Cypress Grove Plantation
Alexander Gray acquired title to William Bartram's 500-acre tract, along with the adjoining 500 acres, soon after it was abandoned. Gray was a respected plantation agent who supervised many of the most successful St. Johns River estates, including the 5,000 acres granted in early 1766 to a St. Augustine merchant, Witter Cumming. Indigo and rice fields were developed by Cumming's workers and overseers on the rich marshes and hammocks of a tract that was traversed by Trout Creek, Six-Mile Creek, and Sawmill Creek. A dam on Saw Mill Creek, constructed for Captain William Rainsford's water-powered mill, diverted fresh water onto Cumming's rice fields. At the point where Six-Mile Creek and Sawmill Creek joined, a wharf was constructed to accomodate merchant ships plying the river. Travellers seeking to avoid the shifting and dangerous passage at the entrance to the Matanzas River off St. Augustine could instead dock their vessels at this wharf and follow the road for twelve miles to the East Florida capital. Prior to his death in September 1775, Cumming supervised the construction of a dwelling for his slaves and overseers, and several other farm buildings.
In 1776, Robert Hope, a wealthy refugee from Georgia, purchased the 5,000-acre Cumming tract and the 1,000 acres that Gray had acquired and promptly sold half of the acreage to James Hume, a wealthy refugee who had been acting attorney general and a member of the royal council in Georgia. Hume served as chief justice of East Florida and as a member of the royal council from March 1779 until the final evacuation of the governing elite in 1785. In less than a decade in the province Hume acquired a number of prominent estates.
Hume developed his property on Six-Mile Creek and named it Cypress Grove Plantation. Under agent John Sweeney's supervision, 105 enslaved laborers turned Cypress Grove Plantation into a thriving estate producing corn, potatoes, and rice. The enslaved laborers, mostly born in Georgia, included coopers, carpenters, a bricklayer, a weaver, and male and female field hands. Sales of timber, turpentine, and tar became the top income producers at Cypress Grove. Fifty thousand pine trees had the distinguishing V-slash cut into them and pegs and boxes attached beneath the cuts to catch the runoff of pine sap.
William Bartram's 500 acres was located at the bridge and Smith Point. Robert Hope and James Hume purchased it and the other land shown on this aerial photograph and developed Hope Plantation and Cypress Grove Plantation.
Plat Map of Cypress Grove Plantation