Charles Farquharson's Plantation: Helping to Create a Socio-Economic Situation Where Slaves Maintained Their Own Group Identity

“We would all agree that insofar as every landscape is a composition of spaces it is also a composition of boundaries.” (Jackson 1984:13) Few things establish a boundary quite as well as a wall; although a wall may be built for a variety of reasons its essential nature is to delineate space and this delineation can have a social impact whether or not it is intended. The Farquharson plantation provides a unique landscape for understanding the socio-economic aspects of walls as boundaries, both because it is a plantation and, as such, is a small community steeped in social and economic inequality where clear social boundaries between master and slave exist while the people live in relatively close proximity, and because it is in itself unique among plantations of the Caribbean and elsewhere.

Charles Farquharson was a Scotsman who came to the Bahamas in 1803 to start a plantation with a land grant from the British Royal Government. Farquharson was different from many of his fellow planters in the Bahamas in that he was not Loyalist from the North American colonies. While many of the plantation owners who received land grants in the Bahamas were colonists from North America who remained loyal to England all through the American Revolution, Farquharson had simply traveled from the British Isles intent on becoming a successful plantation holder. Another aspect that made Farquharson unique was that when most plantation owners left for the urban setting of Nassau when making a profit of off cotton became untenable, Farquharson stayed behind and transitioned to subsistence farming and raising livestock. He spent the rest of his life working his plot of land and even acquired his neighbor’s holdings at Kerr Mount. Farquharson bought a sloop so that he could ship goods on and off San Salvador. Farquharson also had a wife of mixed ancestry and a son with her. Farquharson’s relative level of isolation from other white planters and the extensive labor necessary to keep his plantation surviving led to an interesting relationship with the people who made up his enslaved labor force. A slave plantation is a community of people who are brought together with the purpose of agricultural production; however, this community is unbalanced socially with the planters owning their workers. This social disparity cannot be overstressed – it is the essential nature of the slave system with one human owning another. However, Farquharson, who had few real alternatives to eking out what he could from his land, was as reliant on his slaves for their labor as they were on him for clothes and food.

Aside from the main structures of the Farquharson plantation, including the manor house, slave quarters, kitchen, work buildings and stable, Charles Farquharson also built an extensive system of stone walls around the property. In most cases these wall were built to delineate the agricultural fields, although there are some accounts of walls used to mark property boundaries. The construction and maintenance of these walls was a very expensive and labor intensive activity, so much so that “later in the nineteenth century, agents at the Farquharson plantation were criticized for ordering the construction of walls because of their expense.” (Baxter and Burton 2006:165) During Excavations at Farquharson’s plantation Prospect Hill, a large section of field walls was discovered and partially mapped. So why expend the effort to build such a system of walls? And maybe more importantly than why, what can these walls tell us about life at Prospect Hill and the socioeconomic relationship between planter and slaves? As the field walls create a boundary for the agricultural space, how do they reflect or influence the social space of Prospect Hill?

In regards to the methods utilized to answer these questions, it was first and foremost important to analyze any historical background information on slavery in the Bahamas and the Farquharson settlement. One of the key aspects of historical archaeology is that you are working with the availability of a written historical record. Aside from other historical sources, in the case of Farquharson, there is also his journal spanning the years of 1831-1832. While this journal is a valuable resource for understanding the day to day operations of the Farquharson plantation as well as insights into his perspective, it is especially useful for this analysis because it gives a clearer picture of how many fields Farquharson had and to what uses they were put. The historical record available is used to put the archaeological findings in perspective and even to verify them.

As for the Archeological field methods, it was important to map the layout of and analyze the construction of the field walls as extensively as possible with our time on the site. Although there was not enough time to accurately map the entirety of the walls because they were spread over a property of some two-thousand acres, mapping as much of the walls as possible and placing these features in spatial reference to the other major structures of the plantation allows for comparison to other available sources. The mapping process involved taking compass bearings for a stretch of wall and then measuring that section with reel tape. Because the area was so densely overgrown with thorn trees and cactus it was difficult to see far enough to take a compass bearing much less measure. In light of this, it was necessary to clear the areas around the walls with machetes and saws. Another aspect of this dense vegetation was that it was impossible to gain an impression of the wall layout without mapping it a section at a time.

