Built circa 1825, this sugar mill and arrowroot starch factory was the industrial component to John Houston* McIntosh’s New Canaan Plantation. McIntosh was born in 1773 in what is now McIntosh County. After living for a time in Florida and involvement in a plot to annex East Florida, McIntosh came back to Georgia. He acquired two plantations in Camden County. Marianna was one and New Canaan, site of the sugar works seen here, was the other. Thomas Spalding of Sapelo Island is thought to have been his mentor in this enterprise. It’s located across from the entrance to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in a publicly accessible park on Charlie Smith Sr. Parkway (Georgia Highway 40 Spur).
*The Georgia Historical Society marker placed on the site over 50 years ago uses the spelling Houstoun for McIntosh’s middle name. I’m not sure why the discrepancy exists, but Taylor Davis has done more recent research, notably exposing the long-held “Spanish mission myth”, so I will defer to his his spelling.
Taylor P. Davis writes in his thesis, Tabby: The Enduring Building Material of Coastal Georgia (Athens, 2011):”The Houston McIntosh Sugar Mill, built during the 1820s, contains probably the most intact and expansive plantation era tabby ruins in this…area. This two-storied, sprawling complex, complete with columns, is the remainder of John Houston McIntosh’s sugar processing mill in connection to his New Canaan Plantation sugar cane production. The mill consisted of three main sections: a milling room, a boiler room, and a curing room. This sugar mill also led local and visiting authors and intern local historians to reinterpret this area’s history. It was here that W. J. Hoxie, contributor to the Savannah Morning News, wrote of his imaginative thoughts of the harrowing tales of Spanish friars defending themselves against a “great siege” or fiercely battling off “pirate bands” all while trying to save the souls of the “savage natives”. It was hard for him to believe that such a well-built structure could have been used for agricultural purposes. In his article, Hoxie is quoted as saying “I have yet discovered any published work that throws any light on the origin and history of this building.” But the damage was done. Savannah Morning News readers were taken by this fictional idea. This helped to start and spread the “Spanish Mission myth” regarding tabby construction. This myth was perpetuated by James T. Vocelle’s book, History of Camden County, where he states as fact that these tabby ruins were that of the Spanish missions. For decades it was thought that all of the plantation era tabby ruins were that of the lost Spanish missions. Later this error in the chronology of tabby would be corrected, and the literature on the subject from then on would reflect the annotation.”
Images of the Sugar Mill & Arrowroot Starch Factory
For researchers interested in the Houston genealogy, G. Cole notes: The name is properly spelled “Houstoun.” John Houstoun McIntosh was born to George McIntosh (son of John Mohr Mackintosh) and Ann Priscilla Houstoun (dau. of Sir Patrick Houstoun and Priscilla Dunbar.)