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Plantation near Riceboro grew rice
Liberty's history
A scene from the remaining part of Lecont-Woodmanston. - photo by Photo provided.
Woodmanston Plantation, west of Riceboro, is rooted deep in Liberty County history, dating back to about 1760 when a French immigrant’s grandsons came to this part of Georgia to seek out their prosperity.
On this land, Louis LeConte carved out one of the largest plantations in the area and began a tradition of intellectual inquiry and scientific study that manifested from his sons and nephews, who made great contributions to the advancement of scholastic and intellectual studies as well as methodical inquiries in 19th century America.
John LeConte established Woodmanston in 1760 as an inland swamp rice plantation, one of the earliest forms of rice growing in America. It relied on the activity of slow moving swamp creeks into a reservoir created by a mixture of clay, stone, mud and sand dams. Water from this reservoir was then released through trunk gates into grasslands at lower elevations of the quagmire.
At the turn of the 18th century into the 19th, inland swamp rice production was being replaced by a more resourceful technique of production known as the tidal flow system. Plantations of this type were built along major coastal rivers and were not as vulnerable to flood and drought as inland swamp plantations.
On the other hand, rice continued to be grown at Woodmanston until the end of the Civil War, and even later than by local freedmen.
By the time 1774 rolled around, Woodmanston had grown to incorporate between 3,000 and 3,500 acres, making it the largest 18th century rice plantation in Liberty County.
LeConte not only ran a productive rice and cotton plantation, he also did extremely well in growing many unusual native and exotic plants, and was one of the first to farm Camellia japonica outdoors in the South.
His garden was “the richest in bulbs ever seen,” wrote Alexander Gordon in Gardener’s Magazine. His son, Joseph, wrote in his autobiography of LeConte that his father’s “beautiful garden became celebrated all over the United States, and botanists from the North and from Europe came to visit it.
John Eatton LeConte was a supporter of the American Revolution, and was delegated to deliver rice and sterling to patriots who were tormented by the British impediment of Boston Harbor.
During the Revolutionary War, the original plantation house was burned by British troops in November of 1778 as they advanced on Midway down the Fort Barrington Road. Sometime before 1789, another house was built at the plantation. It was fortified and featured a palisade stockade.
In 1789, the fort was attacked by Indians and was successfully defended by LeConte and his slaves. Since the early 1970s, efforts have been under way to preserve and restore the plantation site.
The site’s historic significance was recognized in 1973 when it was named to the National Register of Historic Places. This act ensures the preservation of a 64-acre swathe of the original plantation.
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