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Glynn County: History and Lore: Ed Green Book:

St. Simons History

V. PLANTATIONS IN MATURITY AND DECLINE

By the late 1820's the second generation was taking over the ownership and management of the plantations. The great men who developed the plantations in the 1790's were getting older. They had made great success as planters and business men. Now it was time for a more splendid life in the city, or was time to give the problems of farm management to their sons.

So, sometime around 1825 to 1835, the early plantation era came to an end; and the continuing history of the plantations is a distinct period. Of course, these great plantations continued in maturity. In fact their well developed organization, the storybook social life, the outward prosperity, seemed to continue for a long time. However, by this time the forces of decay had already begun. Several things contributed to this.

1. The soil was not as fertile and productive as in earlier years. The rotation of crops and fertilizers were not well known or as much used as today we know them to be.

2. Recession in England, and other factors there, caused a dramatic decline in the demand and the price of cotton. The price fell to less than one-half of what it had been in earlier years.

3. There was increasing controversy about the use of slaves. This put pressure upon the owners and managers of the plantations who were so dependent on hand labor to produce the crops. The importation of new slaves from Africa was prohibited in Georgia. Then actually quite a smuggling trade in slaves came to exist. Boats could hide their cargos in the rivers and inlets of the island until the slaves could be sold and transported elsewhere.

As an interesting footnote: Ebo Landing on Dunbar Creek was one of the best of these shelters. Tradition says that a group of Negroes from the Ebo tribe in Africa were being held here until they could be shipped to the slave markets elsewhere. Included among them was the very proud chief of this tribe. Seeing nothing ahead but a very miserable future, they all walked into the water and drowned themselves rather than be slaves, saying "The water brought us here; the water will take us away. "

4. Absentee ownership in the second and third generation often brought less interested management, allowed the buildings to run down, and brought excesses in the treatment of the slaves.

Thus, even in the years before the War Between the States, the plantation system was already past its prime. Then the whirlwind of war almost completely destroyed it. Later post-war efforts for revival proved discouraging and were for the most part unsuccessful.

In this chapter we are describing the same four plantations and what happened to them in maturity and decline.

Next Section: Hamilton Plantation - Later Days