Colonel Patrick Tonyn
South of Black Creek, Colonel Patrick Tonyn, the second governor of East Florida, received title to a 20,000-acre tract in 1767. In a January 1, 1787, letter to the East Florida Claims Commission, Tonyn said that he was invited to make a settlement in 1763 but was unable to proceed until 1767 when he sent an agent to locate his tract and initiate a settlement. That agent was Alexander Gray, who also acted in the same capacity for son-in-law, Francis Levett, and several other East Florida landowners. After arriving in the province in March 1774, Governor Tonyn received an additional land grant for 125 acres and purchased a town lot and other rural tracts totaling 3,015 acres. The governor claimed that he invested several thousand pounds sterling to initiate good settlements.
Governor Patrick Tonyn's 20,000-acre plantation was located on the south bank of Black Creek, extending south to what is now Green Cove Springs, shown on the left. The Shands Bridge is also shown in the photograph.
Surveyors plat map for Governor Patrick Tonyn's 20,000-acre tract south of Black Creek.
William Bartram visited Tonyn's Black Creek plantation midway through his 1774 explorations in East Florida. In a 1775 letter to Dr. John Fothergill, written from Charleston, Bartram described a brief river journey to pick up mail left at Tonyn's plantation. Bartram said he was shown "some samples of the best flora Indigo I had yet seen, there were twenty hands employed on this plantation who made about twelve hundred [weight] of Indigo the last year, & had now planted this year's crop."
In January of the following year, another visitor left impressions of Tonyn's plantation. Frederick George Mulcaster, a royal engineer believed to be an illegitimate brother of King George III, traveled with the governor from Lake George to the point where the St. Johns River joins the Atlantic Ocean. Mulcaster wrote: "Madame [the governor's wife] was left at the plantation, when she soon quarrelled with Mrs. Till [Richard Till was overseer of the plantation]--words ran high. Madam called her a dirty creature, the other told her to go home to her husband the Coachman. And the Governor must find in favor of his darling. Mrs. Till was dismssed and Till followed after a few days. The Governor enquires everywhere for an overseer, but none offers and in a time of year a good one is wanted."
Tonyn experienced reasonable success at his Black Creek plantation, but the American Revolution brought raids and extensive damage here and throughout the province. In 1776, an invasion from Georgia forced the governor to send several of his laborers to St. Augustine to build defenses in the public service. On another occasion British troop commander Augustine Prevost decided to burn all plantations west and north of the St. Johns River to deny shelter to rebel invaders. Tonyn wrote that his orders were "fully executed” and his own 20,000 plantation on Black Creek was totally destroyed. With his “land in ruins” the governor was forced to establish a new estate east of the St. Johns River. When the danger was over, the slaves were moved back to the Black Creek estate to rebuild and replant, all of which increased expenses.
When peace was restored Tonyn was enthusiastic about the future prosperity of planters in East Florida. He purchased the 1000-acre Fort George Island at auction following the death of its owner, Richard Hazard. He also purchased Little Fort George Island ( Batten Island today) and a 650-acre tract directly opposite on the south bank of the St. Johns River (today's Mayport). These purchases gave Tonyn control of both sides of the entrance to the most important waterway in the province. With the British colonies in the Caribbean as prime markets for East Florida provisions and forest products, Tonyn anticipated clearing £3000 Sterling each year. "Prospects were great," he said, until Britain ceded East Florida to Spain.
After learning that British peace negotiators in Paris in 1783 had ceded East Florida back to the Spanish, the governor arranged to transport his slaves to the British Island of Dominica. Once there, he arranged the sale of his slaves, and the slaves of Jacob Wilkerson, Lord Martin Blade Hawke, and the heirs of the Earl of Egmont to a Spanish merchant from Havana, Cuba. The slaves sold for an average price of £55 Sterling each, at or above their evaluated price, but long delays in payment ensued, and several slaves died during the wait, resulting in significant financial losses for their owners.
The former governor complained bitterly that had East Florida not been ceded to Spain, slaves and plantations would have increased in value and that great profits would have been made for their owners. Instead, British subjects were advised to evacuate and abandon their land and buildings without a chance of securing buyers. Claims for losses, on advice from London, were greatly undervalued; it was either that or receive nothing. Consequently, Tonyn lamented, many of the claimants evaluated their losses at only "1/10 their real value." The governor's claim has been preserved in full at the National Archive at Kew, England.
Governor Tonyn's Memorial to the East Florida Claims Commission.
Sales of Slaves, Property of Major General Patrick Tonyn.
Cash paid Vendue Master & Agreement: £33; Bill & Liquor: 6.12; Advertising: 3.6, Colony Tax on £2527.3.3 vendue Sales @ 2½ per cent: 63.7, & commission 2½ % being half the usual charge in the West Indies, none being made by the attorney of Gen. Tonyn: 83.2.6. Total 189.7.6. Nett Proceeds of £3135.13.9.
