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Dwelling Place

Dwelling Place: A Plantation Epic

Erskine Clarke
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 624
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1npqzp
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  • Book Info
    Dwelling Place
    Book Description:

    Published some thirty years ago, Robert Manson Myers'sChildren of Pride: The True Story of Georgia and the Civil Warwon the National Book Award in history and went on to become a classic reference on America's slaveholding South. That book presented the letters of the prominent Presbyterian minister and plantation patriarch Charles Colcock Jones (1804-1863), whose family owned more than one hundred slaves. While extensive, these letters can provide only one part of the story of the Jones family plantations in coastal Georgia. In this remarkable new book, the religious historian Erskine Clarke completes the story, offering a narrative history of four generations of the plantations' inhabitants, whiteandblack.Encompassing the years 1805 to 1869,Dwelling Place: A Plantation Epicdescribes the simultaneous but vastly different experiences of slave and slave owner. This "upstairsdownstairs" history reveals in detail how the benevolent impulses of Jones and his family became ideological supports for deep oppression, and how the slave Lizzy Jones and members of her family struggled against that oppression. Through letters, plantation and church records, court documents, slave narratives, archaeological findings, and the memory of the African-American community, Clarke brings to light the long-suppressed history of the slaves of the Jones plantations-a history inseparably bound to that of their white owners.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13328-8
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface (pp. ix-xiii)
  4. [Maps] (pp. xiv-xvi)
  5. 1 Liberty Hall (pp. 1-9)

    Early on a March morning in 1805, as the first hints of dawn touched the Sea Islands and the marshlands south of Savannah, Old Jupiter rose, went out of his cabin, and with a blast from his conch-shell horn announced a new day. The sound filled the early-morning silence of the slave quarters at Liberty Hall plantation and called out the men and women who lived there. Lizzy threw off her blanket and slipped her Osnaburg dress over her shift. Lifting her two-year-old son Lymus to her hip, she hurried toward the kitchen, an outbuilding behind the plantation house. Quickly...

  6. 2 Riceboro (pp. 10-18)

    Already before the long walk back from Midway to Liberty Hall, there had been, no doubt, talk in the settlement. Lizzy and the others knew only too well that when a master died, trouble was waiting. Lizzy’s previous experience was a familiar part of life in the low country for the black men and women who tilled the fields and harvested the crops and who did the cooking and washing at the plantation house. When her owner John Girardeau had died, not only were Lizzy, her brother Cassius, her sister Willoughby, and five others willed to Girardeau’s sister Susannah, but...

  7. 3 Sunbury (pp. 19-32)

    Among those who walked back from Riceboro and down the plantation avenue leading to Liberty Hall in 1808 was Rosetta, eight years old and amotherless child. She had stood with Old Jupiter as a part of the lot of seventeen and had been subjected to the humiliating examinations of buyers and the bidding for slaves in the sandy yard before the courthouse. Now she returned to the settlement that she had known all her life and to the special supervision of Lizzy. As a young child in the settlement, she had known a life relatively free of work. A slave...

  8. 4 The Retreat (pp. 33-43)

    The Retreat plantation lay south and east of Riceboro and ran from sandy ground to the swampy banks of the South Newport River. Purchased by the first John Jones before the Revolution, its plantation house, little more than a lodge, had been used as a retreat, a kind of getaway from nearby Rice Hope. Following his mother’s death in 1798, Joseph Jones had turned the Retreat into his winter residence. He had torn down the little retreat house, had built in its place his own fine home, and had incorporated into the plantation the lands of Rice Hope. In this...

  9. 5 Carlawter (pp. 44-54)

    When Joseph Jones moved the men, women, and children from the settlement at Liberty Hall into the settlement at the Retreat, he had solved the immediate problem of what to do with them after the sale of his brother’s plantation. They had simply become a part of those who cleared the ground, plowed the fields, and harvested the crops at the Retreat. The fruits of their labors, mixed with those from Pulaski’s teams, provided for the maintenance of his nephew Charles and niece Susan.¹ The arrangement worked reasonably well for Joseph as the children’s guardian, but it was not a...

  10. 6 Savannah (pp. 55-66)

    In the late spring of 1817, shortly after the move of Cato and Cassius to the settlement at Carlawter, the wind began to blow from the northeast, bringing with it days of rainy weather and thunderstorms. Water in the rivers, creeks, and swamps of Liberty County began to rise, overflowing their banks; rice fields flooded; and, wherever there was a low place, pools of stagnating water began to pulse and quiver with the larvae of mosquitoes. By early June the air was filled with great buzzing clouds of mature mosquitoes as they arose from breeding places to torment all creatures...

