Harvest days, circa 1840, will be celebrated early next month at Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve in Florida with displays of plantation cooking, harvesting, blacksmithing and more.
The celebration is set for Saturday, October 5, and marks the end of the harvest season at Kingsley Plantation. Harvest Day was a tradition on all of Zephaniah Kingsley's plantations. In October 1841, Kingsley Beatty Gibbs, nephew of Zephaniah, wrote in his journal: "No work done today, as all the people have it to gather their own crops- It is a rule which we have, to give all the [slaves] one day in the spring to plant, and one day in the fall to reap […]."
The event will be run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will include demonstrations of plantation cooking, tabby making, blacksmithing, and the harvest of Sea Island cotton and indigo, which were two of the historical cash crops for the plantation.
Those who visit the plantation on October 5 will be invited to help with tasks such as butter churning, cotton ginning, and producing indigo dye.
In addition, "visitors will learn of a most thought-provoking fact, that Kingsley's enslaved workforce was armed to defend the plantation and hunt for animals!" a park release said. "Yes, this notion of slaves having firearms flies in the face of commonly held beliefs, but it is well-documented that Kingsley armed his slaves."
In addition to the day's living history events, author Audrey Peterman will be on hand to discuss and sign copies of her book, Our True Nature: Finding a Zest for Life in the National Park System. Ms. Peterman is a national award-winning environmentalist. Since 1995 she has visited more than 160 of the 401 units of the National Park System and is an advocate for their continued protection.
She and her husband Frank co-authored the book, Legacy on the Land: A Black Couple Discovers Our National Treasures and Tells Why Every American Should Care.
This event is free and open to the public. For more information, you can call Kingsley Plantation at (904) 251-3537.
Zephaniah Kingsley owned and operated a 1,000-acre plantation on the island during the first half of the 19th century. In addition to the scheduled event, visitors may also visit the grounds that include the original plantation house, kitchen house, barn, and the remains of 25 tabby slave cabins.
The plantation house is Florida's oldest standing (1798) plantation-era structure. The grounds offer perhaps the most graphic evidence of slave living quarters and daily life experiences in the state, if not the South. Located off Heckscher Drive/A1A one-half mile north of the St. Johns River ferry landing, Kingsley Plantation is open daily, at no charge, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.