By Kelly Baughman
We all know that the rich, famous, and fabulous reside on the elite Ono Island in Orange Beach, but “Betcha Didn’t Know” that this slice of island heaven was once home to goats, pigs, pumas, and more.
The 5.5 mile long Barrier Island was once along the boundary of a French and Spanish land treaty that lead to heated debates and rebellion in an attempt to outright claim the land. In 1813, President Monroe seized the land and declared it part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
Once officially U.S. land, wealthy land developer, Fred Scott acquired it in the 1920’s. He then stocked the land with goats, allowing them to roam free on the island along with wild hogs and other various wildlife. At one point, there was an estimated 2,000 goats on the island, making the land known as “Goat Island” by many in the area.
Area residents also called the island “Puma Island” due to the legend that large pumas made the island home due to the plentiful and easily hunted prey the goats provided them. Rumor has it that in the quiet darkness of night, you could hear the pumas calling out to one another while hunting and celebrating their catch.
The land had been said to have once been attached to the mainland of the state of Alabama until a hurricane in 1916 changed the topography detaching it from the mainland. Florida officials began to seek to claim the land as their own, as much of its mass lay in Florida territory, but Alabama legislators famously replied to the claims, “Oh no you don’t”, thus giving the island its modern name of Ono Island.
Another interesting fact about Ono/Goat/Puma Island was that the Navy used the uninhabited land as target practice during World War II. (Those poor goats and pumas!)
Birmingham banker, John Golightly, was the first to settle on the island in 1963. Residential development on the island began in the 1970’s, and now over 800 private homes stand on the private island. Equipped with its own water tower, fire station, private harbor, two recreational centers, administrative center for community meetings, a security house at the entrance of the gated bridge that restricts unwanted visitors, and an average home cost of 2.2 million dollars, it’s clear that “Goat Island” has come a long way since its humble beginnings.
While the island is neither part of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, or Perdido Key, the residents do depend on Orange Beach fire and police, and pay nearly $245,000 annually for their services.
With a rich and unique history, Ono Island is both one of the most interesting and prestigious places to call home along the Gulf Coast. With many famous athletes, singers, actors, and successful business owners living on the island, there is one unspoken rule that remains between its residents…..You don’t talk about who lives on the island, and what happens there stays there, making it a mecca for those seeking an ultra-private lifestyle.
Who knew that the goats had it right all along? Ono Island is definitely the place to be, and not be seen.