Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 22

Honoring the Kit Jones
Historic ship returns to its coastal roots
By Lindsay Penticuff
T
his March marks 85 years since
the Kit Jones-a wood-hull
ship built on Sapelo
Island by then-island
owner and tobacco company
heir R.J. Reynolds Jr.-made its
maiden voyage.
After years of service with
various organizations, the ship
has been given new life, thanks
to the efforts of coastal Georgia's
residents. For more than seven
years, the Friends of the Kit Jones
nonprofit organization has worked
to make the dream of restoring and
preserving this historic boat a reality.
" We feel it is critically important to
preserve what history we can, " says Laurie
Poole, secretary of the Friends of the Kit Jones.
She and her husband, Davis, who serves as president of
the organization, live in Darien and became involved in the
restoration project shortly after being told of the boat's history
and impending demise.
Named after a friend of the Reynolds family, Katharine
" Kit " Talbott Jones, the Kit Jones served as a tugboat, a ferry for
more than 500 residents on Sapelo Island, a freight hauler and
a fireboat during its military service from World War II until
the early 1950s.
In 1953, the Kit Jones became a part of Sapelo Island's
University of Georgia (UGA) Marine Institute, formerly the
UGA Marine Biological Laboratory. For almost three decades,
it served in the scientific exploration of the rivers, estuaries and
continental shelves along Georgia's coast.
The University of Mississippi acquired the Kit Jones in
1985 and relocated it to Biloxi, Miss., where it supported marine
research projects in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean
for 25 more years.
In 2013, the Kit Jones was pulled from the water for a final
time and faced an unknown destiny. That was until Dorothy
O'Neill, a former crew member and researcher on the ship,
began looking for someone to acquire the vessel. The Kit Jones
was put up for auction in November 2016 and was purchased in
January 2017 by the McIntosh Rod and Gun Club in Darien.
Three months later, the Friends of the Kit Jones nonprofit
was formed to help acquire the ship and accomplish its stated
mission: " the restoration, preservation and appreciation of the
22 Georgia Magazine February 2024
For more than 25 years, the Kit Jones was based in
Biloxi, Miss., supporting the University of
Mississippi's marine research projects in the
Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
vessel Kit Jones as a historic,
cultural and educational resource
for McIntosh County and
other coastal Georgia
communities. "
The Kit Jones was returned
to Georgia in 2019 to begin the
restoration process. This included
deconstructing the vessel and getting rid
of wood rot, patches, repairs and debris.
During this same time, dozens of artifacts
and photos were collected for educational and
historical purposes.
" We've worked hard to involve the community as much as
we can, " Poole says. " [The Kit Jones'] life was full of adventure,
and we've heard so many stories from those who worked on her
or knew her. The feedback from families of captains, crews
and friends has been remarkable! "
Today, the historic ship is located at Kit Jones Park in
Darien next to the Old Jail Museum and Art Center at 404 North
Way-a landmark site donated by McIntosh County. The park
includes commemorative benches along walking paths and
informative bronze plaques as well as personalized, stamped
bricks purchased by donors to the restoration project.
" We designed the park to feature [the Kit Jones] as a historic
maritime landmark, " Poole says. " The community is thrilled
with her addition and have expressed much appreciation for
the project! This was a grassroots effort that used no taxpayer
dollars. "
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) also assisted with interpretive signage on display
around the Kit Jones. NOAA is connected with the Gray's Reef
National Marine Sanctuary and early ecology research done
off Georgia's coast, at times using the Kit Jones.
Poole says a ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for
Kit Jones Park in March in conjunction with the vessel's
85th birthday.
To learn more about Kit Jones Park and find out how to buy
a brick or donate to the nonprofit, visit savethekitjones.com.
Lindsay Penticuff is an associate editor at Georgia Magazine.
F
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http://www.savethekitjones.com

Georgia Magazine - February 2024

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - February 2024

Contents
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 4
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 5
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - 6
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Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - Cover3
Georgia Magazine - February 2024 - Cover4
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