Suttonia Plantation

William Bartram visited the indigo plantation situated immediately south of Strachey's Beauclerc Bluff Plantation in 1774. Bartram described walking from a campsite to an indigo plantation owned by Mr. Marshall. In fact, Abraham Marshall was the agent for Suttonia Plantation, a 10,000-acre property owned in 1774 by the London merchants, Thomas Ashby and John Barker. Bartram said of the main residential complex at Suttonia: "I spent the day in the most agreeable manner, in the society of this man of singular worth, he led me over his extensive improvements, and we returned in company with several of his neighbors. In the afternoon the most sultry time of the day, we retired to the fragrant shades of an Orange grove. The house was situated on an eminence, about one hundred and fifty yards from the river. On the right hand was the Orangery, consisting of many hundred trees, natives of the place, and left standing, when the ground about it was cleared. These trees were large, flourishing and in perfect bloom, and loaded with their ripe golden fruit. On the other side was a spacious garden, occupying a regular slope of ground, down to the water; and a pleasant lawn lay between. Here were large plantations of the Indigo plant which appeared in a very thriving condition: it was then about five or six inches high, growing in straight parallel rows, about eighteen inches apart. The Corn (Zea) and Potatoes (Convolv. Batata) were greatly advanced in growth, and promised a plentiful crop. The Indigo made in East Florida is esteemed almost equal to the best Spanish, especially that sort, which they call Flora. Mr. Marshall presented me with a specimen of his own manufacture, at this plantation: it was very little [inferior] to the best Prussian blue."

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No 1780s survey maps of Suttonia Plantation have been found. This aerial photograph shows the shoreline for the estate between Mandarin Point in the foreground and Beauclerc Bluff in the distance. Between these two promontories, Plummers Point was the likely location of the Point Settlement. It is not known where the Suttonia Settlement was situated.

By the time Bartram visited Suttonia Plantation, enslaved Africans had cleared and fenced provisions fields for corn and potatoes and 300 acres for indigo. They had also prepared the dams and dikes for a 30-acre rice field in a section of the river marsh. There was an ample range for horses, cattle and hogs. Gardens and an orchard were located near the main dwelling.

Two dwelling houses were built at Suttonia Settlement, one of two separate residential quarters on the plantation. The main dwelling accommodated Marshall and his family. It was a two-story structure with three rooms on the first floor and two large chambers on the second, equipped with piazzas on both sides, shutters, doors, and other accessories. The second dwelling house, also two-stories, lodged overnight guests. It had an exterior kitchen, stable, and laundry. Additional buildings at the Suttonia Settlement included an overseer's house, slave quarters, kitchen, stable, and other plantation outbuildings.

The Point Settlement was situated nearby, probably at today's Plummer's Point. Improvements there included a commodious dwelling house to accommodate an overseer, corn house, cooper's shed, slave quarters, farm outbuildings, and indigo vats and works. Ashby and Barker claimed an initial investment of £2855, to which £2250 was added later.

In 1781 William Anthony was the agent for Ashby and Barker. He leased the property to James Tims for 3 years and 4 months at £25 a year and eight percent of the annual produce. Anthony estimated that Tims would pay about £175 a year to the absentee owners.

Like nearly all the East Florida plantations, indigo production was scaled back at Suttonia after the American Revolution started. With the Carolina forests closed to Britain after 1775, tar and turpentine production from the millions of pine trees on East Florida estates were profitably exploited. There was also an upsurge in lumber exports to the West Indies.

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