Tybee Island is an island and a present-day city located in Chatham County, Georgia near the city of Savannah. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 3,392.
Tybee Island may be best known outside of Georgia as the home of the Tybee Bomb, a nuclear weapon that was lost offshore on February 5, 1958. Officially renamed "Savannah Beach" in a publicity move at the end of the 1950s, the city of Tybee Island has since reverted to its original name. The small island, which has long been a quiet getaway for the residents of Savannah, has become a popular vacation spot with tourists from outside the Savannah metropolitan area.
Tybee Island is also the site of the first of what became the Days Inn chain of hotels.
Tybee Island was originally inhabited by the Euchee Native American tribe and gave the island its name: tybee is a Euchee word for salt.
Later, in the 1500s the Spanish laid claim to the island and named it Los Bajos. During that time the island was frequented by pirates who used the island to hide from those who pursued them. Pirates later used the island’s inland waterways for a fresh water source. As Spain gave up its claim to the island, and the surrounding areas stretching down to modern day Florida, English and French settlements sprang up around the area.
In 1733 English settlers led by James Oglethorpe settled on Tybee Island before moving on to settle eventually in Savannah. In 1736 John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, arrived on Tybee Island.
Tybee Island LighthouseThe Tybee Island lighthouse was built in the year 1736. The lighthouse was of brick and wood, standing 90 feet tall; it was the highest structure in America at that time. Five years later the lighthouse was destroyed by a storm.
In 1742 a second lighthouse was finished; this version reached 94 feet into the air. In 1773 a third lighthouse was constructed which was also destroyed, this time in 1862 by Confederate troops from nearby Fort Pulaski. Of the 100 feet of the third lighthouse only 60 feet remained which served as a rebuilding point for a fourth lighthouse.
In 1869 it was decided that the lighthouse must be protected from ever increasing tides and gale force winds so it was moved 164 feet back from the shoreline. In the years from 1871 and 1886 the walls of the lighthouse became cracked by storm forces and later the light lens was broken by the Charleston earthquake of 1886.
The latest incarnation of the Tybee Island lighthouse stands at 154 feet and in 1933 became an electrically driven lighthouse. Due to the fact that modern marine navigation techniques outgrew the need for such a lighthouse the Tybee Island lighthouse became obsolete. Just three weeks after it became electrically driven it was donated to the Georgia Historical Society by the U.S. government.