by Tim Gilmore, 7/17/2012
He fell asleep at the piano. I felt rather embarrassed. I snuck out the front door to my beat-down car. The gated community’s crossbuck lifted for my exit. I wrote the story for “Metro.” I never heard from him again.
No queen, despite the phony British spelling, harbored here. At this place Fred “Bubba” Bullard, owner of the United States Football League team, the Jacksonville Bulls, named Queens Harbour Yacht and Country Club. Unless you include John McQueen, the slaveowner to whom much of the coast belonged and who called this land Greenfield Plantation. And about whom Jacksonville novelist and Confederate glorifier Eugenia Price wrote her 1974 novel Don Juan McQueen.
In 1967, the Reverend Frank Dearing once recorded an interview with Willie Browne, the old man who lived alone with his hundreds of acres of wilderness on the bluffs and asked him about the old slaves on Greenfield Plantation. The recording is muffled and unclear. It’s like listening to people speak through mouths full of mud.
Willie Browne referred to old slaves respectfully as “Uncle,” including “Old Uncle Allan Scott, who came back to find his daughter.” She’d been sold from a plantation a couple states north and he never gave up looking for her. So after the Civil War, “he found her,” Browne said. “She used to live up there. She was 90 or 100 years old when she died” and was buried in Cosmo Cemetery.
Around the time the priest interviewed Willie Browne, longhaired kids were riding out to Greenfield Stables, site of the old plantation, to hear a local Southern Rock band called Lynyrd Skynyrd. United States forces had burned the plantation house in the Civil War.
In 1851, Bunberry Haynes, brother of plantation owner Melton Haynes, described Greenfield in a letter, saying, “I killed a very large panther about three weeks ago. We have the best bear and panther dogs perhaps you ever saw. You had better come out this winter and look at the country. We will show you plenty of good land and mosquitoes and fleas enough to keep you moving.”
At first Bubba Bullard’s real estate development was a flop, failed to come through, as various bankruptcies and banking irregularities stopped him cold. He referred to one bank as “the tar baby,” alluding to the old slave story of Bre’er Fox dressing up a doll made of tar to fool Bre’er Rabbit into an altercation. The more Br’er Rabbit persists, the further stuck he gets.
It’s funny. I can’t even remember what I wrote the Metro story about. It was the only time I’ve been inside the gated neighborhood. What did I interview him about? Why did he fall asleep at the piano? I can’t find the story in the archives. It’s appropriate. The full story includes everything you missed.