"The Hernandez Orange Grove": A Nineteenth-Century Enterprise in St. Augustine, Florida

Material Information

"The Hernandez Orange Grove": A Nineteenth-Century Enterprise in St. Augustine, Florida
Series Title:
Martin Hernández Site, 71 Park Place
Alternate Title:
"The Hernández Orange Grove": A Nineteenth-Century Enterprise in St. Augustine, Florida
Melissa N. Hagen; Carl D. Halbirt
City of St. Augustine
Publication Date:
Physical Location:
Records, reports & presentation, news clipping


Subjects / Keywords:
Saint Augustine (Fla.)
71 Park Place (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Martin Hernández Orange Grove (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Martin Hernández Site (Saint Augustine, Fla.)


General Note:
Paper submitted at the 57th Annual Meeting of the Florida Anthropological Society, Gainesville, Florida; May 14, 2005

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
BDAC # 04-0441

Full Text

"The Hernandez Orange Grove": A Nineteenth-Century Enterprise in St. Augustine, Florida

Melissa N. Hagen and Carl D. Halbirt

Paper submitted at the 57th Annual Meeting of the Florida Anthropological Society, Gainesville, Florida

May 14, 2005


In 1815, Martin Hernindez was granted 10 acres of land within the city by the Spanish crown. Minorcan, Hernindez was listed as a "chief carpenter" by trade but engaged in various ventures including agricultural activities. Historical maps and documents indicate that the parcel contained an orange grove and cornfield, as well as a habitation area of the property's caretakers. In 2004, the City of St. Augustine Archaeology Program discovered the house site while surveying a lot for pending development. Discussed is the history of the property and the material culture associated with the people who labored on this enterprise.



Citriculture in Florida has its antecedents during the First Spanish Period when orange trees were part of a household's kitchen garden. While the earliest mention of oranges grown in the colonial province is in 1579, its presence in the archaeological record dates back only to the mid-177h century. The remains of a discarded orange were found in a well shaft (fig+) along with a partially eaten fig and a wooden bowl. ,b < ,

Beginning in the early 18h century, oranges became a commodity for St. Augustine. They were exported to English colonial port cities and were prominently illustrated in two mid-18h century watercolors (ign m). The serene nature of the city's orange t'@ -'e2 groves was highlighted in many travel articles and books after the Civil War (Figure 3). 5 i t6 3 From the second half of the 18th century into the late 19"h century, when severe frosts destroyed those groves not claimed by urban development, citriculture had become a viable cash crop for many of St. Augustine's landowners, especially Minorcans.

This paper deals with the history of a 19-century orange grove situated within the city limits of St. Augustine and the material culture associated with the occupants who maintained that enterprise. The parcel of land on which the grove was located measured 10 acres (igue4) and was sandwiched between Maria Sanchez Creek on the east and the San Sebastian River on the west. An 1815 plat map of the property shows that only Slh 50 percent of the parcel was planted with orange trees, a trend that continued throughout the grove's use-life. The remainder was planted in corn. Historical maps indicate that the grove persisted into the 1880s i ). By 1894 the grove had disappeared. $ t

In the summer of 2004, the City of St. Augustine Archaeology Program undertook an investigation of a privately owned lot at 71 Park Place on which a new single-family


residence was to be constructed. The lot historically occurred along the west bank of Maria Sanchez Creek. Overlays of a modem map on historical maps of the 19" century indicate that the lot was situated in an open area of the grove. This location corresponds to an area ofthree structures shown on the Charles Vignoles map of 1821 (Eig ). A previous archaeological survey near the project area considered the possibility of settlement in this locale, although some of the proposed midden deposits were thought to be associated with 19t-century "city scavengers." According to one account, the owner of the Buena Esperanza plantation (William Ward), situated south of the project area, "requested that the city scavenger dump his trash on the road to his house along Maria Sanchez Creek."

It is argued herein that most of the material culture found within the modern lot is associated with laborers who worked this urban enterprise. The property owners would have had a marginal presence as their primary residences were nearby. These landowners are known to have had slaves of African-American descent and it is* postulated that the material culture recovered is representative of items available to this group of people.

