Remaking Wormsloe Plantation
The Environmental History of a Lowcountry Landscape
Publication Year: 2012
Why do we preserve certain landscapes while developing others without restraint? Drew A. Swanson’s in-depth look at Wormsloe plantation, located on the salt marshes outside of Savannah, Georgia, explores that question while revealing the broad historical forces that have shaped the lowcountry South.
Wormsloe is one of the most historic and ecologically significant stretches of the Georgia coast. It has remained in the hands of one family from 1736, when Georgia’s Trustees granted it to Noble Jones, through the 1970s, when much of Wormsloe was ceded to Georgia for the creation of a state historic site. It has served as a guard post against aggression from Spanish Florida; a node in an emerging cotton economy connected to far-flung places like Lancashire and India; a retreat for pleasure and leisure; and a carefully maintained historic site and green space. Like many lowcountry places, Wormsloe is inextricably tied to regional, national, and global environments and is the product of transatlantic exchanges.
Swanson argues that while visitors to Wormsloe value what they perceive to be an “authentic,” undisturbed place, this landscape is actually the product of aggressive management over generations. He also finds that Wormsloe is an ideal place to get at hidden stories, such as African American environmental and agricultural knowledge, conceptions of health and disease, the relationship between manual labor and views of nature, and the ties between historic preservation and natural resource conservation. Remaking Wormsloe Plantation connects this distinct Georgia place to the broader world, adding depth and nuance to the understanding of our own conceptions of nature and history.
Published by: University of Georgia Press
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Wormsloe Plantation is one of the most signifi cant historical, archaeological, and natural sites in Georgia and the entire Lowcountry, and a major reason for its signifi cance is the property’s integrity and long- term proprietorship. Noble Jones, one of the founding English settlers of Savannah in 1733, was also among the fi rst to apply...
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Many colleagues, family members, and friends have supported this work over the past few years and deserve brief mention here. Chief among them is Paul Sutter. Paul first brought Wormsloe to my attention, encouraged my eff orts to transform a research project into a full- fledged book, and offered tireless guidance throughout the...
INTRODUCTION: The Last Plantation
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One of the most iconic images of the Old South is that of a mile- long avenue lined with live oaks leading to a stately, columned plantation house. This tableau conjures up Disneyesque visions of southern belles in hoop skirts, slaves laboring in cotton fields, the clink of julep cups, and foxhunting on horseback, with...
ONE: A Lowcountry Experiment: Creating a Transatlantic Wormsloe
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On november 16, 1732, the ship Anne departed England for the New World. The vessel’s crew and 115 passengers were bound for the southeastern coast of British North America, for a strip of land between the colony of South Carolina and Spanish Florida where they intended to found a new colony: Georgia. This colonial project
TWO: Becoming a Plantation: Wormsloe from the Revolution to the Civil War [Image Plates]
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A crow flying across the Skidaway Road and down the Isle of Hope peninsula in the spring of 1783 would have passed over a coastal live oak and mixed pine forest, with an occasional palmetto or marshy slough breaking up the canopy. Moving south, the bird might have wheeled once over Noble Jones’s tabby fort and an adjacent...
THREE: Wormsloe Remade: Plantation Culture from the Civil War to the Twentieth Century
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In October 1861, Confederate artillery at Port Royal opened fire on Union gunboats along the southeastern South Carolina coast. The roar of the cannons shook Wormsloe’s plantation house “from cellar to garret, though the firing was at forty miles distance.”1 With that thunderous barrage, the Civil War came to Wormsloe. The conflict disrupted cotton planting and the Joneses’ normal routines over the...
FOUR: “Worth Crossing Oceans to See”: The Transition from an Agricultural to an Ornamental Landscape
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Around midday on September 29, 1896, a hurricane made landfall near Tybee Island, packing sustained winds of close to 110 miles per hour. The storm surged up the Savannah River, destroying homes, uprooting trees, swamping rice impoundments, and leveling cotton fields as it went. The hurricane had earlier made a circuitous...
FIVE: From Plantation to Park: Wormsloe since 1938
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In the mid- 1970s, Noble Jones’s plantation became a state historic site, owned and preserved by the people of Georgia. The state acquired the historic property as a consequence of a belief in the value of its rich history, especially in connection with the colonial era. Officials also appreciated the natural resources and green space...
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Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 34 b&w photos, 6 maps
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: Environmental History and the American South