Legge, Paumier, Laurey--Absentee Speculators; Colson, Welsh, Fanning--Loyalist Refugees

Much of the valuable land along the major waterways was granted early to wealthy London merchants and other British aristocrats who had no intention of peopling and developing the province. Between Dames Point and Trout River Heneage Legge, Peter Paumier, and John Gilpin Laurey were each granted 20,000-acre tracts that measured between three to four miles fronting on the river and eight to ten miles deep, extending to the various branches of the Nassau River. These London-based absentee owners were speculators rather than developers. Their tracts contained valuable rice swamps, cypress swamps, hammock and pine lands, yet remained idle until the 1780s when they were subdivided during the American Revolution and parceled out to Loyalist refugees from Georgia and South Carolina.

The huge tracts granted to absentee speculators Legge, Paumier, and Laurey encompassed land in this area north of the St. Johns River, stretching all the way to Nassau River. The waterways shown here entering the St. Johns from the north are Dunn's Creek, Broward River, and Trout River.

In 1782, John Colson settled on the undeveloped Paumier tract, along with Nicholas Welsh, after they each received 500-acre refugee grants. Welsh, a Loyalist from North Carolina, cleared forests and cultivated provisions crops at his tract but lived at a house he purchased in St. Johns Town. John Fanning claimed 500-acres on the undeveloped 20,000-acre property previously granted to Laurey. With the help of a slave family, Fanning built two houses and a detached kitchen, cleared twenty acres of land and planted provisions crops. Fanning migrated to Nova Scotia after the province was ceded to Spain, leaving behind his improvements to the property, a cow, and two boats.

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