Age of Jackson

Read about one of the largest plantations in Middle Tennessee, Wessyngton.

Joseph Washington and his son George had a large plantation in Robertson County they called Wessyngton.  At the largest, the Washington family owned more than 13,000 acres of land and 274 slaves. This made them one of the largest slaveholders in the state.
The Washingtons raised at least 250 acres of tobacco in the 1840s and was up to 350 acres by 1860. The tobacco was shipped on flatboats down the Mississippi River and sold in New Orleans. Wessyngton was the largest tobacco producer in the country.
They also grew corn, much of which was distilled into whiskey and sold. There were peach and apple orchards, the fruit of which was made into brandy and vinegar. Between 1835 and 1845, Joseph sold 3,560 gallons of brandy and 593 gallons of port wine.
The plantation was completely self-sufficient. There was a smokehouse, blacksmith shop, cooper’s shop, nurseries, barns for curing tobacco, granaries, chicken houses, grist mill, and a distillery for producing liquor. The blacksmith made the horseshoes, nails, and other iron work. The cooper’s shop produced wagons, plows, and barrels. A brick kiln made bricks used on the plantation and also made enough to sell to others. The sawmill also produced lumber for plantation use and sold lumber to neighbors.
The plantation raised hogs to produce hams and bacon for sale. Wessyngton hams became renowned for their flavor and taste and were sold in restaurants and hotels from New Orleans to Philadelphia.
They ran these various activities with slaves. Slaves were trained as artisans, brick layers, carpenters, painters, blacksmiths, seamstresses, weavers, coopers, and domestic workers. From 1801 through 1843 Joseph and George acquired 141 more slaves in order to expand their operations. The Washingtons, with the exception of two men deemed “troublesome”, did not sell their slaves.
Because of this, Washington slave families were intact. In the 1860 tax list for Wessyngton, there were 27 slave families. Of that number, 21 households had the fathers listed. The other six were headed by widows, single mothers, and unrelated slaves. Five families listed three generations while two had four generations living together.
Most of the Wessyngton slaves were scattered during and after the Civil War. Some left the plantation on their own while others were rounded up by the Union army to use as workers. Others joined the army as soldiers. A few remained on the plantation. After the war, George was able to hold on to his wealth through his investments in stocks and the railroad. He was even more wealthy after the war. Some of his former slaves worked at Wessyngton as paid servants or sharecroppers where they were also joined by white tenant farmers
Most of the Wessyngton land was divided among George's children and then sold off, but the house and immediate property remained in the Washington family until 1983.



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