CHAPTER 9. PLANTATION LIFE

 

Florida (with great assistance from David Levy Yulee) became a state in 1844.  Governors of Florida up to the Civil War:

1844-1845 John Branch

1845-1849 William D. Moseley

1849-1853 Thomas Brown

1853-1857 James E. Broome

1857-1861 Madison Perry

The National Park Service says:  Agriculture took many forms in the Golden Crescent, from coastal rice plantations with hundreds of slaves to self-sufficient farms in the piney woods. Commercial agriculture never developed in Spanish Florida, and the dream of Georgia's founders of a colony of small, independent farmers proved impractical.

After 1750, plantation agriculture based on African slavery came to dominate coastal Georgia. Rice and indigo were Georgia's principal commercial crops in the colonial period. The loss of the British subsidy for indigo ended that industry in Georgia after the Revolution, although Florida exported minor amounts of the staple during the British Period (1763-1783). Both Georgia and Florida exported some timber and naval stores in the late eighteenth century. Then, in the first five decades of the 1800s, cotton culture took hold across much of the lower South, which later went through the wrenching changes brought on by the Civil War and Reconstruction.

While rice culture developed along the coast, long-staple cotton, often known as sea island cotton, commanded high prices from makers of fine fabrics. Following Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin in 1793, short-staple cotton became the staple crop across much of the South.  While prior to 1800 the Piedmont of the Carolinas and Georgia was settled mainly by subsistence farmers and herdsmen, cotton plantations rapidly sprung up in these areas in the early decades of the nineteenth century. As time passed, the "Cotton Kingdom" extended its dominion across much of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

By 1840, the cotton belt extended into Florida, in a narrow band between the Appalachicola and Suwannee Rivers that by 1860 reached southeast into Alachua and Marion Counties. Separating the coastal plantation belt and the upland Cotton Kingdom was a wide swath dominated by longleaf pines and wiregrass. With soils that could not support commercial agriculture, the wiregrass region remained sparsely populated throughout the nineteenth century.

The 1850s were truly the decade of King Cotton. Demand seemed insatiable, prices remained strong, and aggressive planters put new acreage into production as older fields became unproductive. Georgia in 1860 ranked fourth among the states in cotton output. Although the acreage devoted to rice declined slightly, increased efficiency allowed Georgia planters to expand production, much of it for export. The Civil War then brought an abrupt halt to the prosperity enjoyed by southern planters. After the disruptions of war and Reconstruction, short-staple cotton production gradually recovered, usually under tenancy and sharecropping arrangements.

There were a great many plantations in the around around St. Simons Island, Georgia.  (Bell 1987)  On St. Simons:  in the southwest part was Hamilton Plantation (close to Water Retreat Plantation); on the west, not far from the town of Frederica, was West Point Plantation; in the northwest was Pike's Bluff Plantation; and in the north was Hampton Plantation; not far from Hampton Plantation, southeast of it in fact, was the Cannon's Point Plantation owned by John Couper.  

Northwest of St. Simons were other islands.  Broughton Island Plantation was on Broughton Island.  Butler Island Plantation was on Butler Island (northwest of Broughton Island Plantation) by the Altamaha River.  On the mainland, southwest of Butler Island Plantation was Hopeton Plantation (owned by John Couper and James Hamilton).  And just south of Broughton Island Plantation and west of Hampton Plantation was the Hofwyl Plantation.


HOFWYL-BROADFIELD PLANTATION

Located between Brunswick and Darien.  5556 U.S. Highway 17 North, Brunswick, GA.  Tuesday-Saturday 9 am - 5pm; Sunday 2-5:30 pm.

It stands as a classic example of a working rice plantation circa 1807, including the dikes and floodgate system, grounds, outbuildings, and a main house furnished with authentic accessories of the period. Furniture on display was handcrafted in Savannah; raw Georgia pine floors bleached by 130 years of lye soap scrubbing remain throughout the house.

This is now a state-run park.

The marsh made the rice plantation possible. It was a short life and a hard one. For more than 100 years rice, not cotton, was king in coastal Georgia.

