Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation
by Amy Hedrick

Friends of Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation
official website

On the fringes of the Altamaha River a society all its own could be found not unlike that of St. Simons Island. This community brought together families of two different counties, those of Glynn and McIntosh.

Plantations such as Butler Island, Altama, Hopeton, Elizafield, Grantly, Evelyn, New Hope, Broadfield, and Hofwyl, owned by the Butlers, Kings, Coupers, Grants, Brailsfords, Troups, and Dents, to name a few.

Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation was nurtured over generations, starting with William Brailsford and his son-in-law James McGilvray Troup, and today retains its majestic beauty and history, a step back in time.

This area was fraught with turmoil long before the English arrived. Battles were fought between Native Indians, the Spanish, the English, and anyone laying claim to the lands after each battle. By 1763 a royal proclamation was issued annexing these lands to the colony of Georgia, but they lay fallow while everyone continued to fight for their rights to own the land. Only a handful of men started plantations before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. Not until after the war was over, did the new Americans trickle into these swampy, marshy lands to cultivate a new future.

Families such as the McIntosh clan, Henry Laurens, and Jonathan Bryan had already established homes or were trading in land transactions before and after the war. Upon his death, Henry Laurens’ Broughton Island may have been purchased in whole or in part by William Brailsford.

William was the son of Samuel [1728-1800] & Susan (Holmes) Brailsford, born around 1760 and raised mostly in England; however, Samuel retained many of his Charleston business ties which may have brought William back to the Americas.

William married in June of 1786 to Maria Heyward born about 1769 and raised amongst the rice-planting aristocracy of South Carolina. By 1803 he moved many of the Heyward family slaves down to Broughton in order to start a rice plantation, all the while thinking the management was left in capable hands as he lived the life of an absentee owner in South Carolina.

Birthplaces of the children show the movements of the family over the years. Samuel was born about 1788 in Charleston, then Elizabeth Jane around 1790 in McIntosh. William and Camilla were born in McIntosh, the last known child, Maria Eugenia, was born in Charleston.

The hurricane of 1804 all but ruined the Broughton Island Plantation. Over 70 slaves were lost, and the negligence of the overseer’s management ruined William’s prospects of living the high life in Charleston.

William removed his family to the island living there for only a short time, as the remoteness of the island proved to be unsafe.

The Broadface tract owned by the McIntosh family was up for sale in 1806 and William Brailsford bought one third of the lower tract and rechristened it Broadfield. It is rumored that this tract was so successful in producing rice that the “Broadfield Rice” listed on the South Carolina market, acquired its name from the Brailsford fields.

Four years later, on the 25th of November, William Brailsford died on St. Simons Island, the land was to pass to the next generation and a new family name.


Camilla Brailsford, the daughter of William & Maria, married James McGilvray Troup in 1813 or 1814 according to family history. James was born in 1786 to George & Catherine (McIntosh) Troup in Liberty County, Georgia.

To this union were born: Maria Heyward [died young], James [died young], Catherine Augusta [died young], Matilda Brailsford, Daniel Heyward Brailsford, Ophelia, Celia, Hannah Heyward, Septima [died young], and James Robert Troup.

The Troups lived life as any plantation family did, winters on the land, summers “abroad”, which for the Troups was at Baisden’s Bluff in McIntosh County.

The Broadfield tract was half owned by Camilla’s brother, Daniel Heyward Brailsford, who, in 1833, was murdered by an overseer he had recently discharged. Jane Martin Leake (Spaulding) Brailsford, his widow, did not want to keep the Broadfield tract, as she was happier at Sutherland’s Bluff; therefore James Troup had no other choice but to buy the property in order to keep it in the family.

The nearby New Hope Plantation, owned by Henry Laurens, was sold by his heirs to John G. Bell in 1829, whose wife was Maria Eugenia Brailsford. Both Bells died in 1838 without issue, leaving the land to the Bell family, it eventually came back to the Troups.

Dr. James M. Troup died nine years later leaving a massive amount of debt, instructing his executors to pay all his debts without breaking up the Broadfield lands. He died owning over 7300 acres, two tabby homes, one wooden house, 357 slaves, and over $70,000 worth of debts.

After 1850, Daniel Heyward Brailsford Troup, son of James & Camilla, took over management of the land at a salary of $750 annually, and like their father before them, he and his brother James Robert were both doctors.

By 1856 the land was being divided and by 1858 the divisions were made official by deeds. Broadfield & New Hope were divided into three portions. The largest and most northerly tract was comprised mainly of the Broadfield lands and held jointly by James Robert, Matilda, and Celia Troup. The center of the property and the northern portion of New Hope became the property of Ophelia Troup and her husband George C. Dent. The lower and third division was deeded to Daniel H.B. Troup.

The husband of Hannah Heyward Troup, Charles Manigault Morris, who died during the estate settlement, agreed to accept money and slaves as his portion. In addition to these divisions, the Troup heirs also received one sixth of the McIntosh County lands owned by Dr. James McGilvray Troup.


