Fort George Island
Maintained by the National Park Service, Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island is home to Florida’s oldest surviving plantation house. The plantation house was built in 1798, and is surrounded by other later buildings, including 23 remaining cabins for the enslaved. As with most plantations in the 18th century, the house faces the Fort George river, rather than the rest of the plantation, because transportation by ship or boat was the easiest way to get crops to market or to bring in supplies.
The story of Kingsley Plantation dates back to the Kingdom of Great Britain’s 18th-century occupation of Florida. One of several plantations established in the region during this period, the island was ceded to Richard Hazard in 1765 for cultivating indigo. After Great Britain transferred Florida back to Spain in 1783, the Spanish government granted the island to South Carolinian John “Lighting” McQueen. McQueen developed a plantation with 300 enslaved Africans in 1793 but soon found himself in bankruptcy, turning the property over to Georgia’s John McIntosh in 1804. To escape punishment from the Spanish for leading an unsuccessful rebellion to annex Florida into the United States, McIntosh fled back to Georgia, leasing the property to Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. in 1814; Kingsley then acquired it in 1817.
Born in England in 1765, Kingsley was raised in Charleston and grew up to become a successful shipping merchant and slave trader. Considered “one of Florida’s most flamboyant slaveholders”, Kingsley purchased and married Anna Madgigine Jai, a Wolof girl from present day Senegal in 1806. He eventually grew to depend on Anna to run his plantations in his absence. After taking over McIntosh’s land at Fort George Island, they managed 60 enslaved under a task system to produce indigo, sea island cotton, okra, oranges and other vegetables at the 1,000 acre property. Sold after Kingsley’s death, the Kingsley Plantation was briefly controlled by the Freedmen’s Bureau and was under private ownership until being acquired by the State of Florida in 1955. With many of its structures still surviving on the isolated sea island, the property was acquired by the National Park Service, becoming a part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve in 1991.
Kingsley Plantation photograph taken between 1870 and 1889. (State Archives of Florida)
Jaudon Residence (Magnolia Plantation)
2793 Lydia Street
In 1815, Florida’s Spanish government granted Robert Hutchinson 150 acres along the St. Johns River to establish a plantation in present-day Riverside and Brooklyn. By 1836, William McKay owned what had grown into 500 acre property called Magnolia Plantation. At Magnolia, 50 enslaved cultivated the land, producing sea island cotton. In 1850, Magnolia Plantation was acquired by Elias Jaudon, previously from Hilton Head, South Carolina. Jaudon expanded the plantation to an operation covering more than 1,000 acres producing cotton, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, corn, sheep and cattle. In 1838, Jaudon and Peggy, one of Jaudon’s enslaved women, became charter members of the Baptist denomination in Jacksonville. Their congregation would later become Bethel Baptist Church and the First Baptist Church in Downtown Jacksonville. Jaudon built this residence as a weddng gift for his son, Elias Jaudon Jr., and gifted him 150 acres of land. Today the house survives as the oldest known building in Riverside.