  11. 7 Scattered Places (pp. 67-81)

    While Charles Jones was learning about ledgers and the commission business in the countinghouse of William Neff, his cousin Mary Jones finished her studies at Barsden Bluff and moved in 1823 to Savannah. Joseph Jones wanted his daughter to have the kind of education he had provided for his nieces in Charleston—Mary needed to learn the sophisticated ways of urban life and to be introduced more fully to society even as she completed her formal academic studies at the little Savannah academy of the Presbyterian minister Abiel Carter.¹

    The move to Savannah was not easy for the fourteen-year-old Mary,...

  12. 8 Princeton (pp. 82-96)

    Charles did not know it when he left Liberty in the spring of 1829, but the next year and a half were to be the most important period in his life. During the coming months he was plunged into amoral and spiritual crisis the likes of which he had never known and the likes of which he would never again experience. Deeply competing impulses were at the heart of the crisis, each impulse vying for his loyalty, each making its claims on his life. The crisis, at its simplest, was a competition between his sense of duty, with all of...

  13. 9 Solitude (pp. 97-110)

    While Charles had been struggling in the North with the issues of slavery and his vocational decision, wedding preparations were proceeding at the Retreat. Mary was the apple of her father’s eye, and Joseph had kept a number of slaves busy for months painting and repairing the house and making it ready for the wedding of his oldest daughter. Among those who worked on the house was Sandy Jones, the carpenter who as a young man had been an apprentice to Jacob at Liberty Hall. The year before he had had his own wedding to none other than young man...

  14. 10 Montevideo and Maybank (pp. 111-124)

    Early one morning before Christmas 1832, Charles and Mary left Solitude and rode on horseback to Montevideo. The frost on the fields at Solitude was already beginning to melt, and the crispmorning air held the promise of a beautiful lowcountry day. They had been dreaming for some time about a place that would be theirs, and as they rode slowly along the sandy road together they knew that the time had finally come for them to begin building a home. Turning off the road that led to Colonel Law’s place, they went down a wagon trail past a small pond...

  15. 11 The Stations (pp. 125-139)

    Charles began his missionary work the same month he and Mary rode over to Montevideo to survey the landscape for their new home. He had already sent a notice to the planters, and word had been circulated in the settlements of an interior section of the county that he would hold a service on the next Sabbath at the Fraser station.¹

    Leaving Solitude early on themorning of 9 December 1832, Charles rode ten miles to the appointed meeting place. The sandy road he traveled gradually took him away from the swamps and low-lying areas of the county toward a gravelly...

  16. 12 The Mallard Place (pp. 140-151)

    In late March 1833 Charles left home on his horse Shannon for a presbytery meeting in St. Marys, about a hundred miles south of Riceboro on the Georgia-Florida line. The presbytery, the regional church court of Presbyterian ministers and lay elders, was a required meeting for Charles as a minister, but it was also an opportunity for him to discuss his work with other ministers and with planters who would be attending the meeting as elders.¹

    As Charles left Riceboro he met the Reverend James McDonald, a Baptist missionary of the Sunbury Association who was going to Darien for a...

  17. 13 The Arbors (pp. 152-166)

    By 1833 Sharper had traveled around the county for twenty years with a freedom known by few other slaves. As the black preacher hired by the white Midway congregation, not only was he widely known and respected, but he also carried with him the authority and sanction of the most important institution in the county. Such freedom allowed him to know the settlements as did perhaps no other person. “The ground is all familiar to him,” Charles wrote, as over the years Sharper had ridden “from three to eight miles in the evenings” to visit and preach in different settlements....

  18. 14 Columbia (pp. 167-179)

    As the executor of Andrew Maybank’s estate, Charles found that he had continuing responsibilities for the management of the legacy left to Columbia Theological Seminary. The money that had been collected at Riceboro from the sale of Rachael and other Maybank slaves to Joseph Jones, from the sale of cattle and hogs and beehives and silverware and real estate—all of the money had gone into a legacy for the seminary and Charles had to oversee its investment for several years until the estate was finally settled. Such a responsibility, together with his publications and work for the religious instruction...

  19. 15 Carlawter II (pp. 180-189)

    When Charles had first taken his family to Columbia in February 1837, the men, women, and children from Carlawter had come and stood in the yard at Montevideo to say their goodbyes. Standing among them was Lizzy. She watched as Charles, riding on Shannon, led the way down the long avenue, followed by Jack driving the carriage. It had been thirty-six years since Lizzy had left her own childhood home at Cedar Grove Plantation to go as a young woman to Liberty Hall with her mistress Susannah Girardeau. As she watched Charles riding down the avenue, she may have remembered...

