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  • Kingsley PlantationKingsley Plantation Jacksonville, Florida
    The Kingsley Plantation or the Zephaniah Kingsley Plantation Home and Buildings was the former estate located near Jacksonville, Florida, and named after one of its first owners, who lived here for 25 years. It is situated at the northern end of Fort George Island by Fort George Inlet and is now part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve that is taken care of by the National Park Service. It originally held a 1000 acres; although most of it has returned to nature, with the main house and outbuildings sitting on 60 acres. There was evidence of a pre-Columbian Timucua existence, as well as the remains of a Spanish mission called San Juan del Puerto. It was under British rule in 1765, and the plantation that began here had many owners while the state was given back to Spain and then back to the United States. Kingsley was the longest owner, and his family was a polygamous and interracial one that was controlled by and resistant to the important issues of slavery and race. Before being transferred to the state in 1955, freed slaves and numerous private owners lived there. The Park Service took it over in 1991, with the most important items being the owner's house, a marvelous structure that was built between 1797 and 1798, an attached kitchen house, barn and remnants of 25 anthropologically important slave cabins that were preserved after the Civil War. The foundations of the house, kitchen, barn and slave quarters had been made of cement tabby, which enabled the buildings to survive so many years.  Tabby is made of lime, sand, crushed oyster shells and water, used during colonial times because of the lack of clay that could be used for bricks. It is a very durable substance that is still standing today. The sites around the slave quarters has been a valuable archeological find, that has allowed researchers to get a better understanding of the life and traditions of these early people that had just arrived in this country, and put into a life of misery and misunderstandings.  Kingsley was born in England, educated in London and moved to South Carolina with his family; and then becoming a slave trader and shipping potentate, thus giving him the perfect opportunity to travel. He came to Fort George Island in 1814, leasing it, and finally purchasing it in 1817. He owned numerous plantations near the lower St. John's River, near what it today the city of Jacksonville, as well as Drayton Island in central Florida; two of these would be run by his wife, part-time, former slave Anna Jai, whom he had bought in Cuba when she was 13. He freed her in 1811, as well as the three children they had together. Although a slave trader, he was extremely protective of his family, which eventually included three more former slave women. After much study, he was described as a man of complex paradoxes, both proud of his success as a slaveholder, and devoted to his family. He published a defense of the tradition in 1828, stating it was a needed condition, beneficial to owner and slave and the economy. He was appointed by President James Monroe to the Florida's Territorial Council in 1823, where Kingsley attempted to get the rights of free people under Spanish control to be defined by the council, but after seeing they wouldn't, he resigned. This council then passed laws that forbade the interracial marriages, as well as the rights of free blacks or mixed race children from owning land. Kingsley then sent his wives, children and some slaves to Haiti, which had become a free black republic. He sold his plantation to nephew Kingsley Beatty Gibbs in 1839, and moved many of his slaves to the Haiti plantation, which became indentured servants since slavery was not allowed. He passed on in 1843, and Anna came back to Florida in 1846 to settle an inheritance dispute with some of Kingsley white relatives, but won the case and his holdings in the state became hers and her children. Gibbs sold the Fort George Island plantation in 1852, and moved to St. Augustine.  The island was then passed and purchased by many different people, as the years went by, until 1955, when the Florida Park Service acquired the majority of it and called it the Kingsley Plantation State Historic Site. 

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  • B.E.A.K.S (Birds Emergency Aid and Kare SanctuaryBEAKS Jacksonville, Florida
    The Bird Emergency Aid and Kare Sanctuary can be found on Big Talbot Island; where it specializes in the care and rehabilitation of the state's wild bird population. Here they will nurse pelicans, vultures, seagulls, peacocks, emus, ostriches and eagles back to their best health, where they can be released back into the wild. The sanctuary cares for more than 2000 injured birds and animals every year; which allows visitors the chance to see these amazing birds up closes as they are helped back to their normal selves. Admission is always free, but donations are accepted to help fund the operations of the sanctuary. You need to phone before going since appointments are needed for the tours. Here you can learn firsthand about the dangers that these marvelous creatures face, and the wonderful care that is given to bring them back to full health. As society continues to encroach upon their environments, these birds have more chances to get hurt or injured; some, just by flying around the roads in this state.

January 11, 2011