William Hopeton received 2,000 acres of land abutting the Altamaha River as a colonial grant in 1763. In 1805, the land was purchased by two Scots cotton planters, James Hamilton and John Couper, and in 1818, the son of the latter, James Hamilton Couper became the estate manager. Under his oversight, the estate became renowned for progressive farming practice. The river margins comprised rich alluvial soil ideal for rice cultivation. However, the Altamaha was estuarine, and at high tide, its saltwater would kill the crop. Couper Jr solved this problem by designing a network of canals and dykes, based on his research in Holland. He experimented with crop rotation, and pressed cottonseed and olive oil. He added sugarcane to his repertoire, and constructed the most advanced sugar-mill in the South in 1829. A cultured man, he owned the ‘most complete library in the South’, a celebrated collection of fossils, shells and minerals – and 1,500 slaves.
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