Stop 1-Kingsley Plantation

Jacksonville's oldest residential home and Florida's last still-standing plantation home.

Esther Bartley, born a slave on the plantation, shown living on the grounds in the early 20th century

Wander through the remarkably preserved slave quarters, barn, plantation house, kitchen house and interpretive garden all located on the waterfront. The plantation was once the southernmost point of the Gullah Geechee Nation.

Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley: Stolen from the coast of her homeland of Senegal, West Africa, the young Wolof girl, Anta Njaay, was taken to Havana, Cuba in 1806 to be sold into slavery.

Zephaniah Kingsley, Jr., an English slave trader and planter who had been reared in Charleston, South Carolina, purchased 13-year old Anta. Folk legends labeled her as “an African princess.”

Kingsley stated in his will that he and the beautiful Anta were married “in a foreign land” and that their marriage was “celebrated and solemnized by her native African custom, altho’ never celebrated according to the forms of Christian usage.” He called her Anna and her African name was transposed into Spanish and English by officials in Florida. Kingsley would live with her openly and referred to her as his wife. Together they would have four children. According to Daniel Shafer’s book entitled simply Anna Kingsley, “Kingsley was an advocate of humane treatment and encouraged slaves to live in family units and to maintain African customs.” There was never any doubt as to Anna’s status. Kingsley is quoted as having said “She has always been respected as my wife and as such I acknowledge her, nor do I think that her truth, honor, integrity, moral conduct or good sense will lose in comparison with anyone.” After almost five years of enslavement, Kingsley formally emancipated Anna on March 4, 1811.

By 1811 Kingsley was a wealthy man. He owned Drayton Island, a large plantation at Lake George on the St. Johns River, Laurel Grove Plantation along Doctors Lake and Fort George Island. His business travels left Anna at Laurel Grove as household manager. In addition, Kingsley chose to employ black slaves. Kingsley sailed into several ports including Cuba, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Wilmington, New York and Fernandina with black sailors and was known for sailing with an all-black crew.

By 1812, Anna was a free black woman in Spanish East Florida. Along with her property holdings, Anna’s household included 12 slaves. When Florida joined theConfederate states in 1861, the interracial Kingsley family was forced to leave for their safety, only to return when peace was restored years later. Anna died in July 1870 at age 77. She spent her last days living in the Strawberry Creek area with her daughter, Mary Kingsley Sammis, and her family. The house built by Anna’s son-in-law, John Sammis, still stands in the Clifton area of South Jacksonville. A small family burial ground is also located there. Although no grave stone with Anna’s name exists, historians speculate that she is buried with her daughter and the Sammis family. In 1884, the great granddaughter of Zephaniah and Anna Kingsley, Mary F. Kingsley Sammis, married Abraham Lincoln Lewis (pg. 22) to form another powerful union in the Kingsley dynasty.

At present time the Kingsley Plantation is a part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. The grounds includes the main house (c.1798), a barn(c.1798), the Anna Jai House (c.1800 – 1820), and the slave quarters (c.1822). The Kingsley Plantation is located at: 11676 Palmetto Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32226.

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