The starting point for the mapping process was the segment of wall nearest to the northwest corner of the stable structure marked as building #15. There was a map of the plantation done by Kathy Gerace during her fieldwork at the site which showed the locations of the major features such as the manor house, kitchen, stables and slave quarters but had a large blank section in between the other buildings and the slave quarters. This blank area was the walled fields but the Gerace map was useful in spatially aligning the newly mapped wall sections. As the walls were mapped, the area was surveyed for any artifacts or for any remnants of crop plants still growing. After completion, the finished maps was compared with the Gerace map and with a GIS map showing sections of the wall that were tall enough to be seen from satellite. Finally, the structure of the walls and their placement in the landscape of the plantation was compared to other plantations from the area and from other regions. Data was collected from a variety of sources, including books and Archaeological reports to gain a picture of the landscape of other plantations of the period. Both qualitative descriptions of these landscapes, as well recent and period maps of the plantation grounds, were used to develop a perspective of the landscape of slavery in the American South East and the Caribbean compared to the landscape of the Farquharson plantation.

The field walls were constructed from pieces of stacked limestone, as limestone is readily available in the Bahamas. In most sections, the walls were about eight courses high by two courses thick or about 1.5/1.6 meters by .6 meters. However, a few sections were only six courses high. The area of field walls mapped during this excavation were located on a stretch of land that separated the manor house kitchen and stable on the eastern side of these fields from the slave quarters which were on the western side. The longest section that was completely mapped was 69.2 meters long and ran to the north of the stable. Near the stable were the only two completely enclosed sections that were able to be mapped. One was a polygonal shaped area measuring 19.7 by 15.7 by 18.9 meters on three sides with the last side comprising two sections of slightly different bearings, one being 2.9 meters and the other 6.6 meters. The other was a triangular pen that was 13 meters by 11.4 meters by 9 meters; the nine meter section was a bridge between two larger walls that extended from the northern most corner of the polygon. Of these two larger walls, one was the north/south aligned 69.2 meter wall while the other ran to the west and extended for 47.8 meters and continued on, but there was insufficient time to map it all.

This triangular pen was the only area in the fields where we found evidence of cultivatable plants. In this section, we found a concentration of Bryophyllum pinnatum, also called Life Leaf, which is used as a remedy for a variety of ailments in Bahamian bush medicine, including headaches, strains, asthma, whooping cough, tuberculosis, burning urination and can be administered by boiling and ingestion. (Hannah-Smith 2005) The Life Leaf was growing well inside this enclosure but was not present on the other sides of the walls. While this seems to suggest a cultivation of the plant, there were no other parts of the field area that had any observable remains of crops, and the rest of the walled in fields seemed completely overrun with thorn trees and cacti.

An interesting aspect of these two enclosures was that they had no entryways and were completely enclosed by the stone walls. There was a third larger possible enclosure to the west of these two but, since there was insufficient time to map it in its entirety, it is represented on the map by dotted lines showing its estimated course. This section included the north western wall of the pen closest to the stable and the 47.8 meter section running to the northeast. Around the enclosures, there were some areas where the walls had collapsed and in some sections even appeared to be less carefully constructed, especially in the case of the nine foot section of the triangular plot. There were very few examples of artifacts found around the walls and what was observed was not collected but was noted and described. There was a single dark green glass bottle of a style that seemed typical of wine bottles. The only other item observed was a considerably rotted two-by-four leaning against a section of the triangular enclosure wall.

From Farquharson’s journal, we learn that there were at least twenty-one fields mentioned by Charles Farquharson, with a variety of crops distributed among the fields. Also, we learn from his journal that some of the fields were allotted to slaves for them to grow some of their own provisions, including those he named as Allan’s Field, Jeaney’s Well Field and William’s Field, all of which correspond to names of slaves mentioned by Farquharson. (Peggs 1957:x-xi) The journal provides insight into some of the crops that were grown, as stated in the preface: “the chief crop of the estate appears to have been Guinea Corn, known elsewhere as sorghum… This was chiefly a subsistence crop grown as food for slaves.” (Peggs, 1957:iv) The journal also mentions growing and selling cotton but only about 12 bales in the time that the journal was written. Aside from those two staple crops, many other cultivated plants were grown on the property:
Next in importance were Pigeon Peas and Indian corn. Fodder for cattle was grown in quantity and was chiefly Guinea grass, often referred to simply as grass. Other crops mentioned include red or cow peas, black-eye peas, yams, sweet potatoes, snap beans, castor oil, cabbage, pumpkins (not actually mentioned but inferred from the name “pumpkin field”) [Peggs, 1957:v]
The journal also reveals that Farquharson grew sage and catnip and raised cattle, sheep and pigs.