Errors & Outstanding Debts Excepted. Dominica. Jan. 6 th , 1787. Robinson & Mehaffe.
Note. A Negro man named Newport sent to St. Kitts for sale & not included in the above account. Later sold for £60.9/Net 29.4.
A List of Negroes the property of General Tonyn Shipped in East Florida for Dominica where they arrived the 21 st August 1785
D = died in Dominica ; NI = not included in sales in Dominica
Witness my Hand in Dominica : April 16, 1786 , John Ross
A List of Negroes the property of Major General Tonyn Shipped in East Florida for Dominica
15 Negroes died since their Embarkation at East Florida :
Sam, Primus, Peggy, Amey, Sampson , Israel , Frank, Billey, Jack, Billey, Pero, Celia, Kate, Nancy, Linda. 84 Total number.
Number stated in the first valuation dated 3 June 1783 .
State of Produce sold from Tonyn Plantation in East Florida from the 4th of January to the 31st of December
Valuation of Losses Sustained by the Estate of Governour Tonyn in consequence of the Rebellion in North America .
In September 1776 an Invasion of the Province being daily expected from Georgia, Tonyn Plantation situated on the West Side of St. Johns River was Ordered to be Abandoned and the Negroes to be immediately transported to the East side of St. Johns River with what necessaries could be readily brought off in consequence of which the following losses were incurred:
Tonyn Plantation being resettled in 1781. The following are the particular valuations of the moveable property upon the same.
Schedule and Valuation of Lands and unmoveable Estate belonging to Governour Patrick Tonyn:
East Florida . Personally appeared before me, John Ross, who being duly sworn declares that he now doth act and for many years has acted as a Steward for the Estate of Governor Tonyn in the province aforesaid and that the particular losses mentioned above did really happen to the said Estate whilst he did act for it in that capacity and that he doth firmly believe that the Lands and Negroes remaining and Appraised as above are now the Lawful property of the said Gov. Patrick Tonyn. Signed by John Ross Sworn the 3d day of June 1783 before [not legible]. Also attesting to the validity of the valuation on 8 June 1783 : Colonel Thomas Brown, William Panton, and David Yeats.
Documents Relating to Governor Patrick Tonyn's Losses during the American RevolutionEast Florida. Schedule and Valuation of Losses Sustained by the Estate of Governour Tonyn in consequence of the Rebellion in North America
In September 1776 an Invasion of the Province being daily expected from Georgia, Tonyn Plantation situated on the West Side of St. Johns River was ordered to be abandoned and the Negroes to be immediately transported to the East side of St. Johns River with what necessaries could be readily brought off in consequence of which the following losses were incurred:
Fifty head of cattle left in the woods and lost, valued at 150 Sterling; 8 head horses valued at 40 Sterling; 100 head stock hoggs at 15 pounds 75 shillings; half of the provision crop estimated at 550 bushels of corn worth 165 Sterling. half of the indigo crop estimated at 600 lbs weight valued at 120 Sterling. Total amount of losses in 1776: £550.
In 1778, The Province being invaded from Georgia and orders issued by General Prevost to burn all deserted houses and manufactured lumber left on the west side of St. Johns, the following particulars were burned: Two framed plantation houses one with brick chimney, value of 100 Sterling; two logg barns fit to contain 1200 bushels corn in cobbs worth 12 Sterling; four compleat setts of indico vatts and works worth 75 Sterling; about 3000 feet cypress plank worth 15 Sterling; 16 Negro Houses valued at 8; about half a mile square of outer fence together with cross fences for the fields, worth 30; a very costly machine for pulling up trees by the roots, cost with c[h]arges from England £300 Sterling, but not included in the valuation. Total amount of losses in 1778 = £240.
Tonyn Plantation being resettled in 1781, the following are the particulars and valuations of the moveable property upon the same: 19 Men Slaves all prime, 3 of them Coopers the rest Sawyers. 19 Women all prime, 2 of them House Wenches. 16 children from 12 years to 6 months, average £50. Total value = 2700 pounds Sterling.
One-hundred-five head of breeding and stock cattle valued at 315. Four horses valued at 24. 473 Barrels of Turpentine not valued. A Stock of Seasoned Staves, head and Hoops calculated for 700 Barrels Naval Stores valued at 35.
In St. Augustine there are 13 household negro servants: 5 men 6 women & 2 children valued at 650 Sterling. Two cows & calves & 7 horses valued at 54 Sterling. Also 2 prime negro men Sailors on board the Fortune valued at 130 Sterling. Total amount of moveable property was £3908
Box 17, File 10, The Memorial of Patrick Tonyn, Treasury 77, Papers of the East Florida Claims Commission, the National Archive, Kew, England.