Maxton Island

Upriver from the Wedderburne property, a 2,000-acre neck of land known as Maxton Island (Ortega now), was granted to Abraham Jones in 1770. Part of the tract had been cleared and planted prior to Jones's death in 1775. The threat of violence attendant the American Revolution prompted his family to migrate to Georgia and leave the Maxton Island property idle until 1782, when a wealthy refugee from South Carolina, Colonel Elias Ball, placed 160 slaves there. Ball said the property was "entirely uncultivated" when he first saw it, but he agreed to pay to Jones's son, who was living in St. Augustine at the time, a rental fee of one-eight of all the corn his laborers raised on the 120 acres they cleared and planted. Ball also sold lumber from trees cut on the island. Thirty of Ball's slaves died in East Florida; the rest were sold to a cousin in South Carolina at the time the province was returned to Spanish control.

After Ball and his slaves departed Maxton Island, Daniel McGirtt established a farm there. McGirtt, a refugee from Georgia, became a loyal member of Governor Tonyn's militia, the East Florida Rangers, formed to defend the province against rebel incursions. McGirtt turned bandit himself after Britain ceded the province back to Spain. News of the cession prompted McGirtt to lead several militiamen in a brief rebellion. Political motives soon became the excuse for general plunder and thievery as McGirtt and his "banditti" looted plantations north of St. Augustine. Following numerous depredations, McGirtt was arrested and deported.

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An aerial view of Ortega in 2004. It was known as Maxton Island in 1770, when it was granted to Abraham Jones.

Bibliographic Information

A Note On Sources

T77/25/fragments. For Ball see Wilbur Henry Siebert, Loyalists in East Florida, 1774 to 1785. Two Volumes, (Deland, FL: The Florida State Historical Society, 1929) II, 15-16. James R. Ward, Old Hickory's Town; an Illustrated History of Jacksonville (Jacksonville, FL.: Florida Publishing Company, 1982), chapter 4, has a detailed account of McGirtt.