The emphasis on subsistence farming and livestock raising may have had to do with the fact that Farquharson arrived in 1803 during the decline of cotton’s role as a cash crop in the Bahamas. “However, in 1794, the chenille attacked the cotton crops of the Bahamas again, and two-thirds of the cotton crop was destroyed. Four years later in 1798, cotton bugs almost demolished the crop, and between 1794 and 1805 cotton exports seriously diminished” (Shepherd 2002:130) Economically, it seems that livestock offered some relief on the Farquharson plantation in the place of cotton. Craton and Saunders state that, “with the decline of cotton, stock animals were the remaining hope for a regular, if small economic return for the Farquharson estate. In the two years 1831-32, only 12 bales of cotton were shipped to Nassau (worth perhaps £200), but at least 24 cattle, 70 sheep, and considerable numbers of pigs and poultry, worth at least twice as much.” (Craton and Saunders 1998:345) Given the population of livestock and the fact that the cattle were free roaming, a considerable amount of work at the plantation was dedicated to erecting barriers to keep livestock out of some areas as is stated in the journal’s preface: “however, this unrestricted roaming of the stock involved much construction of and attention to a diversity of defenses: making walls, stumping walls, making and mending up stump fences, likewise making and mending wood fences and also brush fences." (Peggs, 1957:vii)

As stated previously, the construction and maintenance of stone walls was a labor intensive activity. The journal entries from November 7 through November 9, 1831 suggest being assigned to wall construction could sometimes be seen as a form of punishment:
Monday 7 Nov. Employed 6 hands making wall on the upper side of Harcules field the women weeding pastor in Cato’s field and Alick making Castor-oil – Weather threatening rain but very little fell on the land.
Tuesday 8. Employed all hands in the same way as yesterday.- weather dry – wind about Northeast a very stiff breeze.
Wednesday 9. Employed all hands in the same way as above except Alick gone to wall building as he says the wind blows too hard and the tide does not suit for making oil – weather dry – wind about N.E. a very strong breeze. [Peggs 1957:42]
In a footnote to these entries Deans Peggs elaborates on their implications: “this superstitious excuse on the part of the slave, I think is considered rather a joke by the master who puts him to wall building, which is much harder work.” (Peggs 1957:42) Another important observation to take away from this is that Farquharson was indeed constructing walls to delineate separate fields even into the 1830’s, well after he had first settled his plantation. In addition, this description provides an example of the size of the work force that would be tasked with wall construction, in this case six men. In a later entry, Farquharson mentions that the Harcules field is being used for growing corn, further clarifying the practice of walling in agricultural space and in this case limiting that enclosed space to a particular crop.

GIS maps made from satellite images show a large set of walls forming two rectangular enclosures over a large stretch of the plantation grounds as well as one stand-alone wall. Of the two enclosures on the GIS map, one is completely enclosed, although a gate for human entry would probably be too small to be detected by the satellite, and one is mostly enclosed except for a large break on the south-west side. Excavation and site mapping conducted for this report was done in the area of these satellite visible walls, so it is possible that there are even more internal divisions beyond what have been mapped that were too overgrown with vegetation or too short to be observed in a GIS map.

It is next important to compare and contrast the landscape of Prospect Hill to the landscapes and social realities of other plantations of the period. Although there are not a lot of readily available resources analyzing field enclosures, there are some and even more texts containing a discussion of plantation landscape as well as maps of the plantation as a whole. Since the focus here will be on how the physical landscape reflects and influences the social landscape, these references are still valuable aid in understanding the social conditions at the Farquharson plantation. A good place to start for this comparison is the region that is now most identified with plantation slavery in the American mindset. The South Eastern American colonies and later U.S. states have become the focal point of the Plantation system in the perception of many in the Western world. These slavery based plantations found considerable economic success and helped to fuel the international trade in slaves West Africa. The landscape of these plantations was often structured to convey a socio-economic message and there was an emphasis on establishing a sense of order and hierarchy. As John Vlach states;
Guiding these planters in setting up their estates was a highly rational formalism. The world was, in their view, suitably improved only after it was transformed from its chaotic natural condition into a scene marked by a strict, hierarchical order. The planters’ landscapes were laid out with straight lines, right-angle corners, the axes of symmetry, their mathematical precision being considered as a proof of individual superiority. [Vlach 1993:5]

