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Remaking Wormsloe Plantation

Remaking Wormsloe Plantation: The Environmental History of a Lowcountry Landscape

Drew A. Swanson
Foreword by Paul S. Sutter
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Remaking Wormsloe Plantation
    Book Description:

    Why do we preserve certain landscapes while developing others without restraint? Drew A. Swanson's in-depth look at Wormsloe plantation, located on the salt marshes outside of Savannah, Georgia, explores that question while revealing the broad historical forces that have shaped the lowcountry South. Wormsloe is one of the most historic and ecologically significant stretches of the Georgia coast. It has remained in the hands of one family from 1736, when Georgia's Trustees granted it to Noble Jones, through the 1970s, when much of Wormsloe was ceded to Georgia for the creation of a state historic site. It has served as a guard post against aggression from Spanish Florida; a node in an emerging cotton economy connected to far-flung places like Lancashire and India; a retreat for pleasure and leisure; and a carefully maintained historic site and green space. Like many lowcountry places, Wormsloe is inextricably tied to regional, national, and global environments and is the product of transatlantic exchanges. Swanson argues that while visitors to Wormsloe value what they perceive to be an "authentic," undisturbed place, this landscape is actually the product of aggressive management over generations. He also finds that Wormsloe is an ideal place to get at hidden stories, such as African American environmental and agricultural knowledge, conceptions of health and disease, the relationship between manual labor and views of nature, and the ties between historic preservation and natural resource conservation. Remaking Wormsloe Plantation connects this distinct Georgia place to the broader world, adding depth and nuance to the understanding of our own conceptions of nature and history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4377-8
    Subjects: History, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. FOREWORD Wormsloe as Palimpsest
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Paul S. Sutter

    Wormsloe Plantation is one of the most significant historical, archaeological, and natural sites in Georgia and the entire Lowcountry, and a major reason for its significance is the property’s integrity and long-term proprietorship. Noble Jones, one of the founding English settlers of Savannah in 1733, was also among the first to apply to the Trustees of Georgia for an outlying plantation, and in 1736 he received permission to occupy and improve what would soon become Wormsloe. Since then the property has been owned and managed by his descendants—the Jones, De Renne, and Barrow families—for a remarkable ten generations,...

    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION The Last Plantation
    (pp. 1-13)

    One of the most iconic images of the Old South is that of a mile-long avenue lined with live oaks leading to a stately, columned plantation house. This tableau conjures up Disneyesque visions of southern belles in hoop skirts, slaves laboring in cotton fields, the clink of julep cups, and foxhunting on horseback, with just a hint of magnolia and jessamine in the air. Visitors to Wormsloe State Historic Site on the Georgia coast enter just such a drive as they make their way onto the historic plantation to explore one of the state’s richest cultural and natural locations. They...

  6. CHAPTER ONE A Lowcountry Experiment: Creating a Transatlantic Wormsloe
    (pp. 14-53)

    On november 16, 1732, the ship Anne departed England for the New World. The vessel’s crew and 115 passengers were bound for the southeastern coast of British North America, for a strip of land between the colony of South Carolina and Spanish Florida where they intended to found a new colony: Georgia. This colonial project was the result of the efforts of a group of twenty-one “ministers, merchants, and parliamentarians”—collectively referred to as the Trustees—intent on creating a new sort of outpost in the Americas.¹ The Trustees envisioned an idyllic and idealistic colony with three principal aims: the...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Becoming a Plantation: Wormsloe from the Revolution to the Civil War
    (pp. 54-94)

    A crow flying across the Skidaway Road and down the Isle of Hope peninsula in the spring of 1783 would have passed over a coastal live oak and mixed pine forest, with an occasional palmetto or marshy slough breaking up the canopy. Moving south, the bird might have wheeled once over Noble Jones’s tabby fort and an adjacent cornfield or two, edged by small wooden slave huts and perhaps dotted by a few foraging cattle or hogs, but from the air, most of Wormsloe plantation would have looked little different from the surrounding marshes and woods. A similar crow soaring...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  9. CHAPTER THREE Wormsloe Remade: Plantation Culture from the Civil War to the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 95-128)

    In october 1861, Confederate artillery at Port Royal opened fire on Union gunboats along the southeastern South Carolina coast. The roar of the cannons shook Wormsloe’s plantation house “from cellar to garret, though the firing was at forty miles distance.”¹ With that thunderous barrage, the Civil War came to Wormsloe. The conflict disrupted cotton planting and the Joneses’ normal routines over the next four years, temporarily leaving the plantation in the hands of Confederate troops guarding Savannah. But the Union victory in the war spelled the end of slavery and ultimately sea island cotton on Wormsloe and threatened the Joneses’...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR “Worth Crossing Oceans to See”: The Transition from an Agricultural to an Ornamental Landscape
    (pp. 129-156)

    Around midday on september 29, 1896, a hurricane made landfall near Tybee Island, packing sustained winds of close to 110 miles per hour. The storm surged up the Savannah River, destroying homes, uprooting trees, swamping rice impoundments, and leveling cotton fields as it went. The hurricane had earlier made a circuitous passage across the Florida peninsula from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic, leaving severe damage in Jacksonville, Brunswick, and Darien as it skirted the bight of northeastern Florida and coastal Georgia. As the storm plowed over Savannah, it drove boats ashore on the Isle of Hope, destroyed churches...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE From Plantation to Park: Wormsloe since 1938
    (pp. 157-188)

    In the mid-1970s, Noble Jones’s plantation became a state historic site, owned and preserved by the people of Georgia. The state acquired the historic property as a consequence of a belief in the value of its rich history, especially in connection with the colonial era. Officials also appreciated the natural resources and green space that the estate offered in the midst of the rapidly developing coast. The creation of a state historic site was the culmination of family preservation efforts, marking Georgia’s declaration that Wormsloe’s history and environment were significant enough to warrant government management. Despite this fundamental shift, the...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 189-222)
    (pp. 223-244)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 245-252)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 253-253)