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March 17, 2014

Hibernia Plantation History – Clay County Florida

Hibernia Plantation History - Clay County Florida

Hibernia Plantation History

Hibernia Plantation History

April the 12th of this year will mark the 153rd anniversary of the start of the Civil War and a nice local story at Hibernia Plantation was unfolding.  At that particular time the Fleming family lived in a grand mansion on a 1000 acre estate in Clay County Florida on the St John’s River.

The “great house” was originally a home built in 1856-7 by Colonel Fleming and his wife Margaret.  Fleming’s ancestors have a deep Irish family links on the west side of Hill of Slane in County Meath.  George Fleming (1760-1821) immigrated to St Augustine and for his military service was granted 1000 acres on the west side of the St Johns River from the Spanish for sacrificing his own lands.

“distinguished and extraordinary service, to which he contributed both his property and person in defense of the said province at different periods, sacrificing and abandoning his property, as a faithful subject, worthy of every recompense for his love, fidelity and patriotism”.  

He named his new plantation “Hibernia” which is the latin word for Ireland.  Pretty cool right?  In 1791, he married Sophia Fatio, the daughter of a wealthy Swiss immigrant and his neighbors across the river.  That family owned a 15,000 acre plantation which was named “New Switzerland”.  It’s amazing to see these names still around today.

Hibernia Plantation History

The Fleming’s farmed orange groves and various other crops while raising there children.  The eldest Lewis retained ownership after his fathers horse riding death in 1821.  Lewis married a Cuban and they had three children of there own before his wife passed away.  He also served as a Colonel in the Florida Militia calvary and was wounded during the Seminole War.

Fast forward a bit and Ol’ Lewis remarried Margaret and they had seven more children.  Margaret and her daughters were actually falsely accused of being “Confederate spies” and expelled from Hibernia Plantation by Union troops.  Good Grief….. After the war ended the Fleming’s returned to there home and refurbished it as the “Fleming House Hotel”.  The families grown children operated the hotel as a sportsmen’s dream leading guests on hunting, fishing and boat expeditions until 1922.

The only remains of the original Hibernia Plantation is a family cemetery, private chapel (which serves as a church today) and old photos.  That is where our connection to this amazing story begins as we were contracted to recreate the original house from that old photo into what it may have looked like roughly 150 years ago.  So, we got busy trying to really capture as much of the actual home in a rendering as we could without any obstacles standing in front of it.  This depiction and painting will be around for generations to come as a remembrance of that story.  After we recreated the house we fabricated two sandblasted sign faces which look fantastic.  I have to say this is one of our most rewarding projects in over 25 years.  If you’re ever in the area it’s certainly worth taking a look at.

All the best –

Bobby Hartley

Hibernia Plantation History digital