The archaeology of Afro-American slavery in coastal Georgia : a regional perception of slave household and community patterns


Material Information

The archaeology of Afro-American slavery in coastal Georgia : a regional perception of slave household and community patterns
Physical Description:
xiii, 248 leaves : ill., maps ; 28 cm.
Singleton, Theresa A
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Slavery -- Georgia   ( lcsh )
Antiquities -- Georgia   ( lcsh )
Anthropology thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1980.
Bibliography: leaves 229-247.
General Note:
General Note:
Statement of Responsibility:
by Theresa A. Singleton.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 023443427
oclc - 07333676
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Full Text



iHER:'\ A. S":71 7TO1



SCopyright 1980O


Theresa A. Singleton

DedicaIted to the fiemory of father, illiam E Singleton r.

AC I ;. I is

Many persons made this effort possible. Several faculty members

at the University of Florida have been central in helping me develop ny

research and writing skills, particularly Drs. Fairbanks, Jerald T.

Milanich, Maxine -'-golis, Prudence Rice, Samuel Proctor, and Ronald

Foreman. Dr. Fairbanks has been a mentor and friend throughout my gradu-

ate career and I have enjoyed studying with him. I also would like to

thank Dr. Vorn -*ing for reading the final draft for my defense.

Dr. Kathleen A. Deagan, "' first instructor in field methods of histori.-

cal archaeology, has always been supportive and interested in my career


Very special thanks go to Dr. Lewis Larson, State Archaeologist

for Georgia. I ' pleased that he asked me to undertake the Putler

Island Project. Also, his staff deserve special mention, particularly

Linda Timmings, for undertaking all of the bookkeeping responsibilities

for the project.

I em very grateful to the field crews of summer 19 78, spring 1979,

arnd summ!'er 1979 for working along with mue in .the Butler Island -arsh.

I think we are the only ones who can truly appreciate what slave life

rM'st have been like at Butter Island. I a;n particularly grateful to

Ernest Despai : for the detaileAd drawings r the chimney Biill Fisher

"O r hiding out tiih ie 'laboratoy man',sis and for sskin' S his fOther,

Dr. Richard Finher, to undertake the soil analyses; and Lorraine kcCosker

for his ass stance with th photographs'.

Appreciation is extended to Gene Love, David Edwards, and the re-

mainder of the staff of the Altamaha Waterfowl' Man.agement Area for their

advice, equipment, and time.

I would like to thank the coimmunity of Darien, Georgia, for the

hospitality they extended to me and the crew during our stay there. Spe-

cial thanks go to Mis. Bessie Lewis, Jim Cook, Nurse Campbell, Mrs. Bates,

Nan Earl Wylly, and Rudolph Capers for their valuable in format ion relating

to the findings presented in this study.

The archival research was an extremely important aspect of this study.

I would like to thank the staffs of the Pennsylvania Historical Society,

the Georgia Historical Society, and the P. K. Yonge Library at the Univer-

sity of Florida for their assistance. Also acknowledged are the staff of

the Inter-Library Loan Department at the University of Florida Library for

securing many of the materials I needed.

A warm appreciation is extended to my colleagues for their comments

and suggestions concerning my research objectives: Kenneth Lewis, Patrick

Garrow, Thomas W'heaton, Leland Fergueson, Jennifer Hamilton, Chad Bradly,

Sue Mulli.ns-Moore, John Morgan, Jr., Morgan R. Crook, Elizabeth Wing,

Rochelle Marrinan, Larry Banks, Nicholas Honerkemp, Robin Smith, and

Leslie S. Libberman. Also, I would like to thank John A. Scott for his

- ..c:,.tions; Richard Fisher for undertaking the soil analyses; Kathy

Bordua, my lab assistant and confident during the analysis and writing of

the dissertation; Ashley Wood, the draftsnan and illustrator; rand Sue

Kirkpatrick for typing the fi-ial manuscript.

Finally, I would like to thank .- family and friends for their

encouragement through the years.


A.' 7 zE I I .7

LIST I F . . . . .

LIST OF FIGURES . . . . . . . . . . .

ABS-T RACT . . . . .. . . .


1 IN'1FCD UCTON . . . . . . . .

Region) in Archeoio.y ... .. ....
Regional 1 ,- to the St. y ou Slavey' . .. .
,The Arc aeo uy of Afro-A',Tric ns .. . . ..
ProbIei''s ad . . . .
3J PO'C W : i k S . .


Ernviroamsaentu Sup:: vry and Intrroducticn .... .
t, ys r Ge r a.
The Ee -ice of the, PlanLation rScte. in rgia .
Te Rice Industry . . . . . . . . .
Ri ce 'a.nd Slave rry . . . . .
M,1hods of T.. rri atior n n a 'd P t Rice . .i
-3 .g-
H arves.ig, 1 v li and .......
o-Stape Colton Cu"'l Cure......
MIel tods of P1 artiing and Cultivati.:o .
H arv esg- s.. t. -. C -. . . .. . . ..
S u 'ia y . . . . . . . . . . .
F...,. a, hu -

1 i1. -.7 :. . . .. . . . .

Ownership and Occup_-,ation o
PDI an-ttion 1c22se eit at Butler
Records of S Life .. ..

A rchaIo 1' '- o-.'c: e .
S'\.ve Vfi11?;;jp Sitcs -...

S r. .. .. .. ..... PATTER i COASPTAL SiA' C'
-.~ ~~~ AL3- 221

is:d 0 802-- 18G0

ITIES . . .

uS o m 0' ..........t t ef 1, tL2
"Te o .t-in ,nts of PO anI a-tioI e. t'21 .' Patt. ,rns2
. Co:i'r-'.inityv orgnizat-;Ions a' Pui er Island . . .

.. . . iV



. 20

S. 23
. 26
6 ;

, 4 ^

. 58
o B9

0 43



The Community Plan at Slave Setlement 4 .. . 1
Slave Dwellings . . ... .............. . .. 126
Chimney construction . . . . . . . 130
Building hardware . . . . . . 137
Sumnmary . . . . ........................ . 138

5, THE ,-,,IAL CULTURE OF SLAVERY . . . . ... . 140

Kitchen Artifacts .. . . . . . . .. 141
Ceramics ........... ......................42
Ceramic styles and vessel forms .. ......... .. i43
Dating the ceramics from Butler Island ..... 155
,.,raminc Artifacts . . . . . . . . .57
Glass bottles and tablewares . . . ... 157
Cooking and processing equipment . . . ...9..
E.atin utencil.s 1....................
Ec~t r~g Lit nci s . . . . . . . . 1 0
Kitchen Artifacts: Summary . . . . .i..5
Food Procurement . . . . .................... 166
Food Resources . . . . . . . . 169
Domestic Food Resources . ........... . ... 13
.....'.. ,-.:tic Food Resources . . . . . . .
Fishs "-u tutls....................... 179
Fishes and turtles . . . . . . . . 179
Birds and Mammals . . . . . . . .. 183
Sumoairy of Food Resources . . . . ...... 184
Clothing . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 6
Buttons . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Footwear... .... ..................... *
Accessories and Ornaments . . . . . .. .. 0..'
Beads *........... . ... . . .. ... 190
Miscellaneous Items . . . . . . .. 193
Sum ry . . . . . . . * * * _'3
Household Ites . . . . . . . ... 193
Tobacco Equipment . . .
Farming Tools and Specialized Crafts . . . . . 99
Summary . . . . . . . . . .......... 109


7. S, : .SIONS . . . . . . . . . 219




ABBREVIATI ', USED N REFER NCES. . .. . ...... . . . . 228


REFERE CES. . . . . . . . . . 2
. . . . . . . . . . . 229

BIOGRPHICI\L S' :'.i9i...
. . . . . . . . . . . 248'-

v1 ii


Table Pa,,e

1. Ownership of Butler IslanI-d, 1790? to the Present 50

2. Rice Production at Buter Tsland, 1T02-1833 4

3. Annual Births a'.d Deth of Butler Slaves 71

4. An Apcroxi Mmate List of S Iaves by Age and Task Rate at Butler
is Ia nd, I803-1845: Field Hands
5. An Approximate List of Slaves, by Age and Occupation, at
Butler Island, 1803-1845: Plantation Srecialists 76

6. 1830 Census of Slaves at. Butler Island 77

7. Mortality Rates of Infants and Ch-ildren of Sieves on the
Butter Estate, 18138-384 81

8. Vessel Forms, of Ceramic St.yles 14

9. Freuences of Decoraited Taberes 5

10. App icati on of the eaI Ceramic, Date Formula to Tab ewd re s 156

i. Styles of Glass Pepresented at Butler Island,
SIttlemert ,'4 158

12. identifedFa rom Slave Site Q4, Butier Island 171

13. Relative Weihts of Domestic and Nonduesti c Animal Food
fro-m ";,",!le, s a'
fro Buter t Islaend 1/2

1 4. T e e ,l iht,- of Doniestic Sp-,c-ies t But.ler Islad 7;4

15. Re '- t- v Wei qit of Td t rfiFed domestic Food by Anal,
Class 1 79

16 ATfac Profilrs fc o'; f. r Slavery ites in 'eorgiaFlri.a 2,
17. j t-': -A if ac. P o' .o. i g o.'s

18. Tie Slave Arti. fact tttern in Coastal Georni /.ori.da 216


Figure Page

1. Tnvestigted Slavery S ites in Coastal Geor' gia. 15

2. The Physiographic Regiuns of Georgia. 21

3. ExIenL,--' of Rice Cultivation in Geor(ia ia in 1860 27

4. Butler Island and Environs. 47

5. The Butler Georgian Estate. 52

6. The Subdivision of Butlter and Genera l's islands inIto
Tenant Plots (circa 1883). 57

7. Historic Sites at Butler Island. 5

8. Present-Day View of Butler Island. .

9. Extent of Excavations at Settlement 5

10. Stratigraphic Profile of Settleiient #l. 17

t. Eig chteenth-Century S1 i-, re F-ra A.ts from Settlement #l. 100

1?. Spanish real, 'i:..ico Mint frci , Settlejei.nt 4. 02

13. Contour Map of Settlement 10i

14. Excavaltion of Set.tlement 14. 10

is. tr.a1ti g'rap ic Pr 10 Se17tlemen1t : S ....

16. 0 erseer' s Ho u. 5I

17. Tidal Mi 11 ad .o.t Landing. 15

13. Sa ve CbI. 6

19. Steoam Mill Ruins. .i

20. Linear Arr. -ir.nt of Slave Dvwelings. -

21. Extent of Excavation at Structure Four. 122

. '/^^^yAq^s;^'^^"'-^'^

Figure Page

22. Stratigraphic Profile of Drainage Ditch. 124

23. The Extent of Excavation at Structure One, Settlement fX. 123

24. Hearth of Chimney. 132

25. Chimney Brickwork. 133

26. Arch-Shaped Hearth Support. 135

27. Red Coarse Earthenwar'es. 147

28. Transfer Printed Perlw,'are Fragments. 150

29. Annular Ceramics. 153

30. ;. .l.'ar Ceramics. 153

31. Eating Utencils. 154

32. Carved Bone Fragments. 164

33. Food Procurement Artifacts. 168

34. Clothing and Personal Adornments. 189

35. Shoe Soles. 192

36. Parasol Attachment. 195

37. Eye Lens. 197

38. Porcelain Pipe Bowl. 201

39. Woodvorking Toos. 203

40. Unidentified Tools. 206

41. Sia' -- de Ceramics, 208

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Theresa A. Singleton

December Ic .

Chairman: Charles H. Fairbanks
Major Department: Anthropology

A variety of methodological and theoretical orientations has been

utilized in the study of Afro-American slavery. R--.onal approaches are

not new to sla' ..', but few studies have examined the impact of local

ecological factors upon slave lifeways within a narrowly defined area.

In this study, coastal Georgia (the barrier islands and the. adjacent

deltas) provides the region for the c oration of an ecological approach

to slave life and material conditions. Specifically, slavery at a rice

coast plantation is compared with slavery at long-staple cotton planta-

tions. Archaeological data provide the primary basis for interpretation,

and historical resources are used to supplement the archaeology.

Primary .settlement patterns and subsistence data recovered from the

Butler island rice plantation in 1978 and 1979 are used to investigate

save life and material co editions on the rice coast. The But'er Islari

data are co pc..rec with t arch-"aeolog ical data recovered frome sV:.ra1

previously inves tiogated slave sites of long-staple cotton plantations.

The comparison reveals si nilarities as we'll as differences in the

slave lifeways oF the two cash crop regions., the

differences are primarily discernible in slave comui-nity organizations,

the natural resources exploited, and slave crafts. Similarities are

evident in most household artifact pLatterns: plantation food rations,

food preparation equipment, personal possessions, and leisure-tie activi-

ties. it is s- res ted that the differences in slave life reflect the

dissimilarity between th-e habitats where rice and long-staple cotton w ere

produced. Oni the other hand, the similarities may reflect general labor

mnane gem.ent practices adapted for the production of coastal staples.

xA i i

1 -i ,.,UCTION

Tho anthropological study of Afro-American slavery has increas-

ingiy used archaeological data as a primary source for interpreta-

tion. Because traditional historic sources are subject to problems of

falsification and bias, archaeological data are frequently used to

supplement historic records. It has been suggested that archaeology be

the key to writing the cultural history of the inarticulatet" (Ascher

1974:10-12). Slavery sites have been investigated specifical iy for this

reason. As a consequence of the widespread illiteracy i.:.- slaves,

few documents written by slaves exist. "".-: of our understanding of

slavery has come from accounts written by whites. inferences derived

from the archaeological record of slavery can provide insights into

slave lifeways and slave worldview. Although planter records: travelers'

accounts, and oral interviews are used extensively here to supplement the

archaeological record, this study assumes that archaeological data are

one of th:e best indices of slave behavior.

The purpose of this study is to offer a model capable of dis-

cerning slave behavioral patterns in coastal Georgia. Slavery on the

Georgia coast was characterized by distinctive demographic, environmen-

tal econoic, as wel! as historical factors 'which were absent in the

interior.. -doultedly, these conditions affected the quality of slave'

life, save activities, and ultimately the developmeInt of save cUN Urc


AL present, slave sites from coastal Georgia are perhaps better

known than those from any other regions of the Old South. In recent

years, a number of slave sites have been identified, located, and exca-

vO, taed n this area. Un til n,, no attemtL has beE made to syrthJesize

these archaeological finngs thin a fra6meloark larger than he singlIle

pl antation.

Archaeological investigations undertake, at the Butler Is and
pl nt t on in "T.' Is County, .. .. -" '.. .
p1Cant-ton in *Ttosh CountyS Georgia, provide the first rcheo'ogical

evidence of slave life at a Georgian rice plantation. AlI reported

excavated slave sites in Georgia are former long-staple cotton pl-a.-

tirons on the barrier islands. Thus, the significance of the Butler Ildr '

research is t.o.fod: first, iL sr.-lies archaeological evidence for the

specific adapt&Lions of slavevv to rice ci'ture; second, comparisons

o e uler I -s ld at wi dat, fro nong-s at e coton, s ve si tes

ndi ca e several ident ie cal patterns. This evoideIce suggests 1ht h Ie

cultural system of slavery h-i ch deveel "1- in costa I Georgia xe(:.eded

adaptations to specific cash crop requirements.

U! timately, the goal cf this dissertation is to dent-fy End ofrer

possile explanati ons for slave coccrnity and househo patterns- This

objective is accompl ished through the analysis s of primary settle -' L
ad ssis ter ce d gta recovered from Butler Island save sites. Comn-

par ,e data from o'etlr roast al slave sites provide additional evi-

d for regional interpretations.. 1Th theor-tica orent nation of
dlelce s fr regiuadl i dLa E- .... n s i

c'!i "pp oac i n: t"e " .- er p Cre ation r.. o c t l rft,- n n.

