Sharecropping, Diversification and the Rise of Hunting Plantations

Emancipation brought about significant changes in the plantation economy throughout the southern United States.

Quail replaced King Cotton throughout the southern states as land became increasingly devoted to the hunting activities of the leisure classes who ventured south during the winter.

Many former slaves became tenant farmers by entering into "sharecropping" agreements with landed elites. Sharecroppers rented the land they worked and owed a percentage of their yearly crops to the landlord.

Most sharecroppers found themselves in perpetual debt, often indebted to landowners who once owned them as slaves. Sharecropping persisted until the mid-20th century and provided the economic underpinning for the system of institutionalized legal segregation throughout the South known as Jim Crow laws.

Luvenia and Ed Austin, sharecroppers on the Welaunee Plantation: Leon County, Florida (ca. 1940s)

Luvenia and Ed Austin, sharecroppers on Welaunee Plantation: Leon County, Florida (ca. 1940s)

Image Number: N047013

Diversification

Once entirely dependent on producing cotton, plantation agriculture diversified following the Civil War. Although cotton continued to be important, land owners in the Red Hills region of the Florida Panhandle also began herding livestock, planting pecan trees and growing new cash crops such as tobacco.

Large commercial farms specializing in tobacco became especially prevalent in Gadsden County.

Picking cotton: Jefferson County, Florida (ca. 1890s)

Picking cotton: Jefferson County, Florida (ca. 1890s)

Image Number: RC02221

Laborers waiting for a team to arrive at a cotton gin: northern Florida (early 20th century)

Laborers waiting for a team to arrive at a cotton gin: northern Florida (early 20th century)

Image Number: RC05230

Pickers at harvest time in a pecan grove: Baker County, Florida (1929)

Pickers at harvest time in a pecan grove: Baker County, Florida (1929)

Image Number: N048364

Magnus Delacy Peavy and his farm hands in front of a tobacco barn: Havana, Florida (ca. 1910s)

Magnus Delacy Peavy and his farm hands in front of a tobacco barn: Havana, Florida (ca. 1910s)

Image Number: RC07231

Workers tie up tobacco: Quincy, Florida (ca. 1960s)

Workers tie up tobacco: Quincy, Florida (ca. 1960s)

Image Number: PC5858

Shade-grown tobacco is produced for cigar wrappers. "Tying Up," shown here, provides a cord support for the rapidly growing, big-leafed plant as it grows in the shade. Gadsden County, Florida, was one of only two shade tobacco producing areas in the United States.

Hunting Plantations

The end of the Civil War facilitated an influx of northern capital into the southern United States. Railroad lines and roads expanded deep into the Florida peninsula. Wealthy northern families purchased large tracts once used for cotton cultivation and converted the land into hunting plantations.

Northern Florida, especially in the Red Hills region, became known for quail hunting. Quail inhabited areas covered with longleaf pine trees and wiregrass. In order to bolster quail populations, owners of large estates maintained extensive tracts of indigenous forest through the practice of controlled burning.

Fleischmann's Welaunee Plantation hunting lodge: Leon County, Florida (ca. 1920)

Fleischmann's Welaunee Plantation hunting lodge: Leon County, Florida (ca. 1920)

Image Number: N038165

Udo Fleischmann with his hunting dog "The Coming Storm": Leon County, Florida (ca. 1930s)

Udo Fleischmann with his hunting dog "The Coming Storm": Leon County, Florida (ca. 1930s)

Image Number: RC07245

Capturing Quail with nets at Luna Plantation: Leon County, Florida (ca. 1930s)

Capturing quail with nets at Luna Plantation: Leon County, Florida (ca. 1930s)

Image Number: N038357

Col. and Mrs. Lloyd C. Griscom dressed for hunting at Luna Plantation: Leon County, Florida (ca. 1930s)

Colonel and Mrs. Lloyd C. Griscom dressed for hunting at Luna Plantation: Leon County, Florida (ca. 1930s)

Image Number: N037098

Southwood Plantation house: Tallahassee, Florida (ca. 1950s)

Southwood Plantation house: Tallahassee, Florida (ca. 1950s)

Image Number: RC02161

This is the second plantation house on this site. The first was built by Benjamin Chaires for his daughter Sara Jane Chaires Ward. This house was formerly owned by Robert Butler and John Ward Henderson, and was moved from the southwest corner of Adams and St. Augustine streets in the 1900s. It was purchased by Edward Ball for the Dupont estate in the 1940s. The property surrounding this home provided ample opportunities for hunting until developed for residential homesites in the late 20th century.

Red Hills Fire Ecology

The remaining tracts of longleaf pine in southern Georgia and northern Florida are maintained today through the use of prescribed burning. Research institutions such as Tall Timbers Research Station strive to conserve indigenous forest using methods practiced by quail hunters in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In effect, controlled burning helps to mimic the natural fire ecology of the Red Hills region.

Genevieve Dillon Beadel, owner of Tall Timbers Plantation: Tallahassee, Florida (ca. 1920s)

Genevieve Dillon Beadel, owner of Tall Timbers Plantation: Tallahassee, Florida (ca. 1920s)

Image Number: N038117

Genevieve and her husband, Henry Ludlow Beadel, owned Tall Timbers Plantation. In 1958, as stipulated in the Beadel's will, Tall Timbers became a research station dedicated to studying the impact of fire on wildlife and vegetation in the Red Hills region of southern Georgia and northern Florida.