The History of Plantation Florida

The History of Plantation Florida

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If you’re looking to explore the history of Plantation Florida, this is the place! This small town has lots of museums and historical sites to explore. From its early days as a Spanish colony to its current role as a thriving community, Plantation, Florida is a fascinating place worth visiting. The history of Plantation Florida has a long and interesting story behind it.

Plantation, Florida History

The city of Plantation, which can be found in Florida, can be found in the middle of Broward County. In addition to being bordered by Lauderhill (to the northeast), Sunrise (to the northwest), and Davie (to the west), the city is located approximately 8 miles west of Fort Lauderdale (to the south). About 53 kilometers (about 20 miles) to the south of Plantation lies the city of Miami.

Broward County Florida
Broward County Aerial View
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Up to the 1940s, Broward County had a comparatively low population density. Frederick C. Peters, a wealthy potato farmer and cattle baron, purchased 10,000 acres of inexpensive, undeveloped land in 1941 from a large tract that had been owned by the Everglades Plantation Company in the past (this explains how the city got its name). The land was sold to Peters for $25 per acre. By 1949, there was already a settlement in existence in the region, and by 1953, this community had grown large enough to be formally established as the city of Plantation. In the subsequent decades, the city experienced spurts of expansion that were both consistent and dramatic.

History of the Plantations in Florida

Initially, residents in Florida constructed plantations to benefit from fishing and forestry. Slaves cleared land and cultivated crops on plantations, producing cotton, indigo dye, sugar cane, and other items.

The early establishment of these colonies was not without its difficulties: diseases such as malaria affected the residents; Native Americans attacked them during territorial disputes, and they had limited supplies because ships could not get to Plantation during the war. Plantations were ultimately built in 1821, and once the state of Florida was established in 1845, former residents of North Florida found refuge on these plantations.

Spanish Florida, 1565-1763

Plantation agriculture and slavery existed in Florida before the United States acquired possession in 1821. Spaniards constructed the first plantations around St. Augustine in the 16th and 17th centuries. Spanish planters farmed modest quantities of grain, rice, sugar, and citrus employing Native American and African slave labor.

Enslavement

  • Around the 17th century, indigenous Floridians contracted European and African Diseases. 
  • Around the middle 17th century, Spanish Florida’s economy centered around livestock, such as the La Chula, the largest Spanish Ranchos. After the British and Creek Indian’s incursions, the Spanish Ranches abandoned La Chula.
  • Carolina Settlers and their Creek Indian allies destroyed Mission San Luis in 1704, diminishing La Florida’s livestock.
  • The Spanish enticed British-owned African slaves to flee to Florida and convert to Catholicism. Fort Mose was the first free African-American Community. 
  • In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, persistent slave raids and conflict cause a population vacuum in northern and central Florida. The Spanish inhabitants and their slaves retreated to St. Augustine and Pensacola until the 1760s thus Native Americans gradually settled in the abandoned territory.

The British Interlude and the Second Spanish Period, 1763-1821

As a result of the Seven Years’ War, Great Britain was able to seize possession of Florida in 1763. Planters from Britain established large-scale agricultural operations in the east of Florida, reliant on the labor of African slaves. During the time that Florida was under British rule, the continent of Africa was the primary origin of the vast majority of its slaves. The majority of planters made their homes to the south of St. Augustine, along St. Johns and Indian Rivers. During the time period of British rule, the harsh and swampy characteristics of east Florida gave the region the nickname “Mosquito Coast.”