  20. 16 South Hampton (pp. 190-201)

    When Charles sent Phoebe to a neighboring plantation in late 1837, it was to South Hampton, where Barrington and Catherine King lived with their nine children. Catherine King needed some additional domestic help in preparation for a move of their family in late April 1838. By the time Phoebe arrived at the plantation, Barrington King was in themidst of selling South Hampton and turning his considerable energies toward the creation of new wealth spun from cotton mills built on the rolling hills of North Georgia.¹

    John Ross and the other members of the Cherokee delegation whom Charles had met in...

  21. 17 Midway (pp. 202-215)

    Charles returned to Montevideo in early December 1838 as a man about to begin the happiest and most productive period of his life. He felt that he had been set free from his work at the seminary to go home to his calling as a missionary among the Gullah people and to live once again above a flowing river and beside a waving marsh. Above all, however, he would be free to be with Mary. He had missed her terribly when he was in Columbia and she was in Liberty County, and he had filled his letters to her with...

  22. 18 Maybank (pp. 216-232)

    In late spring 1841, a little caravan set out early in the morning from Montevideo for Maybank. The carriage driven by Jack led the way down the avenue, followed by two oxcarts loaded with carefully packed barrels of sugar and flour, with trucks of clothes and with boxes of household items needed for the next five months at the island home. Traveling with the family in the carriage was James Dubuar, a native of Aurora, New York, and recent college graduate. Charles had hired him to be the children’s tutor, and the coming year was to be for Dubuar kind...

  23. 19 Arcadia (pp. 233-246)

    Following his graduation from Columbia Seminary in 1839, John Jones spent almost a year as a part of the family at Montevideo and Maybank. He had been an assistant to Charles in his missionary work and had met with substantial success at the stations and at the North Newport Baptist Church. In the fall of 1840 he was called to the adjoining county to be the pastor of the Bryan Neck Presbyterian Church, a congregation composed primarily of three wealthy planting families—the Clays, the McAllisters, and the Arnolds—and of numerous black slaves.¹

    John was already demonstrating the characteristics...

  24. 20 The Retreat II (pp. 247-259)

    A little more than a year before Joseph’s death, Charles received an invitation to a meeting in Charleston, the old center of fierce opposition to the religious instruction of slaves. As he read the invitation, it no doubt brought back memories of his visit ten years earlier. In 1835 the city had been in an uproar over abolitionist materials sent through the mails, and Whitemarsh Seabrook had launched a bitter personal attack against Charles and Thomas Clay. Henry Laurens Pinckney and Judge Charles Jones Colcock had told Charles that the opposition to the religious instruction of slaves was the work...

  25. 21 Columbia II (pp. 260-277)

    Once Charles and Mary had made the decision to go to Columbia, they had the daunting task of preparing for the move. They now owned three plantations that had to be managed, and with the death of Susan’s husband, Joseph Cumming, in 1846, Charles also had the responsibility for the management of White Oak, Social Bluff, and Lambert. So as they prepared to leave Liberty County in 1848, Charles had to think first about what he was going to do in regard to the management of these six plantations and the more than 160 slaves who lived upon them. AndMary...

  26. 22 Philadelphia (pp. 278-299)

    Three weeks after the fire and Jack’s death, Charles received a letter from the Presbyterian Board of Domestic Missions in Philadelphia. Charles, the letter said, had been unanimously elected to be the board’s new executive. The letter astonished Charles, for he had not sought the position—he did not even know that the board was considering him. Moreover, the position was one of great responsibility, for the board had oversight of more than four hundred Presbyterian missionaries scattered across the United States. The invitation seemed providential.¹

    The letter of invitation and the others that followed from Philadelphia re-flected both the...

  27. 23 Carlawter III (pp. 300-316)

    Life in Liberty County had not been frozen in time waiting for Charles and Mary to return to their remembered home. During their five-year absence—from 1848 to 1853—there had been marriages and births, fields planted and harvested, houses built, and barns and homes burned. Sicknesses had struck; death had come to both the young and the old; and black men, women, and children had been bought and sold, divided among heirs, and shifted from plantation to plantation to accommodate the interests and needs of whites.

    At Carlawter, across the old slough that separated the plantation house at Montevideo...

  28. 24 Arcadia II (pp. 317-329)

    In November 1851, Irwin Rahn wrote Charles and reported on the crops and conditions at Arcadia. The work that year had been strenuous, and good crops of cotton, rice, corn, and peas had already been gathered. But Arcadia, he said, was not producing all that it might. “I find, as I have been told by 2 experienced planters, that I have not got a sufficient force here to keep up and improve the plantation as I would like.” The plantation included 550 acres of cotton land and 600 acres of inland swamp, much of which was in diked rice fields.With...

  29. 25 Maybank II (pp. 330-344)

    During one of her bouts of homesickness in Philadelphia, Mary had received a letter from Susan Cumming warning her that the home Mary remembered and longed for was no more. “But my sister,” Susan had written her, “your home whenever you return to it will be changed. Perhaps your children will be separated from you, you will not direct their education and pursuits and many persons and things which formerly gave you pleasure you will cease to feel an interest in.” Home, Susan had reminded Mary, is not something unchangeable, an immutable place, but rather a place in time that...