History of the Orange Grove

The earliest owner of the orange grove was Don Martin Hernindez, a Minorcan, who was granted ownership of the 10 acre parcel of land by a royal decree issued by Spanish Governor Juan Jos6 de Estrada on October 5, 1815. The principal enterprise of Martin Hernndez and his family was carpentry, including shipbuilding and repair. He did own three tracts of land outside the city-portions of which were under cultivation. The family's primary residence was situated close to the bayfront, south of the plaza; the orange grove was approximately one-third of a mile east.


According to the Spanish land grant claim filed by the applicant's son, Joseph Hernmndez, on September 5, 1824, the tract consisted "of an orange grove planted by [Martin Hernindez] and the rest... fenced and otherwise improved." Joseph Hernndez,

an attorney, was duly constituted as Martin's legal representative on April 24, 1817, after (SI C, Martin moved to Havana, Cuba.

On January 9, 1833, various properties owned by Martin Hernindez within the city limits, including the "orange grove and the buildings thereon," were sold to Pablo Sabate for $884. Sabate's primary residence was his plantation of Casa Cola approximately 3 miles north of town. The indenture, made between Joseph HernAndez and Pablo Sabate, mentioned the transfer of people of African descent to Pablo Sabate "to be hired out in lieu of a $1,700 bond." It is assumed that the "sundry negroes" mentioned were delivered to Pablo from the estate of Martin Hernndez. Without all the legal documents associated with this deed, it is difficult to determine the exact terms of the transaction involving property and personnel. Both Martin Hernndez and Pablo Sabate died in 1834, a year after the indenture had been signed. Their wills have yet to be found.

The absence of property ownership records from 1833 to 1863, as well as

contradictory ownership information from other historical documents, contributes to the confusion regarding the Hernindez-Sabate transaction. For example, Martin Hernndez is listed as the owner in the Spanish land claim filed by Antonio Alvarez on December 4, 1834. Alvarez was the son-in-law of Pablo Sabate. That same year, Martin Hernindez was listed as the owner of record on the Clements block-lot map of St. Augustine (N prg ). A similar map of the 1850s shows Martin Hernandez as the owner of record. An inspection of their sons' wills does not provide any clues to property ownership.


This vexing problem was still of concern in 1887-54 years after the Sabate indenture had been signed-when George Atwood Jr. sold the property to the St. Augustine Improvement Company for $20,000. The general warranty deed signed by Atwood assured the new owners that the title was free and clear and could not be encumbered by the heirs or assignees of Martin Hernindez.

The 30-year gap in property ownership occurs during the later portion of the

occupation, as represented by the archaeological data. As such, we have to assume for the purposes of this study that the heirs or assignees of Martin Hernfindez had somehow regained control of the property until the Civil War. Cristobil Bravo bought the property at auction for $250 on December 22, 1863. A few years later, the property came under the ownership of the Atwood family and eventually became part of the 20th-century African-American enclave of Lincolnville.

Field Methods

The investigation at 71 Park Place, which at the time was an empty lot (), S\ t' C was initiated by the City's Archaeological Preservation Ordinance. The ordinance mandates that prior to any ground-penetrating activity associated with construction, the property be examined for archaeological deposits if the construction occurs within a designated zone and exceeds certain size limits.

The investigation followed standard protocols established by the City's archaeology program: an initial auger survey of the property followed by placement of test units within those locations that contained an appreciable quantity and diversity of artifacts ,\0 0) (~ii ). A total of 20 auger holes and 7 test units were excavated. From the auger survey, it was established that the north third of the lot contained potentially significant


archaeological deposits. Test units were excavated according to the soil zones identified during the auger survey. These zones are the A-horizon of loam, an upper cultural layer of gray sandy loam, a lower cultural layer of grayish brown to brown fine sands, and sterile yellow fine sands. Construction activities were monitored at which time spoil piles were examined visually and with a metal detector.

Excavation Results

Archaeological test excavations at 71 Park Place resulted in the documentation of 11 features and the recovery of approximately 8,000 broken artifacts and ecofacts. The ensuing discussion focuses on those features and artifacts associated with the Hernndez ownership, although items that predate and postdate this period are present.

Of the 11 features identified, 9 were either part of or adjacent to one of the

structures shown on the 1821 Vignoles Map and mentioned in the 1833 HernmndezSabate indenture. Features associated with the operation of the 19th-century orange grove were the outline and floor fill deposits to a structure, a well construction pit and barrel shaft, two storage pits or possible root cellars, a shell pit, and two isolated postholes.