Labor on British Plantations

  • African enslavement grew after the British took over Florida, nearly 100 slaves worked on Richard Oswald’s Tomoka River Estate. 
  • In British-controlled Florida, 11,200 0f 17,300 people were African Slaves. In 1763, 13% of the colony’s population were enslaved. 
  • Andrew Turnbull tried to build a free labor colony near New Smyrna in 1768. However, in 1777, due to poor working conditions and disagreements between Minorcan and British Overseers, led to the colony’s downfall. 
  • Many slaves sought freedom with the Seminoles in the 18th and 19th centuries, to the dismay of Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas planters. Most British Planters used slave labor unlike Turnbull’s New Smyrna Ventura.
  • The end of the British rule after the Revolutionary War triumph. Florida was retaken by Spain in 1783. Native Americans and Free Blacks dominated most of Interior Florida until the First Seminole War. 
Seminoles in Florida
Seminoles in Florida
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Plantation Slavery in Antebellum Florida

After Spain ceded Florida to the U.S. in 1821, thousands of American planters moved to Middle Florida, between the Apalachicola and Suwannee rivers.

Large numbers of African slaves worked on plantations controlled by the planter aristocracy to grow cotton. In 1860, slaves made up more than half of Middle Florida’s population.

Plantation expansion and Slavery Wars

  • The US military fought three wars against the Seminoles, leading to the expansion of plantations. Soldiers of the US military burned Seminole Towns and captured people, although suffering several blows, the Seminoles were slain in battle or transferred to Indian Territory in 1858. Thus introducing plantation slavery to the peninsula. 
  • After 1821, a small group of European Florida Planters held most Africans in bondage, about 200 plantations had 30 or more slaves each. By 1860, 400 planters owned 30 or more slaves. Edward Bradford, one of the big planters, had hundreds of slaves. 
  • Field slaves worked all areas of agriculture from day to night, tilling soils to transporting cotton to ports and distribution centers. Some planters had affairs or raped domestic slaves. The domestic slaves’ experience varied by plantations. 
  • African kidnapping continued despite the prohibition of the international slave trade in 1808. Not all nations ended the African slave trade, the Southern Trade continued after the Civil War
  • Abolitionist Jonathan Walker helped slaves escape. However, after seizing a ship in Pensacola and traveling to Bahamas, he was captured before reaching British soil. US authorities convicted Walker guilty and condemned to one hour in the pillory and branded the Slave Stealer or SS on his left hand. 
Slave Stealer Brand Jonathan Walker
Hand of Jonathan Walker
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The Rise of Hunting Plantations

Emancipation altered the plantation economy. Quail replaced King Cotton as winter visitors hunted more.

Former slaves became tenant farmers via “sharecropping” with landowners. Sharecroppers rented land and gave the landlord a portion of their produce. Most sharecroppers were in chronic debt, frequently to slaveowners. Sharecropping lasted until the mid-20th century and fueled Jim Crow segregation in the South.

Hunting Plantations and Diversifications

  • Plantation agriculture diversified after the Civil War. In Red Hills Florida, the landowners began herding livestock, planting pecan trees, and producing tobacco, which dominated Gadsden County
  • The wealthy northern families converted cotton farms into hunting plantations. Northern Florida’s Red Hills are popular for quail hunting, Quail, inhabit longleaf pine and wiregrass environments. 
  • Tall Timbers Research Station uses practices used by quail hunters in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to protect the native forests. In effect, controlled burning mimics the natural fire ecology of the Red Hills.
Red Hills Florida
Red Hills to the Coast
Credit: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov

The Legacy of Plantation Culture

A few antebellum estates remain in Florida today. Some of Florida’s most stunning mansions are now museums where tourists can learn about plantation life.

Social Change and Large Estates

  • Following the 19th century, after the Civil War, huge estates produced fewer agricultural goods, which were then supplanted by commercial farms.
  • After 1865, most plantations were used less, replacing agriculture with recreation as the main use of vast estates. 
  • In the 20th century, many African Americans left the south for the north or known as the Great Migration by historians. 

Plantation, Florida is a town with a rich and storied history. Spanning over 450 years, the area has been home to Native Americans, Spanish settlers, British colonists, African slaves, and Confederate soldiers. Today, Plantation is a thriving community of nearly 90,000 people. We hoped you enjoyed a brief summary of the history of Plantation Florida!

Gamble Plantation Historic State Park
Gamble Plantation Historic State Park
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