The primary plantations of the American south produced tobacco, cotton, sugar and rice, and there were landscape aspects that were particular to each type. For instance, in discussing the sugar plantations of southern Louisiana, Vlach describes the layout: “along the shore of Bayou Teche, plantations developed by Anglo-Americans were laid out in what geographer John B. Rehder calls a block plan. On these estates, the planter’s mansion, farm buildings, and slave houses were all clustered closely together in a grid like pattern.” (Vlach 1993:6) By contrast the large rice plantations had a different landscape structure due to their higher number slave populations:
Some of the largest plantations of the antebellum era were located along the Rice Coast of South Carolina and Georgia. Not only were the landholdings of these estates extensive, but the average number of slaves on a rice-producing plantation was slightly more than two hundred. Rice plantations were thus distinguished by the great number of slave dwellings required to house such large work forces. Frequently set miles away from the planter’s residence, the quarters were sizable villages where slaves developed social routines of their own. [Vlach 1993:187]

Slaves who lived on plantations where the planter chose to place the slave quarters farther from the main house had somewhat more of an ability to make their own choices in regards to domestic life:
However, because their more modestly constructed slave quarters frequently were located some considerable distance from the planter’s residence, slaves also had ample opportunity to take control of many domestic concerns. Beyond their master’s immediate scrutiny, at the margins of the plantation and in the thickets beyond its boundary lines, slave created their own landscape. [Vlach 1993:13]
Although this arrangement was deemed necessary because of the sizable slave population needed to operate these rice plantations, many other plantations of North American preferred to keep their enslaved workers closer to the main house as there was a concern for keeping a close eye on their captive work force, as Vlach explains: “Plantation owners were concerned about the behavior of their slaves and thus wanted them close at hand.” (Vlach 1993:186) A good example of this concept is described by Robert K. Fitts in his analysis of slavery on the plantations of Narragansett, Rhode Island. While the plantation owners of the South housed their slaves in separate quarters at varying degrees of distance from the manor house, keeping the housing structure closer if they wanted to monitor them, the plantations in Narragansett housed slaves in their own homes.

By quartering slaves within their own houses, the Narragansett planters were able to monitor much of their slaves’ behavior. This control may have discouraged acts of resistance and minor transgressions of discipline and helped planters discover these acts when they occurred. It also denied slaves a place to speak openly among themselves and practice African-American rituals. [Ellis et al. 2010:212]
Many plantations of the South also had the slave quarters placed close to the main house, though sometimes this was not just for the purpose of maintaining observation of the slaves but was also an aspect of displaying the planter’s wealth.
Big House slave quarters were generally set behind or to the side of the planter’s residence, where they would not contend with it visually. Even if they were visible they were obviously smaller subordinate buildings. However on some estates, such Tuckahoe or Howards Neck in Virginia, an ensemble of service structures including several slave quarters, might flank the roadway leading to the mansion. Although the usual commotion and goings on in the slave yard may have distracted some visitors from giving their full attention to the prospect presented by the main house, it may in fact have been the planter’s intention to impress them first with the number of slaves he owned before they took in the view of his residence. [Vlach 1993:21

Whatever the reasons for this closer arrangement for the close arrangement of slave quarters to manor houses there are a number of examples of this setup. Maps of the Uncle Sam sugar plantation in Louisiana show that the slave houses were arranged just three-hundred feet south of the manor house along the main road leading into the plantation. (Vlach 1993:220-221) The map of Tuckahoe plantation in Virginia has the slave houses aligned in a similar manor along the main roadway to the north-west of the big house. (Ellis et al. 2008:124) In both of these cases, the slave houses are to the front of the manor and in full view of it. Other examples of closely aligned slave quarters are less visible to visitors, located towards the back of the main house but still in observable by the planters, as portrayed by the map of Thornhill plantation in Alabama. At Thornhill the Slave houses are just over three-hundred from the back of the manor to the north. (Vlach 1993:214), although in this case only some of the plantation’s 156 slaves lived here: “about a third of them lived in the quarters behind the Big House. Others were kept at two other locations on the plantation close to the cotton fields.” (Vlach 1993:190)

