For most of us spending a single day in a swamp is uncomfortable. Such habitat is wet, steamy and forbidding. Yet, people have spent their entire lives in such places. Atlanta travelers can make the drive down to the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge near the town of Folkston to get a first hand view of how those hardy settlers achieved the feat.
The Chesser Island Homestead is located on the eastern edge of the swamp on that family's namesake island.
W.T Chesser settled his family on the isle in the late 1880s and two of his seven children eventually lived nearby as well. Those two families produced a total of 22 children. In 1927 one of those kids, Tom Chesser, built the house that is the center piece of the homestead today. Even after the swamp was made a wildlife refuge in 1937, some of the Chessers continued to work for and live on the refuge lands.
The Chesser Homestead house is preserved just as the family used it. The rooms are furnished in period decor, right down to clothes hanging in the closets.
The surrounding yard is bare sand to keep fires away and insect life down. The grounds around the house hold a smokehouse, syrup shed and mill, chicken coop, corn crib and hog pen.
The homestead lies at the end of a short trail from the parking lot and is open to visitors. Winter is the best time to visit because of cooler weather and far fewer bugs.
The homestead is accessed through the east entrance to the NWR at the Suwannee Canal Recreation Area. The site is open 1/2 hour before sunrise to 5:30 in the winter and until 7:30 in the summer.