Like so many others, Nick Doms has always been enchanted by the beauty of Jekyll Island. And it’s not just the sweeping live oaks and sandy shores. He’s also been captivated by the lives of those who called the state owned island home.
Doms, a native Belgian, first started coming to the island in 2014 and has been in love with it ever since.
“I knew it was a very, very special place and I kept coming back. I made more friends here,” he said. “I also started reading everything that has been written about the history of Jekyll Island ... from Gen. Oglethorpe to the Millionaires of the village.”
Jekyll Island does indeed have a rich history. There were the early settlers like Maj. William Horton, a top military aide to Oglethorpe, who built Horton house, to the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts who established the historic area known as “the Millionaire’s Village.”
Doms poured over texts outlining these eras but looked to go even further. He wanted to know what transpired as Jekyll transitioned from being a private retreat for some of the world’s wealthiest to a state-owned island. However, finding that information was a bit tricky.
“There really wasn’t much information on what happened after the millionaires left and the state took it over,” he said. “I told my friend Lorraine on Jekyll that someone should write a book about the state era and she said, ‘Well Nick, you should do it.’”
Doms started giving the idea some thought. And before too long, he was committed. He was granted permission to research the Jekyll Island Authority (JIA) archive on Jekyll and the state archives in Atlanta, spending hours upon hours researching JIA meeting minutes and other documentation.
“I spent every Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., reading every single piece of paper from the authority board meetings starting in March of 1950,” he said.
The result of his tireless research paid off. He recently published, “From Millionaires to Commoners: The History of Jekyll Island State Park.” The book takes on the complex task of outlining this transition in a digestible way.
“It is actually told in the present tense, which makes it unique,” he said. “It was easy to do because when researching the meeting notes the transcriptions read like a conversation between the people there.”
He also shares a number of interesting developmental points. Many of those, he adds, will surprise his readers.
“There were a lot of things that I didn’t know,” he said. “One of the most surprising things was that the causeway was finished in 1950 but the bridge wasn’t installed until 1954 so you couldn’t get to the island from the causeway for almost five years after it was built.”
His goal is to share the evolution of Jekyll Island with those who, like him, appreciate its uniqueness. And Doms is getting out the word. He has been busy, appearing at a number of book signings recently.
One event that he will pop up at soon is Fur Babies and Fashion, a fundraiser for No Kill Glynn County that will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday on the Beach Village Green on Jekyll Island.
“On March 27, I will be doing the breakfast meeting for the Jekyll Island Rotary Club. March 28, we’ll be at Waterfront Wine and Gourmet for its monthly wine tasting,” he said.
“April 6, we will be part of the second annual Jekyll Island Book Festival. It’s been very busy since it launched back on Feb. 28. I did a private signing for the snow birds on Jekyll. We’ve gone wherever they’ll have me. I hope to get over to Brunswick and St. Simons too. We are trying to branch out ... It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”
Coastal People appears Tuesdays. Contact Lindsey Adkison at email@example.com or at 265-8320, ext. 346 to suggest a person for a column.