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LeConte children's influence still felt today
Liberty lore
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In June 1843, Anne LeConte, daughter of legendary Liberty County plantation owner Louis LeConte Sr., and Dr. J.P. Stevens were planning their wedding. Anne wanted a grand wedding but only gave four days notice to Joseph.
He went to Savannah and ordered everything — cakes, a variety of fruit, a ton of ice — and got it all to Jonesville the day of the wedding.
Joseph LeConte, Anne’s brother, was up all night serenading all the girls of Jonesville and the wedding visitors. He went to bed as the sun rose.
Anne and Dr. Stevens lived in Walthourville, and she wrote for two agricultural journals. She laid out a landscape plan for their property that rivaled her father’s plantation garden.
Dr. Stevens practiced in Walthourville for 23 years. Anne was the choir leader of Walthourville Presbyterian Church. They had six children. Sadly, Anne died of tuberculosis when she was just 40 years old.
At this point, Louis had married his cousin Harriett of Athens.
After his sister Anne’s death, Joseph went to Macon with brother in-law John T., William’s wife’s brother, and met his future wife, Caroline Elizabeth Nisbet, who was 15.
While at the hotel in Macon, Caroline Elizabeth, the landlord’s daughter, became sweet on Joseph. Every evening she played the harp, showing off her soft hands, graceful fingers, beautiful arms, golden curls and sapphire-blue eyes. Joseph enjoyed her harp music. But he had to leave to study medicine in New York. He left Macon with a broken heart. Carolina Elizabeth, or Bessie for short, was his first love.
Joseph had plenty of money left over from his father’s estate, and he spent about six years traveling around the country. He enjoyed seeing rivers, mountains and waterfalls on the tours guided by Indians.
At last, Joseph reconnected with Bessie Nisbet and married her in January 1846. Their first daughter was born in December 1847. Joseph knew his “play days” were over and he planned to become a worker, not a social butterfly. He could not live on the Liberty County plantation as his father did because his wife and their five children knew Macon as their home. He settled in Macon to practice medicine.
John and Joseph went to California in 1869 where John became president of the University of California and Joseph one of its professors. Joseph was one of the founders of the Sierra Club. Both wrote numerous scientific papers, which were read and studied around the world. One article, written by Joseph, was the scientific study of the central nervous system of the alligator.
Jane married Dr. J.M.B. Hardin and lived on Halifax Plantation, which was part of LeConte-Woodmanston Plantation. They lived at Woodmanston when they married in 1833 until their home was built in 1843. Jane and her husband inherited 507 acres, parcel No. 3 of Woodmanston, probably because she had served as mistress of the plantation since she was 12 years old, after her mother died.
Jane and Dr. Hardin also received Halifax parcel No. 4e 350, west of Fort Barrington Road. She loved gardening and her grounds and gardens featured a major Cherokee rose hedge, an outstanding collection of camellia japonicas and a mound and moat with a rustic bridge across it.
Dr. Hardin died five years after they moved into the Halifax home from tuberculosis. He was 38. He left Jane with four children. The Civil War forced her into poverty and she moved to California to live with John and Joseph. She died just a few years later at the age of 62.
Louis and his wife Harriet had four children. In 1851, at age 30, his body was found on a road in Liberty County two miles from his plantation home on a portion of the LeConte-Woodmanston estate. He was believed to have been murdered by two men who Louis had prosecuted several times for killing his cattle for food. He had stopped his buggy to chastise them when one man seized Louis’ gun from the bottom of the buggy and shot him at close range.
The men were never tried because no one witnessed the alleged crime.
Two weeks later, however, the suspects’ bodies were found on an island in the Altamaha River. It was believed they were trying to hide or run away but the river was swollen and unpredictable. Their boat was found upside down.
Joseph and John were seldom separated their entire lives. John died first and Joseph never stopped mourning. They are both buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Yosemite, Calif. A large boulder marks Joseph’s grave.
All these children who grew up in Bull Town Swamp in Liberty County never dreamed they would still be talked about and remembered more than a century later. They certainly left their marks on history. That is why we must continue the ongoing preservation of LeConte-Woodmanston Plantation, the home of these great people — the LeContes from Bull Town Swamp in Liberty County.
Love is a history buff and writes Liberty lore periodically for the Courier.

Love is a history buff and writes Liberty lore periodically for the Courier. Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles on LeConte-Woodmanston Plantation and the family that established it, Louis LeConte Sr., his wife Anne, and their children, John, Joseph, William, Louis Jr. Anne and Jane.

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