Lccc ygi Cal Fcpfr'oF,,ii, "h Iai~rrt~in -L e r -, ptr

P,-^- .. l *^ :.:- :- il ,'' --' ,/

Systematic approaches toward the organization of archaeological

data within temporal and spatial frameworks have been undertaken in

archaeoi:,.' for most of this century. Although early regional studies

lacked the sophisticated methodology and theoretical orientations of

recent years, large amounts of archaeological data were collected for

many states and regions in the United States (Hole .and Heizer 1977:

13-14). These data have provided the basis for regional chronologies,

cultures, and the frameworks for the "more-analytic causal ly-orierted

approaches" of today (Adams 1968:1188).

The concepts end methods for the regional analysis of the "new

archaeolcc have been derived from geography. Stated simply, the

region is a "part of the earth's surface which is distinguished in

some defined way from the surrounding area." This disti nctiveness may

be based upon a single criterion or upon a number of criteria (Grigg

1967:464). The objective of regional analysis is to understand

spatial associations within the confines of a specified geographic area

and eventually within a hierarchy of larger areas (Berry '1964, 1968;

Isard 1956; Haggett 1965). its methodology utilizes probability sam-

pling andmultiv riate mathematical techniques for the identification,

interpretation, and explanation of spatial organization.

Recent applications of regional analysis to archaeology have

resulted in a trend toward replacing the single site as the .nit of

archaeological analysis with d larger entity, e reion, t resu!-y,

the importance of a single site cannot be sufficiently understood

taken out of its regional context (Piog 1978). iewis Binford was the

first to define this usage of regional archaeology:

the detailed and systematic st-'y of regions that can be
expected to have supported cultural systems. The extent of
such regions will vary because it is recognized that cul-
tural systems differ greatly in the limits of their adap-
tive range and milieu. As cultural systems become more
comp ex, they : rally spai greater eco ,lo gical ranges and
enter more complex, widespread, extra-societal interaction.
The isolation and definition of content, the structure, and
the range of a cultural system together with its ecological
relationships may be viewed as a research objective.

Central to the above definition is the view that culture is an

adaptive system. As an anthropological concept, adaptation refers to

the ability of a population to adjust to the environment by develop-

ing effective social and technological structures. Adaptation is an

ecological process (Steward 1955:30). The interaction between human

behavior and the environment in which culture is the rmediatirg

variable is fundamental to ecological approaches in anthropology

(Harris 1968:659). Cultural ecology as a research strategy. involves

three procedures: first, it analyzes the interrelationships between

technology and the environment; second, it analyzes behavioral patterns

involving the exploitation of a particular area (the region) by a

particular mode of technology; third, it ascertains the extent to

which the behavior patterns involved in exploiting the environment

affect other aspects of culture (Steward 1955:40-1). Th utility of

regional analysis in cultura-l ecol-:' is very clear. As the locus

occupied by a cultural system, the region provides the unit of analysis

for ascertaining huwan ecological relationships.

Because the region is the locus of human activities, regional

a.rchaeology requires the investigation cof diverse activity areas within

the geographic area occupied by a cultural system. It assumes that 'the

region, not the single site, embraces the total range of behavioral

variability for a population. The single site, on the other hand,

reflects only those activities that had taken place at that

specific locality (Streuver 1971:11). Thus the goal of regional

archaeology is to determine patterned interrelationships among sites.

Regional archaeology attempts to understand the cultural and

environmental processes richh have affected behavioral patterns. Its

application to historic site archaeology is slowly emerging. Specifi-

cally at historic sites, artifact pattern recognition (South 1977,

1978) has been suggested as a technique of discerning behavioral

variability within a region or time period. Ultimately, pattern recogni-

tion seeks to identify by means of archaeological data the functional

and behavioral processes which have taken place at sites (South 1378:

223; e.g. Lewis 1977).

Besides a unit of analysis, regional archaeology also s.pp.lis a

method for the study of site location. Locational analysis examines

spatial relationships about ecological or cultural phenomiena

(Ha0 gett 1965) A developing focus of locational analysis is its

application to historic sites (Swendlund 1975; Langhorne 1976; House

1977). Such studi es attempt to determine the importance of c ;tural

or natural resources within the functioning of a historic cultural

system (House 1977:243-4).

A third concept of regional archaeoliogy establishes a fame-

wourk for the coi election of cultural data for a defined area. nhe

regional plan or overview is the first phase in multi-phase

archaeological research. Frequently, regional plans are used as

planning devices in cultural resource management (King et al. 1977:

145-173; McGimsey and Davis 1977,:47; Schiffer and Gummerrnman 1977;

121-131). As planning tools, regional plans involve the review of all

known records of the project area, including historical records, sur-

vey and excavation reports, and other existing field data as well as

informant consultation. The overview should summarize the present

knowledge, evaluate the available evidence, estimate the resource base,
and attempt to forecast long-range regional development and ongoing

destructive processes (Schiffer and Gummerman 1977: 12-13). Although

regional plans are only as good as our present-day knowledge permits

(Glassow' 1977), their utility as rudimentary planning tools is essen-

tial in historic preservation.

From the above discussion four concepts of regional archaeology

are identified. The first is a unit of analysis which represents

the broad cultural milieu of human activities for a cultural system.

The second is a method of discerning spatial organizations within a

cultural system. The third is a "--.-.. .rk for tihe collection and

-.* -.i s of cultural and ecological data within a defined geographic
area. Finally, the fourth is the explanation for the patterns thus
-:T- ned.

In this study, the first, third, and fourth concepts provide the

orientation for analysis and interpretation. .Coastal Georgia, speci-

cally the barrier islands and the adjacent river deltas, forms the

geographic p.raweter. The temporal parameter is the nineteenth cen-

tury (1800 to 186 1 ) he unit of archaeological analysis for the

investigation of the slave system is the slave community site.

TIe slave vi llag or community site was the locus of most slave

activities. Admittedly, slaves spent considerable time in the fields

and at other locations of the plantation complex. But it is doubtful

that these sites will provide archaeological data relating to slave

behavior. Another site perhaps central to the slave belief system is

the slave graveyard. Because of the sensitivity involved in excavat-

ing burials, this archaeological resource is not treated here. Slave

graveyards, however, were at least located at Butler Island. Because

of the restricted movement enforced upon slaves, the slave village site

should embrace a major portion of slave behavioral variability. It

also preserves evid-nce for a broader range of cultural activities than

does a simple activity area such as a rice field or threshing floor.

A methodological departure of this study from regional research

strategies advocated by Einford and others is the degree of use of

probability s',.,ling at all levels of analysis (Binford 1964). Proba-

bility sampling is used in this study but minimally. Additionally, the

mulitivariate techniques of geographers are not used at all. Admittedly,

this methodological departure may present some serious disadvantages

in offering regional interpretations. The purpose of this study,

however, is to synthesize the presently available data recovered from

slave sites in coastal Georgia. The irn terpretations offered here

are tentative and, hopefully, wil e tested in future regional studies

utilizing regional methods.

Defined cultural, spatial, and temporal variable s form t.

parameters for most discussions of Afro-American slavery.

Cross-cultural comparisons of slavery are often concerned with the

issue of slave treatment within the confines of political entities

(e.g. Tannebaum 1949; Davis 1966; Degler 1971). Similarly, in the

United States discussions of slavery are Confined to geogrc.,ic areas

such as states (e.g. Flanders 1933) or time periods (e.g. Stampp 1956).

Both comparative studies and those within the United States are fre-

quently concerned with slave manaq.,-_...,, or the legal aspects of

slavery. Less often has the issue of slave behavior been addressed.

When it has, the entire slaveholding South has formed the unit of

analysis (e.g. Blassingame 1972; Genovese 1974). It is questionable

whether these discussions are applicable to slavery everywhere in tIhe

Old South.

Although the slave cultural system which developed in the South

was characterized by general behavioral patterns (Gutman 1977), local

variations of this tradition were inevitable. Evidence of this has

been indicated in r.. -y localized Afro-American traditions, some of

which have survived until the present day. The coastal areas of

Georgia and South Carolina have been focal areas of African retention

(herskovits 1958:120), and in the development of distinctive Afro-

American traditions, particularly in the decorative arts, language,

cuisine, and music.

Certainly the quality of slave life must have varied regionally.

Although this acspmption remains untested, indications from arcoeu .ogi-

calI resources are that the mati.erial standard of slaves in coastal

Georgia was better than that of slaves documented elsewhere in the

Old South (MacFarlane 1975; Otto 1975). Further, a recent study of

slave nutritional adequacy indicates that slaves in the coastal areas

of South Carolina, Georgia, and northeast Florida were adequately

nourished (Gibbs ot al. I'1-). These studies demonstrate that regional

approaches in the study of sia'.,,' are needed.

It is possible that certain economic, environmental, and demo-

graphic conditions in coastal Georgia favored a distinctive develop-

menit of slave behavior. In Georgia, the largest percentages of blacks

to whites were found on the coast. In addition, the most valuable farms,

the largest slaveholding, and the most livestock were located there.

Another factor was the value of lands and buildings per farm. This

was highest on the coast than in E part of Georgia (Flanders 1933:81).

Ecologically, the region provided abundant plant and animal resources

which were exploited for both domestic and industrial purposes. Employ-

ment of the task slave labor system on most coastal plantations allowed

slaves more time for recreation and to improve their material lots

than the gang labor system employed elsewhere in the Old South (see

Otto 1975). For the most part, these conditions were not present in the

interior. It is likely that variations in these conditions produced

variations in slave behavior.

Historic factors were also i :.i..nt. Unlike their counterparts

of the short-staple cotton belt, most planters that came to coastal

Georgia were experienced slaveholders from the West Indies or South

Ca'rolina (Vanstory 1970:74-79; Davis 1976:132). They were presumably

acquainted ,witi the problem1s of sl.av'e m'ingemntl. Conceivably, they

attempted to establish the best possible conditions for a "stable

regime within which their slave could live" (Genovese 1974:6). Perhaps,

this was why the plantations of the Georgia coast have been described as

"patriarchal" (Wylly 1910:12; Lewis and Huie 1974). Another contribut-

ing factor was the infrequency in which planters of the coast migrated

to the new lands of the West. With a few exceptions, slaveholders on

the coast of Georgia established their roots in the late eighteenth

century and remained there until the Civil War. It was "only in the tide-

water dreas of Georgia [that] wealth [had] matured for several genera-

tions" (Boney in Coleman 19:7174)1 This may have been the result of

special local ecological factors.

This study assumes that the previously described variables sub-

stantially influenced a development of nslave behavior patterns pecu-

liar to the Georgia coast. Some of these patterns are believed to be

archaeologically discernible. These archaeological indices dis-

cussed in detail in subsequent chapters.

1. fl'1 TP -n i n

Archaeologists havw become increasingly involved in te investiga...

tion of sites formerly occupied by black Americans. Because few his-

toric sources have been written by blacks, this research interest

developed out of a need to expand upon traditional interpretation of

past black American 1ifeways. Contemporary eighteenth and ninetpenth

-c... accounts relating to black Americans were written by whive-s.

As a result, these are often very prejudiced views of Afro-Ar'erican

cultural life.- The major objective of Afro-American archaeology hias

been to investigate aspcts of black A..ricpn life not valuable in


With a few exceptions, archaeological studies of black "ricans

are of two types: slavery sites and northern free black sites.

Because of the preliminary quality of this research area, most of these

studies have been more descriptive than interpretative. Within this

year, however, an attempt has been made to synthesize the findings from

several Afrc-L- -."ican sites (see Sc.' .ler 1980). From these studies

and other published works, two themes dominate this research interest:

first, the search for African retentions in black American material

culture (Schuyler 1980:2), and second, the recognition of Afro-American

subsistence patterns.

It was the search for material correlates of African survivals as

well as subsistence information which initiated preliminary testing at

the Kingsley slave site by Fairbanks in 1968 (Fairbanks 1974). Un-

fortunately, "no surely African elements" were identified (Fairbanks

1974:90). Since that time studies of slavery sites in the Old South

have been directed toward the definition of subsistence patterns

associated with the socioeconomic status of slavery (Ascher and

Fairbanks 1971; .: -arlane 1975; Otto 1975; Drucker and Anthony 1979).

In.estigatons of slave burials in Barbadoes have provided very

convincing evidence of Africanisms (Handler and Lange 1978, i979).

At the Newton planation, the orientations of save bodies and the

associated burial goods are indicative of West African burial patterns.

Burial practices peculiar to Afro-Americans in the United St&ates hav,,

been reported but only at sites occupied by freed blacks (Cate and

Wrightman 1955;:207-215; Combes 1974; Crosby and 'Emerson 1979).

Perhaps, the most striking and yet controversial evidence (see

Schuyler 1980:2) of Afro-Americans attempting to recreate their African

past has been uncovered at the Parting O'.ys site (Leetz 1977:135-154).

This site near Plymouth, Massachusetts, was occupied by four Revolution-

ary s'a-r veterans from the 1ate eighteenth to the mnid-nineteenth centuries.

Deetz suggests that the settlement pattern, huuse floor plans, a utii-

tarian earthenware, and possibly the culnnery practices are derived from

an African past.

The recent suggestion that black ; -,icons influenced and miranu-

factured some Colono-Indian ceramics (Ferguson 1980) is another example

of this search for African survivals. These ceramiriics occur in highl

frequencies at seventeenth-and eighteenth-century southern sites, Speci-
fically in the coastal areass of the Carolinas ( Fer. ..- 1980). Previous

to this SuC.-:,tion these cera.mics were though to have -been made

exclusively by native Americans ( '..-1-Hume 1962). It is well documented

that some of these ceramics 'were made by native Americans and some are-

still made by them today. Indications that blacks may have had a hand

in the mranufacture of these ceramics include the possible similarity of

this ceramic style with West African ceram ic traditions, the inre-

quency of Colorno-Indian ceramics at historic Indian sites, and its

high frequency at black occupied sites (Ferguson 1980). But the

fact that Colono-Indian ceramics have been uncovered, in most cases,

where native American populations were nearby* o.kes the suggestion

that blacks manufactured these ceramics uncErtin.

*Cha rules I. Fairbanks, personal communication 1979, Gainpsville,

The archaeological investigation of African survivals at Afro-

American sites has resulted in very little definitive evidence to date.

This may be the result of a number of factors. Although his discussion

is specifically directed to slavery sites, Otto details three processes

that limited the re-creation of African materials. These include

(1) selection arid simplification, (2) availability and substi tu ion,

and (3) differential acculturation (Otto 1975:375). It is very likely

that northern free blacks also substituted traditional items vUith

available ones. The archaeological record is another factor. African-

styled artifacts such as wooden objects or basketry are not likely to

be preserved (Otto 15:382). Regardless of the reason for the scarcity

of African-styled artifacts at black-occupied sites, research designed

solely to uncover Africanisms ignores the fact that Afro-me.rican

culture, like all cultures, is an adaptive system (Schuyler 198.:?).

A data base of Afro-American subsistence patterns is slto,-,y emerg-

ing from diverse archaeological resources. These data are crucial
to gener+atng future hypotheses regarding Afro-American cultural

patterns. A major problem has developed in the idlen.ti.fication of

Afro-American economic cs. To what extent are the subsistence patterns

at black sites indicative of Afr,- .',ican ethnicity or a culture of

poverty (Kely and Kelly I-)? Only when archaeoogical data

are available from poor white subsistence farmers can the archaeo-

logical visibity of low-status Afro-Americans be ascertained

( Baker 1978) Presen ty, these nonplc ntc s ares archa nc& i


The archaeological evidence of slavery, however, may not be as

difficult to reco;iize as are other Afro-American sites. Recently,

an excellent attempt was made to identify an undocumented site as a

slave site at Spiers Landing in Berkley, South Ca rolina (Drucker and

Anthony 1979). Although Hanidler and Lange (19783:228) conclude that

archaeological data do not identify the slave status or slavery,

the Spiers Landing exai;ple refutes this. To suggest that slavery sites

can be identified entirely from, archaeological remains- is very pre-

mature at this stage of research. This objective, however, way be

realized in the future through the use of regional approaches to Afro-

American sites, particularly the utilization cf pattern recognition


Finally, in their discussion of ethnic idenrtiiication in his-

torical archaeol ogy, the Kellys recommend the use of regi onal research

designs (1980:135-5). They suggest that research designs geared toward

the recognition of ethnic cultural patterns within a defined region may

aid in the delineation of geographic variations of a broad cultural

tradition (1980:130). The delineation of a geographic and tIemporal

variation of a broad Afro-American cultural tradition is precisely the

objective of this study.

