by Amy Hedrick
Friends of Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation
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
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,
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
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.
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
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
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.
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,
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: