Major Pierce Butler (1744-1822) purchased Hampton Point near the northern end of St. Simons Island in 1774. Butler served South Carolina in the American Revolution, was a member of the Continental Congress, a Signer of the Constitution, and the first United States senator elected from South Carolina. Since he divided most of hist time between Charleston and Philadelphia, he hired Roswell King to manage his plantations in Georgia. After the death of Butler’s wife in 1790, his South Carolina plantations were sold and his primary focus shifted to Hampton Point and other Georgia Sea Island plantations. Hampton Point was his largest cotton operation with the largest slave population.
n 1805, Major Butler retired from politics and spent most of his time in Philadelphia. Upon his death his namesake grandson inherited Butler’s vast holdings in Coastal Georgia. The younger Butler did not prove as good a businessman as his grandfather and to remain financially solvent sold off his slaves in 1859. Approximately 436 human beings were auctioned near Savannah in what has come to be known as The Weeping Time, for its separation of numerous families. It is believed to be the largest single sale of human beings in history. The plantation burned in 1871, leaving only traces of the tabby structures built by those enslaved on the property.
Ruins of Slave Dwellings at Hampton Point Plantation
The ruins of four slave dwellings are visible today. While only two retain significant architectural features, all are important to the story of the enslaved people of St. Simons Island. I have no way to date them as I only had brief access and have not located documentation regarding dates of construction. If I were to venture a guess I’d estimate 1800-1830. They appear to have nearly identical floor plans to the slave dwellings at Hamilton Plantation.
The ruins are located on private property and I visited with a resident. Though I photographed all four visible dwelling sites, I’m only sharing the two which retain the most significant architectural features. For identification purposes, I’m calling one North Dwelling and the other South Dwelling.
The North Dwelling retains a small section of its northeastern wall and the scattered remnants of its hearth.
The South Dwelling is the most intact of the four sites, retaining sections of all four walls, a defined window, doorway, and hearth.