Friday, August 10, 2012

Bignon, old French Family

Bignon of Jekyll Island and Richmond County

Poulain du Bignon died 1822 in Glynn County, Georgia. Beginning with Poulain du Bignon, five du Bignon generations made Jekyll Island one of the most romantic Golden Isles of Georgia. The tabby ruins of the old Horton house, later du Bignon home, still stand as a famous landmark on the river side of Jekyll Island. Across the street is the old burial grounds, surrounded by a rock wall. The burial plots inside these walls are raised slightly above the ground, as is typical in this region for this era. Bricks support large cement covers. The bricks were probably made by Thomas Salter, who came over with General Oglethorpe and made brick on Salters Island, west of Savannah. The inscriptions are scarcely visible. They survived on this spot from 1794 to 1886.

Christophe Poulain du Bignon, a native of Lamballe, Britanny , was a much-decorated French naval captain whose loyalty to Louis 16th in the French Revolution forced him to flee his patrimonial lands. In 1792 on his ship, the Sapelo, he brought his family to the hospitable Georgia Coast. With four other French royalists, he purchased first Sapelo Island and then Jekyll. By 1794 he acquired Jekyll as his own plantation and enlarged Major Horton's house as his manor. Sea Island Cotton recouped his fortunes and 
supported a Georgia dynasty of landed aristocracy like that established by his forebears. In 1822 Poulain was buried near du Bignon Creek with a live oak tree as his monument. His son, Henri du Bignon, added honors to the island plantation as he made the Goddess of Liberty reigning queen of coastal racing boats. And when Henri's grandson, John Eugene du Bignon, sold Jekyll to a group of millionaire capitalists, with them forming the Jekyll Island Club, Poulain du Bignon's island began a new chapter in history. This genealogy is available to members of