On the rice coast slaves outnumbered whites more than two to one. During the summer, when the whites retired inland the slaves were left to themselves. Out of this relative isolation they developed unique cultural forms. Their music, dance, African folk tales, voodoo, and the patois of the Geechee-Gullah marked the distinctive culture of the rice coast slaves.

In 1749 the first slaves came here.

In 1803 the Englishman William Brailsord of Charleston bought Broughton, a rice island on the south branch of the Altamaha River.  Around 1807 he began carving a rice plantation from the virgin cypress swamps along the Altamaha River.  His son-in-law, James M. Troup, acquired additional land along the river.

Granddaughter Ophelia Troup married George Dent and they lived at what became known as the Broadfield Plantation.  In 1851 they built a new house, named Hofwyl after the school George Dent had attended in Switzerland.   The house fell on bad times during and after the Civil War, but Ophelia's sister Matilda rebuilt the house.  

Five generations of the same family. They came from England to Charleston.

On a total of 7,300 acres, they had 357 slaves.

They went $80,000 in debt.

Malaria was a big problem, so they left during hot weather; put screens on the house, then they could stay year round.

Grew rice here until 1913.  War, hurricanes, and the lack of abundant labor led to the fall of the rice empire in 1915.  Brailsford's descendants converted the plantation into a dairy that distributed high-quality milk in Glynn County.  The dairy closed in 1942.  In 1973 the plantation was willed to the state of Georgia by Ophelia Troup Dent.  In 1979 the place was opened as a state historic site.


BUTLER PLANTATION

Major Pierce Butler of Philadelphia was an important plantation owner in McIntosh County. He died in 1822, and left his St. Simons and Butler's Island holdings to his grandsons, Pierce and John Mease, provided they change their name to Butler.

Aaron Burr stayed at Hampton Plantation after his famous duel with Alexander Hamilton (who was killed), August 25, 1804.  He stayed for five weeks.  He even rode out the great hurricane of September 1804 in which nineteen of Major Butler's people died.  

Pierce Butler's rice plantation owes much of its place in history to the writings of Butler's wife, the well-known English actress, Fanny Kemble Butler. Fanny Kemble's only visit to Georgia was in the winter of 1838-39 as she accompanied her husband south from Philadelphia on an inspection tour of his plantations. She only stayed for four months, but that was enough for her to form a lasting hatred of slavery.

While at Butler's Island, Kemble began a series of writings which, in addition to describing the workings of the rice plantation and the surrounding natural beauty of the Georgia coastal country, was a bitter indictment of the institution of slavery. She particularly criticized Roswell King, Jr., recently resigned as plantation manager, for his handling and treatment of the slaves. She compared her husband's system unfavorably to that of his neighbor John Couper.  Scotsman John Couper, a new-comer being Glasgow-born, set an exemplary pattern at Cannon's Point Plantation.  He was patriarchal and benevolent.  In fact, many persons who wanted to see the effects of slavery were taken specifically to this plantation, thereby getting a rosier picture.  (Bell 1987:101)

Her observations were published in 1863, as Journal of a Residence of an Georgian Plantation. This was long after her divorce from Pierce Butler, whose irresponsible management of his Georgia plantations almost bankrupted him in the late 1850s and led to the huge auction of half his nearly 1,000 slaves in Savannah in 1859.

All that remains is a 75-foot brick rice-mill chimney on old Butler island, across the bridge from Darien.  It is now a private residence, but the owners allow visitors to walk the rice fields.  There is a wildlife management area in the vicinity I do believe.  


Hamilton Plantation

Driving south, exit I-95 at exit 8. Head approximately 4 miles on GA Hwy. 25 to U.S. Hwy. 17. Drive south on U.S. Hwy. 17 for 1.5 miles. Turn left onto St. Torras Causeway. As causeway enters island, bear left onto Demere Road. Turn left at first stop light onto Sea Island Road. Turn left at Hamilton Road. Turn right at Arthur J. Moore Drive. Hamilton Plantation Slave Cabins are on the left.