From the available reports, it appears that slave sites are known

better archaeologic ally in coastal Georgin than in ,' other region

of the Old South (see Figurie 1, for the location of these sitss. De-

spite this knowledge, these studies have suffered from three "mjor




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limitations: first, with the exception of one study (MacFarlane 1975)

excavations of slave settlements have sampled only a small portion of

the site, usually one or two structures (Ascher and Fairban ks 1971;

Fairbanks 1974; Otto 1975). Second, as a result of this sampling,

archaeological evidence of the internal social organizationwithin the

s lave community has not been uncovered. Third, slave sites investi-

gated have been exclusively from long-staple cotton plantations. Con-

parative data from the other dominant cash crop of the coast rice, have

been lacking.

Investigations at the south end slave cabins at the Cannon's

Point plantation on St. Simons Island, Georgia ([i1acFalralne, l975 were

the first attempt to excavate an entire slave community site.. This

investigation provided details of slave housing, household itens, cloth-

ing, personal items, and food resources. Little or no data, however,

were reported reg riding g the community organization, special i7ed crafts,

or social hierarchy.

Documentary resources of the Butler Island rice plantation indi-

cate that each slave settlement had plantation drivers, craftsmen, cooks,

as well as field laborers. it was hypothesized that testing an entire

slave cormmuni-ty should uncover archaeological evidence of these special-

ized roles and status differences. Initially, the objective of arcraeo-

logical investigations at B:utler Island was twofold: firs-:, to uncover

a.rchaeological evidence of status difference and craft specializations

withinn the slave _o .i uiy; seco d, to compare; the a.rch.-eo-ogical re-

sources of slavery at a ri e) p1 antatio. wtith o v hose ni o.g-s ap C c t n

plantations, in an attempt to ascertain similarities and differences

in slave life from two cash crop sites within a narrowly defined region.

It became apparent in the field that the time needed to investi-

gate the first objective was insufficient for the time and funds

available for fieldwork. As a result, attention was then directed

toward uncovering archaeological evidence associated with the slave

community plan. Presumably, settlement and certain subsistence data

would provide archaeological evidence for the special adaptations of

slavery to rice cultivation. At the same time, comparison of the

Butler Island data with long-staple cotton plantations would supply

additional evidence of slave life which exceeded adaptations to cash

crops. In other words, the comparison would provide data specifically

related to the economic function of the plantation on one hand and

data which were not so related on the other hand. Further, it is

hypothesized by the author that similar artifact patterns occurring inI

both crop loci are indicative of the material conditions of slave life

and slave behavior patterns in a larger coastal Ge Q-. a area.

The factors which are believed to have influenced a distinctive

development of slavery in coastal Georgia have been briefly discussed.

It is important, however, to define more accurately their role in the

development of coastal slavery. ThIe demographic, economic, end

historic factors (see pages 9 and 10) are all related to prA:ntation

management practices. These management practices developed out of an

adaptation to the coastal environnt of Georgia. Although the habitats

for the cultivation of rice and lon.g-stipIe cotton are very dissimilar,

both habitats are part of a larger ecosystem (Johnson et al. 1974).

Thus, this is a study of adaptation on two lvels: adaptation to

specific crop requirements and adaptation to a more generalized coastal


The purpose of this dissertation is to test the following

hypo theses and their ipli cat ions:

!,thesis A: Slave co.muniLty and household patterns in coastal

Georgia reflect adaptations to the specialized habitats where tidewater

staples were produced. Archaeologically this will be identified in the

fo lowing:

1. Patterned placement of slave village sites relative to


2. Community plan of spatial arr" -; its

a. Specialize'd bildings and materials culture

b. '- tructural features

3. Slave dwellings

a. Size and available space

b. Construction details and materials

4. Farming implements and specialized crafts

5. V. i: tic plant and animal resources exploited

Hypothesis B: Slave material conditions and behavior patterns

reflect managemenL practices adopted for coastal Georgia. Archaeologi-

cal y these will be identified iin the followi ng househod artifact


t. Food-r .lated activities

a. Fool preparation equipment and techniques

b. Food ser'v.'ing equip .: t

c. Oomestic plant and animal food resources

d. Evidence of food elementsment s in plantation rations

1. Equipment for producing food

2. Equipment for procuring wild food resources

3. Food processing equipment

4. Remains of food supplements

2. Personal possessions

a. Clothing

b. ,::.--.sories and ornaments

c. Household items

3. Leisure-time activities

a. Smoking equipment

b. Games and t:-. s

c. Miscellaneous items

These hypotheses and their underlying assumptions are discussed

in greater detail in later chapters. Chapters 2 and 3 provide back-

ground information on the coastal environment of Georgia, the produc-

tion of rice and long-staple cotton, and the archaeological and his-

toricaI investigations at Butler Island. Slave community organizations

at Butler Island are discussed in Chapter 4. Chapter 5 describes the

slave material culture recovered from Butler Island. Slave artifact

patterns derived from statistical pattern recognition techniques are

presented in i,.,.ter 6. i-,.pter 7 discusses the results from testing

the hypotheses and the conclusions for the study.

C.H/', !.:, 2

Envi 7".-.--, y -, ,' T, -...'. .;- ,,
Tidewater refers to the geo '.hic area of the coastal plain,

which is affected by the 'influence of the tides. ii Georgia, this

region includes the barrier islands and extends approximately 75 kilo-

meters inland to the point where extensive areas of pine forests begin

to occur (Crook 78-28-30) (see fi re 2). Three jor subdivisions

characterize the Georgia tidewater: the strand section, the salL Iarsh

and lagc-i section, nd the delta section. These are discussed in de

tail elsewhere (Larson 1970; Johnson et a!. 1974), and are briefly sum-

marized here.

The strand borders on r.- ocean ea d is composed of beach and

dunes. it is the most rapidly changing of the three sections. Vegeta-

tion is restricted and m;3st animal resources which occur there are found

aore frequently in other habitats along the coast.

Of the three s'bdi visions, the salt marsh and lagoon section is

the most ecologically diverse. It is composed of four habitats: marsh,

tidal creeks, hamrocks or highlands, and freshwater swamps. As a

result of its diversity, this section is rich in both plant and animal

resources. The food chain begins in these salt marshes. Several

species of freish, s-e i-k, tIr lcs, ned wtcrfowl thrive in the norm,

and tidal creeks. The hacimock forest community includes several

Figure 2. The Physiographic Regions of Georgia.
(Adapted from Coleman 1977.)

species of oak, p-gnuK hickory, red cedar, southern magnolia, cabbage

palm, wax *tle, saw palmetto, and many herbs and vines. Faunal

resources in these highlands are also abundant. .Kitetail deer,

oppossum, raccoon, and cottontail rabbit are among the dominant species.

The freshwater swamcp is an important breeding ground for re pti. les and

amrphibiarns, and the dominant vegetati on is cypress.

Fewer data are available for delta ecology h than e other sections.

The delta embraces those areas where freshwater rivers enter saltwater.

Deltas are primarily freshwater but are affected by the tides. The

area is flat and is frequently inundated. :.,t vegetation is water-

tolerant. Near the ocean, the area is a grass-covered marsh; where

there is little or no intrusion of saltwater, the delta is co'mposed of

c :;;s swamp (Larson 1970:35). Much of this swamp was cleared for rice

cultivation. Deer, otter, and raccoon occur in portions of the delta,

but the most distinctive faunal resources are the anadromous fish such

as glut herring, striped bass, sturgeon, and the ..-ican shad.

The narrow belt of the tidewater, which includes the barrier

islands and the adjacent river deltas, is part of the oldest agricultural

region of Georgia. The sandy loams of the sea islands were the -t

productive lands" of the coast. During the colonial period, these

lands yielded crops of corn, inrdi go, potatoes, and vegetables. After

the Revolutionary War, these lands were devoted al!;ost exclusively to

the production of long-staple cotton (Bonnrer 1964:-).

By the -late eighteenth ri, rc in he li

deltaic soils for rice cultivation hid begun. Tideater rice culture

was limited to ,the areas coated far enough upstream to avoid contact

with saltwater but close enough to the ocean to be affected by the tide

(House 1954b:23). The restricted spatial limits of tidewater rice cul-

ture made the alluvial soils of the delta the "most valuable" of this

old agricultural region (Bonner 1964:2).

In general, most plantations on the barrier islands were devoted

to long-staple cotton and those of the delta to rice. Some rice, however,

was grown on the barrier islands, presumably in the freshwater swamps,

and some cotton on the delta. Sugar, a third important cash crop (see

Sitterson 1937, 1953:31-35), was frequently produced at both, but in

smaller quantities. For example, at Butler Island, considerable quanti-

ties of cotton and su;:r were cultivated., although rice was the island's

.1j'or cash crop.

The purpose of this chapter is to review the historical develop-

ment of plantation agriculture in the Georgia tidewater, specifically as

it relates to the production of rice and long-staple cotton, the two

dominant crops of the post-Colonial period. Also, planting and process-

ing methods and marketing for each crop are described. Rice culture is

considered in greater detail for two reasons: It was a more involved

process than that ocf cotton culture and a detailed description of this

culture is central to understanding the archaeological resources of

Butler Island (long-staple cottonis treated extensively in another

archaeological report-see Otto 1975:51-61).

The EEnmeroence of the Pl ttion Systes iS G

On June 9, 1732, the developers of Georgia, known as the trustees,

were granted a charter for the lands between the Savannah and the

Altamaha Rivers. The trustees desired to establish a colony with small

settlements of independent farmers (Bonner 1964:2). To obtain this

objective, the trustees prohibited large land grants and Negro slavery.

The plantation system was outlawed for several reasons. First, the

colony was purportedly founded for debtors, although debtors made up

fewer than a dozen of the settlers during the entire trusteeship period

(Spalding in Coleman 1977:18). A large portion of the early settlers to

Georgia, however, were small businessmen, farmers, tradesmen, and

unemployed laborers (Coleman 1976:36--54), who could not be expected to

c.:-,-;la: with a planter class. Second, Georgia was selected by the

trustees to produce commodities needed by England, such as silk, which

was not adapted to plantation agriculture. Third, the colony was to serve

as a military buffu;. to protect Carolina from the Spaniards in Florida.

Plantations would spread the people over the land instead of no :t-.-at-

ing them into settlements. Moreover; a large slave population could sub-

ject the colony to slave insurrection, making it vulnerable to Spanish

attack (Potter 1932:116-117; Calloway 1948:30-31).

From the '.-,;y beginning some colonists objected to the restrictions

placed upon Georgia. These "malcontents" were particularly displeased

with the prohibition of slavery. They were convinced that the use of

a cheap labor force was the only way to develop the colony. As dis-

satisfaction grew, many colonists abandoned Georgia. On the brink of

economic distress, it became apparent to the trustees that if the

colony was to succeed it must be ma de attractive to potential colonists

(Davis 1976:126). Finally, in 1750, slavery was made legal. But,

discouraged by their failures, the trustees surrendered their charter

to the British Crown in 1752 (Spaiding in Coleman 1977:44).

Under royal gc vernment, the colony experienced an accelerated

growth A sig nificant source of immiigration to the coastal area was

the South Carolina plant er. South Carolinians were aware of the rice

growing potential of the Georgia tidewater o reas, nd they mi orated to

Georgia wi th their famii lies and s av es (Wilms 19/2); rice soec n he a

Georgia's most i",portc;nt crop. Later, the introduction of indigo gave

the plantation system an added boost (Spalding in Coleman 1977:52).

Planters were attracted to the coastal lands, but good lrnds 'were

not abundant. -.iver, the develop -;t of these lands was very costly.

An eighteenth-cen' ., observer in coastal Georgia estimated that Vie

initial expense of settling a rice estate was about $10,000, and, for

cotton or indigo $9,OCO (Thayer 1957:81). Consequently, only large,

wealthy pa nters could afford to acquire and cultivate these lands. The

small planter unable to compete settled further in the interior. Thus,

coastall Georgia became a region of a few, wealthy planters shortly

after the e nrgence of plantations to the area (Calloway 1948:47-49).

Te Rev olutionary War b. Lht disastrous setbacks to the coastal

plantation eco .... The bounty on indigo formerly received from the

B.ritish cvernent ceased and -the e::xporta.tion of rice declined. Pros-

perity was restored, however, with the successful introduction of Iong-

staple cotton in 1786. Plnters eof rice plantations acquired land and

equipmEnt for cotton production. Thus, rice w'as te:mporacrily dis-

placed as a -jor staple of the tidrewater (Fl anders 1 933: 55-57).

E, the' nth century, the rel.,nce upon sea-is!F"d
,- .. .. : ,, K 1. !,... *. 5 --, -U.' .'0 e*'l
cotton i rdual.y OfEM to., ricu Appa irenlry, this change iou(C'{y

coincid,- with periods nf depressed long-st-p-o cotton prices (Gray

194'1:38). During this time of renewed rice interests, Carolina planters
intensifiedl in re se "- ..1 '
intensified their activities in Georgia. They not only increased their

acreage in the old rice producing areas along the Savannah (see Clifton

1978) and Al tan'ah ,,Rivers, but also expanded further southva rd to 11clurIe

the Sati11a and St. Mary's Rivers (see Figure 3). In the 1850s, cotton

prices were on the upswing (Gray 1941 :739) and, rice1 cultivatLion w;as at

its peak (Hilliard 1975:65). Planters producing both crops were enjoy-

ing sizeable profits on the eve of the Civil War. Devastation from, the

Civil Wfar prevented the successful revival of either culture in the

post-war years. The reign of rice and long-staple cotton as the dominant

cash crops of the coast had come to an end.

The Rice Industry

Early experiments with rice cultivation were attempted in

clonial Virginia, but rice was first established as a stale in the
South Carolina low country (Gray 1941:277). Although the details of its

introduction remain unclear, apparently early promoters of the colony

encouraged rice cultivation shortly after the founding of Carolina in

1670. By 1695, South Carolina's rice industry had begun (Saiiey 1919).

Rice and Slavery

Pt.nhods of ric c ul-tivation during most of -the plantation caera

tir ~. rpendent upn, hand labor. As a resu,,,,t, large-scale rice pro-

dc tion required a enormous labor force. y,, the mid-nine.eenth cent ry

ep-,o ';a-teley i"5 la -orers rwee needed to clt. i vat "" acres of ri c.e

land or 6 to 7 acres per haEnd (House 1954a:151). Presumably, colonial

practices demanded greater 'labor requirements. For example, the average.

__, - __
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i ,f o u *;., .

O^.- h r-.; A r '-
Ri' : 72



a 0


Fl.',, -) F 2

Fi Cure 3. enutrc of Rice Cui vi- t-ionn in Georgia hy 1860.
(Adapted from Hitliard 1975.)

...... R ;w Is

rice plantation in colonial Georgia had an average of "3 working hands,

but the average acreage was not recorded (Flanders 1933:43).

Given this labor requirement, a demand for African slave labor

developed. Prior to 1695, most slaves in colonial South Carolina had

come there with their masters from the West Indies. These Afro-Americans

made notable contributions to settling the frontier of South Carolina

(Wood 1974:27-34). It was the rice industry, however, which estab-

lished a need for black slave labor. As the new staple became profitable,
considerable quantities of Africans were imported (Wood 1974:57).

