The Period Slave Garden at Carnton Plantation

The Period Slave Garden at Carnton Plantation
The Period Slave Garden at Carnton Plantation
The Period Slave Garden at Carnton Plantation
The Period Slave Garden at Carnton Plantation
The Period Slave Garden at Carnton Plantation
The Period Slave Garden at Carnton Plantation
The Period Slave Garden at Carnton Plantation
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The Period Slave Garden at Carnton Plantation

With all the Historical significance associated with the Carnton Plantation, those same traditions are carried on with the Period Slave Garden. Before, during and after the Civil War the McGavock family maintained an approximately 350-acre plantation raising crops that included cotton. At the peak of production there were 44 Servants working on the plantation. They were housed in the one of only two, two-story slave quarters remaining in existence in the USA.

The main garden for the McGavock family adjacent to the mansion was planted, maintained, worked and harvested by the slaves. This garden today is one of the most pristine gardens on a plantation in America currently. We as Williamson County Master Gardeners are very fortunate and honored to be a part of this Historical Garden and property steeped in so much tradition and history.

In 2014 the Battle of Franklin Trust decided to recreate a garden in the same manner that the slaves worked in a small plot next to their living quarters to honor their service and the struggles they encountered. Much research was done to find what and how they maintained their small plot. This site was never about being an eye-appealing garden, but a food source garden to grow what they could consume. During that summer a Boy Scout working on one of his merit badges agreed to stack the rocks up to create an above ground garden. Above ground, because being hallowed ground, no digging is allowed on the property to honor the fallen. Soil was brought in to fill the garden, thus the recreation of the Period Slave Garden began.

During the summer of 2014 crops grown in the main garden when harvested, the seeds were taken from them and preserved for the 2015 garden start up. Today everything grown in the garden is an heirloom variety that came from the crops that were of that era, such as Persimmons tomatoes grown by and from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello garden, Calabash tomatoes, Aunt Lou’s Underground Railroad tomatoes that were transported via the under-ground Railroad. Okra from the md 19th Century is grown today as is small amounts of cotton for educational purposes. A few varieties of pepper such as Fish and Bull Nose are still grown as they were during the Civil War era. Most recently an 1850 watermelon was introduced into the garden as an heirloom grown for its superb taste. Broomcorn is grown and brooms are created.

As you work in the garden you can’t help but feel the presence of those who lived and worked there all their lives some growing old, others dying early. You also tend to imagine what it might have been like during one of the most famous battles in Civil War History, to be on that property during the fighting.

Being a Master Gardener and having an opportunity to participate in such history is truly an honor.

- Jack Melnick

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