Another example is the Fairfield mansion in Virginia:
Another commonality between Fairfield and other regional quarter sites is the configuration of the slave dwellings and related landscape manipulation. Located close to the manor house, the Fairfield quarter area was at least partially visible to those approaching the house through the formal, northern entrance. [Clites 2009:12]
This last example also demonstrates that this was a common feature of the region. Interestingly, while research turned up examples of slave quarter and main house arrangements that varied from miles of separation to slaves living in the same home as the owners there is only one example that is similar to the arrangement at Farquharson’s plantation where the slave quarters are separated from the main house by the agricultural fields. The map of Green Hill plantation in Virginia shows fields and pastures lands separating the main house from the area called lower town along the Staunton River where the eighty-one slaves were housed. (Vlach 1993:204)

While the landscape of the plantations of North America may be the one most readily identified with the institution of slavery, the islands of the West Indies had their own extensive trade in slaves and cash crop plantations that were fueled by this trade. Since Farquharson's settlement was part of this Caribbean plantation system it is necessary to look for comparisons to other plantations of the region. Three of the main types of plantation in the Caribbean are sugar, cotton and salt raking. Of these, one of the most difficult forms is the sugar plantation in which the intensity of labor differs considerably from cotton production:

As Michael Craton demonstrated , cotton production even before the introduction of Eve’s gin was far less labor intensive than sugar. Sugar cultivation was a highly capitalized industry, being both an agricultural and manufacturing enterprise…Sugar required one enslaved person for every two acres as compared to one slave for every five to six acres of cotton production. [Shepherd 2002:134]
According to Gail Saunders the large labor forces at sugar plantations were organized utilizing gang labor, whereas task labor was the norm on cotton plantations as was practiced on Farquharson’s (Shepherd 2002:135) Saunders states that “the Bahamas, like Belize, was not a true plantation colony. It never grew sugar commercially.” (Shepherd 2002:130)

However, there were extensive sugar plantations in other parts of the Caribbean such as Galways plantation on Montserrat. Maps of Galways show the manor house production buildings and sizable slave village all located clustered together. (Farnsworth 2001:183) Lydia M. Pulsipher and Conrad Goodwin describe the arrangement of slave buildings in relation to the other buildings. “At Galways, as on most plantations, the enslaved Africans lived in a settlement near the sugar works and within sight of the great house.” (Farnsworth 2001:191) This centralized layout was seen on sugar plantations elsewhere in the Caribbean, including the island of St. Thomas in the Dutch West Indies: “alongside the plantation buildings, the negro huts stand close together, resembling a little village.” (Ellis et al. 2008:102) A landscape image of one of these plantations on St. Thomas shows the slave houses and other plantation buildings lined up on either side of the great house. (Ellis et al. 2008:103)

Equally important to understanding how Farquharson’s plantation compares to other plantation landscapes of the period is understanding how it compares to other plantations from the Bahamas and its neighbors on San Salvador. Researcher Kathy Gerace conducted excavations at three plantations on San Salvador, including Farquharson’s, as well as Sandy Point and Fortune Hill. Of the layout of manor houses and slave buildings, Gerace states,
The layout of the communities or plantations reveals the nature of the slave cotton economy and the social organization on which it was based. The slave houses were always located at a distance away from the main house area, with the industrial buildings being near the plantation owner’s home [Gerace 1982:221]

The two plantations other than Farquharson’s had their slave quarters placed at considerable distance from the main house. At Sandy Point, Gerace says “Twelve of these houses were located on the same ridge as the main house, but were located half a mile away.” (Gerace 1982:220) and, with regards to Fortune Hill, she notes “these are located over a mile distance from the main house area. They are along a ridge but one at a much lower elevation than the main houses.” (Gerace 1982:220) Gerace does mention that all of these plantations had piled stone walls “these walls served several purposes, some being property boundary walls, some enclosed small areas which probably held animals, while others delineated various fields.” (Gerace 1982:221) GIS mapping shows a far larger and more complex system of walls at the Fortune Hill estate creating numerous enclosed spaces of various sizes and shapes. On the other hand, no wall structures are visible at Sandy Point, but, since this area now has the highest concentration of primary roads, it is possible that the walls are no longer there.