The building was a two-room structure that was defined by a rectangular-shaped trench, which contained a series of shallow post holes of varying shapes and sizes. It is estimated that the two-room structure measured 26 ft by 16 ft or 416 sq ft. Artifacts found in the southwest corner of Room 1, at the interface between the lower cultural midden and sterile sands, suggested the presence of an earthen floor. The building may have had a porch along the west face, as evidenced by the presence of an isolated post hole that was in alignment with the south wall. As such, the porch would have overlooked the orange grove.


Two floor features were documented: a well and a shell-filled pit. The well

consisted of a construction pit and shaft (VM 0) and was situated near the southeast ~ corner of the building. Based on the diameter and height of the preserved portion of the shaft, which was submerged in the water table, a butt or pipe barrel was used in its creation. Situated in the same room as the well was the shell pit. Whether any other floor features were present could not be established as a later feature had destroyed most of the other room.

Outside the southwest comer of the structure, adjacent to the postulated porch, were two large pits. The earliest pit (Feature 11) measured more than 6 ft in diameter and was 20 in. deep. Its base was flat and compact, which suggested a floor. Intruding into Feature 11 was Feature 9: a squarish pit measuring 4.5 ft on the side exposed through excavation by 16 in. deep. As with the earlier pit feature, Feature 9 had a flat base. A variety of artifacts, including an 1803 half real, were found in the fill, suggesting that these features were later reused as refuse pits.

It is the 1815 to 1880 time period associated with the presence of the orange grove that accounts for the plethora of artifacts and ecofacts from the project site. Because the potential exists that some of this material could be the by-products of city scavengers, an attempt was made to isolate those items affiliated with the historical occupation of the property as opposed to rubbish left by city scavengers. To accomplish this task, ceramic items were examined according to three analytical units: 1) the upper cultural midden, 2) the lower cultural midden, and 3) historic features associated with the structure. Ceramics were selected given their prevalence and temporal sensitivity.


It was evident that most of the pottery types were scattered in about the same

percentages in the three units. Applying a one-way analysis of variance by ranks for the 12 principal pottery types recovered indicates that this artifact class was drawn from the same population, including the material found within historical features. As such, it is likely that the actions of city scavengers had little effect on the composition of the artifact assemblage at 71 Park Place.

To be on the safe side, the material from the upper cultural midden was excluded unless otherwise noted. This decision was based mostly on the presence of Whiteware and Ironstone ceramic fragments, which were found primarily in the upper cultural midden. The probability for mixed deposits in this zone also is reflected in glass and metal assemblages. A much higher variation of glassware and metal objects was found in the upper cultural midden than in the other two units.

Using the lower cultural midden and the historical features as the template for

understanding the material culture of a 19th-century agricultural enterprise within the city, it is striking to see the incredible diversity of artifact types available to its residents. Excluding Native American ceramic types, Spanish majolica, and coarse earthenware, which are clearly representative of earlier occupations, 37 different types or styles of pottery are represented in the assemblage. The two most common varieties are Creamware and Pearlware, which constitute 25% and 59% of the assemblage respectively (14gi41). Six styles or types of Creamware are represented: Queen's pattern, Royal pattern, hand-painted, poly-painted, and transfer-print. Pearlware is also represented by six styles: shell-edge, hand painted, poly-painted, sponge, transfer-print, and mocha. Annularware, which could either be a variant of Creamware or Pearlware, was considered


separately and constitutes 4.5 percent of the assemblage. The remaining 24 ceramic types are found in quantities of less than 2 percent. While some of these may be associated with earlier occupations, such as the 18h-century mission community of Pocotalaca, for this study the ceramic types recovered are considered to have been available for use while the property was under the ownership of Martin Hernindez.

Metal and glass objects also were quite prevalent in both the historical midden and features. Most of the metals were badly corroded nail fragments. Both square-cut and wrought iron forms are represented. Other items represented in the metal category were furniture hardware, a lead bailing seal, lead weights, a fireplace andiron, a brass key plate to a padlock, and possible agricultural implements (EiWgue

Glass fragments were divided among bottle, flat, tumbler, and goblet forms. Both medicinal and beverage bottle types are represented. Flat glass, or windowpane, was found in features, suggesting the presence of treated windows in the structure.

Various types of personal items were recovered. By far the most common artifact

type within this category is pipe fragments. Also recovered were bone and metal buttons, a possible fan, jewelry, a buckle, a silver half real, and bone handles to cutlery.

