Lying some ten miles southeast of Savannah, Wormsloe occupies the southern portion of the Isle of Hope, a peninsula four miles long and as much as a mile wide. During the colonial era Wormsloe's strategic location made it a valuable component of Savannah's outer defenses against Spanish attack. As a principal military officer of colonial Georgia, Jones used Wormsloe (then his leasehold) as a guard post, and his fortified tabby residence served as nucleus for a garrison of marines.
Jones also made a start with the landscaping and gardens that would later make Wormsloe a byword in the South. He cleared a wide swath of timber and undergrowth on Wormsloe's southwestern edge to afford a view of the Bethesda orphanage, at that time Georgia's largest and finest masonry structure.
In his will Jones
George Jones built the first version of Wormsloe House, the residence that replaced two earlier Jones homes at Wormsloe. This two-story timber dwelling, built around 1830, measured twenty by forty feet and faced the water. Most significant, however, the new house appears to have kindled a love for Wormsloe and family tradition in George Jones's heir, George Frederick Tilghman Jones.
George Frederick Tilghman Jones
More significant for the survival of Wormsloe was De Renne's linkage of the estate with historical and literary publications. The first of these, a handsome reprint of a rare 1781 pamphlet credited to George Walton, appeared under the Wormsloe imprint in 1847. It created a line of books carried on by De Renne and his descendants until this day. From G.W.J. De Renne's time also came an association of the family and the estate with collections of books and manuscripts devoted to Georgiana.
Unsurprisingly, the Civil War (1861-65) brought profound changes to Wormsloe. The De Renne family fled to various points in the Southeast and Europe, and the Confederate authorities constructed massive earthworks at the southern tip of the Isle of Hope, near the ruins of Noble Jones's fortified residence. Federal troops later occupied the area and apparently damaged two of the houses' marble mantels, along with other acts of vandalism. While the family was abroad during Reconstruction, Wormsloe House and its acreage were briefly leased; only in the 1870s would the house and grounds be used by the De Rennes, and then mainly as a country retreat from their Savannah mansion.
In keeping with the De Renne tradition of publications, Wymberley De Renne printed books linked to Wormsloe (including an account of the Cherokee Removal written by Wilson Lumpkin), and also created a matchless collection of books and manuscripts related to Georgia history. The De Renne Georgia Library was ultimately housed in a columned fireproof building near the residence.
With Wymberley De Renne's death in 1916, his father's estate was finally settled, and his son, W. W. De Renne,
Elfrida Barrow linked Wormsloe to publications more explicitly than any of her ancestors. She created the nonprofit Wormsloe Foundation, which published primary and secondary works relating to Georgia history.
After Barrow's death in 1970, a court case began that ultimately led to the Georgia Supreme Court's revoking the foundation's tax-exempt status. Consequently, its Wormsloe acreage was acquired by the Nature Conservancy in 1972 and transferred the next year to the state of Georgia. In 1979 the state opened Wormsloe Historic Site, which features a museum and walking tours. These include the ruins of Noble Jones's fortified residence and the Jones family burial ground. Though visible from the oak avenue, Wormsloe House remains private property, still occupied by descendants of Noble Jones.
William Harris Bragg, De Renne: Three Generations of a Georgia Family (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999).
E. Merton Coulter, Wormsloe: Two Centuries of a Georgia Family (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1955).
William Harris Bragg, Georgia College and State University
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.