Africans were thought to be better equipped to labor in rice fields than

either indentured whites or Indian slaves for several reasons (AWood

1974:37-42). Perhaps, two of the most significant were the African

adaptability to the swampy lowlands and the African knowledge of rice


Malaria thrived in the stagnant, swampy lowlands where rice was

cultivated (Childs 1940:32). Settlers to the Carolina-Georgia coast

frequently complained of the prevalence of "fevers." Malaria or

'"intermittent fe .," was considered to be the worst among these, par-

ticularly during its pernicious season in the Spring and Summer (Childs


Only in recent years has medical research shown that populations

exposed to malarial climates display a genetic trait which produces a

part al but heritable immunLity to the disease. This trait, referred to

as "sickle-ce1 trait," is not harmful in itself, bu.t if present in both

parents can produce offspring who suffer from sickle-cell anemia and

are likely to die in adolescence (Wood 1974:80; Savitt 1978:27-?8).


P-,,le who are heterzygous for the sickle-cell trait are evidently

.;,or able to survive and reproduce in a malarial region (Weiss and

'-.,i 1975:356). In the United States, studies have shown that a high

incidence of the sickle-cell trait presently exists SImc. the "CGullah"

Negroes of the South Carolina and C- .:'ia coasts. This fi ending sug-

gests that Afro-Americans in these former rice-growing areas have per-

petuated this genetic characteristic (Gun n 1975-5).

Given the medical knowledge of the day, it is doubtful that rice

planters understood the sickle-cell trait. It appears, however, that

some planters observed fairly early that blacks were less likely to

suffer from malaria and other diseases prevalent in swampy lowlands

than whites (Postell 1951:74-75; Savitt 1978:22-24), which established

a preference for black labor in rice fields. Thus, it is clear that the

SNegro's adaptability to the coastal environment partially contributed to

the tradition which defended Afro-American sla,... on the basis that

blacks were more suitable to perform work whites were unwilling to do

(Gunn 1975:6).

Another possible explanation for the preference of African labor

in the cultivation of rice ;as the African knowledge of rice growing.

Historic ns have ov erlooked this possibility until recently. Primarily,

through the pioneering efforts of Peter Wood, a preliminary investiga-

tion of this suggestion has been undertaken (see Wood 1974:55-62).

Rice planting and processing invol. ved obhstcles to Eiropeanls,

since they were generally unfamil iar with rice culture. Unlike

Europeans, Africars from several regions in Nest Africa were successful

rice producers (Wood 1974:58-59). In fact, some West Africans were

cultivating rice as early as the fifteenth century (Lruer 1969:17).

A preference for slaves from rice growing regions of West Africa was

established early ',' white Carolinians. These areas included the

Congo-Angola area (iHe -:d 1932:172-175), Senegambia area (Clark

et el. i9G2:225-239; Lauer 1969:47-48), and the "'indwrd" or "fold"

coast of present-day Sierra Leone and -n',', (Corry 1960). Slaves from

the rice coast of Africa were advertised by many firms. Between 1732

and 1765, C' rleston alone handled "53 ship loads from Gambia rnd 29 from

the Gold coast" (Lauer 1969:48).

Additional evidence for the presence of slaves from West African

rice growing areas is provided by the prevalence of Afric-n personal

[naris. The names ".anyun,' "Bram," and "Bu'l,1unda" among slaves and

their later descenden;ts on the Carolina-Georgia coasts strongly su-<,..

that the peon'e ', the rice growing areas of Sene-.aia were repre-

sented among the slave imports (Lauer 1969:48).

Besides the actual physical labor, Afro- -ricans made signifi-

cant contributions in the planting and processing of rice. The moti ons

used in planting rice seeds such as the pressing of a hole with the

heel and covering the seed with a foot were also practiced in West

African rice planting. The flat, wide, coiled winnowing baskets were

nade by slaves and were typical of West African ones both in stlve rnd

techno ques of m nua.ctu-re. ..hods of pounding and polishing rice by

-.nd were possibly told to white planters by their African slaves

(Wood 1974:61-62).

Other factors, ho wtver, ay have establish od a need for African

slave labor. Briefly, these include the abundance of black abo.r,

the difficulties posed by the enslavement of Indians, and the insuf-

ficient supply of indentured whites (Wood 1974:37-48). Despite the

fundamental role these factors contributed to the existence of African

enslavement in the New World, it is suggested that the practical advan-

tages offered by African physical adaptability and African knowledge of

rice growing fostered the Carolina-Georgia rice industry.

,jhds of Irrigjat-ion and Plantint Rice

Two different species of rice were cultivated in the Southern

United States: lowland rice, Oryza sativa, and upland rice, Oryza mutica.

Lowland rice, a marsh plant, required an abundant supply of water for

ripening (Austin 1893:9). Of its many varieties, "coldseed" rice and
"white" rice were cultivated in the lowland areas of the Atlantic Sea-

board (lQ':pp 1900:5). Upland rice was grown by dry culture in various

hilly areas of the cotton belt. It was not a commercial crop, but

grown essentially for home use (Gray 1941i:723).

Lowl.and rice was probably first grown in moist soils without

irrigation (Gray IS417229). ; .....j 1724, irrigation was employed in

what were called "inland s.saps." ;: .e were small fields adjacent

to freshwater stre.ams. The rice fields were irrigated with water

stored in reservoirs frrmed by dams. After irrigation, the water was

drained through ditches into streams. Because the water -. -ly in the

reservoirs was dependent upon rainfall, the crop was subject to either

frequent floods or drought, often making yields small and uncertain

(He rdJ 1937: i?...] ;-..;, s "9,72:50-51).
By the iate eighteenth century or perhaps earlier (see Wi ins

1972), rice planters began to recognize the advantages of cultivat ing


on the tidal swamps to permit the inflow of freshwt:.r backed up at

high tide and the outflow at low tide. The fields could be flooded and

drained as desired (Cole 1927:599). But before the tidal marsh could

be cultivated, it had to be cleared, diked, and drained. Reclaiming the

tidal swamp was a tre-me'.dou. s undertaking which required considerable

expertise and its completion often took several rs (Heyward 1937:

18-20; Wiilmrs 1972:53; Hilliard 1975:60).

The innovation of transforming a marshland into a piece of culti-

vable land, a polder, cannot be credited to the tidewater planter.

Construction of polderlands has been undertaken since ancient times,

and today they are located all over the world (Wagret 1968). Perhaps,

the best known are those of Holland. in fact, indications are that

several Carolina-Georgia tidewater planters employed Dutch expctise in

designing their hydraulic systems (Doar 1970:13; Scott 1973:73-74;

Johnson 1930:61).

Articles describing the construction of the irrigation systems

used by tidewater rice culture are found in several contemporary

journals (e.g. Aliston 1846, 1854; OeBovws Review i847; Spa-lding 1845).

Several secondary sources have provided additional details for this

procedure (e.g. Heyward 1937; House 1939, 1954b; Cray 1941; Doar 1970;

Hilliiard 1975). In very general terms the procedure for constructing

a tidewater rice irrigation system involved six major steps. first

t"I length end width of the required acreage was measured off aim t&

trees were cut down. and noved out of the way. Second, a temporary ditch

and embankment were built around the entire area to, keep water out, while

tree stumps and debris were removed; third, the ditch was filled and

elevated to form the perma ent L embankment. Fourth, small channels were

bridged and the trunks were installed. (Trunks were thie devices which

controlled the water flow.) Fifth, individual fields 12 to 22 acres were

laid out. (Each of these fields could be filled or drained individually.)

Sixth, these larger fields were subdivided into plots of 1/4 or 1/8

acre to aid the water movement (Gray 1941:726-727; Doar 1970:9-13;

Hilliard 1975:59-60). These smaller subdivisions, sometimes referred to

as "tasks" (Gray i941:734), provided not only drainage but also the

standard measurement for certain labor requi regents (House 1,: 153).

Thus, the basis for the task labor manar.:,-,,2. systEm, which was used

:extensively in the cultivation of tidewater staples, was derived from the

small segments formed by the irrigation system used in rice culture

(Stampp 1956:55).

Regular maintenance of the irrigation system was essential in

order to keep the fields in proper working order. The ditches and

drains were thoroughly cleared of mud and trash annually (Austin 1893:

18). Breaks in the embankments caused by storms, high tides, and

"freshets" or floods were frequent, despite precautions taken to pro-

tect the outer embankr"ents (SFpalding 1830; Souen the Agriculturalist

1834). in addition, small animals including rats, snakes, and crayfish

often made holes on the outside of the bank which very often became

leaks and then breaks. if left unattended, these small breaks would

interfere with the drainac.e system (Doar 1970:30). Such breaks and

eaks had to be mended, and "ditchers" or "bank menders" (Heyw.'rd 1937:

236) wee engaged r-eularly in repairin g dy'ks

too "HoWnn

Usually the -'1.-,l cycle began in the fall and early winter with

the "breaking" of the soil. This was done by hand with heavy hoes.

Plows were used by some planters, but the small subdi vided rice fields

and the numerous ditches made plowing difficult. .,reover, many fields

were not dry enough and draft animals were expensi ve to ma inLtain (Gray

1941:729; House 1954b:27-28).

Planting occurred beginning in the middle of .y, depending upon

the weather (Austin 1893:19). Techniques varied among planters, but

either of two methods was generally employed. In the traditional method,
"covered rice" seeds were carefully sowed in trenches measuring 3 to 4

inches wide, 2 inches deep, and 13 to 14 inches apart. After sowing,

the trenches were covered with 2 inches of soil by hoes, rakes, or

covering boards (Gray 1941:727-728). The other method, open trench,,"

required that the seeds be coated in clay before sowing. Upon comple-

tion of sowing, water was let in the open trenches without covering them

with soil (House 194?2a:188). Open trench planting was not widely used

in Georgia. It was apparently developed by South Carolina planters in

an attempt to increase yields from exhausted soils (House 1942a).

Once the seed rice was planted, inundation of the fields was needed
at various stages of growth. irrigation practices, like planting methods,

varied according to the planter. All irrigation, however, was utilized

for three purposes: the initial flow or sprout flow was applied to aid

the seed in sprouting; subsequent flows known as stretch flows were

applied to keep down the growth of grass, weeds, and other pests; and

the final or harvest flow strengthened and supported the stalks bearing

ripened grain before the rice was harvested (House 1954b:3).

A number of pests pnr,- I upon the growing rice (see Austin 1893:

31-37 for a detailed discussion). Two of the most frequently mentioned

were volunteer rice and rice birds. Volunteer rice or "red rice" was the

product of seed from the previous year which remained in the soil and

sprouted with the new crop (Austin 1893:23). A few of these red grains

among the white rice were believed to seriously lower the quality of the

crop. Consequently, planters carefully selected the seed rice and had

slaves to remove these self-planted sprouts whenever they were detected

(Gray 1941:729). Rice birds presented another serious problem for they

often consumed la. portions of the crop. These birds were unavoidable

since they appeared in May for approximately two weeks and then re-

appear.ed in September for the same length of time. Some planters planted

in between May and September, but yields were small (0' -.rd 1937-31-.33).

:st planters, however, employed "bird minders" to frighten the birds

Eway with fire, noise, or decoys (Heyward 1937:32; Gray 1941:729).

Harvewtin__ fillilf qI. and iarketin1

Rice was harvested by hand sickles in late ,,.,,ust or early

ptembe-r. The cut rice was allowed to dry for a day or so and then it

was tied together in sheaves. These sheaves were carried to the mill

o.r barnyard by flats which floated on the main canals or overland by

ox-carts (Spalding 1835). The rice was stacked in the barn until

threshing season (Pry 1941:729).

P'i- prin th, rice for the markt involved several processes:

''reshin"ci," the "f reoval of he rice from the plant; cleaning or
"winnow'ng," ',: separation of the grain from the chaff; "pounding,'

or "grinding," the removal of the outer hull and blowing it caway from

thoe sheled rice; finally, "polishing," which resulted in the clean wh te

rice grains plus powdered fragments, known as rice flour (House I954b:


Threshing was done by hno.,d using flails for nost of the planta-

tion period. Sometimes a flor was constructed fr threshing; a.n

efficient" floor w,'as 110 feet long and 50 feet wide end composed of

three r .--- of boards (souse 1954b:60). Rice was cleaned usin-g w.ind

or a fan. More often a winnowing house was constructed for this pur-

pose. ,jinnowing houses were small, usually square-shaped buildings

raised upon stilts. The rice was dropped through a hole in the floor

of the house, and the wind blew away Lhe chaff. The grain landed below.

the hole on a clay or earthen floor. It was swept up and placed in

conOtainers (Smith 1936:20, and illustrated). Not until the mid-

nireteenth century was a reliable tlhreshing mil developed which

threshed and cleaned the rice (Gray 1941:729-730).

DTi colonial days, the outer husks of the rice grain were removed

by hand-po,,ered mil s arnd hand fans blew away the chaff. These "u, skiing"

machin-es consisted of siTabs of wood about 2 feet in diameter revolving

one on -.e other. The inner shell was removed by hand by use of a

rmortar and pestle (Smith 1936:21; Gray 1941:-287). Later in the nine-

leen-th cent-ury, mills were developed which combined aP I of the processes

of milling rice-grinidig, cleaning, pounding, screening, and polish-

ing (!-ay S,41:,730; Lw -_on 1975:11, illust'atin of the devices used in

a rice pounding in r; ). Power frr these mii s vwas supplied by t i des

steami engines, e animal power, or wind. -he s te. &!-powered mills were se e

most efficient (House 1954b:62-65). Plantations with threshing machines

often housed machinery for threshing, pounding, and polishing within the

same structure (Smith 1936:22; House 1954b:62). Only .. large planta-

tions, however, could afford to be fully ekipped with milling facili-

ties. The planter with potundin .g and polishing mil" could ship pounded,

clean grain to the Parket, whereas the planter without had to ship

rough rice, or "paddy." Also, the planter without a mill had to

rely upon toUl mills to complete the processing of the rice for a per-

centage of the grain. Several European buyers, however, preferred to

urch-ase rough rice and mill it in their own countries. Because of

this there was always a substantial market for rough rice. By 1850,

most foreign shipment was pad,:', and pounding mi1Is were utilized pri-

marily for the domestic market (Gray i941I:730; House 1954b:68).

World prices for rice were based upon polished rice and weight

(House 1954b:67). The commercial standard weight of rough rice was 44

to 45 pounds a bushel (Austin 1893:24; Doar 1970:18), and the average

yield of rice lands varied from 253 to 60 bushels of rough rice per

acre (Gray 1941:730). Polished rice vwas packed in "tierces," each

weighi j 600 pounds. The quality or grade of the rice was judged accord

ing to the number of bushels it took to make one tierce. Generally,

20 bushels or less of rough rice to make one tierce of polished rice

vas considered a good crop, wore than 20 an inferior one (Doar 1970:

18). Prices varied consider rably during the antebelumn period. The

best prices for Georgian rice, however, v.erc obtained between 1840 rd

186;0, or the "golden age" of Georgian rice production. At that time

rice sold for $.80 to $2.23 per bushel or 2 to 4.75 cents per pound

(House 171:78).

Rice, like all other plantation crops, was marketed through fac-

tors in major port cities. The factor served as the middlemann" be-

tween the planters and the rice merchants. He was the banker and stock-

broker for the planter and provided him with credit in meeting opera-

tional costs. Since the planter depended upon the re.:: from his

crop for cash, he was often in debt to the factor when rice sales were

low (Easterby 1941). Prior to 1840, most Georgian rice was sold thrc.,'

factors based in Charleston. After that date, Georgian planters in-

creasingly sold their rice from Savannah. By 1859, Savannah had 82

factor establishments. Savannah experienced a rapid growth as a rice

port. Its population increased; a thriving trade developed with ports

in the West Indies, Mobile, and "onj Orleans; and it became an i portant

social and cultural center (House 1954b:70-79).

The rice industry on the Carolina-Georgia costs was seriously

beginning to decline on the eve of the Civil Par, although large-scale

rice production did not vanish completely from the area until the end

of the nineteenth century. Competition from rice-growing states in the

southwest and the rising cost and scarcity of slaves (Cole 1927:600-

601) were the major causes for this new crisis facing the rice planter.

