(Continuing my blog post about my trip to the Amelia Island Book Festival and the sidetrips I took on the way and the way back).
I will have to break my St. Augustine trip into a couple of posts because there was so much to see! When I left Amelia Island, I decided to take a detour to see Kingsley Plantation because there was such a unique backstory to it. It is located on Fort George Island (didn’t realize that it was located on an island, until I was leaving), and is said to be the best example of an 1800s sea island cotton plantation in Florida.
I honestly felt like I was in a mystical land as I was driving down the long, tree-lined drive. It was a beautiful, sunny morning and everything sparkled and looked magical. I kept thinking to myself, “Where am I?” because I definitely wasn’t in Pennsylvania anymore!
|Remains of slave cabins.|
The historic park includes a plantation house, kitchen house, barn, and the ruins of 25 of the original slave cabins. According to a Park Service brochure, during Florida’s plantation period (1763-1865), Fort George Island was owned by several plantation owners. However, the property was named after Zephaniah Kingsley, who operated the plantation from 1813-1839.
|Closeup of tabby made up of oyster shells.|
I pulled over as soon as I saw the slave cabins, which are made of tabby (an oyster shell concrete) and stand in a semi-circle about a 1/5 of a mile from the plantation home. It was amazing to walk among them and think of all of those who had lived there a century and more ago. The large tree you see in the picture above is actually shown in a photo with slave children playing beneath it.
|The Main House.|
The main house was built using slave labor in 1798,during the days when Florida was still a Spanish colony. In 1814, it was purchased by Zephania Kingsley and his African wife, Anta (Anna) Madgigine Jai. He had first come to Florida in 1803 and purchased her as a slave in Cuba in 1806. The two fell in love, however, and Kingsley set Anta and her children free in 1811. Even though he continued to own slaves, Kingsley became a major proponent for the rights of free blacks in America.
Florida was transferred from Spain to the United States in 1821 and the Kingsleys found themselves facing major changes in the laws affecting African Americans. By 1830, Kingsley realized there was no immediate hope of changing laws in the United States. He freed 50 of his slaves and took them to Haiti where he established a free settlement. He died in 1843, but Anta (Anna) lived until the 1870s and eventually returned to Florida to live out her last days. Many of their descendants still survive today.
I arrived at the plantation early in the morning, so was the only one wandering the grounds. It was really nice to have peace and quiet, and be able to soak in the history of the land. I also got to see a nesting turtle which really surprised me!
After leaving the plantation, I was driving along a road with water to my left and noticed my GPS was telling me to turn left in half a mile. I thought it had gotten me severely lost, but when I turned left, there sat a ferry to take me across the water.
I was now on my way to St. Augustine!
(To be continued)