Levi Jordan was born in Georgia in the early 1790s and acquired land in Brazoria County, Texas in 1848. Jordan is believed to have traveled to Texas with approximately 12 enslaved workers to begin the development of the plantation, before returning to move his extended family. Previously, he had owned adjoining plantations on the Louisiana-Arkansas border with his son-in-law, James Campbell McNeill, who married the Jordans’ only daughter Emily. Jordan established a sugar and cotton plantation near the Four Forks area on the San Bernard River, near the current town of Brazoria. Enslaved laborers built a brick sugar-house, brick slave cabins, and a large sugar mill with six-foot rollers.
Between 1852 and 1858 Jordan made two sugar crops, and by 1860, according to the census, he had real property valued at $69,200, personal property valued at $130,740 and 134 enslaved people. That year the plantation comprised 600 improved acres and produced 3,000 bushels of corn, 77 bales of cotton and 193 hogsheads of sugar. In 1854, Jordan constructed a plantation house from yellow long-leaf pine lumber carried by ship from Florida, transferred to barges and towed up the San Bernard River. Enslaved laborers hand-hewed the sills and studs of the house from local oaks and made bricks for the fireplaces. The exterior of the original plantation house was recently preserved by the Texas Historical Commission.
Sugar production required a large labor force. Following Emancipation in 1865, planters, like Levi Jordan, had to begin paying for labor that they had previously exploited under slavery. Soon, sugar production became unsustainable, and cotton production increased. Likewise, large-scale food staple production was sustained by a sharecropping and tenancy system.
Jordan died on February 3, 1873, aboard the steamer George W. Thomas at Christmas Point, located in the southwestern portion of the Galveston Bay system.
Did You Know?
- The Uncompromising Diary of Sallie McNeill, 1858-1867, written by a granddaughter of Levi Jordan, Sallie McNeill, has been edited with notations by Jordan descendant Ginny McNeill Raska and Dr. Mary Lynne Gasaway Hill and published by Texas A&M University press. It is available through local booksellers and directly from Texas A&M University press.
- Levi Jordan purchased a half-league of land (2,214 acres) from an original Mexican land grant to Samuel May Williams, one of Stephen F. Austin’s personal assistants.
- The plantation has yielded a trove of artifacts that offers an unprecedented view into African American culture in nineteenth-century Texas.