Nonetheless, the industry managed to survive because of large crop

yields. After the Civil, however, attempts to restore the former

pros-prity to the industry were futile. The new labor system arnd

increased flooding from freshets caused by accelerated erosion in the

interior (TFrimble 1969) made rice cultivation unprofitable. Gradually,

the interest in rice vwas abandoned. Finally, a major storm destr oyed

the last remaining vestiges of rice culture at the turn of the c- :;,..,y

(Vanstory 1970:83). k following passage taken from an article in the

Darien Tlimber Gzette summarizes the sentiment toward rice growing amon,

post-bellun plantLers in Georgia after a devastating flood:

the loss will be a heavy blow to many of the planters
especially where money was borrowed to plant with. Several
have already declared they will not plant any more as the
crop is so uncertain. Every year the acreage is decreasing
and the -.'iver planters are nearly discouraged.
(27 August 1887, Darien, Georgia)

Long-Stajple Cotton Culture

Like rice, the production of long-staple cotton was restricted to

the coastal fringes for most of the antebellum period. It became known

as "sea-island cotton" because the staple was believed to degenerate

when removed fronmi the influence of saltwater (All ston 1854:593). Its

introduction to the coastal states, unlike that of rice, occurred in

Georgia not South Carolina. :itiallygrown in the Caribbean, long-staple

cotton made its way to coastal Georgia through expatriated Georgians who

had made their home in the Bahamas after the Revolutionary Ear. The

success of the cotton in the Bahamas led the former Georgians to send a

few bags of the Cseed to their friends and relatives in Georgia (Coulter

S1941:65-68; Hammnd 1897:1- 17). cGradually, the fruit yielded a finrr

and bettor cotton tha that grown in the ah Wmas (johnson ,930:2-2).

By 1789, substantia quantities were produced in -Georgia and its cultiva-

tion spread to nnary Scuth Carolina.

For most of the antebt 1W-H ; period, spa-islad cotton. was grwul

exclusively along the narrow strip from Charleston, South Carolina, to

the St. Johns River in Florida (Hammond 1897:19). In the early forties,

it was discovered that the crop was adaptable to sea marshes if these were

reclaimed and to interior lands as much as 100 miles from the Atlantic

Ocean. This discovery led to the exp.,-. -ion of ithe industry into the

interior lands of Georgia and Florida. By 1858, Florida had become a

leader in the production of sea-island cotton, and the volume of exports

for the staple increased by 50 percent as a result of the expansion in

cultivation (Gray 1941:733-734).

Lcng-staple cotton was strikingly distinctive from the short--

st!aple which was cultivated elsewhere in the Old South. As the name

implies, the fiber was longer than the short-staple. ihe fiber length

of sea-island cotton reanged from 1 1/2 to 2 inches as contrasted with

5/3 to I inch for ithe shcrt-staple (Gray 1941:731). The quality of the

two was also dissimilar. The fine, silky long-staple was used in the

manufact ure of lace, thread, and cloth of silky luster. On the other

hand, short-staple cotton was used primarily for making coarse cotton

cloth (Gray 1941:731; Phihllips 1929:91). Moreover, the !(.. -stapie

required a lc,... &growing season, more hands per acroe, and more tedions

methods for cuitivation, harvesting, and processing (see Otto 1975:53-61

for a dectailed comparison of the two varieties of cottonn.

:dhods. of Plantuin aad Cultivation

The soil wns prepared for planting in February or early March.

Soils varied frro iight sandy loams to heavy clays, but the sandy ones.

were preferred (Fh.7lips 1969:271). On lowlands "ditching" similar to

that employed in rice culture was often necessary to drain an area before

planting (Gray 1941:731). High rid:., 4 1/2 to 5 feet apart were con-

structed before the seed was planted. These were usually made with

hoes, particularly in the old "sea-island region" (Gray 1941:735).

Plows came into wider use during the late anteblclum period, when more

time was needed to manure exhausted soils (Gray 1941:734). Between

late .rch and the middle of April, the seed was sown. Once the cotton

plant sprouted, it had to be "thinned" with hoes several times. Gener-

ally cultivation consisted of 4 to 8 hoe-ings, and grass was pulled by


With a few notable exceptions, most sea-island cotton planters

did little to enhance the productivity of their crop prior to 1830. At

that time, confronted with fluctuating prices and soil exhaustion,

experiments with manuring and crop rotLation were undertaken (Johnson

1930:51-54). Manur"ing soon came into wide use,and various types of

manures were utilized such as marsh mud, crushed shell, and guano. The

practice of crop rotation, on the other hand, was limited to a few enter-

prising planters (johnson 1930:60-64). Careful selection of seeds was

perhaps the universal practice adopted by most planters to improve the

quality of the cotton. Several varieties were 'known and some reputed

to yield cotton that sold between $1.50 to $2.00 a pound. Unfortunately,

the production of these seeds was kept secret and this knowledge is now

lost to agriculture (DeBows Review 1,67:87).

Harvostine, OMAN-occs nd V~rKetmoq

A great deal of care had to be taken while harvesting thI cotton.

The fiber was gathered as soon as the pod opened in order to protect it

from injury. Also, trash, leaves, and dirt had to be separated frcm the

fiber carefully. Harvesting required 10 to 12 pickings, whereas the

short-staple only required three (Gray 1941:735). ;i'.i it was picked,

the cotton was placed on a platform to dry in the sun and later stored

in the barn to await ginning.

The famous "Whitney saw gin," invented for the removal of seed

from short-staple cotton, was not used for ginning sea-island cotton;

instead, "roller gins" were used. In the early days these wErc hand-

powered mills derived from the Indian churka. Later improvements to

this apparatus led to the invention of gins powered by animals or

steam (1, ....- 1897:72). After the cotton was ginned, it was Jited":

that is the residue from the broken seeds was removed. The clean

cotton was then hand-packed in bales, since hand-packed bales vwere less

injurious to cotton and consequently brought higher prices than those

packed by a press (Gray 1941:736).

Both acreage -per hand and yields per acre were severely limited

because of the laborious cultivation and processing methods. :" re cul-

tivation relied exclusively upon hand labor, the average number of acres

cultivated per laborer was 3 to 4. Where the plow was substituted for the

hoe, the average number of acres per laborer was 6 to 7. .'.: average

yield per acre ranged from 125 to 400 pounds, althc -5i yields recorded as

high as 2,000 pounds per acre were known (Gray 1941:737; Phillips 1969:


Only superior long-staple cotton commanded very high prices, but

its production was limited to a small group of planters (All stou I'":

596). For the rest of staple, price fluctuations were considerable.
S-: average price range during periods of good to high prices was $.40

to $.80 a pound, and at periods of &'-,,; sed prices $.14 to $.25 a

pound. -he decade before the Civil War was a period of rising prices

after a long period of depressed prices. At that time, the average

price of cotton was between $.37 and $.47. However, after the Civil

War, the quality of the crop deteriorated and its production became less

valuable. Machinery was soon developed which produced thread from the

short-staple as delic-ate as that made from the long-staple (DeBows

Review 1867:,..). F-inally, devastation from the bol1 weevil made the

production of the crop totally unprofitable (Brown and Ware 1958:69).

S UTnlain

Rice and long-staple cotton are two very dissimilar culitigens.

Each crop requires distinctive modes of cultivation and processing. For

the meost part, each is cultivated in a very specialized habitat and is

produced for its own peculiar market. Yet analogies between the two crops

exist in the hiscIory of their production in the Georgia tidewater.

Both crops were restricted to a synonymous geographic range and

required a considerable labor force. These similarities were particularly

significant to the demography and economy of coastal Georgia. The

Georgia tidewater, like that of South Carolirna, became a region with

a heavy co ncentradtion of slaves and a few wealthy slaveholders where

absenteeism fre,.- .,y prevailed.

Another ao cr I was evident in general cultivation practices.

Often, sea-island cotton growers were also rice growers or former rice

growers. Appar.ently, certain practices established for rice, the

old r staple, were Nr.ieueintly adopted fur cotton. Sone of these, though

harmless to the rice, proved to be detrimental to the cotton industry.

Clearly, the conservatism toward the use of hand labor, manures, and

crop rotation had its origins in rice culture. ":- .ring was not essen-

tial to rice growing since silt loam from irrigation aided soil fer-

tility (Cole 1927:601). Similarly, hand labor was vital to rice cul-

ture because of the difficulties of plowing. Perhaps an early implemen-

tation of plowing and man uri-.g in the cultivation of 1o:, -sta.ple cotton

would have resulted in lower production costs and higher yields than

those actually e. _'rienced by most coastal planters. At least. the

success of the sea-island cotton industry in Florida was partial ly re-

lated to the greater use of the plow (Gray 1941:737). Unfortunately,

the failure to employ crop rotation methods by both cultures resulted in

early so'I exhaustion, which had disastrous effects upon post-bellum
agriculture in the area.

Likewise, labor practices were very similar. Here again, the

task system which developed from rice culture was later used for cotton

culture. Under the task system, field hands were classified as full,

three-quarter, half, and one-quarter hands (Flanders 1933:143-144).

Generally, each full laborer was expected to work a task of 1/4 to 1/2

acre everyday, whether in rice fields or cotton fields. This system

was particularly advantageous if the worker completed the task by mid-

afternoon. Upon completion of the task, he or she had the remainder of

the day to tend to personal needs. Conversely, under the gang system,

the other major labor system for plantation slavery, workers labored in

the field from sunrise to sunset (Phi lips 19299:279-280; S.amp 1 56:


It has bee suggested that the task system provided slaves at

sea-island cotton plantations in coastal Georgia with sufficient leisure

time to improve their material lots (Otto 1975; "-cFarlane 1975). Und;r

the task system, the quality of slave life could be greatly improved

through hunting and fishing, selling handicrafts or plantation produce,

or by growing foods to supplement plantation rations Presumably, the

use of the task system at a rice plantation should have resul ted in the

saiC conditions. But how similar were the conditions of slavery in two:)

very different crop loci? The adaptations of slavery to long-staple

cotton culture in coastal Georgia has been investigated utilizing both

documentary cand archaeological resources (Otto 1975; MacFarlane 1975).

A similar investigation of slave adaptations to rice culture along the

coast of Georgia is presented in the fol lowing three chapters.


Butler Island is one of several "brackish marsh islands" (Long

1958:11) within the Altamaha drainage in fMlcIntosh County, Georgia (see

Figure 4). These islands are termed brackish because they become

covered with saltwater when tides are pushed by high wind and are in-

undated with freshwater when rivers overflow as in the case of freshets

(U.S. Dept. of Agriculture 1961: 21). The land consists of sediments

washed down f'.: streams flowing out of the piedmont and the coastal

plain. Soils vary but are primarily clayey. Generally, these marsh

soils are poorly drained and can be extremely acidic, particularly on

unreclaimed marsh (Long 1958:13).

During the nineteenth century, most of these islands were con-

verted for rice culture. Later in the twentieth century, truck farmi-ng

replaced rice culture. Most recently, these marshlands have become

managed breeding grounds and refuge for waterfowl. Since 1954, several

of these islands have been acquired by the Game and Fish Commission of

the Georgia Department on Natural Resources for the development of a

waterfowl management area. Butler Island and adjacent Charipney Island

were the first to be acquired for the program (Anonymous nd). Today,

Butler island has become the headquarters for it he Altamaha Waterfowl

Management Area.


^-.... .. .,- i"-i- i-- .... ,-:; .... . --^ 3-. ^, ), --

1. i Ll 4. N, .
\ - -"- "-
^ - \g -^ y x. . ^ _.,- ^ .. ,
i .- BUTLER iSL- - - -" -- 1

\ - 4, _- ... ..-~ -
,.,.,Jz S, L At N O \ ;

/^ ". l ^ ^ < ----- -+- .. . -- \ \,I

y : i' ~ ~ __- k -" '- -'' -' (. .f ., --,
IjJ' >7; -(1/^'\--: ---v-*'/

7 7
.......... y ..................... . -t .

F r is lan md rc ivi ois.
\- ,
\~ -. /*- _.^- - g

-. 1 ~ 4

\ [ '~~~LL-.L]6'^ I"^^

Figure 4. ButIer Island rtnci Env'ons.

Archaeological investigations were undertaken at Butler Island in

response to a need to locate and identify archaeologically sensitive areas

within the confines of waterfowl mana .-._, activity. Certain manage-

ment practices such as seasonal flooding, plowing, and dr..' ng activities

would adversely affect or destroy archaeological sites. In past years

on several occasions, archaeological materials have been unearthed as a

consequence of these practices. To prevent these practices, funds 'were

obtained for survey, inventory, and testing at Butler Island from the

grant-in-aide program of Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service

(HCRS), U.S. D-<:' riment of the Interior, and administered by the Historic

Preservation Section, Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Nine

sites were located and identified. All were found to be historic sites,

but three have prehistoric components.

in this study the slave village sites are the subject of discussion,

although the other plantation period sites are briefly described. A de-

tailed description of all the sites will be part of another archaeological

report (Singleton rid).

Another major aspect of the Butler Island project has been the

archival research. Documents relating to the Butler family ownership

of But ler Island are voluminous. These records have not only provided

the background data presented in this chapter, but have also been util-

ized in the identification, dating, and interpretation of the archaeologi-

cal resources.

OWnership and Occuoation

Unfortunately, the first colonial grantees of Butler Island

could not be ascertained. it is possible that the Lochian aMclntosh

family acquired Butler Islian duin
family acquired Butler Island during the colonial period. Between the

years 1758 and 1775, Lochlan Mc,'ITntosh i,"..;. -,ed several large tracts of

marshland in the Al tamnaha delta (Jackson 1973:17-18). The precise iden-

tification for some of these islands is unclear.: Butler Island

may have been one of them.

Although the first owners of Butler Island are unknown, Mlajor Pierce

Butler apparently made the first attempts toward reclamation ad cultiva-

tion of the island 1:".e the family's ownership was complex,*' an

attempt has been made to summarize it (see Table I). The islailnd was in

the possession of the Butlers for close to 120 years, and several family

members have made this island a very significant historic site.

Born in Ireland, Major Butler came to America in 1766 as an

officer in the British Army. He l iked America and decided to settle

here. Later in 1771, he married Polly Middleton, the daughter of a

wealthy South Carolina planter. He and Polly had one son and four

daughters. During the American Revol Iution '1_-or Butler sided with the

revolutionaries and became an importaant political figure in South

Carolina. In 1787, he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention

in Phinadelphia, and he was elected twice as a senator from South

Carolina to the U.S. Senate (Scott 1973:53, 1978:6-7).

At the Constitutional Convention, Major But er was one of the

principal prporne nts arguing that state repressentation in the Hous of

Representatives should be proportional to the total population, both

slave end ,free (Alden 1971:8 6--87; Scott 1973:6). Butle-r and his

*See Scott (1961 :xx-xxi) for a ,-'.- .1ogy of the Butler fmily.

Table 1
of Butler Islanrj 1790? the resent
t,,ur I s ri, 1790? to the rsn


18 22 i0 6

36-18 /47


In ;cr ~1Crcu f~etir2~r

John B ier arnd Pierce Butler, Jr.
(forinerly John Mease and Butler
.-e), but estate as dni"nis-
tered by the Mlaj or's dauhtr
Frar c eS and his so -l Thoias.

John and Pierce, Jr., a, sued ful
resi oni bili ties of owe r: hi p until I
JoIns death in 1847.

Properties jointly owned by Pierce,
Jr. and John, .utler heirs, but
slaves had been divided equil iv
be-ween the two.

d'8 o iC e-, d.,.

Frances BIe. r Leigh (Pierce
Butler, Jr., ,nd F .... Ke.e's

Lelhs St:il own l but have leased
Sian re p enters.

Po.s es t4uIo1Vugh sevc'ral hn idC!s, pri-
marity rice

i861-1865 (Civil War)




l20- 1949

4 9 Tioc1

Colorel us C-on.

R. J. R,-yv,:,o ds

Grn and Fiish Cm-i Sion, Georia
pzrtr ient of .atural FResotrces.