Driving north, exit I-95 at exit 6. Head north on U.S. Hwy. 17. After crossing the Sydney Lanier Bridge, follow signs for St. Simons Island. Turn right onto Torras Causeway. As causeway enters island, bear left onto Demere Road. Turn left at first stop light onto Sea Island Road. Turn left at Hamilton Road. Turn right at Arthur J. Moore Drive. Hamilton Plantation Slave Cabins are on the left.

The National Park Service says: Located on St. Simons Island, the remains of this antebellum plantation contain two surviving slave cabins, which were part of a set of four built before 1833. Among the better examples of surviving slave cabins in the South, they are composed of tabby, a cement consisting of lime, water, and crushed oyster shells. The cabins have built-in windows and a central chimney. James Hamilton Couper, namesake of the owner and manager of the plantation, was an architect and a builder. He designed and built the cabins to house the slaves who served in the plantation's main house. Utilizing a duplex plan to house more than one family, the cabins were originally part of a planned community of slave dwellings.

The Hamilton Plantation site and slave cabins are located at Gascoigne Bluff, on Arthur J. Moore Drive on the west side of St. Simons Island, 12 miles east of Brunswick, Georgia. Telephone: (912) 638-5293.


KINGSLEY PLANTATION STATE HISTORIC SITE

North on Fl A1A, on Fort George Island at 11676 Palmetto Ave; reached by ferry from Mayport or via Fl 105 (Heckscher Drive). Restored house has period furnishings; interpretive panels depict history of island; slave quarters, carriage house. Free guided tours; four departures (Thurs-Mon). Grounds (daily).

The dirt road that leads up to Kingsley Plantation is very lovely.  It is called the Avenue of Palms.  One story of how these sabal palms got here was that an overseer during the absence of his master started planting the trees, which were to extend all the way across the island. The planter returned, raged about the "waste of time," and  discharged the overseer on the spot.

The National Park Service says:  Kingsley Plantation, part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve administered by the National Park Service, is located on Fort George Island and includes the plantation house, a kitchen house, a barn, and the ruins of 25 of the original slave cabins. The plantation was named for one of several plantation owners, Zephaniah Kingsley, who operated the property from 1813-1839. Kingsley operated under a "task" system, which allowed slaves to work at a craft or tend their own gardens once the specified task for the day was completed. Proceeds from the sale of produce or craft items were usually kept by the slaves.

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve; 13165 Mount Pleasant Road; Jacksonville, Florida 32225; telephone: (904) 251-3537.  Open daily 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Closed December 25.  The preserve is in the northeast portion of Jacksonville (Duval County), Florida. From Interstate 95, exit on Heckscher Drive (FL 105); follow Heckscher East to Florida 9A. Continue straight on Heckscher about nine miles; turn left at the NPS sign onto Fort George Island; follow signs, the road leads directly to the plantation parking lot.

Some of the following was from a talk given by Ranger Kathy Tilford in May 1999.  As of 1991 the area is a national park.  It is part of 46,000 acres of wetlands, most of it on the north side of the St. Johns River.  (The park was designated in 1988.)  Fort Caroline is a part of it.  There are some 200 historic sites in the new park.

Timucuans

In 1562 a confederation of 30 villages under head chief Saturiba.

In 1767 J. Tucker, an Englishman, received Fort George as part of a St. Johns River grant. He developed a plantation, growing rice and indigo. His grant nullified in 1783 when Florida was given back to Spain.

During the British period (which included the Revolutionary War), plantations really started taking off.  In 1790 the Spanish started a land grant system to attract settlers, including Americans.  

Seas Island cotton was introduced.  It is a species different from upland cotton.  It is in the group of long-fiber cottons including Egyptian and Pima cotton.  It is one of the highest quality cottons.  The black seed was the big difference.  Its fibers were easier to remove and hence cotton processing was not too labor intensive.  (They grow specimens of this cotton in their garden at the park.)

1778 there was a small fort.

The Spanish liked the British idea of Florida being divided into a west and east Florida and so they kept the areas. The two capitals were Pensacola and St. Augustine, respectively.  

In 1791 the plantation was begun here in the Second Spanish Period. John McQueen came here.  Head count grants given.  There was a sawmill on the St. Johns River.  Half the island was cleared of timber.

In 1792 John McQueen received Fort George.

