Coastal Georgia History
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Kelvin Grove Plantation

Kelvin Grove History (collection)

Interview with Francis Postell Burns

KELVIN GROVE PLANTATION (sometimes spelled Kelvyn Grove), which included the site of the Battle of Bloody Marsh, belonged to the Caters and to the Postells of the wellknown Huguenot family of South Carolina.  The big house burned in the early twentieth century, and the property was owned for years by Mrs. Maxfield Parrish, who spent more than a score of winters in a cottage on the plantation.  Intensely interested in the history and earl customs of the coast, Lydia Parrish worked indefatigably to revive the old shouts and chanteys described in her Slave Songs of the Georgia Coast.  She organized a group of singers among descendants of the slaves, and visitors to the island looked forward each winter to the weekly sings" in an old cabin on the plantation grounds.  After Lydia Parrish's death the site of the Bloody Marsh Battlefield was bought by the Fort Frederica Association to be added to the .National Parks system. 

Some of the St. Simons plantations saw the third and fourth generations of their original owners grow up on the island, with marriages between descendants of the planters resulting in kinships that have developed through the years into intricate family relationships of double-second-cousins and third-cousins-twice removed so often found in the South.  Although a few of the old places have been restored as private estates, others have been divided and sold as building lots, and some are still lying in ruins.

Kelvin Grove, which included most of the southeast part of the island, was the plantation of the Cater-Postell family. The property was made up of various tracts, the first one bought by Thomas Cater in the 1790s.
At Thomas Cater's death, the plantation was inherited by his young son, Benjamin Franklin Cater. The boy's guardian, Major William Page of Retreat. saw to the management of Kelvin Grove until young Cater was of age.
Benjamin F. Cater married Ann Armstrong, niece of Mrs. Alexander Wylly of the Village. Their daughter, Ann Armstrong Cater, was married to James Postcll of the well-known Huguenot family of South Carolina. James and Ann Cater Postell made their home at Kelvin Grove, and his record hooks, still in existence, give a description of the property as well as an idea of the operation of one of the large sea island cotton plantations.
Kelvin Grove contained more than 1,600 acres of cleared and cultivated land, timberland, meadow marsh, and beach property. The three-storied house of pink tabby. set in a grove of live oak, cedar. magnolia, and mulberry trees, was surrounded on three sides by a wide piazza and was surmounted by a balcony, or widow's walk, which gave a view of the ocean and of the island for miles around. On the grounds grew orange, lemon, and olive trees, and "figs in abundance." In the broad fields grew sea island cotton.
Records of the duties of the field-hands in the cotton fields included plowing. planting, chopping, picking, ginning. "fanning," cleaning, and packing the cotton into big row bags to be sent to market. The work of the plantation also included raising com, potatoes, peas. turnips, and other food crops, as well as clearing new ground, cleaning ditches. caning hay. splitting clapboards, cutting posts. fencing, hauling shell for roads, fishing, gathering oysters, tending the boats, and "carrying the mail." Important work for the younger hands was "minding the fields" or "minding the birds." that is, driving off the flocks of birds until grain, peas, etc. could be harvested.
Listed separately from the field-hands were the "jobhers"- carpenter, gardener. houseboy, nurse, cook. seamstress. and housemaid.
James Postell's hobby was gathering collections of seashells, butterflies. and birds' eggs. He corresponded and exchanged shells with other collectors. and his books on conchology. ornithologh and lepidoptera are still in the possession of his descendants.
The Postells were among the few St. Simons families who returned to the island soon after the War Between the States. They found their twelve-room house, which was occupied by twelve families of freedmen, in such uninhabitable condition that it had to be razed and replaced.
The extensive plantation, eventually divided among the children of James and Ann Cater Postell. included the site of the Battle of Bloody Marsh and the present residential area known by the old name, Kelvin Grove. This part of the property was sold in the early 1900s to Mrs. Maxwell Parrish, who spent each winter in a cottage near the battle site. Intensely interested in the history and antebellum customs of coastal Georgia, Lydia Parrish worked indefatigably to revive the old shouts and chanteys described in her Slave Songs of the Georgia Sea Islands (1942). In the years following Mrs. Parrish's death, the property passed to other ownership: the Kelvin Grove subdivision was developed, and the Bloody Marsh battle site was added to the National Parks System.
Also formerly part of the Cater-Postell plantation are the areas occupied today by the residential developments of the Meadows, Wesley Oaks. Oglethorpe Park East Beach. and Highland Acres. The Malcolm McKinnon Airport is also on land that was once part of the Kelvin Grove Plantation.
In 1935, when the tract sold to the county by Clifford Postell was being cleared for the airport, laborers uncovered Indian relics of such importance that work was delayed until representatives from the Smithsonian Institution could examine the site. Excavations made in 1936 disclosed evidence of an ancient Indian village and burial ground that provided links in the knowledge of the prehistoric inhabitants of the coastal area. A number of the many artifacts unearthed in the excavations, as well as a large stone ax head found on the property previously by Mr. Postell, are in the Smithsonian. Others are in the museum at Fort Frederica National Monument.

1850 Census


  Jim Bruce Collection