In 1802 Thomas Spalding purchased 4,000
acres on the south end, concurrently with de Montalet’s occupation
at Chocolate. He brought in many slaves purchased in Charleston and
proceeded to clear and plant. He supplied live oak for shipbuilding,
planted long staple (Sea Island) cotton, sugarcane, and corn, and drained
the interior of the island by a series of ditches. Spalding was a politician,
banker and agriculturalist but his great love was farming and its improvement,
and he was most influential and generous in relaying information and advice.
Crop diversification and rotation were themes he stressed in writings.
He is considered the father of the sugar industry in Georgia and the tabby
walls of his sugar mill still mark the site of his enterprise.
The original South End House was designed by Spalding to
withstand the heat and hurricanes. He used tabby for his building
material (1 part lime, 1 part sand, 1 part shell, and 1 part water).
He wrote, “I have made my walls 14 inches thick, below the lower floor
two feet, and for the second story 10 inches and beyond that I would not
erect tabby buildings.” He was considered to have made some of the
best tabby of the time.
In 1824 a hurricane swept the island
and it was claimed that the “sea (was) breaking in broad surges across
and over the small field in front and onto the steps” (of the South End
House). Crops and livestock suffered enormous losses, and estimates
of lives lost vary between one and nine. The slaves were all
safe because of the foresight of Bu Allah, a black Moslem and Spalding’s
highly trusted and respected right-hand man, whose untranslated diary
remains to this day an errant part of Sapelo’s historical record.
Spalding disliked slavery, but found it expedient to employ slaves.
However, he insisted that days should be short and temporary labor be
hired for hazardous work.
The Spalding family lived on Sapelo for
nearly half a century and eventually acquired ownership of nearly all
of the island. However, after the demise of Thomas Spalding in 1851,
the island became only a part-time home for the heirs. Vacated
at the outbreak of the Civil War by its owners, Sapelo had its share
of squatters during reconstruction. By the time the Spalding heirs
finally regained their property, the mansion had deteriorated so far
that it was no longer habitable. The family built smaller houses
in the Barn Creek area and the land was disposed of with time.
In 1907 a hunting club from Macon acquired
some of the south end including the ruins of the old South End House.
They rebuilt the center section of the house to make a gracious house with
a colonnaded front porch.