Today, Goodbys Creek is a popular boating location on Jacksonville’s Southside. However, during the British occupation of East Florida, it was a part of a large plantation operated by Henry Strachey. In 1771, English merchant Strachey acquired the 1,000-acre Beauclerc Bluff Plantation from Robert Davis. Granted the property in 1765, Davis had established Beauclerc as a thriving indigo plantation by the time John and William Bartram visited it for their 250-mile journey of the St. Johns River. At the time, Beauclerc Bluff stretched along the St. Johns River between Goodbys Creek and Plummers Cove. Strachey expanded his plantation with the acquisition of property on the north side of the creek after the accidental drowning of its previous owner, Joseph Goodbe. In addition to Indigo, the enslaved at Beauclerc Bluff produced turpentine and cultivated provisions and rice.
Generally associated with the Gullah Geechee history of coastal Georgia and South Carolina, rice was cultivated at a number of British East Florida plantations between 1763 and 1784. Examples include Governor James Grant’s Mount Pleasant Plantation along the Guana River in present day Ponte Vedra Beach, Zephaniah Kingsley’s White Oak Plantation along the St. Marys River in Nassau County and Bulow Plantation in Volusia County.
Visible abandoned rice paddies developed at White Oak in the 18th century. Aerial courtesy of Google Earth.
When Britain ceded Florida to Spain, Strachey abandoned the plantation, sold his 31 enslaved workers to Thomas Bee of Charleston, South Carolina and returned to England. A delegate of the Continental Congress, Bee served as the sixth Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina. He also owned a 925-acre inland rice plantation called Woodstock along the Edisto River in western Berkeley County. Woodstock was originally established by Thomas Bulline during the late 17th century. Rice planting there was likely initiated in the 1720s but had been abandoned by the time the property was listed for sale in 1834.
In addition, Strachey listed a plantation house, blacksmith shop, mill house, pigeon house, fowl house, cooper shop, barns to house corn and naval stores and fourteen houses for the enslaved among the improvements and losses at Beauclerc Bluff due to Spain taking over control of Florida in 1784. During the latter twentieth century, much of what was Beauclerc Bluff Plantation was paved over with modern development, prompting the City of Jacksonville and the Trust For Public Land to partner together to acquire what is now known as Goodbys Creek Preserve in 2002. Unknown to many, this “preserve” is a visible remnant of Beauclerc Bluff Plantation’s 18th century rice field built by the enslaved.
Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at firstname.lastname@example.org