Doctors Lake Plantations - The Upper and Lower Crisp

Two Doctors Lake estates, one of 15,000 acres and the other 5,000, were part of a grand scheme devised by the former First Lord of the Admiralty, John James Perceval, the second Lord Egmont. The larger tract, Lower Crisp (also the Lordship of Gournay), was located on the north shore of Doctors Lake. From today's Orange Point (sometimes Kingsley Point), Lower Crisp extended north for two miles, and thence inland (west) for approximately six miles. The 5,000-acre tract, Upper Crisp, (also the Lordship of Gant ), was situated on the south shore of the lake, directly across the water from Lower Crisp. Boundary lines ran south (or upriver) from Doctors Lake to the creek known today as Peter's Branch, and west along the south shore of Doctors Lake to Swimming Pen Creek. The estate thus encompassed what is today Creighton Island and the northern part of Fleming Island.

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The 15,000-acre Lower Crisp Plantation granted to James Crisp in 1766 was located at Kingsley Point on the north shore of Doctors Lake and the St. Johns River. The tract extended downriver on the St. Johns for about three miles and to the west for several miles. Upper Crisp Plantation, situated on the south shore of Doctors Lake, thus upriver from Lower Crisp, was a 5,000-acre tract.

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The view is to the south, or upriver on the St. Johns, showing Upper Crisp on the south shore of Doctors Lake.

 

Upper and Lower Crisp, according to the plan devised by John James Perceval, the Second Lord Egmont

James Crisp, a merchant headquartered at Camomille Street in the parish of Saint Botolph, Bishop's Gate, London, received Orders in Council for both Upper and Lower Crisp in February 1766. Four months later, Crisp executed a declaration of trust to his partner, Lord Egmont. It was Egmont who initiated development of the estates through his first two agents in Florida, Martin Jollie and Francis Levett. A man of wealth, power and influence, Egmont was a member of the Irish House of Commons from 1731 to 1748, and the Privy Council in 1755. He was named Baron Lovel and Enmore in the County of Somerset in 1762 and became a member of the House of Lords.

Immediately after East Florida was acquired from Spain, Egmont organized a group of wealthy associates and encouraged them to apply for grants of free land. Once their Orders in Council were received, the "Adventurers" assigned the land to Egmont with lifetime tenancies, whereupon he agreed to "advise and direct the whole," taking the "front place and all the troubles" in exchange for expediting the entire venture through his personal network of influence. "I desire a great deal of land because I can then be able to give away a great deal. I take the deed because I see few able or willing to do it," Egmont wrote. His associates included Crisp, James Anderson, Richard Brett, Edward Wood, James Morrison, James Fortrey, Turner Fortrey, and Lancelot Reed.

Governor Grant personally selected the sites for Upper and Lower Crisp in 1767, on the same river outing that he located a tract for Lord Hawke at what is today Hibernia Point on Fleming Island. Grant wanted to situate Hawke "on the St. Johns River with Crisp (Egmont), Col. Tonyn, and Mr. Russell for his neighbors." Grant also traveled with Egmont's agent, Martin Jollie, and assisted with the location of the other properties under Egmont's control, which eventually amounted to 65,000 acres in East Florida. In St. Augustine, Jollie asked the surveyor general of the province to complete surveys of the properties and applied for official titles in the names of the individual "Adventurers." In London, Egmont encouraged each "Adventurer" to invest in the joint enterprise by providing ten enslaved black men and women the first year, ten more the second, and twenty more within six years. The investors were also expected to share the cost of building "a fortified house or small Castle for a place of common retreat, either against the Indians or the Negroes."

Egmont's development plans called for a series of rural agricultural villages or townships to be located on one-square-mile plots of land at each of the plantations under his care. The "Adventurers" were expected to recruit white settlers and arrange for their transportation to Florida. Each white settler would receive a one-acre garden plot and a forty-acre plot in the commons ground, along with a building lot for a log cabin in one of the townships. Tradesmen could earn extra income by plying their skills in the provincial capital, St. Augustine. Settlers would be expected to share their surplus produce with the "Adventurers" and to pay quit rents of "one trifling penny per acre." Installing quit rents was important to Egmont in order to transplant a British class system to Florida: "The use and intention of it is to class up those who engage with me, to create a Bond of Union and a gentle subordination, which, trifling as it is, must tend to produce a reciprocal and common tie between all the present and future inhabitants." As the ties increased, and as the white settlers prospered, they would be encouraged to purchase additional lands from the "Adventurers." News of their success would encourage additional settlers.

