When the Haile family moved to Alachua County from Camden, South Carolina in 1854, they brought with them a large contingent of enslaved people, 56 according to the 1854 tax rolls. Among them were Billy Watts, Johnson Chestnut, Edmund Kelley, his young son, Bennet, and many others whose names are lost to time. But through the oral family histories passed down through generations of their descendants we now have a clearer picture of who they were and what their contributions were to the building and running of the Kanapaha plantation. The 1860 Slave Schedules show Thomas Evans Haile as having 66 enslaved people who inhabited 18 dwellings. The Haile Homestead, completed in 1856, was built in 18 months’ time. The house stands today over 150 years later as a testament to the skills of the craftsmen who built it: a silent tribute to the enslaved people who labored to build and maintain it.

NEW! Inside the Allen & Ethel Graham Visitors Center are exhibits focused on the enslaved people at Kanapaha Plantation and at the other four Haile plantations and two Chesnut plantations. The names of many of those enslaved on the seven Haile-Chesnut plantations have been researched from wills, deeds, oral history and other sources, and are listed on a special exhibit. Further a display in the Allen & Graham Visitors Center contains artifacts found near some of the outbuildings on the property; this includes a slave ball, which serves to remind visitors of the horrors of slavery. On another exhibit inside the Homestead itself, you will see a two-sided display with pictures of some of the enslaved people mentioned on this page.

WILLIAM WATTS was a carpenter whose leadership abilities and skills allowed the Hailes to entrust the building of the homestead into his care and oversight. Billy was married to Louisa Kendrick (1845 – 1910), daughter of Claybourne Kendrick and his wife Eliza Chisholm Kendrick (Eliza was the daughter of Ned Chisholm). “Uncle Billy” was born in 1838 in South Carolina and died in 1910. He is buried alongside his wife Louisa in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Gainesville, Florida. Billy worked for the Hailes all his life, first as a slave and then as a hired hand. After Freedom he lived in a log cabin nearby on acres of his own property. Billy and Louisa had many children: William Jr., Louisa (Lucy) Watts Rochelle, Daniel, Judith P. Watts Rainey, Richard, James, Bessie Watts Brown, Edward and Clarence. Both Bessie and Judith attended college and became teachers. James had a daughter named Juliette Watts McCoy. According to one story, Richard (1875– ~ 1892), who worked alongside Bennet Kelley as a hired hand, was killed tragically and buried near a sinkhole on the Haile property. Richard was no longer mentioned in Serena Haile’s journal after March 25, 1892. Clarence became a blacksmith.

JOHNSON CHESTNUT, born in Camden South Carolina ~ 1828, was a gifted carpenter and furniture maker who was possibly enslaved at one time by Serena Haile’s father, Capt. John Chesnut. Johnson Chestnut built some of the furniture used by the Hailes and, according to oral tradition, carved his initials somewhere on the pieces. After Freedom Johnson served on the Gainesville City Commission from 1868 - 1869. He also was employed by the Hailes from time to time to fix the roof as evidenced by entries in Serena Haile’s journal:

1893, Jul 19 … “Johnson” Chesnut Carpenter came to see about house 
1893, Jul 25 … “Johnson” commenced to work on house – Front piazza 
1893, Jul 27 … Johnson & Jim W. shingling Front Piazza 
1893, Jul 28 …“Johnson & Jim W.” worked steadily all day on house. got up to Front


Johnson Chestnut and his wife Maria (born ~1832) had three sons, John, Lawrence and James. It was passed down that, as a young boy, Lawrence worked closely with his father. He later worked in a printing office (source: 1870 census), a census taker, a trustee for the Union Academy, the first school for African-American children in Gainesville, and was active in politics. Lawrence (born ~1853) married Lula Kendrick, daughter of Claybourne and Eliza Chisholm Kendrick, and a sister of Billy Watts’ wife, Louisa. Lula was 13 years old when she came to this area from Chester, SC. Originally called “Lula” she later changed her name to “Louise.” Known to the community as “Aunt Lou,” she died at the age of 100 in 1952. She and Lawrence had several children: Maria (b. 1874), Hattie (b. 1878), Johnson Jr. (b. 1880), Charles (b. 1886), McKinley (b. 1887), Thomas (b. 1894) and Ed (b. 1901). In 1914 M.E. Hughes founded Hughes & Chestnut Funeral Home with Charles Chestnut Sr. as a partner. Charles Senior and his wife Hattie (Ware) had one son, Charles Jr.. Charles Jr. had two children: Charles Chestnut III and Gloria Chestnut Duncan. Gloria married Colin Duncan, who worked at the Hughes & Chestnut Funeral Home. He later started his own business, Duncan Brothers Funeral Home, which is still in business today. Charles III and his son Charles IV carry on the family business today, now known as the Chestnut Funeral Home. The Chestnut family has been and continues to be very active in local and state-wide politics.