Ov.)nersh i p

Own aer s


supporters believed that the slave states needed this type of represen-

tation in order to prevent the possibility that a majority of representa-

tives from the free states would d attempt to abolish slavery. ihe "-,jor's

view epitomized that of the small but powerful elite who desired to

perpetuate and -....! the institution of sla'.-.,- (Scott 1978:7).

In 1790, Polly died and the Major took his family and slaves to

Georgia. Like many South Carolinians:, the :7 ir moved southward in

search of new lands. The developing market for sea-island cotton and

the revival of the rice industry made the fresh, fertile lands of

Georgia attractive to the immigrants.

By 1799, Major Butler had acquired several thousand acres in

Mcintosh and Glynn counties. Included in these were Butler Island,

Butler Point on St. Simons Island,* L.ittle St. Simmrons Island, and

pine land on the mainland known as ',ooodville (Butler EstatQ Papers,

1799)(see Figure 5 for locations). In addition to land, the major

also acquired such a vast number of slaves that by the time of his

death he owned close to 700 (Butler Ustate Papers, 1821). Ev-,ntually,

the jor became one of the wealthiest planters in Georgia.

The Major huitt a fine mansion at Hampton plantation on St. Simons

island, where he spent most w,,inters. It was here that Aaron Purr sought

refuge aft.r the du..el in which he killed Alexander Hamilton. Burr

visited the plantation for a month and he described it in many of

his letters to his daughter, Theodosia (Van Doren 1929). The Major

.'Conc'rfentr with the archaeological research at rutler Island,
similar research hs been undertaken at several sites of the Hampton
plantation (see Muins, 1978; Fairbanks and Mullins- i,-re, 1980; and
i. ins-Moo, re, nd).


^^^~ '-:-"
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Figure 5. -The But!ler Georgian' -,sta!e. ...(Adapted -From Scott 1961.~l )

and his daughters, however, made Philadelphia their permanent home.

Thus, the responsibility of running the estate during the "-or's

absence was taken care of by an overseer.

,--. the Major died in 1822, his properties were inherited by his

grandsons, John and Butler -..,e. The Major had wanted his only son,

Thnomas, to take on the responsibility of administering the eorgian

estate after his death, but Thomas, who hated the Major, refused and

went to Europe to live (Scott 1973:54). Thus, the ]or disinherited his

son and made his grandsons heirs. After the :jor's death, however,

Thomnas helped his sister Frances to administer the estate until the

Mease boys came of age and were able to do so. At the Major's request,

his grandsons had to change their surnames to Butler. Consequently,

John Mease became John Butler and Butler '. -.*e became Pierce Butler, Jr.

In 1834, Pierce Butler, Jr., married Fanny ;- Alie, the famous British

actress. During her first and only trip to her husband's Gecrgian

estate in 1839, she wrote the controversial account of slave life,

A Journal of A Res idence on A Georg ianPlantatio n To ]--1]939, which was

published more than 20 years later.

Fanny and Pierce came to Georgia with their two young daughters

for approsinimately four months. Two months were spent at Butler Island

and another two at Hampton Plantation. Fanny was oitra,"d at the con-

ditions under which the slaves lived, particularly the suffering enrduredc

hy women. Fanny's reaction resulted in man'y heated arguments with

Pi erce, which intensified the couple's preexistin rit problems.
,, winter_ /id co euple s "s'' in rimr

After their return to Philadelphia, the marriage grew increasingly worse.

in 1849, Fanny 'returned to Pritain, the couple were divorced, and

Pierce gained custody of their dau-ters (Scott 1973:11).

F :.,." always wanted to publish the journal she had kept while in

Georgia. In 1859, she began giving this serious thought for two rea-

sons: first, she was no longer married to Butler; second, the estate

she describes in the journal no longer existed (Scott 1973:119).

Pierce Butler had fallen into serious financial debt as a result of the

crash in 1857, and more than 400 slaves were sold to pay his debts

('x,.:-i 1863). In light of these new circumstances, F.-,, reasoned

that her journal would be thought of less in a personal way than as a

social statement of slavery in the United States (Scott 1973:120).

The Emancipation Proclamation and the events of the Civil War gave er

the final impetus toward publication. Fanny felt that the journal would

help "explain Lincoln's war aims and show the nature of the system that

the North was fighting to abolish" (Scott 1973:122). The journal was

published May 1863 (Kemble 1882:205).

It is difficult to estimate the reaction to the journal imme-

diately after its publication. A few Southerners have suggested that

the journal single-handedly swayed British opinion against the South,

which made aid to the Confederate War effort impossible (e.g. Perkerson

1952:133-134). Even among Fanny's admirers this opinion has prevailed

(Armstrong 1938:432). It has also been argued, however, that the

journal had little influence ..:., the contemporary pulbic ( Lombard

1930). Recent evidence has indicated that by the time the journal '.'as

published, British opinion had already turned against the South

(Scott 1973:124). More significant than the criticism related to the

influence of the journal upon the contemporary public is the cri-

ticism related to its accuracy and authencity. Among historians

viewpoints vary. Apologists for slavery tend to be very critical (e.g.

Phillips 1929:259-265; Eaton 949) Other historians have found a greet

deal of accuracy in Fanny's descriptions of slave life, although some

suggest that the journal is o'-,: .iized (e.g. S.tampp 195C; Genovese

1974; Oweins 1975). Of all the critics, Georgians have Men the most

hostile (Holmes 1978; Lovell 1932:196, 213; Cate 1960). Lven today,

this sentiment persists (Farncher 1970:102; e.g. Lewis and Hi-e 19/8:120).

Butler- Island was dese rted during the Civil War, with the e. :-

tion of a few slaves who remained. In 1865, Pierce Butler, Jr., and

his daughter Frances, returned to Butler Island to restore rice plant.-

ing (Vanstory 1970:87). Frances kept a journal, which was later pub--

lished (Leigh 1883). Her journal became one of the few doceuments th at

describe labor conditions in the South during the postwar years (Hous.

1942b:157). Pierce Butler died in 1857. Frances, accompanied by Ler

Gerran maid, m-ana- the plantations alone for four years. -Frae.s

miarried Reverend James Leigh in 1871 while she was in England and they

remained there untit 1873, at 'ich time they returned to Georgia.

T Reverend Leigh; was very much interested in the South and helped to

establish St. Cyprian Church for the blacks of D-rien. Leigh liwrote of

his experiences in coastl Georgia in Other Days (1921).

iMY in Englanrd, thahe Leighs contracted some English workers to

supplem ent the black 1or at Butler island. These British e brners

raidedd at But e Island and occupied the former slave hospital. As

.hnre's; however ''' wer.a a disoppointr t (Leigh 153:M -21 3).

Discourh.ed, in 1876, the .ihs decided to return to England and

placed the mrnur,-. A of the islands in the hands of a manager. Yn

1878 they g3ve up their planting interest entirely.

Information of ownership and land use at Butler Island in the

years between the Leighs' departure and 1920 has been very sketchy. It

has been assumed that the island was abandoned and left unattended

(Vanstcry 1970:89). Yet deed records, local informants, newspapers,

and a valuable map (see Figure 6) have suggested a different interpreta-


Evidently, the Leighs leased and sold portions of their proper-

ties in the Altamaha delta between 1878 and 1910. By 1910, all of their

properties were sold (Mcintosh County Records, Deed Books H-52, 1-120,

1-160). These properties, which embraced all of Butler Island and

General's island, were sold and leased to rice planters, who in turn con-

tracted with tenants to farm small plots for a portion of the crop (as

shown in Figure 6). Local informants have indicated that by the 1880s,

tenants no longer lived at Butler Island. Instead, they lived at several

settlements on the mainland and commuted daily by small boats to Butler

and General's Islands. Two of these informants, both descendants of

slaves in the area, remember vividly planting rice at Butler Island in

the early 1900s.*

Long after the Leighs left Georgia they continued to correspond

with the local blacks (Letters from Descendants of Butler Slaves, I7.3-

1903). Particularly, their only child, Alice Leigh, visited Georgia

often and on these visits she would give parties for the people (Cate

and Wrightman 1955:203). As children, present-day black residents of

Darien performed for "Lady Alice" on these occasions;.** The impact of

Elizabeth Bates and Jim Cook, Personal communication, 1978,
Darien Georgia.
--;'.,--. ,r1 Wylly and Mrs. Gamble, personal communication, 1978,
Darien, Georgia.


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7 -e nta n ti P lots (c ir"ca. 1883.,').

the Butler family upon the Afro-Americans in the area had lasted well

over a century.

In 1920, Colonel Tilli.i-,h:t L'Hommedieu Huston, part owner of the

New York Yankees, purchased Butler Island. He built a two-story house,

which is still standing today on the presumed site of the overseer's

cottage. Huston established a dairy farm and planted fruit trees and

vegetables. His special interest, however, was the cultivation of ice-

berg lettuce. He revamped the old rice irrigation system and used it

for his fields. Huston remained at Butler Island until his death. In

1949, Butler Island was sold to Richard J. Reynolds, the tobacco million-

aire, who made additional improvements to lettuce cultivation (Vanstory

1970:90). In 1954, Reynolds donated Butler island to the state of

Georgia for the development of a wildlife preserve.

Plantation ":.,.gement at Butler island,

The overseer on the Carolina-Georgia coast has teen described as

the most important "single element in the mana,- -'. hierarchy of the

rice belt"' (Scarborough 1964:183). At least, this appears to have been

the case at Butler Island, where the Roswell King family successfully

managed the estate fur over thirty years during the Butler family's

periodic absences.

Absenteeism as a practice among rice planters was established

fairly early by colonial predecessors. This tradition developed, in

part, out of a need to escape the hot, malarial season as it was

.- .rally believed that "...asmas" caused the disease. The ownership of

multiple plantations also necessitated the periodic absence from one or

more of these productive units (Bridenbaugh i952:69). In the early days,

planters traveled to the North or to Europe, while others migrated to

their town houses in Charleston and other coastal cities. Seashore

settleM.ents and pinelanLd, piedmont, and mountain villages began to sup-

plement the coastal towns as sun-er resorLs later in the nineteenth

century (Brewster 1970:109). The degree of absenteeism, however,

apparently varied along the rice coast. For example, in the Georgetown

district in South Carolina, one planter noted that of Ill rice planta-

tions in the area only 51 of the owners actually lived on their planta-

tions, and of that number all were absent during the crop season from

" y to November (Allston quoted in Cathey 1956:142). Some planters, who

could not afford a "dual existence" or who were too far from Charleston

or Savannah, remained on their estates throughout the lp r or most of

the year (Bridenba 1h 1952:70). In the Altahama Basin, rice planters

spent a major portion of the -r on their rice estates and moved to

nea,! pirneland retreats or barrier island plantations for the summer

months. Often, they conmuted each day to keep a watchful eye on the

progress of the crop and other :. ,-,- t problems (House 195401Q). The

Butlers were the only exception to this rule (see '."1iy 1910.48-53).

They were never full-tim.e residents of Georgia. Because they were

generally absernt from their Georgian estate, the overseers regularly

corresponded with them. Fortunately, a large portion of this corre-

spondence has survived to the present day.*

*The. Roswe'l Kings' Correspondence is found under two manuscript
collections of the Pennsylvania Historical Society, in Philadelphia:
The Butler Family Papers (primarily Boxes 9, 10, 11, 12), and the
Wister Family Papers (The Butler Family Section, Boxes 31 33, 34).

This correspondence provides a wealth of information related to
the day-to-day activities at Butler Island and the other Georgian proper-

ties. In many ways these letters resemble similar correspondence

written by overseers at other plantations with absentee landlords (e.g.

Easterlby, 11.,; Bassaett 1968; Clifton 1978). All have in common a con-

cern with planti-., harvesting, and marketing activities, labor manage-

ment problems; and the health and welfare of the slaves. Occasionally,

the Roswell Kings' letters also supply some indices of slave behavior.

Most often, however, only deviant behavior was reported, and therefore

these references tend to be biased and one-sided. Yet, despite this

limitation, the Kings' observations provide valuable insights into

slave lifeways at Butler island.

As overseers, Roswell King, Sr., and later his son, also named

Rosv;eil, belonged to the "overseer elite" (Scarborough 1966!:58-177).

This minority among overseers was frequently employed on the Carolina--

Georgia rice coast but was found in other localities as we ll (e.g.

Sitterson 1943). For the most part, members of the overseer elite were

conscientious and efficient men. They made significant contributions

to agriculture, and some became planters themselves. Often, they were

the sons of planters. In contrast with their colleagues, they were

usually well paid. Both the Kings earned as much as $2j_ a year.

Roswell1 King, Sr., had come to the Georgia coast from Sharon,

Connecticut, in fhe 178is (Lewis 1975:39). In iW02, he became the

manager of the Butler estate, a positicio he reta.:ined until 1819. Some-

time after that date, he became the manager of the Darien Saw Mill

(Darien Gazette, 6 January 182'1). King's son, Roswell. Jr., uas

selected to replace him upon recommendations from Roswetl, Sr., and

John Couper of Cannon's Point on St. Simons island (Couper to 7i.jor

Butler, 15 February 1818). Roswel, Jr., presided as overseer until

1839. It was young King's resi.,.tio n which resulted in the trip Pierce

Butler, Jr., and his wife, Fanny 'e..,e made to Georgia. Butler had

come to Georgia to hire a replacement for Roswel I, Jr. Thomas Olden,

formerly the manager at James HamilIton Couper's Hopeton plantation

(Anc,., .,s 1965?), was hired to managed the estate. Olden died in 1841,

and Roswell, Jr., once again became involved with the miana-.-,t of the

Butler estate, but this time in the capacity of a steward. As a

steward, he supervised two overseers and managed the account books.

Roswel, Jr., held this post until the mid-SlSOs (Scarborough 1966:168).

Unfortunately, most of the plantation records for the Butler

estate, particularly the overseers' records, are between the years 1803

and 1835, prior to Fanny -w bt's visit. Within these 32 years, however,

it is possible to obtain a very clear picture of planting and labor

manav- ..t activities. After 1835, it becomes difficult to document

management practi-ces, but it may be ,.-e to assume that earlier,

established practices prevailed in later years.

Under the management of the Ki ., the Butler estate was operated

efficiently. Both Kings had taken an active interest in planting. With

regard to labor management, runaways were few, and slaves received treat-

mert comparable to other slaves in the area. To a great extent, their

success as m,.na.. s may hMave been related to the dutiful drivers of the

estate. '...t of the drivers were loyal and reliable, and the Kings felt

a high regard for them. For example, in the selection of a new driver

for Butler Island, King sought the counsel of two drivers at Hmpton

Plantation (Roswell King, Sr., 15 :.. Ler 1818). Several years later,

Roswell, Jr., praised the work of a driver by sayin-g: "The hands a.-.-c

to be fit enough to attack another crop, which can only be attributed

to Sambo's mana At,--t in varying the work as rimuch ,s possible" (Roswell

King, Jr., 24 September 1825). The death of a good driver was con-

sidered a great loss to the estate, as well as to the entire planter

community: "Driver Brain . was worth a great deal to the estate

his death is regretted by every white person who know him" (Roslwell

King, Jr., 1 February 1825). But problems with drivers were .ot un-

common. One at Butler Island was involved in steal iig la ..- ar.o. its of

corn from the warehouses and selling the corn to merchants in Darien

(PRoswell King, Sr.., 22 November 1806). Another driver, a1to at Butler

Island, apparently was an alcoholic (Roswe11 Kinig, ,Jr, 29 August 180).