In 1798 McQueen had a permanent house built here. And here it still stands.  It is one of the oldest such building still standing in Florida.  A flood got ride of his timber saw mill.  He had a lot of debt.  And so he sold it to a man named McIntosh.  

In 1804 John Houstoun McIntosh purchased the island from John McQueen.  By 1811 McIntosh was the wealthiest planter in eastern Georgia.  He had 170 slaves.  They grew cotton, corn, and sugar cane.  

As the War of 1812 approached, President Madison decided that Florida should be a part of the United States.  He knew that Florida was there for the taking, and if the United States didn't take the opportunity, the British would, and he wanted to beat the British to the punch.  

The president sent in an emissary to foment rebellion.  Since McIntosh was one of the wealthiest men in east Florida they sough out his help.  He agreed.  An Independent Republic of East Florida was declared.  They needed control of St. Augustine.  They received reinforcements from Georgia militiamen.  This military action became known as the Patriots' Rebellion. (Along the way, the Americans scared Fernandina into surrendering.)  

But there was a big hitch in the plan.  Many of the blacks and Indians had escaped from the United States into Spanish Florida and they did not want Florida to become American.  And so they attacked the besieging Americans. And so Florida remained Spanish for the moment.  

But all this left McIntosh holding the bag.  So in 1814 he sold the place.  He went back to Georgia. There is mention of John Houston McIntosh having a plantation in the St. Marys, Georgia area known as the New Canaan Plantation.

Zephaniah Kingsley was born in Scotland in 1765. He came to this country when his parents migrated to Charleston in 1773. Kingsley made money in the coffee and slave trade.  He came to St. Augustine in 1803. He settled first at Laurel Grove Plantation on Doctor's Lake (in present-day Orange Park). His  Orange Park place was used as a fortification.  He also had a White Oak rice plantation and a town house in St. Augustine.  He had his own ocean-going vessels and he was often gone from Florida.

In 1806 Kingsley sold an enslaved East African called Gullah Jack, or Jack the Conjurer, in Charleston.  Sixteen years later, Jack became famous as an important lieutenant of the Denmark Vesey slave uprising and was hanged.   

Purchased as a slave, Kingsley's wife, Anna Madgigine Jai, was freed in 1811 (after her third child with Kingsley). She was active in plantation management (living first at the Orange Park place) and became a successful business woman owning her own property. Neighbors just assumed that Anna was free.  She took Spanish land grants in her own name.  She had 5 acres across from the Laurel Grove Plantation.  She was in the process of establishing a poultry farm to supply her neighbors.  

The Orange Park place was occupied by U.S. troops in 1812. The Seminole Indians attacked and 41 slaves were killed or carried off.  Anna burned her husband's place to the ground when it was being fired on by the Americans.  Then she burned her own place to the ground to prevent it being of any use to the Americans.  

The Spanish commander wanted to reward her.  She was given 350 acres.  But she needed a new place to live.  And so in 1814 she came to Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island.  At that time the place was really and island.  There was a dock at one end of the island and a road that connected to the second dock by the plantation house.  There were 25 tabby cabins for slaves with an average of 70 to 75 people living here.  Slaves were brough here directly from Africa (from both the east and west coasts).  The slaves worked according to a "task" system (which had developed on rice plantations) in which work was measured by specific amounts.  For instance, hoeing was done for a half acre per day per person.  If the person finished this job before quitting time, they had the rest of their day free to do what they wanted.   

He moved to Fort George Island, renting a plantation from John Houston McIntosh until 1817, when he purchased the property for $7,000. He married Anna Madgigaine Jail (who he purchased as a slave). They had four children.

He owned 32,000 acres in east Florida from White Oak plantations on the St. Marys River to orange groves on Drayton Island in Lake George.

In 1813 Kingsley moved here.

In 1821 Florida became a territory of the United States.  Kingsley was appointed by President Monroe to the Florida legislature.  H followed the more lenient Spanish system as regards race relations.  he said this more lenient system would actually perpetuate slavery because it gave slaves a light at the end of the tunnel to look forward to.  But Florida wanted to restrict free blacks and the laws became harsher and harsher until they virtually "re-enslaved" the free blacks.  So Kingsley finally gave up.

