History (B.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Jonathan Bryant


During the first half of the nineteenth century, a thriving plantation emerged on Sapelo Island, Georgia. The plantation’s owner was Thomas Spalding (1774-1851), who was one of Georgia’s foremost planters, and yet his substantial contributions to Georgia’s agricultural development have gone unnoticed by most historians. Spalding built a prosperous enterprise around staple crops such as Sea Island cotton; however, he was better known for his experiments with novel crops such as sugar cane, as well as his innovations in the areas of crop rotation and diversification and the successful implementation of tabby as a viable construction material on the Georgia coast. This paper analyzes these areas of Spalding’s career with particular attention given to his extensive writings on the subjects in the leading agricultural journals of the period. Spalding’s accomplishments are many, and this study seeks to shed new light on his most noteworthy agricultural endeavors and to demonstrate that his life and career deserve further investigation by historians.