Dudley Farm gets national recognition, likely growth of local Black history

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Enslaved people who worked at Dudley Farm in western Alachua County will finally get substantial recognition — providing money can be raised to move a house.

A dedication was held at Dudley Farm Historic State Park in Newberry Saturday to recognize its listing on the National Historic Landmark registry.

From left, Sherry DuPree, Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe and Park Manager Dennis Parson grab the plaque to read it as the plaque listing the Dudley Farm Historic State Park as a National Historic Landmark is revealed during the Fall Farm and Cane Festival in Newberry on Saturday. The farm has 18 original buildings and is maintained as a working historical family farm by staff and volunteers. Visitors learned about sugar cane and cooking cane syrup. [Alan Youngblood/Special to the Gainesville Sun]
From left, Sherry DuPree, Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe and Park Manager Dennis Parson grab the plaque to read it as the plaque listing the Dudley Farm Historic State Park as a National Historic Landmark is revealed during the Fall Farm and Cane Festival in Newberry on Saturday. The farm has 18 original buildings and is maintained as a working historical family farm by staff and volunteers. Visitors learned about sugar cane and cooking cane syrup. [Alan Youngblood/Special to the Gainesville Sun]
Helen Saltzgiver has a home on her property that was built by an enslaved African American family that used to work on the Dudley Farm in Newberry. Built by the Perkins family, Saltgiver will donate the home to the Dudley Farm Historic State Park. to help increase awareness of Black history in Alachua County and North Central Florida. [Alan Youngblood/Special to the Gainesville Sun]
Helen Saltzgiver has a home on her property that was built by an enslaved African American family that used to work on the Dudley Farm in Newberry. Built by the Perkins family, Saltgiver will donate the home to the Dudley Farm Historic State Park. to help increase awareness of Black history in Alachua County and North Central Florida. [Alan Youngblood/Special to the Gainesville Sun]

But the bigger news centered on the donation of a house built by members of the formerly enslaved Perkins family built nearby after abolition.

The plan is to move it to the park so it can become a showplace for information on the role of the enslaved at Dudley Farm and the region, said historian Sherry DuPree, who did extensive research for the listing process.

“James and Rebecca Perkins were one of the Jonesville pioneer African American families...The couple owned 40 acres northeast of Dudley Farm where they raised eight children and came from Camden, South Carolina, as enslaved African workers,” DuPree said. “By bringing the house here, it will be used to educate visitors about the lives and accomplishments of African American families during the 19th and 20th centuries.”

The informational displays at the park have glossed over the fact that the place was a plantation run on enslaved labor.

Phillip Benjamin Harvey Dudley and his wife Mary founded the homestead/plantation in 1855. They moved, like many other plantation owners in Alachua County at the time, from South Carolina and brought the enslaved with them.

Dudley was also a slave trader, uprooting enslaved people in South Carolina to sell to plantation owners here.

Family members were later involved in the 1916 Newberry Six lynchings, the extra-judical killing of six area residents by whites that stemmed from allegations over swine theft.

James Dennis was fatally shot. Bert and Mary Dennis, Stella Young, the Rev. Josh Baskin and Andrew McHenry were jailed and then lynched by hanging after a mob got them out of the lockup.

The paltry information about enslavement at Dudley has long rankled Blacks and descendants of the enslaved who still live in the area.

It was also a sore spot with Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe, a Newberry High School teacher who has done more than any local official to move toward truth and reconciliation for Alachua County’s violent racial past.

Marlowe said Saturday he was contacted by Roy Hunt, a retired University of Florida law professor with a specialty in historic preservation, after Hunt read a story this summer in the Gainesville Sun regarding Dudley Farm in which Marlowe was quoted.

“He told me there was one last remaining structure owned by an enslaved person but he didn’t know who owned it or where it was. We did a little bit of research and found the parcel,” Marlowe said. “It happened to be the Saltzgivers, whose children I taught. I sent her a text and said I’d like to talk to you about that little house in your front yard.”

Helen Saltzgiver was at the listing ceremony Saturday and said she and her husband, Phil, bought the property in 2002 in part because she was enamored with the house and a large sycamore tree next to it.

They fixed it up some but built a new house nearby.

“(Marlowe) texted me in the fall out of the blue and said he’d like to talk to me about the residence on the property,” Saltzgiver said. “He said he hoped we would consider donating it or letting them buy it. We went out and looked at it and I just knew it was a done deal. There was no hesitation. Are we going to live there forever? Probably not, and it would be a crime for that building to be torn down.”

Approval was given by the Florida Park Service to move the house to Dudley Farm, though a site has yet to be determined. A committee has been formed to raise the estimated $75,000 through grants and donations for the needed surveys, prep work and move.

More than 2,600 sites across the U.S. have been designated as national historic landmarks. Dudley Farm is in good company including the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr., NASA’s Apollo Mission Control Center and Pearl Harbor.

Other Florida national landmarks include the homes of authors Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in Cross Creek and Zora Neale Hurston in Fort Pierce and the St. Augustine and Ybor City historic districts.

DuPree said the addition of the house to Dudley Farm will be welcomed by African Americans from Alachua County and elsewhere.

“I’m glad that (the park service) is doing it, very thankful,” DuPree said. “The African American community is pleased. It will change things and make us feel more at home. It will bring tourism in too. African Americans love visiting places like this with a history.”

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Dudley Farm gets national designation and African American home

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