Monday, May 21, 2012

The Whitehead Piano

From the files of Goodwood:
The Whitehead Piano by Ruth Whitehead Roberts
Amos Whitehead graduated from the University of Virginia.  His father, Dr. James Whitehead of Waynesboro, Georgia, was preparing to deed Amos one of his plantations.  Dr. Whitehead was a very wealthy gentleman, who owned several large plantations.  However, Amos told him that he’d rather have money instead.  You see, he wanted to buy a place in Florida, which had only been acquired by the U.S. government a few years before.
Dr. Whitehead gave his son a trunk that contained a million and a half dollars, and came to North Florida with Amos.  It was as beautiful as their friends had described it.  Amos proceeded to buy a large tract of land on the eastern side of Lake Jackson and built his home on a hill.  This homesite is now owned by the Frank Shaw, Seniors.  In time, Amos fell in love with Margaret Bradford, daughter of Dr. Edward Bradford and Martha Branch Bradford and granddaughter of Governor John Branch. (Note:  John Branch was Susan Hopkins’ father.) They owned two plantations in the area–Pine Hill, on both sides of what is now known as Thomasville Road, and Horseshoe, which overlooked Lake Iammonia.
When Amos and Margaret became engaged, he went to Europe to buy her gifts.  One was a complete set of real pearls–necklace, rings, bracelet and a head band.  He also gave her a beautiful piano, inlaid with green sea snail, that he had bought in New York.  The happy couple was soon married.  As Amos was a captain of the Tallahassee Co. “M”, 2nd Regiment, Florida Infantry, C.S.A., he soon went to war.  He lost a leg in the Battle of Gettysburg, had a wooden one attached and was sent home to recuperate.  Later, while supervising his father-in-law’s lumber mill, his leg was cut by a saw and he bled to death.  He died October 13, 1874.
His wife, Margaret, lost the plantation and all of her property.  She went to live with her daughter in Tallahassee, who lived just a few blocks from William C. Hodges, his wife and his mother.  When Margaret Whitehead began to grow feeble, she sold the piano to William Hodges.  He, in turn, gave it to his mother.  It was kept in their family until they had all passed away.
William Hodges’ wife, after his death, married Col. Thomas Hood.  After Mrs. Hood (Hodges) died, Col. Hood gave the piano to the Brokaw McDougall House.  (It has since been returned to Goodwood.)
I am the granddaughter of Amos and Margaret Whitehead.  I was also a friend of the Hodges family from about 1925 until their deaths.


  1. I am also a descendant of the Whiteheads of Waynesboro, Burke County, GA, and because I live in Tallahassee, I have researched the two brothers who purchased land in Florida.

    In my experience, family stories over time can sometimes be distorted or misunderstood. The facts that I have uncovered are this:

    In 1826 Dr. James Whitehead bought 12 tracts of land totalling 980 acres (and his brother Judge John Whitehead bought 14 tracts of land totalling 1,212 acres) on and near the SE shore of Lake Jackson. Florida had become a US territory in 1820, and such "public" lands were sold for at least $1.25 per acre.

    From 1839 to 1848, Leon County tax lists reveal that Dr. James Whitehead had a working cottom plantation on his land, but he was an absentee owner, remaining mostly at his "Spread Oak" plantation in Burke County, GA or at his Summer home in Bath, Richmond County, GA. His son Amos was the youngest of 11 children, having been born in 1837.

    As Amos was only 10 years old at his father's death, it is unlikely that they ever had a conversation or any agreement about inheriting money instead of a plantation. What is known is that from the years 1849 to 1858 the Leon County property continued as a cotton plantation but it was owned by the "Estate of James Whitehead." During this period the eldest son John Berrien Whitehead appeared to be the administrator, and both the number of slaves and acres of land saw an increase.

    It was not until 1859, when his son Amos was age 22, that the tax lists give his name as owner; by this time the plantation had grown to 2200 acres. Although the assessed value of all this property, slaves, and horses was about $70,000 in 1858, when Amos claimed his inheritance in 1859, half of the slaves were no longer included in the tax lists. In any case, it would be an exaggeration to think that "Dr. Whitehead gave his son a trunk that contained a million and a half dollars" as his inheritance.

    If anyone is interested, I have seen the entire text of Dr. James Whitehead's will available on the Internet.

  2. Thank you very much for sharing your research. Ruth Whitehead Roberts (1906-1999) wrote her family story in the 1990s. She was the daughter of James Edward Whitehead (son of Amos) and Charlotte Arthur. The million and a half dollars does seem to be a fish tale!