Ophelia, daughter of James & Camilla Troup, was born on 20 January 1827 and married on 22 November 1847 to George Columbus Dent at the Broadfield home. George was born 1 May 1822 and the son of John Hubert Dent who died when George was no more than 2 years old. His mother, Anne Elizabeth (Horry) Dent took them to live at their Cedar Hill plantation near Darien where she spent the rest of her life.

George and his new bride spent their first married years living at Cedar Hill and upon his mother’s death in 1856, the Dents moved to Broadfield and settled Hofwyl. Christened by George Dent who picked the name in honor of the school “Hofwyl” in Switzerland where he was educated.

The Dents were parents of James, George, Frederick Preble, Charles Morris, Brailsford, George Reginald, John Sidney, and an infant who died at birth. Only four of these children lived to adulthood.

The home standing at Hofwyl today was rumored to have been built around 1851 and was originally built as an overseer’s cottage. In 1858 the Broadfield home was supposedly ruined by fire, so the family moved into the Hofwyl home. This has always been the local story, however no documentation has been found to support this story.

Charles S. Wylly, a neighbor and friend, believed that the house was built for the Dent family and not as an overseer’s cottage, and Ophelia Dent believed that the house wasn’t finished until after the Civil War, but she may have been confused by repairs being done after the war. Whatever the case, it can be assumed that the house was being constructed no later than 1860.

War again found its way to the Georgia coast; this war was for freedom too, shadowing the ideals of the Revolutionary War. Oppression from different factions in different forms culminated into a Civil War dividing families and friends, separating some indefinitely.

George Dent joined the Confederacy in order to protect his home by forming and commanding the Glynn Rangers, part of the 4th Georgia Calvary. To further secure his family, he removed them, along with the Troups, to Tebeauville, Ware County.

According to one family story, the slaves did not bother to leave during the war, probably due to the remoteness of their location in Ware County. When told in 1865 that they were now free to leave, they wandered off in groups, taking their possessions with them. When the men came back to retrieve their families and move them back to Hofwyl and Broadfield, they found that the majority of their former slaves were back in their cabins.

Upon their return the task of salvaging the property and crops fell to the Troup children, Matilda becoming the backbone of the operation. After the war rice crops were no longer in high demand, and finding the labor force they had so heartily relied upon refusing to work for free, many plantation owners lost everything. It took the economy almost 20 years to right itself, by then only a few families pulled themselves out of debt.


The Hofwyl-Broadfield lands passed on to James Troup Dent, son of George & Ophelia. Through he and his wife’s careful and meticulous management the entire property, with the exception of part of New Hope, was secured to the family once again.

On 30 November 1880, James Dent and Miriam Cohen were married. Her parents were Solomon Cohen & Miriam Gratz Moses and her aunt, Rebecca Gratz, was rumored to have been the muse for Sir Walter Scott’s character Rebecca in his novel “Ivanhoe”.

Miriam Dent worked hard with her husband, the majority of the land transactions were in her name, and by 1885 Hofwyl and in 1895 Broadfield, were returned to her ownership free and clear of debt.

The children born to them were Gratz, James [died young], Miriam, and Ophelia Dent.

James T. Dent was a bit of a scientist, as was the curious talent of many plantation masters, and he began experimenting with the connection of malaria and mosquitoes. Come 1903, instead of removing the family to their summer home the Parsonage at Carteret, he screened Hofwyl’s windows and fireplaces and kept the family home. These fireplace screens are still in use today.

Hofwyl-Broadfield was divided into thirds by Miriam upon her death in 1931. According to her will one third each was to go to daughters Miriam and Ophelia and the final third to their brother Gratz during his lifetime. When Gratz died five years later, his share reverted back to the sisters. Miriam died in 1953 leaving Ophelia Dent the sole owner of Hofwyl-Broadfield consisting of 1,268 acres of land by the time of her death in 1973.


The slave community on Hofwyl-Broadfield was undoubtedly large and prosperous.  From known history the cottages were located in the area that now has Hwy. 17 running through.  Just on the on the west side of Hwy. 17 is the slave cemetery, sometimes called Petersville, but generally known as Broadfield.  Further down Petersville Road is another cemetery known as Freedman's Rest, where some of the people and descendants of Hofwyl-Broadfield are buried.

Two more family cemeteries exist in this area, New Hope or Marietta, and Elizafield.  The fact that the slave inventory was compiled just before the Civil War, is a great help for those trying to research their family histories, as many of these people will show up in the 1870 census living close by each other and still at or around Hofwyl-Broadfield, New Hope, Elizafield, etc.  Today, many of the descendants are still living in the area.


The last of the property was left to the Georgia Historical Commission and formal acceptance of Hofwyl Plantation by the state of Georgia took place on 20 November 1974.  Before this, many renovations and additions were made to the house and grounds.  Rice was still being cultivated as recent as 1913, then Gratz Dent started a dairy and maintained this operation with his sisters up until 1942.  The home was left as is, with the original furnishings, the outside has been slightly altered by adding porches and out buildings.

Hofwyl-Broadfield is now a State Park, the grounds and house can be toured at specified times throughout the year.  To learn more about Hofwyl and other State Parks:  http://www.gastateparks.org/

 

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