Project Director

Honerkamp, Nick

Department Examiner

Kuhn, Stephen; Russell, James; Workinger, Andrew


Dept. of Sociology, Anthropology, and Geography


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


Though popular culture often makes the assumption that showplace plantations were the norm in the antebellum South, plantation archaeologists and historians have observed that the data say otherwise. Many of the Southern plantations that they study fall far short of the showplace ideal. In fact, a key role for plantation historians and archaeologists is to clear up the Americans' misconceptions about antebellum plantations by studying a range of plantation types and sizes. One way to accomplish this goal is to classify plantations under archaeological or historical study as either working plantations or showplace plantations based on economic data and use those classifications to make comparisons. If the various 4 levels of plantation size and economic success are accurately recorded, then comparisons between them should make it possible to realistically identify those traits that were "normal" for Southern plantations and those that were not. The coast of Georgia is a prime location for plantation research because during the 18th and 19th centuries there were many plantations growing Sea Island cotton and rice, as well as other less common staple crops. It was an area that had all sizes of plantations, including some well known showplace plantations. Though studies of many of the coastal plantations already have produced a wealth of archaeological and historical data available, there are many others of which little is known. The Butler estate that extended to both St. Simons Island and Butler Island off of the coast of Georgia is an ideal example of a widely known and extensively researched antebellum showplace plantation. Its vast acreage and slave population have been well documented in the historical record and verified in the archaeological record (Singleton 1980). In contrast, there are two sizable plantations that existed on Sapelo Island (also on the Georgia coast)-the Spalding Plantation and Chocolate Plantation- about which there are limited historical data and an even smaller amount of archaeological data. There has only been an archaeological survey of Chocolate Plantation (Honerkamp et al. 2007) and the archaeology of Spalding's plantation is limited entirely to the excavation of one slave settlement far from the main structures, the report of which has not yet been widely disseminated (Crook et al 2003). Therefore, their status and typology as plantations (working or showplace) have yet to be determined or verified. For this reason, I have attempted to make a comparison between the Butler estate, whose status as a showplace plantation is well established, and the two plantations on Sapelo Island. The comparison is an effort to provide a more concrete understanding of their status and significance in the antebellum South. Additionally, because the two Sapelo estates were once authentic antebellum plantations, my examination of their economic histories is meant as a way of revealing the realities of plantation life.


B. S.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Science.




Plantations--Economic aspects--United States--History; Plantations--Georgia--History--19th century


Social and Cultural Anthropology

Document Type



ii, 69 leaves





Call Number

LB2369.5 .D482 2008