Joseph Mills At Cedar Point Prior To 1795

Submitted AS IS by:
Descendent, Shirley Joiner Thompson
© 1973, 1999, 2001.

February 25, 1973 to the Jacksonville Historical Society, 3680 Hedrick St., Jacksonville, FL, Attn: Dena Snodgrass and placed in their file at Jacksonville University for historical background of the Cedar Point Plantation. Corrections and additions were made July 8, 1988, and a copy placed in the Bryan-Lang Historical Library, Woodbine, GA.

Note: June 1999
Cedar Point is now a part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve of the National Park Service. The Mills property in Charlton Co., GA (formerly Camden) is today owned by the Varn Timber Co. and is accessible from Hwy. 40 and May Bluff Road near Folkston, GA with permission. SJT.

It was a period of time like no other in the history of this country. The Samuel/Joseph Mills family had a very turbulent, much up-rooting and resettling life. I traced them from Augusta, GA to New Hanover or Burnt Fort, GA. From there to Cumberland Island and then to Cedar Point, FL and back into Camden County, GA. As the others of their generation, they bounded back, overcame or at least surmounted the newest obstacle in their path and plodded on. The Cedar Point property is today privately owned by a New York Company and not open to the public. The old tabby ruins are isolated, overgrown by large cedars, vines and underbrush and guarded by snakes and insects. Oyster shells are scattered in abundance everywhere indicating the site of an Indian midden. The area, only recently opened to traffic by the Dames Point Bridge or the Broward Bridge, is ripe to be over run with development. I have one of the large tabby bricks from the ruins on the mantle of the fireplace in my dining room. The Mills property with family cemetery on the north side of SR 40 almost opposite the Colerain area, is also overgrown and inaccessible behind a fence and locked gate.

Rebellion against England, rebellion against Colonial America, and rebellion against Spain are all a part of the history background of the Cedar Point Plantation on Cedar Creek, Duval County, Florida and the old plastered tabby ruins known today as the Fitzpatrick-Broward Plantation.

A hunger for political and religious freedom and a drive for a better life pushed most of the settlers to the new Colony of America from England. For some who settled in the back country, especially of the Carolinas, Georgia and Virginia, it proved a bitter disappointment. Their needs, pleas and wants were ignored by the Government officials in the Colonial Capitols. By the time of the American Revolution they had become so disenchanted with their new home and government that it is of little wonder that while not being willing to bring themselves to fight for the cause of England, neither could they bring themselves to fight for the cause of the new Republic which had failed to bring to them any of the freedoms for which they had fled the Mother Country. For the Samuel Mills family the break had come much earlier. They were part of the Quaker group who followed Edmund Grey from Augusta, GA to the forbidden land of Guale in the 1750's. Guale was the area between the Altamaha and St. Johns Rivers which had been set aside as the buffer between The Spanish and English Colonies of America and neither country was to establish residence there. The group settled New Hanover some thirty miles up the Satilla River and as many as 300 settlers were supposed to have been part of the group. Samuel Mills Sr. and Jr. signed as commissioners the charter drawn up for New Hanover 3 Feb., 1756. By the first of March, 1769, every settler was gone from New Hanover and Samuel Mills signed a bill of sale with right of redemption for a negro woman named Fann to James Johnston 4 June, 1758. Edmund Grey had been given trading rights on Cumberland Island and many of his followers had removed to Cumberland, and the Mills family was among them.

As war came closer the group became uprooted again. They came to the British territory of Florida to once again begin anew, or to wait out the Revolution as a neutral. Many of the Carolina people made the journey on the sloop "Betsy" from the port of Charleston to Amelia Island or to the port of St. Marys, GA and then into Florida. Many more arrived singly and in parties having traveled through the Cherokee and Creek Nations.

