The Kit Jones is a wood-hull tugboat built on Sapelo Island, Georgia, from 1938-1939 by island owner and tobacco company heir R.J. Reynolds, Jr. at the hands of many skilled African-American boat builders/residents. The boat is rich in Georgia history and is a remarkable surviving example of the coastal wood-boat building tradition.
Until recently, the most overriding threat facing the Kit Jones was the impending and near-certain loss of the vessel to salvage – she was to be dismantled for scrap if a purchaser and a new home for the intact vessel could not be located. This threat took on a heightened urgency in November 2016, when the University of Mississippi finally decided to put the Kit Jones out for auction.
Fortunately, the McIntosh Rod & Gun Club, Inc. (MRGC) of Darien, GA learned of her availability, took an interest in her future, and organized a successful last-minute bid, acquiring official title to the Kit Jones in January 2017. In April of this year, a 501c-3 Non Profit was formed called Friends of the Kit Jones, Inc. FOKJ aspires to build historic recognition of the vessel Kit Jones in order to accomplish their stated mission: The restoration, preservation, and appreciation of the vessel Kit Jones as a historic, cultural and educational resource for McIntosh County and other coastal Georgia communities.
Her 73 years of service in so many aspects of maritime history uniquely qualify her as an icon of McIntosh heritage. Yet from the very hands that crafted her, to those who captained or worked upon her, she has a following far beyond McIntosh County. As Darien seeks to ‘re-brand’ itself, and identify with heritage tourism travelers, we hope to aid this goal by offering the restored Kit Jones as a distinguished maritime resident. This is a great opportunity to bring the diverse people in the community together by honoring her Sapelo Island roots as well as some of the families whose ancestors and relatives served as builders, masters, and strikers on the Kit. The historic and current working waterfront of the city, as well as the vessels that made (or make) their home there, have always been a true draw to Darien. The fit is perfect!