In the autumn of 1772 acting governor John Moultrie surveyed the route for what later became the St. Augustine to Cowford segment of the King's Road in East Florida. South of the Cowford he visited with Thomas and Kay Cawdrey, new planters in the province who had purchased two tracts granted earlier to John Higdon and Paul Pigg. Moultrie reported to James Grant, who was still governor of the province but on leave in England, that Cawdrey "has settled on the river on an extraordinary good bit of land, and has made twice or thrice as much rice, corn, peas, potatoes, pumkin, etc., as his very large family can consume, and has a fine stock of poultry, cattle, hoggs, etc. and he was making a sledge, as there is not yet a road for a cart, to carry fifty roasting pigs to town, that were laying before his door when I was there."
The Cawdrey property extended from today's Point LaVista upriver to New Rose Creek , near the Lakewood shopping center at the intersection of San Jose and University Boulevards. In 1774 James Penman purchased Cawdrey's property to gain water access for what became the 3,000-acre Jericho Plantation .
James Penman arrived in East Florida in 1766 as agent for the fortunes of a wealthy Englishman named Peter Taylor. The two men were partners in a venture to establish two plantations on the Mosquito River, seventy miles south of St. Augustine. The partnership dissolved in 1772 with Penman retaining an estate of 3,000 acres. Penman flourished as a St. Augustine merchant, prompting him to establish an African slave trading venture in partnership with his brother Hugh Penman, and William Mackdougall. He also established two settlements near St. Augustine and then concentrated on Jericho Plantation, which he extolled as "superior to any other in the province."
Jericho Plantation was formed from 1,300 acres granted to Penman by Governor Tonyn, and the purchase of the two adjoining Cawdrey holdings which gave Penman water access and permitted him to construct a large wharf and an extensive network of thirty buildings to house overseers and 120 enslaved laborers. He purchased a herd of 150 black cattle, eighty horses, and numerous hogs and poultry. The estate was self-sufficient in provisions and sold corn and beans at market. Rice, indigo, lumber, tar, pitch and turpentine were the estate's profitable export crops. Penman's Jericho Plantation became one of the premier plantations in the province.
The overseer at Jericho Plantation may have been the black man Henry Laurens shipped to Penman in 1768 and described as "purchas'd at a Publick Sale a Negro of a good Character & who was said to have been a driver for the last five Years Constantly which I thought much In his favor but he has a Wife tack'd to him; however I believe you will think the Couple cheap at £710 [Carolina currency, or £110 Sterling]." Penman had previously requested that Laurens find a "proper Negro Man for...managing Rice & Indigo."By 1780 Penman had tired of his role "in the Cultivation of an Infant Colony under all the disadvantages attending a First Settler in a Desart," and of what he thought to be tyrannical policies established by the colony's second governor, Patrick Tonyn. He sold his plantations and buildings in St. Augustine and moved to Charleston, which was then occupied by the British army. Jericho, along with the enslaved Africans and other personal property owned by Penman, was sold for £4,600 Sterling to the former Member of Parliament for Barnstaple, Denys Rolle. The extent to which Penman had converted from indigo to naval stores can be gauged from the following excerpt of an inventory of property at Jericho Plantation that was sold to Rolle.
Jericho Estate Inventory - May 1, 1781
Despite repeated failures and staggering losses at Rollestown , a 78,000-acre plantation at today's East Palatka , Denys Rolle was in 1780 enthusiastic about the future prosperity of East Florida plantations. He had returned to the colony in 1779 with 150 enslaved Africans and newly-hired white overseers in another effort to salvage his investments. The next year he bought Jericho Plantation along with its buildings, tools, cattle and hogs, twenty-four horses, and fifty-six of Penman's slaves. Rolle changed the name of the estate to Chichester Plantation, after his wife's family estate in England. Like Penman, Rolle profited from lumber and turpentine exports. In his 1783 "State of the Plantation of Chichester," Rolle said the estate consisted of five separate tracts on which thirty thousand pine trees had been slashed and boxed for turpentine, and production had reached four hundred barrels a year. A large reserve of forest land had not been touched.
Rolle's East Florida enterprises had become profitable before he decided to evacuate his laborers to Great Exuma in the Bahama Islands in 1784. During the process of disassembling the buildings at Chichester and Rollestown and moving to Great Exuma, forty-two men and women died. Surviving the evacuation were 110 enslaved men, women and children. At Great Exuma, Rolle received a grant of 2,000 acres. Two settlements were established, Rolleville and Rolletown, Later the property was increased to 5,000 acres.
