By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Children of Bull Town Swamp part 1
Liberty lore
Placeholder Image
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles on LeConte-Woodmanston Plantation and the family that established it.

It saddened me to read in the Coastal Courier a few weeks ago that the lush botanical gardens at  the LeConte-Woodmanston Plantation are in peril and will close if funding is not found soon. It is one of Liberty County’s greatest treasures.
Many people have poured money and sweat into restoration over the last forty years. I do not think the citizens of Liberty County really understand the importance of saving this 64 acres site that is on the National Register of Historic Places.
We all have heard about Louis LeConte, his world famous  botanical garden and his two sons, John and Joseph, who went west to the University of California and became famous. But, what do we know of their formative years and the other children, William, Louis, Anne and Jane?
Reading through many articles, manuscripts, and Joseph’s autobiography, I have selected a few items that will fill us in on their life in Bull Town Swamp, before they became famous.
Louis LeConte was born Aug. 4, 1782 in Shrewsbury, New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan College in 1799 at age of 17. He had studied medicine but never graduated as such. He used his knowledge to practice medicine on his plantation taking care of his family and slaves. He also doctored the poor people who he came in contact with especially in McIntosh County and never accepted any pay.
Louis never felt he belonged in the community in South Georgia. He attended Midway Church where he met and married Anne Quarterman. Marrying her came with an agreement that he would never take her out of Liberty County to live. They had four sons and three daughters. One daughter died at infancy.
Anne died of pneumonia in 1826 at age 33 and was buried in the Midway Cemetery. She was a talented young lady and loved music. Joseph, only 3, remembered very little of his mother. He remembered the bowl of blood he saw on the bureau that two doctors drew from her against her husband’s wishes and his medical experience. Louis believed drawing the blood caused his beloved wife’s death. Joseph had a sense of sadness about him for years afterward. Louis went into a depression that lasted for years. Every Sunday after service, he took Joseph and another child to walk the cemetery. In tearless silence he gazed steadily about 20 minutes on the simple mound and then silently led the boys away. He continued this ritual 12 years until his death, though he seemed rejuvenated when William married Jane and they hare grandchildren for him.
Louis had a scientific laboratory in the attic of their home where he performed experiments. He let his children watch and do some on their own.
When his health failed he blamed it on the chemicals he was around. He went on a strict vegetarian diet for two years.  Seeing no good effects, he returned to a moderate diet with meat and his health returned.   
He devoted more of his time to cultivating a one acre botanical garden. Every day after breakfast with his second or third cup of coffee in hand, Louis walked the garden, giving minute directions for improvement. His special pride were five camellia trees. Joseph visited the old homeplace in 1896 and one camellia was 56” in circumference ten inches from the ground.
Louis’s delight and skill in math was remarkable. William sent math puzzles his college professors could not solve to his father who promptly solved them.
The boys loved hunting and fishing and brought everything strange or remarkable to their father to identify. They had a wide selection of over 20 guns from which to choose to hunt. They made their own bows and arrows. They also made their own pistols in the blacksmith shop. Brother Lewis wanted a rifle so he enlarged the pistol to rifle size and made the stock with beautiful birds eye maple and engraved the handle. He brought down squirrels from the top of 100 foot trees with a bullet through their brain. With the bows and arrows he made he could bring home eight to 10 birds almost any morning. As boys they liked to hunt but as each became grown men their love turned to just watching and studying the wildlife.
When they were about 10, John, Lewis and Joseph, with the help of an intelligent and ingenious slave named Primus, made a dugout canoe out of a large cypress log three feet in diameter. It took several months. When completed, it was large and beautiful. Days were spent exploring Bull Town Swamp on which the plantation was situated.

Love is a history buff and writes Liberty lore periodically for the Courier.
Sign up for our e-newsletters