If the experience of rice cultivation at John Moultrie’s estates at Matanzas and Tomoka Rivers was the norm for East Florida, the workers at Mount Pleasant harvested two cuttings of rice each year. Rice plantations were expensive to initiate because of the labor intensity required, but once established they continued to produce as long as the dams and canals were kept intact and the fields were maintained. Had Mount Pleasant continued to operate under Grant’s ownership beyond 1784, it is probable it would have become as profitable as his indigo estate, Grant’s Villa, had previously been.
Before the end of 1784, however, all planting efforts at the Villa and Mount Pleasant Plantations had ended. East Florida had been ceded back to Spain at the Treat of Paris, and nearly all the British planters decided to evacuate the province. The enslaved men and women who created the rice estate took down the cabins they had only recently constructed, placed them on rafts along with barrels of rice and corn, and shipped it all to the Bahama Islands . The men, women and children owned by James Grant were also transported to New Providence Island, from where they were sent to South Carolina and sold to rice planters.
Pounding rice using a wooden pounding tool and a hollowed out log. Courtesy of the Georgia Department of Archives and History, Atlanta, Georgia..

If the experience of rice cultivation at John Moultrie’s estates at Matanzas and Tomoka Rivers was the norm for East Florida, the workers at Mount Pleasant harvested two cuttings of rice each year. Rice plantations were expensive to initiate because of the labor intensity required, but once established they continued to produce as long as the dams and canals were kept intact and the fields were maintained. Had Mount Pleasant continued to operate under Grant’s ownership beyond 1784, it is probable it would have become as profitable as his indigo estate, Grant’s Villa, had previously been.

Before the end of 1784, however, all planting efforts at the Villa and Mount Pleasant Plantations had ended. East Florida had been ceded back to Spain at the Treat of Paris, and nearly all the British planters decided to evacuate the province. The enslaved men and women who created the rice estate took down the cabins they had only recently constructed, placed them on rafts along with barrels of rice and corn, and shipped it all to the Bahama Islands . The men, women and children owned by James Grant were also transported to New Providence Island, from where they were sent to South Carolina and sold to rice planters.

Pounding rice using a wooden pounding tool and a hollowed out log. Courtesy of the Georgia Department of Archives and History, Atlanta, Georgia..

The most labor intensive phase of the rice harvest was known as pounding. Grain left in the fanning baskets after winnowing was poured into hollowed out logs, the wooden mortars that could be seen outside the door of nearly every slave cabin in coastal Carolina and Georgia . Women used long wooden pestles to pound the rice grains until the outer husks and inner cuticles broke off. They worked communally and rhythmically with other women, following the African pattern of pounding in unison, tossing the pestle upward and letting go with both hands while clapping the hands together before catching the tool on its downward cycle and plunging it into the grain at the bottom of the mortar. Pounding the outer husks off the grain increased the commercial value of the product. Water and steam powered threshing and pounding mills eventually replaced hand labor throughout the Carolinas and Georgia , but at small estates like the one on the upper Guana the volume of the harvest was so small in the early years that the work would have been done the old and hard way, by hand.
Two South Carolina women pound outer husks from rice grain. Courtesy of the Georgia Department of Archives and History, Atlanta, Georgia.

The most labor intensive phase of the rice harvest was known as pounding. Grain left in the fanning baskets after winnowing was poured into hollowed out logs, the wooden mortars that could be seen outside the door of nearly every slave cabin in coastal Carolina and Georgia . Women used long wooden pestles to pound the rice grains until the outer husks and inner cuticles broke off. They worked communally and rhythmically with other women, following the African pattern of pounding in unison, tossing the pestle upward and letting go with both hands while clapping the hands together before catching the tool on its downward cycle and plunging it into the grain at the bottom of the mortar. Pounding the outer husks off the grain increased the commercial value of the product. Water and steam powered threshing and pounding mills eventually replaced hand labor throughout the Carolinas and Georgia , but at small estates like the one on the upper Guana the volume of the harvest was so small in the early years that the work would have been done the old and hard way, by hand.

Two South Carolina women pound outer husks from rice grain. Courtesy of the Georgia Department of Archives and History, Atlanta, Georgia.

Women took over the processing next, holding in their hands the large coil-woven flat baskets that inclined slightly upward at the outer edges and were known as fanning baskets. Grain was placed on the baskets and tossed gently upward into the air to winnow or blow the chaff away before the grain particles fell back into the basket. Larger baskets were filled with the grain and lined up for the final step in the rice harvest.
A woman in South Carolina winnowing chaff from grain using a fanning basket. Courtesy of the Georgia Department of Archives and History, Atlanta, Georgia..

Women took over the processing next, holding in their hands the large coil-woven flat baskets that inclined slightly upward at the outer edges and were known as fanning baskets. Grain was placed on the baskets and tossed gently upward into the air to winnow or blow the chaff away before the grain particles fell back into the basket. Larger baskets were filled with the grain and lined up for the final step in the rice harvest.

A woman in South Carolina winnowing chaff from grain using a fanning basket. Courtesy of the Georgia Department of Archives and History, Atlanta, Georgia..