Butler Island Rice Plantation
THE RICE PLANTATIONS
Near the coast, the fresh-water rivers, such as the Altamaha, are affected by the rise and fall of the tides from the Atlantaic Ocean to about thirty miles inland. This setting made possible the utilization of the flushing effects of fresh and salt water tides for systematic, irrigation purposes, which are necessary for the cultivation of rice. The great watershed of the Altamaha delta between Darien and Glenn County's northern section made possible the development of prosperous rice plantations.
The peak of the rice industry in McIntosh County was reached in the decade of the 1850s. The local plantations along the Altamaha River branches and Cathead Creek west of Darien, accounted for the bulk of the rice being exported from Georgia durng the antebellum period. Pierce Butler and P.M. Nifhringale were the two biggest planters in terms of volume.
One of the largest plantations in the South was the Butler Island Plantation, located just south of Darien, across the Darien River on what is now US Highway 17. The story of the plantation is a fascinating one, beginning in the 1790s, when Major Pierce Butler planted the land on the Altamaha Delta, which provided perfect conditions for growing rice. In the year 1838 the major's grandson, Captain Pierce Butler, who married the famous and beautiful British stage actress Fanny Kemble, arrived at the plantation for a six-month working visit. Kemble, who was not familiar with the reality of slavery, immediately became very opposed to the treatment of the slaves. She penned her feelings and eventually published the notes in a book called Journal of a Resident on a Georgia Plantation, which some say helped persuade the British to oppose slavery and the Civil War. The plantation site is now owned by The Nature Conservancy and the land (excluding the house) is open to the public for picnicking, fishing and birding. Sunsets can be dramatic, as the setting sun creates reflections of brilliant color in the Butler River