Occasionally, a driver's cruelty to the field hands required thaFt he be


I have been obliged to displace Morris at St. Anne.
He was always tyranical and brutal, 'which I c. -
ally kept -under, but lately he had become intemperate,
in fits of that kind, and has used great severity to
some of the negroes. (Ros1elMl King, Jr. 16 July

Despite occasional problems, most drivers were *,-.-'d at their jLobs and

to the field hands (see Van Deburg 1979, for a reassessment t of the sieve

driver). Generally, drivic-rs "strove to mediate between th. Big Hease

and the quart.s &.' (Genoveso i974:378). At Bu-ier Island, r' ive'-s

were particulalry vital to the managei-m ent of a planitioln whichh saw

few whi tes

Of all the properties in the estate, Butler Island was the largest

in both acreage and in production. More slaves were utilized in the

plantation operation than at any of the other properties. As many as

300 to 400 slaves lived and worked at this rice island and they occupied

four slave settlements or villages. Rice production, however, was not

the major interest of the estate until the 1820s. Prior to that time,

long-staple cotton dominated the planting interest (Scott 1961:xxxviii-

xxxix). Most of the cotton was planted at St. Simons and Little

St. Simons, but some was also cultivated at Butler Island, apparently

for crop rotation purposes (see Coulter 1941:104). Despite the interest

in cotton, considerable quantities of rice were produced before 1820.

As indicated in Table 2, the average annual production of rice was 712

tierces between the years 1802 and 1820. From 1821 to 1833, the

average annual production (1827 and 1829 are not included) was 1,246

tierces. Thus, in later years, rice production increased by approxi-

mately 43 percent. Years of low production coincided with losscs due

to storms, as well as to when the acreage planted in cotton may

have exceeded that of rice.

The rice cultivation methods utilized at Butler Island were
i.i-rally typical of the region. As a rule, the mnost sophisticated

rnh&ods and equi. .. ,t were employed. As early as 1802, rice fields were

marurr-ed, possibly with lime and marl (Barker, 1841-1844) to enhance soil

productivity (Roswell King, Sr., 17 September 1803). Fields were

pi'r, ted with rice oe year and then rotated vith cotton to keep dnwn

the growth of grasses (Coulter 1941:104). Occasionally, the fields

were prepared with plows, but hand labor predominated. In the processing

Table 2
Rice Production at Butler Island, 1802-1833

Year Acreage .er of Tierces a

1802 -- 128
1803 337 1/2
1804 -- 44
1805 -- 1326
1806 -- 468 1/2
1 or7] 8
i07 --1186
1808 --- 565 1/2
1809 -- 578 1/2
1810 587 1/2
1811 -- 857
1812 1739
1813 253 1/2b
1814 -- 829
1815 591
1816 -- 513
1817 -- 1058
1818 -- 650
1819 407 1173
1820 227 548 1/2
1821 234 832
1822 272 1080
1823 358 1240
1824 342 84.b
1825 318 1024
1826 399 1455
13828 395 1331
1830 505 1747
1831 552 1557
1832 271 1695
1833 591 1660

Source: Compiled from Annual Crop and Livestock Reports. 1803-1833.

Note: Average annual tierces., 1802-1830, is 712; avedrege anmu-i
tierces, 1821-1833 is 1 246; increaC equals 43%.

,Tierce = 600 lbs.
bLow production due to hurricanes.

of rice, experiments were attempted with every conceivable threshing and

pounding device. By 1835, the machinery for processing rice included

an animal-powered mill, tw:o tidal mills, and a steam mill. Tihe steam

mill was built in 1833; it housed both threshing and pounding machinery

and its cost was over '.<000 (Roswell King, Jr., 25 March 1932, 22

April 1832, 22 February 1833). Evidently, the threshinrg mills were not

sufficient for the amount of rice harvested, anid a portion of it was

threshed by hand on "tarred" threshing floors (Roswel1 King, Sr.,

9 August 1806; ;- ble 1961 (1863):109-110). Rough rice was also mar-

keted, but large quantities were not sold until the 1850s (Pierce

Butler, Jr., Ledger, 1851-1855).

Besides rice arid cotton, sugar was planted at Butler Island be-

ginning in 1812. In fact, :?-Jor Butler had considered "turning the

island into a sugar plantation" (Roswe1l King, Sr., 1 er 1812).

Between the years 1812 and 1815, complete sugar processing equipment was

added to the plantation complex (Butler Estate Papers, 1815a).

Roswell, Sr., had become very interested in sugar culture and he sought

the advice of West Indian pla nters (Roswel1 King, Sr. 12 August 1815).

This interest in sugar was later pursued by Roswel1. Jr. (King 1828).

Regardless of their enthusiasm for sugar culture, the acreage allotted d to

it was always considerably smaller than that of rice or cott-n.

Like most large plantai ions of the Old Sout.h (Galliman 19700:23),
some provision foods -were produced at Butler Island. Livestock were

raised and some fruit trees and vegetables were cultivated. ihe list

of stock included oxen, barrows, mules, mares, C ttle, pigs, sheep,

turkeys, and other fowl (Butler Estate Papers, 1803-1830) The draft

animals were used primarily for operating machinery and pulling carts

and wagons. Wool was sheared from the sheep to make cloth (Roswell1

King, Sr., 18 August 1813). On special occasions, cattle, pigs, or

sheep were butchered to feed the slaves (PRoswell King, Sr., 16 May 1813;

Roswell1 King, Jr., 13 November 1823). But these occasions were appar-

ently rare, and slaves were most often fed "barrelled pork and salted

fish" (Roswel1 King, Sr., 7 April 1816; Rosweli King, Jr., 18 March

1821). Citrus fruit trees were planted along the outer bank of the

island, an area approximately five miles in length. The w' nose was to

protect the dykes from storms or freshets (Spa ding 1830). Several

visitors to the area marveled at the beauty of the orange and lemon

groves (Hall 1931 (1828):234; Coulter 1941:96). Most of the fruit was

marketed and the remainder was sent to the Butlers or distributed v-.rj

the plantation occupants (Roswell King, Jr., 25 December 1812, 8 "7v-'.-

ber 1818). Although experiments with planting corn, barley, and pota-

toes ,were attempted (Roswell King, Sr., 31 May 1813, 1 June 1818),

Butler Island lacked sufficient "high lands" or hammocks (see House 1939;

213, 1954a:153) for the production of provision crops. Consequently,

most provision crops were either produced at the other plantations of

the estate (Roswell King, Sr., 9 June 1814; Roswell King, Jr., 25 Jan.uary

1819) or were purchased from other planters.

Plantation structures were numerous at Butler Island. in addi-

tion to the outbuildings needed to process and store rice, cotton, and

s *. r, a sawmill, cornmi11, warehouses, aud a slave hospital were iamo

the structures (Butler Estate Pc-pers,1815a). The maintenance

of these buildings was an ongoing process, and both slave mechanics and

hired white craF.. were regularly engaged in making improvements on

the structures.

Efforts were made toward making Butler Island self-sufficient In

the production of plantation supplies. Construction materials were

manufactured, including clay and tabby bricks, shingles, nails, and iron

tools. Slave clothing and shoes were also frequently made. if trained

slaves were unavailable, local whites were hired to undertake these

tasks (Roswell King, Sr., 9 July 1805, 28 May 1815, 4 October 1915).

Sometimes whites were employed to train the slaves in specific skills

(Rosweli King, Sr., 26 April 1816). The extent to which ce-tain pro-

ducts were made depended on the needs of the plantation and the cost of

manufacture at the time. This was clearly the case with regard to shoe-

making: "As for tanning and shoemaking, I recommend you give it up.

Hides have gotten extravagant. Our shoes cost $4.00 a pair, you can get

better shoes out of the state prison for $1.00" (Roswell King, Sr., 15

November 1818). Thus "self-suffici- I" at the Butler estate varied

through time and with the needs and interests of the owners.

Taken as a whole, the Butler estate was at most times very profit-

able. The estimated value of the slaves, structures, and lands was

$288,027 in 1818 (Rosweil Ling, Sr., 19 July 1819). By the 1850s, the

slaves alone were valued at $300 .' (Pierce Butler, Jr., Ledger,

1851-1855). ; .ua returns on the c ps ranged from $20,000 to $50,000

except in years of losses (Butler Estate Papers, 1814; Butler Estate

Paers, 1824-1835). Th-estntp, however, was not entirely a success

st. ry. Storms dmged Lrmendou.r s Emounis of (crops in the years

1804, 1813, and 1824. The hurricane of 1804 was particularly disastrous

............. 01110111L. I -."

to coastal Georgia (Luodlum 1953:116), and the Butler estate lost not

only crops but 19 slaves as well (Van Doren 1929:186). During the

British raids along the coast in the War of 1i12, 139 slaves were taken

from the estate (Roswell King, Jr., 28 April 1815). In later years,

freshets and epidemics among slaves had far-reaching effects upon prof-

its. Finally, the crash of 1857 resulted in the sale oF 500 slaves.

It is possible that Major Butler found the losses of his day over-

whelming. Historic records indicate that he put the entire estate up for

sale in 1818, a total of 15,000 acres and 535 Negroes (Darien Gazette,

81l8-1819). The factors which motivated his actions are not clear.

Perhaps he was of the opinion that the estate was becoming unprofitable.

it is evident that Roswell, Sr., had begun urging the ..jor to sell por-

tions of the estate in 1816: "I think you have too many eggs in one

basket to keep the land is worn out, the droughts and gales make

our cotton the smallest I ever knew . . Your interest is too large.

't. enough laborers for the amount of land" (Roswell King, Sr.,

21 January 1816). In 1818, King's urging had become more persistent:

I have .- ,-. you to sell your estate for a long time cut
of the purest of motives, thinking Negroes was above their
value and that was a time to sell, but I find I have
ered in judgement, Negroes are rising in value like the
tide, every day. . I recommend you to sell all your
Negroes and land you hold in this state, say in a lump
for $555,000 and in my opinion in fifteen 'mi nutes after
you read this and if you will not sell I E!, recom-
mend to you without loss of your time make arrangements to
lay cut one hundred thousand in Negroes. Let them cost
what they may-as I have often observed your estate must
dwindle without more force. (Roswell King, Sr., 28 June
1 81 8)

...--ther it was King's persuasion or other factors which resulted in the

decision to sell cannot be ascertained. The financial crashes between

1817 and 1819 may have ':.. factors. During that time the entire south-

ern economy suffered great financial losses (Eaton 1961:274-273). P.r-

sonal family relations are another possibility. Unable to convince

Thomas to take over the administration of his estate, the Major may have

decided to sell before considering the alternative of leaving his prc, .r-

ties to his grandsons. ..tever his reasons for selling, he never found

a buyer: "I have done all i can to sell your estate to promote your

interests and to close your accounts in Georgia. I fear I shall not be

able to do much for you (Roswell King, Sr., 165 January 1819) Thus the

estate was retained and portions of it remained in the Butler family for

another 90 years.

Records of Slave Life

One of the most astonishing aspects of the Butler estate was the

size of the labor force. By 1859, a total of 919 slaves were included

in the estate (Butler Estate Papers, 1859). Even in Major Butler s

day, the total number of Butler slaves ranged from 500 to 700. Slave-

holding of this magnitude was clearly in a class by itself. Slaveholders

who o.wned from 500 to 1,000 slaves represented less than 2 percent of

all slaveholding in the entire South. In Georgia, this "unusually large

slaveholding was confined to less than I percent cf all planters in the

state" (Gray 1941:L530-538). Thus, the size of the Butler estate made

it atypical among southern plantations

ow the MajIor m %a(jd to acquire such a vast number of sleeves is

an interesting subject in i tself. Most of the ior's initial transc-

tions had taken place between the :'i-rs 1786 and 1804 (George Hooper

1785-1302; Butler Estate Papers, IdO01-1804). Although some of the


Butler slaves were direct imports from Africa (Roswell King, Sr., 13

May 1803), most were acquired through the domestic slave trade based

in the older slaveholding regions, particularly the Virginia Tidewater.

Theenterprising :-'jor, of course, found ways to add to his slave"hod-

ings illegally. Before the Major left for Georgia, he took a consider-

able number of slaves belonging to his wife's family. Although the

total ,i7.'--'er of slaves acquired illegally for the -..,or's in-laws is

not certain, in 1817, 127 slaves were found to be the property of the

Major's sister-in-law (Roswell King, Sr., 29 January 1817). Apparently,

these slaves were never returned to their former owner. As planting

interests expanded, the estate was supplemented with additional pur-

chases of slaves. Natural increase also added to the slave population.

Rarely did the death rate exceed the birth rate (see Table 3). The

fact that few slaves were sold* provided an additional factor which

helped to maintain the size of the slave population.

Several slave lists exist for the Butler estate, but few specifi-

cally list the sleeves at Butler Island. Tables 4 and 5 combi ne a

number of lists taken from various time periods (Butler Estate Papers,

1803, 1821; Roswell King, Jr., Daybook, 1844). indications are

from the plantation records that this combined list reflects the

average number of slaves regularly engaged in the labor force at

Butler island. he list, however, does not inc lude children

under age. 10, which usually veraed 100 in number (Posve.'ll King, Sr.

Qc lose examination of the slave records reveals that the occa-
sions on which slaves were sold from the estate wre very rare. iThis
is in 'eepi ng with the evidence concerning other rice p1 anta ti ons in
the area (see House 1939:215).

Annual Births and


















T o ta.

CPote: Natnural increase v

Table 3
Deaths of Butler Slaves

Births Deathss

257 191

29 19

25 165

19 27

19 22

32 14

30 18

20 28

35 23

41 39

46 25

31 16

41 25

45 20

31 29

43 34

53 ..34

756 530



Tab] e 4
An Approximate List of Slaves by Age and Task Rate at Butler Island
1803-1845: Field Hands

,Naame Age Task Ratea

Samibo (driver) 33
Pender 31 1
Robin 25 1
Cloe 26 1
Eve 23 1
John 20 1
L e,,i s 18 1/4
Robin 25 1
Cornelia 30 1
Joe 43 1
Hannah 44 1
Limas 23 1
18 1
Charlotte 15 1
Mol ly 15 1/4
July 46
i: cy 26
Renter 56
Flora 53 1
Mia ry 32
Listern 29 1
tol ly 25 1
Bil y 49 1
Quacer 35 1
Mary 35 1
Toby 34 1
Adam 35 1
inii under 35 1
Total -- 25 1/ 2

Jack (driver) 57 --
London 28 1
Dido 21 1
John 29 1
Beck 16 i/4
Harry 29 1
Na, 18 cy/2
Ji 35 1
Toby 37 1
Nancy 52
Constant 16 1/4
Tin.h 14 1/4

Table 4--(contlinued.)

: Age Task Ratea

Q.-:,h 36 ]
,, Ii I /92
Flora 32 1/2
Auber 3
Jeffrey 37 3/4
Dally 45
Dago 26
Jean 346
Hagar 34
Sarah 4 8
Lisbon 18 1/2
F]u25 1
Tamfsor 25
Mari a 42 1

Total -22

Ley (driver) 30
Peggy 3 31
Sarah 19 1
Randail 465 3/4
Hector 24 /4
Peggy 17 /4
Sam 33 1/4
Libby 27 1
Provamy 23 l
Toby 19 /2
Peter 16 1/4
Hagar 52 1/2
Leira 52 1/2
Leipia 26 112
Cos !-,a 42
Quami n 24 ,
Haar 17 2/4
Robin 16 1/4
Frank 29 I 4
May 22
Abrav 42
oo1ba 43
IJ i l I y ';9 i f '
~1 9 /
L ,,,! 201 ''/2
L /- cy / /i
Lucy 29 1 4
J-in,., 47
Rose 20 ../,A
1 /,

Table 4-(contiinued)

Name Age Task Ratea

Violet 15 1/4
Fanny 20 1/4
Molly 17 1/2
Harry 37 /2
Lilly 44
Charlotte 28 1
Tpie 23 1

Total 25 1/2

Captain (driver) 52
Dorcas 57 /2
Lagette 25 1
Jenny 21
Cate 19 3/4
Dick 29 14
Chari ty 35 1
Morris 37 1
Melinda 43 1
Peter 40
London 1 I
York 16 /2

Affa 29
Lilla 42 1
Mira 42 1
Violet 17 ]/,4
Pompe 12 1/4
Cncy 37 1/2
Joe 33 1 l
3u ba 30 1
Betty 22 1
George 19 3/4
Lender 20 0
Pena 25
Philo 25
Elce 24
Silva 1 /1
.... 1/2
To ta1 2 3/4

Talb e 4---(cont i nued)

-.,. Age Task Ra,:ea

Frank (driver) 42
Elce 23
Albert 2
Lender 44
Breste r 33
Lookey 35 1
[o lv 13 /4
16 1/4
Jer-ry 16 1
3ru lhs 36 1
,,. ..34 1
g" :"e 39 1
Jack. 21
Tom 37 1
l9y 9
iacar 22 1
Tina 25
117 !/4
i' go 17 1/4
lus ice 32
John 33 1
Phoebe 32 1
Petty 3-5
y 41 3/4
Ga rrett 25
Ley 25 ]
Rose 42 1 2
Patty 18 /4
-Ls Li'er 15 14
rate 29 l
- m "' Q" I
Cooper c ro 9 19
rVary 29 l

-26 3/4

Grand Total 122 1/2

,dote. rotal] n i. .r 156.

oil ~ 1/?