The following document, taken from Rolle’s Memorial to the East Florida Claims Commission (T77/15/13) contains important detail concerning slavery and naval stores production during the British years in East Florida. Rolle included with his claim estimates on naval stores which he received from William Pengree, a migrant from Georgia who became overseer of turpentine production for Rolle. Apparently, Rolle followed these instructions at his Chichester estate, but also at Rollestown. Since it is nearly impossible to transcribe the document in its entirety (parts are illegible, others are interlaced with Rolle’s marginal comments) what follows is a section where the document is transcribed as accurately as possible, and a brief generalized account.
“Each Negroe tends 2400 or 2500 trees. They box the trees in December. Large Trees have two boxes. They gouge or scar the trees with channels to conduct the sap or turpentine to the boxes in 10 days after boxing them. And from time to time chipping the bark as little at a time as possible to make them run gradually more.
“The trees have their boxes fixed in March and so on every 5 weeks until the end of Autumn. Each Negroe produces from the above number of trees 50 casks of turpentine of 32 gallons each. Each gallon weighing 9 & ½ pounds each.
“If one Negro performs the whole work on fresh trees he should begin boxing them in November as it would take 7 weeks to box so many. I mention fresh as the same trees produce a 2d and 3d year...and sometimes a fourth portion but diminishing in quantity each year. The trees then die but many types of them remain unperished especially the [knotty ones] and with those of a long course of years back wherein the resinous substance is still retained in considerable quantity [which] is applicable to the manufacture of Tarr and Pitch.
“The other necessary person for the Turpentine Tarr & Pitch crops to bring it to market is a cooper. He can make and set up [number not legible] in a day. There should be two iron hoops to each cask, these were afforded ready made by the above gentleman at 6 shillings and 6 pence a cask. His cooper at £70 a year with plantation provisions, finding himself Rum, might make them at less value.
“The cloathing of Negroes have been engaged for at a guinea per annum to which must be added once in 3 years a blanket at near a crown or 1 pound 8 shilling annually. But as I chuse to buy the materials for cloathing, blankets & some extra articles to make them pleased & happy and [supplied with] medicines (in Carolina a physical attendant is at 3 shilling per head).
“Boxing of [new] trees begins in November, or if the trees were scarred the year before, in December. A laborer can tag 10 trees in an hour, but only 8 hours in the forest in a day, or 80 trees in a day. Each tree in 5 weeks runs the box full more than 3/4 of a pint. This seems within probability, especially in the average of dimensions of the trees as the larger have 2 boxes. One Negro [collects] from each tree 3 & 1/4 pint weighing 14 ounces, or 20/21, in each hour 10 trees.”
A Slave’s Work Week, Turpentine Production, and the Profits Derived.
Rolle’s slaves worked six days a week at naval stores production in a thirty-acre expanse of pine forest. Each day they worked eight hours in the forest collecting sap from ten trees an hour, or eighty a day, 480 a week. Over five weeks each slave worked 2,400 trees. Rolle apparently estimated that each uncultivated acre at Chichester held an average of eighty pine trees large enough to scar for turpentine.
Production by each slave totaled seven casks of turpentine every five weeks, with each cask weighing approximately 304 pounds. The annual produce was five casks, for a total weight of 15,200 pounds. Turpentine that sold for 36 shillings a cask brought the proprietor £90 Sterling. After expenses of £21.5 for hoops, casks, a cooper, and other fees were considered, profit was calculated to be £68.15 per year. Proprietors also incurred additional annual costs, including £1.10 for clothing each worker, plus annual wages for an overseer, and the initial purchase price of enslaved men and women.
After the government’s bounty of 30 shillings per ton of turpentine was added to income, and expenses of all kinds were subtracted, Rolle estimated his per-acre profit from one enslaved man employed for four years extracting turpentine amounted to £5.5 Sterling. He based that estimate on income of £2.3 for two barrels of turpentine from each acre in the first year the trees were scarred. For the next two years production from these same trees dropped by one-third each year. By the fourth year the trees were considered dead and were burned to obtain a kiln of tar that sold for just under 19 shillings.
Under the overseer William Pengree’s estimate of net annual income per laborer, however, the amount was “£35 a Hand per year.” Pengree estimated first year net income from thirty acres of pine scarred for turpentine at £52.10.6, decreasing for each of the next two years by one-third, for a total net income of £105. Evidently, Pengree’s method was to have each slave work a thirty-acre section for three years and then move to another section of the forest, leaving behind the scarred and dead trees. Rolle, on the other hand, preferred to cut the dead trees and burn them to obtain tar. It was Rolle’s contention that the cleared land could later be used profitably for provisions cultivation and grazing cattle and sheep.
T77/15/13 the Memorial of Dennys Rolle. The Memorial of James Penman. Robert Legg, A Pioneer in Xanadu, ch. 14.