View driving into Kingsley Plantation.

I still haven’t covered my visit to St. Augustine or Savannah during my journey as a featured historical fiction author to the Amelia Island Book Festival (I’m working on it!), but found some more information on Kingsley Plantation that I wanted to share.

Fort George Island where the plantation is located is made up of 1,000 acres that used to be covered with crops. Agriculture use ended around 1900, and since then the fields have reverted back to forest.

On this plantation, slaves were assigned according to the task system. A task was a specified amount of work required for each slave to finish daily. When the task was finished, slaves used whatever remained of the day to hunt, fish, garden or tend to other personal needs.

The slave quarters that you pass on the way into the plantation served as the home for 60 to 80 men, women and children. Each home had a fireplace for a kitchen and a room for sleeping.

Semi-circle of slaves cabins. The tree
in background is pictured in an old
photo of the slaves quarters.

The slave quarters at Kingsley are laid out in a unique way. Instead of a straight line like I’ve seen at other plantations, the houses form a semi-circle. This pattern is similar to village design in some areas of West Africa.

The buildings that remain are not all the same size, the reason being that the larger ones at the end of the row were given to the “driver” and his family for the extra responsibility of managing work assignments. The other large cabins were either shared for community activities such as cooking, or were given to skilled slave craftsmen as a show of status.

By the 1790s, Sea Island cotton was the main cash crop at Kingsley. This cotton grew best on the islands along the coast of South Carolina, Georgia and north Florida. Its strong fibers are long and silky, making it very valuable.

The cotton plants grew as high as seven feet, and the cotton was picked daily from late July to December.

Main house at Kingsley.

The plantation house at Kingsley dates to 1798, and is the oldest plantation house still standing in the state of Florida. The house was designed so that windows on all sides of the rooms would allow breezes to cross-ventilate.

I discovered that when Kingsley and his African wife Anna moved their two sons and 50 of his freed slaves to Haiti in 1837, their two daughters remained in Jacksonville, married to wealthy white men. There are descendants still living in Florida today.

I will continue my posts on St. Augustine and Savannah next week!

Jessica James


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