became jointly owned by Edward Swarbreck and Thomas Spalding, who leased out at least a portion of the tract until 1808. Swarbreck, a Danish sea merchant with Caribbean connections who traded in cotton and other commodities, including slaves, then directed his attention to Chocolate. His plantation layout followed a familiar and very formal design…. The Big House, built of tabby, overlooked the Mud River and expansive salt marshes. His residence was flanked by outbuildings and other support structures. Two parallel rows of slave quarters, spaced some 10m apart and separated by a broad open area 50m across, were constructed behind the Big House. Vast agricultural fields extended to the north and south. Evidence of at least nine slave quarters, typically tabby duplexes with central chimneys and finished tabby floors, each side measuring about 4.3m by 6.1m, survives today as ruins and archaeological features at Chocolate. These represent an enslaved population of some 70 to 100 people distributed among at least 18 households…

Mud River at Chocolate

Main House or Overseer’s House Ruins

The tabby barn was restored in the 1920s by automobile magnate Howard Coffin.

Tabby Barn (East Facade)

Tabby Barn (West Facade)

Tabby Barn (Interior)

Cotton House

Cotton House

Cotton House

Smoke House

Unidentified Ruins

Unidentified Ruins

Slave House

8 thoughts on “Ruins of Chocolate Plantation, Sapelo Island

  1. Ruth Stauttener

    Wish we had seen more of Sapelo when we visited with Cornelia Bailey. Experience of a lifetime never to be repeated.

  2. SocialSea

    I stayed at the Reynolds Mansion one weekend on a group trip sponsored by the Georgia Conservancy. We went on a sight seeing trip around the island with a guide from the DNR. We toured this property. We were told Rosalyn and Jimmy Carter liked staying in the Sears and Roebuck house on occasion. It was open at the time so our group had the opportunity to walk through the cottage. Thanks for posting. I had a sad feeling walking through the tabby slave house ruins.

    1. Burke Harrison

      My Father was 12 years old in 1928 when his family moved into this house.
      My grandmother was postmistress for a few years.

  3. Wayne Asbell

    I have a friend who grew upn the Island. I spent a weekend there in 1989. I wrote my initials on a large beam upstairs in the Chocolate barn. We called it the “French” barn. I climb around the old abandoned lighthouse before it was restored. I wish I had taken pictures.

  4. grover chester

    thank you very much for your pictures and e-mails. i appeciate the contacts.again thank you. grover

    On Tue, Apr 16, 2013 at 6:10 PM, Vanishing Coastal Georgia Photographs by

  5. Pingback: Chocolate Plantation, Sapelo Island | Vanishing South Georgia Photographs by Brian Brown

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