In the late 1830s, he relocated his wife and sons to Haiti. (The part they settled in became the Dominican Republic.)  Haiti had a slave rebellion and was governed by former slaves and Kingsley thought this would be a good place for his family to settle.  He took 50 slaves with him.  (Since there was no slavery, he contracted them as laborers for nine years, in accordance with Haitian law.)  Kingsley saw his place as a sort of colony of free blacks.  Fort George plantation was sold to his nephew Kingsley Beatty Gibbs (KBG) in 1839.  As an American territory, Florida passed laws that discriminated against free blacks and placed harsh restrictions on African slaves. This prompted Kingsley to move his family, impacted by these laws, to Haiti, now the Dominican Republic, where descendants of Anna and Zephaniah live today.

Kingsley Beatty Gibbs bought the Kingsley place.  80 slaves had remained.

KBG was in 1833 appointed Clerk of the Superior Court.

Zephaniah Kingsley died in New York Sept. 30, 1843 on a business trip. He was buried in New York City by white relatives.  

His two daughters had stayed and married whites.  Anna came to Jacksonville in the Jacksonville University area.  In 1870 her will was probated.

To this day there are some Kingsley relatives in American Beach (a black resort not far from Fernandina).  Gibbs relatives are numerous in this area.  

Martha Kingsley McNeill (1775-1852) was Zephaniah's daughter.  Charles J. McNeill came to own the place in the late 1850s.  His sister, Anna McNeill Whistler, would come visit the area.  Her son was James Abbott McNeill Whistler.  In 1873 the son painted the famous portrait of his mother, known as "Whistler's Mother."

In 1868 John F. Rollins of Dover, New Hampshire, bought the island.

Eartha Mary Magdalene White (see below) spent part of her childhood in Anna's tabby house on Fort George Island at the mouth of the St. Johns River.

Near the Kingsley Plantation is the former Ribault Club.  The clubhouse was built in 1928 for a cost of $100,000 dollars.  For eighteen years it was a place for the rich and socially prominent.  Activities of the resort included golf, tennis, yachting, fishing, hunting, and surf bathing.  There was orchestra dancing and fine buffet suppers.  

The clubhouse faced too much competition from more southern locations.  It is now part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.  The preserve contains salt marsh, coastal hammock, tidal creeks, sea and marsh island.  


STEPHEN FOSTER STATE FOLK CULTURE CENTER

Located in White Springs, Florida. West edge of city on US 41.

Considered sacred by the Indians who came here to recuperate after battle, the springs are esteemed by many for their alleged medicinal qualities. White Springs is the town and it is located on the north bank of the Suwanee River and is headquarters for the Suwanee River Water Management District.

Stephen Collins Foster (1826-1864) was a composer of over 200 songs and instrumental pieces. His songs are so simple and so popular that they are often mistakenly considered folk music. In fact, they catch a lot of the myth of southern life in ante-bellum times. The songs are a very telling romanticization of life in the south and on the plantations.

Below are quotes from the website: http://home.erols.com/kfraser/foster.html

Stephen Collins Foster was born on the Fourth of July in 1826 in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, the youngest child of William Barclay Foster, a prominent Pittsburgh merchant and Lawrenceville's founding father, and his wife Elizabeth Clayland Tomlinson.

Foster's musical talent was evident early on. At the age of seven, he came across a flute in a general store. Although he had never seen one before, he picked it up and had mastered it before leaving the store. He was soon proficient on both the flute and the piano. He wrote his first piece of music, "The Tioga Waltz," while he was still in school and at sixteen published his first composition, "Open Thy Lattice, Love."

Despite his obvious talent, Foster did not at first consider a career as a composer. After leaving Jefferson College in Coonsburg at the age of 15, he moved to Cincinnati and took a position as a bookkeeper with his older brother Dunning. But the music would not be denied. In 1845 he composed "Old Uncle Ned," followed by "Oh! Susanna" in 1846. Both songs were published and proved to be immensely popular. Around this time, Foster also developed an interest in the minstrel stage and began writing songs for impresario Edwin Christy's minstrel shows. In 1848 Foster closed his account books and returned to Pittsburgh to take up music in earnest.