Of particular note in the personal category were the number and variety of buttons discovered and some of the jewelry. While some of the buttons were simple bone back varieties (Figa -3), others were associated with military uniforms dated between the ) Patriots Rebellion and the Second Seminole War (Fignpm4). Of the 40 buttons recovered, 30 percent were military. Jewelry reflects the presence of women at the Hernindez orange grove. Of interest was a hoop earring manufactured between 1840 and 1860.


In addition to the array of military buttons, other objects were recovered that

illustrate the availability of military items to the residents. Lead shot was discovered that may have been from an Army issued buck-and ball cartridge, which was in use between 1808 and 1855. The cartridge consisted of three 31-caliber buckshot balls and a 69caliber round ball, which was encased with powder in a paper wrapper. Other military items found included a brass saber tip sheath, gun flints, and strike-a-lite detritus.

Both animal bone and botanical specimens were recovered. Mammals were the most common food source at the site based on bone count and weight. Identified types were cattle, pig, and deer. Other food sources were chicken, turtles, fish, and rodent. It is surprising that fish and mollusk remains were not the primary dietary items given the property's proximity to Maria Sanchez Creek: a tidal estuary. Botanical specimens were collected from that portion of the well shaft submerged in the water table. Recovered were squash seeds, watermelon seeds, peach pits, and gourd rinds.


The central premise of this study is that the material from 71 Park Place corresponds with household items used by laborers at a 19*-century agricultural enterprise. Historical documents establish that Martin Hernindez started the orange grove after receiving a grant from the Spanish government and that he owned it at least until 1833; albeit, some records show that he or his assignees owned the land up to the 1850s. Records associated with the sale of the property also reveal that people of African descent were involved in the transaction. While we do not have solid documentary evidence that links the material recovered to this particular group, it is our contention that they are the most likely candidates. As such, the features documented and items recovered provide insights


into the living conditions and material culture available to people of African descent in the city limits of St. Augustine during the 19h century.

Evident from both historical documents and archaeological data is that the north

end of the property was within the residential locus of the orange grove. Discovered was the remnant of a two-room framed structure, with possible glass windows, but an earthen floor. Associated with this habitation structure was a possible porch, a well inside one of the rooms, and two large pits that may be the remains of small root cellars. While barrel wells are not uncommon in St. Augustine during this period, one situated within the confines of a room is unique and probably corresponds with the occupant's state-of-mind in a society that was going through radical social changes.

What was unexpected was the quantity of artifacts recovered. Some of this material associates with the activities of city scavengers, whose activities were contemporaneous with the later history of the property. A large percentage of artifacts, however, is likely affiliated with the HernAndez period occupation. This is especially the case with those items found in the lower cultural midden and within features.

The material culture shows that the occupants of the structure had access to a

variety of items, which were in style for the period. Ceramic types found in the lower midden deposits and features are similar in both type and quantity to items available to residents within the city. Items ofjewelry, decorative buttons (e.g., the brass repouss6 cover), and molded kaolin pipes illustrate behavioral trends of the site occupants regarding appearance and self-image.

Perhaps the most incongruous items discovered were the ones associated with the army or militia. Two plausible explanations can account for this occurrence and both are


related to conflicts that engulfed East Florida during the early decades of the 19t" century. The first was the Patriot War of 1812-1813, where Blacks were an integral component of the colony's defenses, helping to supply the town with beef as well as engaging enemy forces. The other conflict was the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), where Joseph Hernhndez was a brigadier general in the militia (~gm5). Hernmndez had been given fiduciary control of his father's estates in 1817. Consequently, a source for some of the buttons and other assorted military items may have been Joseph Hernindez.

This analysis represents a starting point for understanding the complex cultural

dynamics operating during Martin Hernindez's ownership of the property. During this time, which spans the end of the Second Spanish Period (1784-1821) into the American Territorial Period (1821 to 1845), social institutions and racial attitudes were changing. The Spanish view of people of African descent was generally one of leniency and tolerance where an individual had legal and religious rights. Conversely, when Florida became an American territory, laws became more exclusionary, limiting the rights and movement of Blacks while marginalizing their culture and contribution to society. The artifacts recovered at 71 Park Place reflect the perseverance and resiliency of the property's caretakers to maintain customs and privileges allocated to them by the Spanish despite the imposition of an American-style slave society.