  30. 26 Slave Market (pp. 345-361)

    The sorrows that invaded low-country homes with such violence were not, of course, confined to those who lived in plantation houses but were also a part of life in the settlements. Indeed, disease and death were a part of the wider and more pervasive sorrows of those who sought to make a home under the burdens of slavery’s oppression.

    A short time after Charles and Mary had returned from Philadelphia in the fall of 1853, they had sent for Phoebe to come to Maybank. She had been hired out in late summer to Mrs. Susan Way, who was home from...

  31. 27 Patience’s Kitchen (pp. 362-373)

    Of all those who lived in the settlements, no one had been closer to Phoebe than her cousin Patience. In many ways Phoebe—who was eight years older—had been like a big sister to Patience, only a big sister whose restless ways Patience would not follow. The cousins had married brothers and had worked closely together for years, cooking, sewing, and serving tea on the piazzas at Maybank and Montevideo. Both cousins had been devoted to Daddy Jack. He had been a kind and loving father to Phoebe, and he was said to love Patience “as his own child.”...

  32. 28 Montevideo (pp. 374-385)

    Charles and Mary moved into the renovated Montevideo in the late fall of 1856 after Betsy’s death, at the time that Phoebe and Cassius and their children were sent to Wright’s slave jail in Savannah. The master and mistress of Montevideo, eager to be finally settled in their plantation home, had spent part of the preceding winter in the old section of the house while the carpenters, plasterers, and painters completed their work.¹

    Porter and Sandy Maybank, together with their helpers, had substantially enlarged Montevideo. As skilled carpenters they had been able to take a design sketched by Charles and...

  33. 29 The Retreat III (pp. 386-396)

    Two years after the death of James Newton Jones from yellow fever, his brother Henry Hart Jones purchased the Retreat from Jimma’s widow and from the other members of the family who had some interest in the old home place. All the slaves who had remained in the Retreat settlement were sold to neighboring planters, and Henry brought back to the Retreat those he had inherited from his father, Joseph, together with their descendents. Among those sold was Venus, the wife of Prince, the driver at White Oak. He was the son of the driver Hamlet and the grandson of...

  34. 30 Southern Zion (pp. 397-407)

    A few weeks after William States Lee left Maybank in the late summer of 1860, Charlie was elected mayor of Savannah. He was only twenty-eight years old, the youngest man ever to be elected the city’s mayor. “It is a high honor,” Charles wrote his son, “coming unsolicited, and the expression of the confidence of a majority of your fellow citizens.” Your parents, Charles wrote, are “gratified that your conduct and character have been such as to attract to you their suffrages, which place you in the highest office in their gift.” But Charles was not one to give such...

  35. 31 Indianola (pp. 408-421)

    The terrible costs of civil war had become apparent months before Charles traveled to Augusta to speak of “plantation meetings held in humble abodes.” Shortly after Fort Sumter, great armies had begun to gather in both the North and the South. Throughout the spring and early summer of 1861, volunteer regiments from all over the North had moved toward Washington, and young recruits from all over the South had moved toward Virginia in anticipation of a great battle. Among the Southerners were many Georgians, and among the Georgians were many friends and relatives of Charles and Mary.¹

    Cousin Mary Robarts...

  36. 32 The Refuge (pp. 422-442)

    Three months after Charles’s death, Robert Mallard wrote in his journal: “I have this day written to Atlanta accepting a call to the Central Presbyterian Church of that city.” The call was to be the pastor of a large and influential congregation in Georgia’s rapidly growing metropolis, and there could be no doubt of the importance of such a pastorate. But the call, however important or whatever its promise for usefulness, was also a call for Robert and Mary Sharpe to move with their children away from Liberty County, away from Montevideo and the old Mallard Place, and away from...

  37. 33 The Promised Land (pp. 443-466)

    While Mary was huddled with other refugees in southwest Georgia, she received a letter from Laura: “You will grieve to hear that all of our Island homes are in ashes.” Maybank, Woodville, and Social Bluff—all had been burned, and all that was now left of these places of deep memory were charred timbers and scorched bricks. Yankee raiders had not set the fires but rather members of a fishing party that had come across the sound from St. Catherine’s Island. A colony of runaways—of freed people—had gathered on St. Catherine’s during the closing days of the war,...

  38. List of Principal Characters (pp. 467-494)
  39. Genealogical Charts (pp. 495-504)
  40. List of Plantations (pp. 505-508)
  41. Notes (pp. 509-576)
  42. Index of Names (pp. 577-589)
  43. General Index (pp. 590-601)