In 1850 Foster married Jane Denny McDowell, the daughter of a Pittsburgh physician, and the newlyweds moved to New York City, where Foster hoped to advance his career and earn a respectable living. Although homesickness drove the Fosters back to Pittsburgh within the year, the realization that there was a demand for his work brought him to the city again in 1860, this time on his own. Although Foster's songs were well known and sung throughout the country, he was not blessed with good business sense and had not made himself into a recognizable public figure. As the liner notes accompanying baritone Thomas Hampson's 1992 recording of Foster songs (American Dreamer, EMI Records) point out, an arrangement with Christy early in Foster's career allowed Christy "to premiere and even claim authorship for Foster's songs. By the time Foster began to seek recognition for his remarkable work--not to mention need the recognition (and money)--his audience was slow to respond."

Foster continued to write, although the spectacular successes he had enjoyed early on came less frequently. His songs were not always well received, and he began to drink heavily. Jane had long since left him. An accidental fall in a hotel room during a bout of fever sent him to Bellevue Hospital with a severe gash in his throat. Loss of blood and his general weakened condition proved to be a lethal combination, and Foster died on January 13, 1864. He was just 38 years old. His remains were returned to Pennsylvania and laid to rest in Allegheny Cemetery beside his parents.

An ardent wartime supporter of the Union whose only personal acquaintance with the South was a short riverboat trip to New Orleans, made soon after his star began to rise, Foster nevertheless had an instinctive feel for the pace and atmosphere of life below the Mason-Dixon Line. Many of his best-loved and most enduring songs concern life on the plantation, among them "Old Black Joe," "My Old Kentucky Home," "Ring, Ring the Banjo," "Old Folks at Home," "Camptown Races," and "Massa's in De Cold Ground." Some of the other classics that Foster composed in his short but brilliant life are "Gentle Annie," "Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair," "Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming," "Beautiful Dreamer," "Hard Times," and "Ah, May the Red Rose Live Alway."


Located on the Suwannee River near the Georgia-Florida state line, this 250-acre center perpetuates the crafts, music and legends of early and contemporary Floridians. A carillon, in a 200-foot tower, gives daily concerts. In the base of the tower are two animated dioramas, musical instruments and Foster memorabilia; visitor center has eight animated dioramas and exhibits on Florida folk culture. Tours of the visitor center and tower. Special events through the year.

Florida Folk Festival has entertaining and educational heritage presentations; traditional singers, tale-tellers, fiddlers, and dancers; craftsmen of native woods and foliage, work shops; puppet shows; ethnic foods. Memorial Day weekend.

Jeanie Auditions and Ball. Stimulates and promotes promising young female vocalists in the state; scholarship and prizes. First Friday and Saturday in October.

Stephen Foster Folk Culture Park; 9 miles from I-10 on Route 41.

There is a beautiful live oak tree on the lawn.

Folk Culture

I Communities

Cubans, cigars

Greeks, sponges

II Objects

architecture

model of dog-trot house

shotgun house

III Beliefs

IV Food

pine-needle basket

Seminole woman splitting palmetto stems to make gathering baskets.

10 dioramas. 14 artists spent nearly 2 years creating the first 8.

4. Open Thy Lattice Love -- 1844 -- his first published composition

6. Oh, Susanna -- 1848

1. Camptown Races -- 1850

7. Way Down Upon de Swanee Ribber -- 1851

3. My Old Kentucky Home -- 1853

8. Old Dog Tray -- 1853

2 Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair -- 1854

5. Old Black Joe - 1860

There is a big beautiful lawn leading up to the carrillon. Southern Magnolias on the lawn.

Carillon installed in the summer of 1958 by J.C. Deagan Inc. of  Chicago. It has 97 bells.

He had 201 songs published.

9. The Glendy Burk

The Christy Minstrels gave the minstrel show the stereotype form which it kept.

Display of clothing belonging to J. A. Coburn's Minstrels.

10. Old Folks at Home

by the river:

bald cypress trees
saw palmettos
river birch?
water oak?
up higher, flowering dogwood



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