Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sapelo Island traces of the past

The name Chocolate comes from a 16th century Native American town known as Chucalate.  There have been several owners of this part of the island, which was farmed at various times.  The area was in use from about 1815 until 1857 by several different owners.  Numerous tabby ruins can be seen here.

Some of the runes are from a plantation built between 1815 and 1819.  They represent nine slave quarters, a two-story plantation house, a ventilated cotton barn, and other outbuildings.  There are signs of recent work to shore up some of the buildings, but most of them are slowly falling apart.   Rain etches away the tabby blocks and chimneys and walls fall down.
Tabby is made from equal parts of shell, lime (made from burned salt-free shell), and sand.  It is estimated that about 37,000 cubic feet of shell was used to construct the buildings, and that some of the shell came from the local pre-historic shell rings on the island.  The 
shell, lime and sand is mixed with water and then poured into forms.  The resulting walls are very strong and durable.
There are two intact buildings at Chocolate.  A Sears Home that was assembled on-site sometime between 1929and 1940.  And a large two story tabby barn with stalls and a two-level loft which Thomas Spalding had built in 1837, and Howard Coffin had restored in 1927.   The barn's open windows look out onto the expansive marsh on one side and the quietly decaying tabby ruins on the other side.

On the western side of the island past Chocolate is a mostly intact, 15 foot high, 200 feet in diameter shell ring.  It was one of three rings, the other two having been used to create tabby for the Chocolate buildings.  The ring contains oyster, clam and snail shells.  It also contains some animal and fish bones, and pottery shards.  The pre-historic ring is a reminder of early human habitation on the island (2,000 and 5,000 B. C. ).

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