Towns for enslaved Africans were to be located near the white villages. The black workers were expected to build their own 38-by-14 foot log cabins before assisting the white settlers with building, clearing and cultivating. Egmont modeled the black towns after quarters for the "Negroes of the French Island of Cayenne ." To keep the enslaved males "happy and contented," Egmont planned to give "each a wife. This will greatly tend to keep them at home" and encourage a natural increase of children, who if raised in these slave villages would "become faithfully attached to the glebe of their master." Egmont offered low-interest loans to enable the white settlers to purchase slaves.

The specific details of settlement for the plantations under Lord Egmont's network of influence are difficult to piece together. Records of the complicated undertaking by the numerous absentee owners and their heirs were combined and jumbled, some lost and destroyed. Even while the "Adventurers" were alive, tracking the undertaking was complicated by a succession of resident agents who failed to send records and progress reports back to England. A major complication was the death of John Perceval in 1770 and the devolution of the various East Florida "Lordships" into lifetime tenancies for his several sons. Rebel attacks on plantations north of the St. Johns River in 1776 and 1778, the flood of Loyalist refugees into the province, and the mass evacuation that followed in 1784 and 1785 doomed East Florida hopes for Egmont's heirs.

Egmont's first development activities were at Mount Royal, a 20,000-acre tract up the St. Johns River near Lake George. The impatient Egmont prematurely moved his laborers from Mount Royal to Amelia Island, events which are documented below at the Mount Royal entry.

Development at Upper and Lower Crisp apparently began in 1768. Investments and cultivated acreage grew each year. There are incomplete annual records of plantation produce and exports from 1768 until the final evacuation. However, the rebel invasions that shut down the plantations west and north of the St. Johns River must have disrupted activities at the Lordships of Gant and Gournay.

A planning map of the Lordships of Gant and Gournay which detailed how Egmont wanted development to proceed was prepared in London and sent to St. Augustine on May 2, 1769. At that date Egmont was still expecting white indentured laborers to construct two agricultural villages at Upper and Lower Crisp. Although Egmont's plans for townships of white farmers are affixed to the map, they were apparently never put into practice. The "Adventurers" came to agree with Governor Grant that enslaved Africans were the laborers of choice for East Florida.

 

Legend of Lord Egmont's Map of The Lordship of Lower Crispe also Gournay in East Florida

A. The scite of the capital seat of his Lordship of Gournay.

B. A square mile or 640 acres set apart for a village as below.

C. A little town consisting of lots 132 feet square as below.

D. Another square mile intended for another village like the former.

Quero A--whether Indian traders would not be well situated there--or growers of silk or vine dressers?. Quero B--whether fifteen Indian families might not be insensibly bought by very usage and best attention to justice to form such a village and settle down after the English manner and accept some sort of grants.

 

The Lorship of Upper Crispe also Gant

A. The scite of the Capital Seat Manor House, Castle or Block House of the Lordship of Gant.

B. One square mile or 640 acres set apart for a village of 16 log houses with one acre garden and five acre field for each house, to be laid out exactly according to the platt for villages sent over with Mr. Jollie in Florida. Whoever shall come to take up one of the lots, shall upon haveing erected a block house and enclosed his land receive a grant thereof in fee upon the terms and in the form of my printed grants together with the advance of a cow, a sow, with the advances he shall repay to the Earl at the end of three years in kind or money as he shall choose and a quit rent yearly for his house and garden of two shillings at the end of 10 years.

C. A little town to be traced of four divisions, each of ten acres and small lots of 132 feet square. One division only to be built at first, with log houses of the same dimensions, two on this spot by the Negroes of the Lord and ten acres cleared by them--any person may take up one of these lots in fees paying only two shillings per annum and building his log house--or if he cannot do it himself the Earl's Negroes may assist him therein.

 

Bibliographic Information

A Note On Sources

T77/5/5-J.J. Perceval; T77/14/7-Spencer Perceval; T77/14/9-Edward Wood; T77/1/4-James Anderson; T77/1/7-George Long; T-77/25/folio 963-Richard Brett; T77/1/11-James Morrison. Grant of Moneymusk, Number 26, Gift Deposit 1-32-32, Scottish Record Office. Daniel L. Schafer, “Plantation Development in British East Florida : A Case Study of the Earl of Egmont," Florida Historical Quarterly (October 1984), 172-183.