Fruit Cove

Lord George Onslow, the Bishop of Ossory, acquired 10,000 acres on the St. Johns River south of Julington Creek, encompassing today's Fruit Cove and ending at Cunningham Creek. The property was developed in sections, the first in 1775 by Onslow's nephew Richard Barnett, a Charleston merchant loyal to King George III who escaped from rebel violence to become a refugee in East Florida. Barnett said the rebels "had condemned me to be hanged after cutting off both my hands as an example to other traitors to American liberty...."

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The Bishop of Ossory, Lord George Onslow, was granted 10,000 acres on the St. Johns River and the south shore of Julington Creek, shown here on the right at today's Fruit Cove. The tract extended east almost as far as Bayard and U.S. 1. Onslow's tract was not developed until the latter half of the 1770s, when it was divided and cultivated by Philip Moore, a Loyalist refugee from Georgia, and Isaac Rivas, a planter and partner with Francis Philip Fatio and Thomas Dunnage at New Switzerland Plantation.

Barnett wrote to Onslow in 1775 to praise the potential of the St. Johns River tract for cultivation of corn, peas, wheat, rye, oats, indigo and cotton. Barnett predicted that the marshland on the property could be transformed into rice fields, and judged the cedar and red bay trees on the site equal in quality to mahogany wood. Barnett found "very large live oaks for ship building and fine large poplars" which he thought would bring profits double the development costs of the entire estate. The high pine barren of the eastern portion of the tract, located six miles away from the St. Johns River, was judged less valuable.

Barnett established a personal settlement of 1,000 acres fronting the St. Johns located midway between Julington Creek and Cunningham Creek. Dr. Henry Cunningham, physician to the garrison, assistant judge and deputy commissary general of stores and provisions between 1766 and 1771, may have initiated development there in the late 1760s. After Cunningham's death in 1771, his property may have been included in the 10,000 acres acquired by Lord Onslow.

The northern portion of the tract, totaling 4,000 acres, was developed in 1777 by Philip Moore , a refugee from Georgia. Moore acquired 4,000 acres from executors of the deceased Onslow's estate. Extensive improvements to the property cost Moore £4,000 Sterling by 1780. The following year his enslaved laborers cleared and fenced more than 100 acres of land and boxed more than 40,000 pine trees for turpentine production.

The southern half of the tract, located north of Cunningham Creek, was deeded to Onslow's nephew, General Frances Drake. In 1778, this undeveloped 5,000-acre property was sold to Isaac Rivas (sometimes Rivaz) for £300 Sterling. Rivas was part-owner of several plantation properties in East Florida, along with John Francis Rivas, Francis Philip Fatio, and Thomas Dunnage. Fatio was the resident manager at New Switzerland, which adjoined the Onslow tract to the south.

Bibliographic Information

A Note On Sources

T77/4/11-Francis Drake; T77/11/19-Philip Moore; T77/4/13-Thomas Dunnange and John Francis Rivas; T77/11/29-Rivas. The latter file is water damaged and in places is illegible. Perhaps Isaac Rivas was a manager and overseer for Fatio, as he was for Peter Taylor, an absentee planter with a large estate south of today's Ormond Beach. In letters to Governor Grant dated June 13, 1773, and May 24, 1774 (James Grant Papers), the province's royal engineer and surveyor, Frederick G. Mulcaster, called Rivas one of the best overseers in the province.