The footsteps of Samuel Mills in this part of his trek are somewhat elusive, but after 1783, the part Cedar Point plays in this period of history is clear and full of the agonies of this family in its quest for "The Good Life." In 1783, Florida was again returned to Spanish rule under the Treaty of Paris. Again these people were faced with the decision of whether to stay and begin a new way of life or to leave and begin over in a new location. The 1783 Spanish census of East Florida shows: "Joseph Mills: Native of (Place omitted) avails of Spanish protection, by writing, to retire, he has a wife, is a farmer, he has two hundred acres of land, which he inhabits, with documents of title, in a place called Cedar Point, he has three negroes and four horses, his father Samuel, lives with him and has one negro." (Extract 1783 Spanish census, photostat #52 with translation taken from "Georgia Genealogical Magazine," #29, p57). (Note: No mention is made of Joseph Mills mother although a plat made by William DeBrahm in 1768 and 1770 shows the property belonging to Ann Mills on Ann Mills Point.)

Parish records at the Cathedral in St. Augustine show on 29 April, 1790, Elizabeth Rachel Mills, daughter of Joseph Mills and Isabel Lean was baptized into the Catholic faith. Another daughter, also named Elizabeth; was baptized 23 May, 1793. 2(Extract Catholic Mission records, St. Augustine with translation by Elizabeth Barnes, St. Augustine.)

On the 15th of February, 1793, Joseph Mills applied to the Spanish Government for another grant of land as result of his family having increased as a result of the birth of his first daughter. He mentions the two hundred acres which he inherited from his father - "Lands which are proper for rearing shack or planting, those which your excellency was pleased to order surveyed for him by decree on the 15th of October, 1790." 3(Extract from Spanish land grants in Florida, trustees Internal Improvement, Tallahassee; Florida) This 1790 date was probable the near date of death of Samuel Mills who is assumed to be buried at Cedar Point.

By the early 1790's most of the English settlers had departed from East Florida, many of them back to England or the Bahamas and Nova Scotia and some to take up residence again in the Colony of America. But some of them had been unable or unwilling to settle their estates and remained in Florida. Among these there was increased open rebellion against Spanish rule. They were not allowed to trade or to visit with their friends and relatives across the St. Marys River. Adhering to the Catholic religion became more than they could bring themselves to-do. Raids on their plantations by Indians and gangs of rustlers and robbers were commonplace. (East Florida 1783-1785, Documents by Joseph Lockey, p 544, letter from Alexander Semple to Samuel Elbert on Cumberland Island, GA 18 May, 1785.) In 1794, Daniel William Lane of the Plantation Egan on the St. Johns and father-in-law of Joseph Mills, and his son William Lane were named rebels against the Spanish government and the Egan plantation confiscated and auctioned off to a Spanish soldier. Shortly thereafter, Joseph Mills and another son-in-law, George Tillet were added to the rebel list, but the Spanish were unable to locate the Mills property. (Extract East Florida Papers, P. K. Yonge Library, Gainesville and the Library of Congress, Washington, D. C., 1795, Document #l, reel #l29 with translation taken from GEORGIA, FLORIDA FRONTIER 1793-1796, by Richard K. Murdock, pp 105-107)

The Joseph Mills property at Cedar Point consisting of 440 acres was seemingly confiscated by William Fitzpatrick, who already owned adjoining property, in 1795. Joseph Mills relocated his family into Camden County, GA, apparently in the Centreville, Coloeraine (sic) area. The WPA records of the deed for William Fitzpatrick show Joseph Mills, rebel. However the translation of the records kept by the Trustees of Internal Improvement in Tallahassee do not use the work "rebel." 6 Br 7(Spanish Land Grants for William Fitzpatrick, Trustees of Internal Improvement Tallahassee.) That he was a rebel, however, cannot be denied, and the footprints he left in the sands of Cedar Point are clear and yet very clouded. Who was the architect and builder of these old ruins? If built before 1795, they would clearly be the handiwork of Joseph Mills and/or his father Samuel. After 1795, they would have been built by William Fitzpatrick or even the later owners, the Broward family. Only an archeological study will tell. Whichever, we can only hope that these things that seemed so elusive to Joseph Mills and his ancestors - their dreams of a better life, for political freedom and the precious right to worship their God in a manner of their own choosing - were finally realized as he made his final footprints in the "Sandhills of Camden."

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