During my recent Central Georgia road trip, one of the places I visited was the Jarrell Plantation State Historic Site adjacent to the Hitchiti Experimental Forest and Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge just north of Macon in Juliette, GA. The historic site preserves a middle Georgia farm that was owned by the Jarrell family and provides a good history of farming in middle Georgia from the 1840s to the 1960s. After the Jarrells stopped farming in the 1960s, the family donated what is now the historic site to the state; it encompasses two houses (a third is just outside of the park and is now a bed and breakfast), a barn and other farm buildings, workshops, cotton gin, grist mill, sawmill, planer, shingle mill, associated steam engines, and syrup making apparatus.
The Jarrells built three houses on the plantation. The original house was built in 1847 and one of the Jarrell sons built two other houses, one in 1895 and the other in 1920. The 1847 and 1895 houses are part of the park while the 1920 house is just outside of the park (but you can see just over the fence from the park) and is currently a bed and breakfast. Prior to the Civil War, the Jarrells owned Slaves; after the war some of those Slaves returned as Tenant Farmers and the remains of one of the Slave or Tenant Farmer houses is just outside of the visitors center. The first two photos in the slide show below are the 1895 house. The next two show the 1847 house. The fifth and sixth photos show the remains of the Slave/Tenant Farmer house (the white rope shows the dimensions of the house). It’s important that the park features this because the pre-war, the farm simply wouldn’t have been a going commercial concern without Slave labor. Hopefully they’ll work with one of the area Universities to try to do some research on the Jarrell’s slaves and feature some more about them in the museum and interpretive material. The last photo is the 1920 house just outside the park.
The first thing you come across after walking out of the visitors center is the Jarrell’s garden and barn. The garden provides example of what was grown on the plantation. There are a couple of goats in the barnyard, and some “free range” chickens roam the area. Across the path from the barn and garden are a chicken house and smoke house. The first three photos in the slide show below show the garden, barn, chicken house, and smoke house. The fourth photo shows how the hill going down toward the more industrial part of the farm was terraced for growing crops; you can see how the hill steps down instead of sloping down.
Downhill from the houses and barn is the more industrial part of the plantation. In addition to growing cotton, the Jarrells diversified over time, adding a cotton gin, grist mill, sawmill, planer, shingle mill and steam engines to drive them. They ginned cotton for their own plantation as well as others in the area and ground corn for their use and provided the service to other as well. They milled lumber to build their own houses and structures and milled lumber for other farms as well. The first three photos in the slideshow below are of the plantation’s two steam engines and boiler. The fourth shows the small steam engine house and evaporator house (for making syrup – more below). The fifth photo is of the shelter that houses the plantation’s planer (left) and cane mill. The sixth photo is of the carpenter and blacksmith shop.
The three photos in the slide show below are of the plantation’s cane syrup apparatus. The Jarrells used two methods to make cane syrup. In the 1850s and 1860s, they used syrup furnace that used two 80 gallon kettles to cook the sugarcane to make syrup. The kettles also served other purposes – they were used to scald hogs during butchering and the Jarrells also took them to Savannah to boil seawater into salt. The first two photos shows the plantation’s well and the syrup furnace. The third photo is of the syrup evaporator in the Evaporator House; heating the sugarcane juice in the copper evaporation pan was a more efficient method of making the syrup than the furnace was.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Jarrell Plantation State Historic Site. I definitely learned something about middle Georgia agriculture and farming during the 19th and 20th Century and gained an understanding of how it changed over time. I also came away with and understanding of how the Jarrells diversified the plantation and were able to survive the physical and economic devastation brought by the Civil War and the devastation of the cotton economy by the boll weevil. This is definitely a historic site worth visiting central Georgia for.