Other plantations on San Salvador that have been excavated are the Kerr Mount and Polly Hill estates where research was conducted by Doctors Baxter and Burton. At Kerr Mount which is a much smaller plantation than the others discussed, there were only four buildings none of which seems to be a main house or slave quarters. (Baxter and Burton 2008) There were wall structures here both to enclose the buildings and fields:
Kerr Mount is defined by a perimeter wall that runs along the northern, southern, and western sides of the yard containing the main structures (Figure 2). The eastern side of the plantation yard was left open, the steep ridge may have served as a sufficient barrier or perhaps a complete wall was not considered aesthetically necessary. [Baxter and Burton 2008:25]
Aside from the wall enclosing the yard there are field walls located to the north,
The area just to the north/northeast, in contrast, was a well-planned area for animal husbandry with four well-defined fields. No other fields like these were found outside the wall to the south, and this area seems to have been the focal point for small-field agriculture and animal pens on the property. [Baxter and Burton 2008:27-29]
Another feature of these fields is that their walls had well-constructed gates, something not found in the walls mapped at Farquharson’s plantation.

The second plantation excavated by Jane Baxter and John Burton that will be analyzed is Polly Hill plantation. Similar to Kerr Mount, the main buildings were enclosed by a piled stone wall, “Much of the landscape at Polly Hill can be attributed to the plantation’s initial construction. The planter defined inner and outer yard areas and located the inner yard, including his Manor House, Kitchen, Work Buildings, and Domestic Slave Structures within a defining dry-rock wall.” (Baxter and Burton 2006:165) The walls of the inner yard area were in a square shape with some smaller square and rectangular enclosures around it. From these central wall areas were a number of long walls extending out in different directions that delineated fields. These walls were too extensive to be completely mapped:
In the outer ring of the plantation were a series of fields, laid out to the north, west, and south. Although we were unable to follow any of these field walls completely, the south walls extend to the Storr Lake prehistoric site, more than a mile to the south. These fields would have been the focus of the initial cash crop, cotton, and foodstuffs for the slaves, Indian and guinea corn, during the early plantation period. Between the fields and the inner yard were a series of other enclosures that defined spaces that were agricultural, but more directly related to the life of the planter. To the west, a long, narrow field was created that may have originally been intended to serve as a kitchen garden; to the south there was a series of small fields, either for slave use or for animal pens. [Baxter and Burton 2006:166]
Again, a feature here that was not found on the walls at Farquharson’s was clear points of entrance to many of the enclosures. In addition, there seems to be an orderly manner to the layout of these walls and fields with everything emanating from the central point that is the inner yard.

It would seem that bulk of the walls at Farquharson’s plantation were erected to delineate agricultural fields and to prevent livestock from accessing those fields. The large number of free roaming cattle possessed by the Farquharson estate made it necessary to restrict access to the fields for both cash and provisioning crops. Aside from defending the fields from livestock access, these walls served to demark separate fields. The Farquharson plantation had numerous separate fields growing a wide variety of crops, so each of these fields required its own set of stone walls to isolate it from neighboring fields of different crops. By 1831, Charles Farquharson had at least one field for the cultivation of cotton. However, the majority of the fields were dedicated to provision farming, growing food for him and his slaves. In addition to the numerous fields that could be considered belonging to the planter, there were also a number of fields allotted for slave use so they could grow some of their own provisions. In fact, the one field that was found still to have traces of a cultivatable plant contained Life Leaf, a bush medicine plant, suggesting a possible Afro-Bahamian use of that field. Although the walls mapped for this study did not have any gates or obvious entrances, it is probable, by comparing them to the walls of neighboring plantations Polly Hill and Kerr Mount, that there were at least some locations that had gateways built into the walls. Of the fully enclosed sections observed, it may be that workers were intended to merely climb over the walls or that these sections contained at one point features known as stiles. “A bridge stile, a wedge-shaped mass of stone or dirt on each side so a person can walk up and over.” (Thorson 2005:80) While no obvious evidence of this feature was found at Farquharson’s, there were some sections of collapse that may have been the location of these stiles but this is impossible to prove.

