Hardee House Chiefland

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Pine Hill Plantation | Levy County, Florida | c. 1860

This old Florida home was built by Isaac P. Hardee, one of the earliest settlers to this area. The community surrounding it came to be known as Hardeetown in his honor, but over time, the house became abandoned. Its future was uncertain until someone relocated the house to be preserved, but those efforts have stalled and again, it is unclear what might come of Pine Hill Plantation.

Isaac Pearson Hardee came from Horry County, SC in 1839 and was one of the earliest settlers to this area.

Isaac Pierson Hardee

Isaac P. (I.P.) Hardee was born in Horry County, SC in 1817. He was descended from a Revolutionary War soldier and his family was well-established in the Carolinas. As a young man, he traveled to the wild Florida frontier in 1839 to fight in the Second Seminole Indian War (1835-1842). He entered as a drummer and was discharged a year later as a fifer. According to family historical records, after departing the military he spent the early 1840s looking for a location to build a plantation and for a wife.

A Runaway Wedding

Isaac ended up back in Florida after the war where he was able to collect land grants for his service in the war. In 1844, he married Esther Ann Bryant and they began their family but the family legend about their wedding day can’t be passed over without mention. According to the story, Esther Ann Bryant and Isaac had courted for some time, but after the couple had a disagreement, her parents instead promised Esther to be a well-to-do widower in Lake City, Florida. Isaac was overtaken by the thought of his beloved marrying another man, so, on the day of her wedding to the other man, Isaac traveled from his home in Tallahassee to Lake City with the intention of stealing her away. He brought with him enslaved individuals who helped him in carrying away Ms. Bryant. To add insult to injury, Isaac and company stole all of the food that had been prepared for her wedding that day. Esther and I.P. Hardee were married on March 30, 1844 and they made their first home in Tallahassee, where I.P. owned and operated a hotel. The Hardees had two children there.

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Sometime between 1847 and 1850, the couple relocated to Levy County where they established a new home along the Suwannee River at Clay Landing- the location of a stagecoach depot. Isaac served as Levy County Sheriff and County Clerk from 1857 until his death.

Their new home was a two-story log cabin, constructed of hand-hewn logs and chinked with clay where Esther would have 4 more children. But tragedy struck in February 1860 when the Hardees lost their son who was only one day old. Esther followed him in death just 5 days later on March 1, 1860.

Susan Tyner Bryant

Isaac eventually married Susan Tyner Bryant, his widowed sister-in-law. and within a year of their marriage, he purchased additional land. They began construction of a new house, designed by Susan, that they would come to be called Pine Hill Plantation where they had 4 more children, bringing their combined children to eleven.

Susan Tyner Bryant Hardee, 1834-1908. Second wife of Isaac P. Hardee.

Pine Hill Plantation

“Pine Hill” was the first home in this area to be made of boards, brought downriver from Ellaville, rather than the typical hand-hewn logs. With its glass windows and double porches, it must have been considered a stately plantation mansion compared to the early pioneer cabins being built in the area at the time. The two-story, eight-room home was completed in 1861.

Pine Hill Plantation. During an earlier time, there must have been a number of pine trees in the area, but today, there are none to be seen.

Nearby were the stables and barns and the kitchen was in a separate building to the northeast of the main house. It features a high-pitched roof, a central fireplace, and extensive porches. Equal space divides the house down the middle. It once rested on heart pine blocks that were still in use until it was relocated in later years.

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According to the Levy County Historical Society, the same year Isaac Hardee built his new milled lumber plantation home, the Methodist Church built a church “on the front doorsteps” of the Hardee plantation house. A  cemetery already existed next to the church, where Hardee’s father-in-law had been buried in 1860. This cemetery sometimes is referred to as the Methodist Cemetery, but more commonly as the Isaac P. Hardee Cemetery.

It is now the resting place of Isaac, his wife, their children, and other relatives and descendants. Isaac’s first wife, Esther Ann Bryant Hardee was buried on the family land at Clay Landing along the Suwannee River, but a flood later washed away many of the graves and unfortunately, Esther’s stone was never found.

The Civil War

Leading up to the Civil War, the Hardee land holdings extended for miles to include most of the land that is now the town of Chiefland, but before Chiefland was established, a settlement known as Hardeetown developed surrounding the Hardee plantation. Besides the hotel he still owned in Tallahassee, Hardee ran a cotton plantation at Pine Hil, and in the year before the Civil War, he reported that he enslaved 12 people who helped to make the plantation profitable [1]. Back then, cotton produced along the Suwannee River was shipped downriver to Cedar Key and then loaded onto ships and then onto rail cars to the northern and European markets.

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During the Civil War, a skirmish was fought at Clay Landing and according to the  Levy County Archives Committee, it was an encounter between local militia forces and an enslaved man named Jerry Goldwire who led a small contingent of Union soldiers armed with small artillery pieces. They succeeded in their mission to free enslaved people in the area and after the war, Goldwire remained in the area and married a former Hardee slave.

Pine Hill Plantation Today

Isaac and Susan Hardee remained in this house until Isaac’s death in 1879, and then the home was passed down for several generations. Eventually, it was abandoned, but in 2016, the house was loaded on a flatbed trailer and relocated nearby to be restored. You can read more about that process here.

The Hardee House was loaded on a flatbed truck and relocated nearby in 2016. Photo courtesy of Jeff M. Hardison.

By inspecting the house today, compared with a photo of it taken at the close of the 19th century,  one can see that changes have been made. The porch railings and posts are no longer the fancy gingerbread style they once were. The house has obviously been expanded, and some windows facing the front porch have been turned into doors. The roofline is no longer as steep but actually looks more like the Cracker-style tin roof.

The current owners have plans to restore it, but locals report that progress has stalled on the home and its current condition is featured below.

Hardee House at its new location- photo taken in May 2023, shared courtesy of Amber Rich.

Citations

  • [1] The National Archives in Washington DC; Washington DC, USA; Eighth Census of the United States 1860; Series Number: M653; Record Group: Records of the Bureau of the Census; Record Group Number: 29

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4 Comments

  1. This a beautiful story I am a descendant of Issac P. This is true except for the part of him adding insult to injury…he didn’t steal the food… only his true love.

  2. Nice story. I’m always fascinated about life in that era. In my opinion not keeping the gingerbread style was a mistake. The “redo” made the home plain & unappealing.

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