Table 5
An Approximate List of Slaves, by Age and Occupation,
at Butler Island, 1803-]845: Plantation Specialists

Occupation Namile




Pri mis
Ra ndy
Abraham Carter
Justice (yo ., .r)
To by



Crafts nri,


13 Hay 1827), or retired slaves involved in menial tasks. A census

taken of the Butler slaves in 1830 indicates that 365 slaves lived at

Butler Island at that time. The census provides the female-to-male ratio

and age distributions, as shown in Table 6.

Table 6
1830 Census of Slaves at Butler island

Age Male Female Total

Under 10 44 49 93

10-24 57 52 109

24-36 36 33 69

36-55 39 29 68

55-100 12 14 26

Total 1388 177 365

Details obtained from plantation records regarding the material

conditions of the Butler slaves are similar to standard slave care prac-

tices throughout the Old South. At Butler Island, these practices

mirror those established for other rice plantations (e.g. Allston 1858;

House 1954a; Phillips "969;i14-130). Generally, these practices include

the following: the provision. of two sets of clothing annually, one for

wiKntor -;d the other for su'im'r ; p antution rations, which consisted

primrily of corn, pork, salted fish, and molasses; a sick house and

medical attention furnished by the overseer or slave doctor; and hous-

ing. Superficially, the records tend to suggest that the Butler slaves

were well provided for,as some recent historians have suggested to have

been the general nature of slavery in the United States (see Foge0 and

Engerman 1974); yet it is apparent from close inspection of these

records, particularly the overseers' letters, that inadequacies were

prevalent. Because the overseers' greatest concern was slave diseases,

most of the information relating to slave care is concern with health

care, and to a much lesser extent diet. References to clothing or

improvements to slave dwellings are few. Thus, it is difficult to assess

the material conditions of slavery at Butler Island on the basis of

plantation records alone. It is intended that the archaeological data

presented in Chapters 4 and 5 will amplify the descriptions of slave

material conditions found in the records. On the other hand, some as-

pects of slave life mentioned in the records have no archaeological

correlates, including slave diseases, mortality rates, disciplinary

problems, and punishment. In the remainder of this chapter these topics

are briefly examined.

The Kings' greatest concern was with the slaves' health care.

Efforts therefore were made to place at Butler Island slaves who were

adapted to the ......y lowlands. Just how these adaptive capacities

were determined is not clear. Through mere observation such an assess-

ment could have possibly been made. Roswell King, Sr., stated:

I landed the Negroes all safe and in good health, . .
I carried them to Tide Island [Butler Island] and you
would have been much gratified to see their rejoicing,
when Qrv found V/ coulcd drink the water out of the
river, which is proof that they have been acquainted
with the same soil & hopefully they wiil be healthy.
. They landed very cheerful & happy, you have no
people that can talk with them. (13 May 1803)

The above staA i--i supports the suggestion that planters deliber-

ately selected slaves adapted to a malarial environment for labor in rice

fields. But it appears that even among members of the old, established

slave population, their abilities to withstand the rice swamp was an

ongoing concern:

It appears Re have few ;-groes here I[ampton] that are
suitable for the rice swamp. We have at least 20 at the
rice island which I would like to move if we had
suitable highland for them. "-., you purchase more of
course some of them will not be so profitable in a rice
swamp and it is necessary we should arrange for land more
suitable. (Roswell King, Sr., 22 August 1813)

Yet sickness was a prevailing problem at Butler Island despite

efforts to place slaves there that were adapted to a malarial environ-

ment. An array of diseases plagued the island, including fevers of all

kinds, measles, intestinal disorders, cholera, influenza, whooping

cough, and others. Of these,cholera, influenza, and intestinal dis-

orders were the most dreaded, and reports of these diseases frequently

followed the occurrence of freshets, particularly in the 1830s,when

freshets became annual events. At that time, slaves were often re-

located to keep down debilitating diseases (Roswell King, Jr.,

15 February 1835, 8 "rch 1835). Evidently, freshets contaminated the

food and water supplies, which when consumed, caused illness and pos-

sibly death. The drinking of2 contaminated water, however, was seem-

ingly a health problem at other times as well: "1his is the sickly

season for Negroes at the rice island. There is 14 to 15 in the hos-

pitni. MW'oe dangerously ill. I believe it is owning to their drinkiii.

river after" (Roswell King, Sr., 30 April 1815) In general, in the

South contaminated water was fre ,;tly the source for epidemics of

of cholera, d ..,try, diarrhea, typhoid, hepatitis (Savitt 1978:59).

By far the greatest sufferers among the slave population at hButler

Island were infants and children. The infant mortality rate was higher

there than at any of the other plantations in the Butler estate:

You wi11 perceive that the mortality among infants is
very high particularly at 16 this place [Butler Island]
the state of the atmosphere is certainly injurious to
infants. The proportion of young people at this place is
far behind St. Siimons. (Roswell King, Jr., 5 January 1829)

Deaths among infants at the Butler estate often comprised 50 percent or

more of the annual deaths as indicated in Table 7. Infant mortality

rates such as these were typical of the late antebellum period (Steckel

1979:95-96). Several conditions generated high levels of slave infant

mortality, but recent studies have suggested that the predominant causes

of slave infant deaths were Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), or crib

death (Sutch 1976:283-292; Savitt 1978:122-127), tetani-related

diseases (Savitt 1978:121-122), and occasionally infanticide (Savitt

1978:127-128). Although no definaite cases of infanticide wre reported

at Butler Island, carelessness or neglect on the part of mothers was

given as the cause of death for some infants (Roswell King, Sr.,

16 Jcae 1816; PRosweiI King, Jr., 17 September 1826). iMost deaths among

children between the ages of 2 and 10 years were believed to be duo to

worm infestation (Roswell King, Jr., 10 September 1835). Worms were a

general health prohl-iem among black children in the Oldi South (Savitt


The treatment of diseases was usually handI-'d by the Kings. Yn

cases of major emergencies, a doctor was called upon to tend to the

slaves. The f i 'ntly u-ed medications listed en annual expense lists

C Q0 C(D C) (o r- C CO C) CD CD CD -- Q0 CC'
r- LI) <-- u0 cCO k- Lo r-. co )o Co k-o C) Q0o r-- Vo

L-) r- C U (D .--- Lo cr LU) Co nc Co C)
I- -- (- r --- C(' (J -- -- r- i- "I C-I

k") Co C '- C) C.D r) O U <- c- j CO L- C,- C: o C

CO C) c Cc Co) CD o- -,i c\j r- (N (NJ o i










0 4-
r~ 0














m C) C-- (N -' O CC-c M2 C) C I c c) c:C- C) :- "
(C\ (N0 C"] o0j (*-- co co en C,4 c0 1 -o (") Cc |


C) cO C-- c, Cc cdi tCj) 'C- C-.- O C) C) (NJ CC ) T

t-- r- r-- r-- C-.r I- r-,-' r- C- --- r r -- r r- r -'-


I C ) , CD o --- CO c'' (i C. (Ni 0 C -.- j )
i-. Cc r- r-- r- r-- r-- r- r- r r---

C") N (C t C" C) ('I ULO) -- LO CO C os OQ) L)) LO .) C)

- r U- C)- "C) C C(J L.O cJ 01- o C) I') ,- Ni (cD'
<-j- 't -- r -- C, L C) o -O ) O CO L-O ( 0- 2 () LC)

-- Cc( C-c i c 0 L- c C r-) c--. i r--
CJ CM i- i- i-* cJ iI




,QJ tU




included rhubarb, Spirits of Turpentine, red lave der, aloes, altum,

magnesia, camphor, peppermint, castor oil, opium, and others. These

medications were typical of the antebellum apothecary (Poste'Il 1951:93-

99). Black folk medicine was discouraged, although some slaves sought

help from "negro doctors" despite objections (Roswell King, Sr.,

10 Au .,.i 1815).

improvements in slave diet were apparently the primary actions

taken to prevent illness. This was especially true for children. Meals

were sometimes prepared separately for them to insure that they were

properly fed:

There is no estate with so fine of crop of young Negroes
as this Butler Island. There are over 100 hominy eaters,
during the summer once or twice a week they are collected
and have an extra meal of fish or pork soup which make
each little -..-- grow in the river swamp, I think.
(Roswell King, Jr., 13 May 1827)

From time to time improvements were also made on the diets of adult

slaves, such as increases in the quality or quantity of plantation

rations. Generally, the amount of plantation ration varied according

to the slave's occupation. Pitchers received the largest amounts of

meat and corn; next in line were the drivers and mechanics; then came

the field workers; and last were invalids and retired slaves whlo re-

ceived the least amount of food (Butler Estate Papers, 1815b). Slaves

kept vegetable gardens and raised chickens at Butler Island, but these

were periodically destroyed by freshets (Roswel l King, Jr. ?83 July

1829). Hunting (.Roswel King, Sr., 28 Januay 1S?9) and fishing also

supple ented the diet, which is indicated by arciheoogical evidence as

wel l.

Despite all indications of an adequate diet, slaves frequently

stole plantation rations stored in warehouses. Although most of these

foods were sold for cash, some of them were probably used to supplement

deficient diets. Stealing corn was particularly a problem: "" jor

Hopkins was telling me one day :.,'" .Pgroes had more to sell than any

Negroes he ever known (I told him they were industrious) and he said

Q y supported Darien in corn & cheap to" (Roswe' King, Sr. 22 Novem-

ber 1806).

Stealing plantation produce, in fact, had become so widespread in

the Altamaha estuary that planters attempted to prosecute local mer-

chants in Darien for buying from slaves:

Tomorrow I am to go to a meeting in Darien to form a
proclamation against the traders there for dealing with
-groes. The planters on St. Simons and in the vicinity
of Darien have formed a coalition to prosecute all dealers
with Negroes. (Roswell King, Sr., 23 September ,?1C)

Because incidences of stealing were frequently reported, stealing was

evidently the number one disciplinary problem among the Butler slaves.

Second to stealing., slave runaways appear to have been a problem.

It is curious that most runaways were intended to be short-term absences

from the plantation. Oftentimes, one or two slaves, usually male, would

go off to another plantation or sneak into Darien without permission

(Rosweli King, Sr., 31 December 1808, 10 May 1818; Roswell King, Jr.,

2 January 1821). Few incidences of permanent runaways are indicated,

and it Eppears that these were always unsuccessful attempts (Roswell

King. Sr.., 12 1;y 1804).

A variety of methods was used to punish slaves for stealing,

running away, and other deviant behavior. The lash was used, but

banishment to hard labor at "Experiment" (Roswell King, Sr., 6 March

1813) or "Five Pound" (Kemble 1961 (1861):270) was prescribed for chronic

offenders.* Punis hment also entailed the denial of fish, meat, molasses,

clothes, rice, and forced labor on Sundays (Rosweil King, Jr., 29

Feburary 1829). Children were submerged in cold water as a means of

punishment. On one occasion a young boy died shortly after he was dumped

in water (Roswell King, Jr., 3 February 1829).

For the most part, overseers' letters provide very little informa-

tion on the family or social life among the slaves. This is unfortunate,

since this is an area in which archaeological data supply little, if

information. A few scattered references do exist regarding fa-Olily

domestic quarrels, conflicts between drivers and workers at the slave

villages, and the religious fervor .,.r. slaves. Perhaps oral history

is the best resource of information for investigating these aspects of

slave life (e.g. Blassingame 1972, 1976; Killion and Waller 1973;

Escott 1979). It has been pointed out that overseers tended to v.,rite

about issues they thought the planter should know about (Bassett tl9c.:

261). Consequently, overseers' letters .-:i-rally reflect concerns re-

lating to slave il niess, death, and disciple inary problems. Given these

concerns, it should be obvious that gaps would exist in interpretations

of slavery derived solely from this resource. Although archaeology may

not be able to provide data relating to the social or religious life of

slaves. it can shed light on the specifics of slave material conditions.

-'In the plantation records there is no reference to the planta-
tion"Five Pound but there are a number of references to "Experirment."
Because they were both apparently located on Little St. Simons, the
author is of the opinion that these names refer to the same plantation.

Virtually little or no information is contained in plantation records
regarding the building materials used in slave housing, the size of

these dwellings, or the wild food resources utilized by slaves, anrd many

other details. These items of slave life are discussed in the remainder

cf this study.

Archaeolopical Resour'ces
Arch e i 1, 1 .. .
Archaeological investigations were undertaken at Butler Iml-nd

in the summer of "1973 under the direction of Dr. Lewis H. Larson, of

West Georgia College. and in the spring and summ ier of 1979 by the author.

Scyclical inundation practices of the Waaterfowl .:r:.. t Progrc..

necessitated that all fieldwcrk be conducted in the spring and summer

months. This schedule, which involves the flooding of most of Butler
Island in the fall and. g'adually removing the water from lfate winter to

early spring, prohibited fieldwork before April. Even in Apri, l, many

areas were still very damp, and some were not completely dry for field-

work activities until June or July. Thus, the time spent at any one

site depended, to a great extent, upon the degree of moisture present at

the site during the time allocated for fieldwork. Fieldwork a-ctiv, es

included surface reconnaissance by foot and by boat, mapping of sites,

and limited excavations at slave settlement #1, the southernmost tidal

milIl, and slave settlement :4 (see Figure 7).

Site As s .. ts
1I Pl S.~A1
T, "es ...... Figure- 7 are pres r rpsu :ly nte eriod

s te. T.hes have bee.n 'I cated and identified by use of a comii-ii nation

of resources incl, uding histri c mraps, pihotographcs, records, aeri al

photographs, inf4r 'nts, an. d archaeological assessments.P Recent '. land


S-- ^ -.

"0 -












modifications at Butler Island are shown in Figure 8. The most obvious

modifications are U.S. Highway 17, which roughly coincides with the

canal east of Settlement :1 and Interstate 95, which crosses the island

in the vicinity of settlement #2. Also, twentieth-century buildings,

from the Huston occupation, are present at settlement #1. These are

presently used for waterfowl management activities.

It was possible to predict potential areas for site location by the

use of aerial photographs (of course with photographs having better

resolution than that of Figure 8). Because Butler Island is generally

a low-lying, grass-covered marshland, sites tended to be located on

infrequent high spots, which are presently covered with trees and shrubs,

notably, hackberry, persimmon, and fig. These areas of tree groves

were easily identified in the aerial photographs. From surface recon-

naissance, however, not all of these tree clumps were found to be sites.

But all sites located were associated with this tree growth. Addi-

tionally, some sites, such as the slave settlements, were also indicated

in aerial photographs by the detection of antebellum drainage ditches,

which surround and separate these from former rice fields.

The identification for several sites is well documented. The

slave settlements correspond exactly with the area designations I, II,

III, and IV en the 1877 USGS Map (or Figure 6). Historic photographs

provide suggestions for the placement of structures designated in slave

settlement -i. The steam-powered mill is precisely identified by ruins

of the. t'wo chi 's which are prE gently standing. A sketch drawn by

- well King pinpoints the location of the sawmill and both tidal mills

(Roswell King, Sr. 13 January 1813).