What does this section of field wall tell us about the socio-economic atmosphere of Farquharson’s plantation? With the slaves’ houses set at some distances from the main house and plantation work buildings, the large section of mapped, walled-in agricultural field formed a sort of boundary line between the slaves and Farquharson. Separated by this field, the slaves had somewhat of an autonomy in their own quarters and from his journal Farquharson seems more concerned with whether slaves are fit to work on any given day than on what they are doing in their off time. Contact with other slave populations was even permitted, as slaves were allowed time off to attend funerals off of the plantation grounds or to leave the plantation for their own reasons on days off. The conditions at Farquharson’s plantation do not match the examples found from slave plantations in North America, which stands to reason as Farquharson had never been involved in the plantation system there. The slaves were not quartered close at hand so that they could be monitored; they were not put on display as a signifier of planter wealth; although they were quartered away from the main house, they were not at the distance of miles like American rice plantations; and, finally, they were not clustered together with the work buildings. In fact, as Craton and Saunders state, “The Farquharson family thus lived at the working hub of their estate, in daily, day-long contact with their slaves but painfully isolated from their fellows.” (Craton and Saunders 1998:342)

While this working hub was located around the Farquharson family, the slaves’ homes were on the other side of fields, and they would only be here while working. This setup also is dissimilar to the slave plantations of other parts of the Caribbean, such as the sugar and coffee plantation where slaves were either clustered with the main house and work areas or in the case of Jamaican coffee plantations lived under the direct supervision of a white overseer. (Delle 1998:132-136) In fact, the closest comparisons seem to come from the other plantations of San Salvador. But even then Farquharson’s estate stands out as it transformed from a cash crop producer to a provisioning farm.

The distant placement of slaves behind the fields could have been symbolic of their position as owned people whose main tie was to the land they were intended to work. The decision to differentiate their living space from the planter’s living space by distance and walls may have been done for socio-economic reasons. But while the purpose for placing the slave houses away from the manor may indeed be, as Kathy Gerace claimed, a symbolic landscape of cotton economy with the slaves kept at a distance from the planters because of their lower station, the separation of planter and slaves by the fields, coupled with the level of interdependence on Farquharson’s plantation, created a level of autonomy that allowed slaves to maintain some cultural identity and even to resist when they disagreed with the owners. As Craton and Saunders point out, “the necessary minimum distance between master and slave was maintained only at the cost of increasing tension and occasional conflict.” (Craton and Saunders 1998:337) This arrangement allowed slaves to maintain some of their own traditions: “those fading survivals of African culture –the songs, stories, fragments of religion, and medicine—that continued to be practiced in the slave quarters, literally behind the masters back.” (Craton and Sanders 1998:343)

“Boundaries stabilize social relationships. Those roughly geometrical enclosed spaces are a way of rebuking the disorder and shapelessness of the natural environment. It is when we find ourselves in a landscape of well-built, well-maintained fences, hedges and walls whether in New England, Europe or Mexico, that we realize we are in a landscape where political identity is a matter of importance.” (Jackson 1984:15) This statement is also true for a community like Farquharson’s estate. Although the layout may have had something to do with the planter’s own intention of establishing political identity, it helped to shape a socio-economic situation where slave maintained their own group identity and where the planter was aware of his own equal dependence on the slaves as they were dependent on him. Possibly one of the most telling examples of this social situation is the following quote: “His invariable practice of referring to his workers not as slaves but—as on a ship or an English farm—as ‘the people’, or ‘the hands’.” (Craton and Saunders 1998:343)

Works Cited:

Baxter, Jane Eva and John D. Burton
2006 DePaul University Excavations at Polly Hill Plantation San Salvador, Bahamas: A Report of the 2006 Field Season and Summary of Three Seasons of Field Research

Baxter, Jane Eva and John D. Burton
2008 DePaul University Excavations at Kerr Mount Plantation, San Salvador, The Bahamas: A Report of the 2008 Field Season

Clites, Elizabeth
2009 Quarters in Comparison: The Fairfield Quarter in a Temporal and Geographical Context. The African Diaspora Archaeology News Letter. March 2009.

Delle, James A.
1998 An Archaeology of Social Space: Analyzing Coffee Plantations in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains. New York, NY: Plenum Press

Ellis, Clifton ed. and Rebecca Ginsburg ed.
2010 Cabin, Quarter, Plantation. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Farnsworth, Paul ed.
2001 Island Lives: Historical Archaeologies of the Caribbean. Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press

Gerace, Kathy
1982 Three Loyalist Plantations on San Salvador, Bahamas. The Florida Anthropologist 35(4) 216-222

Hannah-Smith, Martha
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