HENRY GAINES was the enslaved stone mason from the Stringfellow plantation who built the fireplaces, chimneys and support piers on the plantation. Born in South Carolina ~ 1830 (source: 1880 census), he was married to Jane Gaines (born in Chester, SC ~ 1832) who was also enslaved on the Stringfellow Plantation, six miles west of Gainesville at Fort Clarke, which adjoined the Haile property. The 1880 census showed they had four children: Isabella Certain, a step-daughter (age 15), Henry Jr. (age 14), Frank (age 10) and Isaiah (age 7). Oral history tells us that the smoothing iron and stand embedded in the base of the fireplace in the Nursery Room of the Historic Haile Homestead was Henry’s way of signing his work. It has also been passed down that Henry put his initials in the fireplaces he built.


Among those making the journey from Camden, South Carolina to Alachua County in 1854 were Edmund Kelley, born ~ 1820, and his wife Charity. Edmund was loaned to the Confederate Army in 1864 to help with a building project. The Kelleys had several children; among them were Bennet who was only 10 years old at the time of the move to Florida and his little sister Flora. Flora, born ~1860, often worked for the Hailes as a cook. She married Napolean Jackson on June 6, 1892. Another brother was Edmund Jr. 

Born in 1849, Bennet was a young boy when he was moved to Florida. Bennet’s grave marker has the birthdate as 1844, but census data indicates the year was probably 1849. He served as the “houseboy” for the Hailes. Bennet married Mary Hodison on February 16, 1876. Bennet worked for the Hailes in various capacities on a regular basis after Freedom. He is mentioned almost daily in Serena Haile’s journal beginning in the 1880’s. On December 10, 1884, a small house "in the yard" (a reference to the cabins where the enslaved people lived) was deconstructed and rebuilt in the backyard for Bennet and his family. When Flora, the Hailes’ cook and Bennet’s sister, didn’t come to work, Bennet would go out and bring back a new cook. He often ended up cooking breakfast himself. Mary Hodison Kelley died of the grippe (flu) at 4 PM on February 20, 1892. She was buried “in the field” the next day. On June 4, 1892, Bennet remarried. His new wife, Daphne DeBose, also worked for the Hailes. According the Haile family tradition, Bennet was so loved by Serena Haile she said that when died, he was to be buried in the Haile family plot. Indeed, when Bennet died on February 16, 1933, he was buried in the Haile family plot in the Kanapaha Presbyterian Church cemetery. Interestingly enough, oral tradition of descendants of Bennet’s brother Edmund hold that it was Thomas Haile who insisted that Bennet be buried in the family plot. In any event, the Hailes, be it Serena or Thomas, had their wish granted even though the deed of the Kanapaha Church cemetery land stated that the cemetery was for the burial of whites. To this day, we have been unable to trace Daphne Kelley, or any children Bennet may have had with either of his wives. Several pictures of Bennet and Daphne Kelley are on display at the Historic Haile Homestead.

In the Arredondo area, east of Kanapaha Plantation is the Patterson Community Cemetery. The cemetery is found at the end of SW 49th Street, an unpaved road scarred by deep ruts that runs past at least three old cottages (one of which is remarkable for its squares of different colored tar paper nailed to the siding). The cemetery has several unusual markers, one of which is shaped like a duck’s head. While the lives and relationships of the people buried there deserve more research, we discovered the grave of one Edmund Kelley Jr., his wife Lizzie and their daughter Mathilda. Census data show that Edmund Kelley Jr. was the son of Edmund and Charity Kelley who were enslaved at the Kanapaha plantation of Thomas and Serena Haile. Edmund Jr. was born a free man in 1869. There is a five acre piece of land immediately to the east of the Kanapaha Presbyterian Church property and fronting present day Archer Road that remained in the Kelley family until recently. It had been owned by Edmund Kelley Jr.’s grandchildren Theodore Kelley, Josephine Kelley and Flora Bailey, the family refused to sell when approached by developers. The Kelleys’ father, Edmund, is also buried with their mother in the Patterson Cemetery. The property came into the possession of the family through Oliver Stinson in 1907. Mr. Stinson, who purchased the land for $150 from T.J. Swearingen in 1907, was married to Mathilda Kelley, a daughter of Edmund Kelley Jr. By the 1910 census, Mathilda was listed as a widow, living with her parents, and employed by a local family as a cook. In September of 1910 Mathilda sold the five acre piece to her father for $20.


Bennet Kelley

Edmund Kelley 

Mary Kelley 

Daphne Debose Kelley 
Billy Watts 

Richard Watts
Johnson Chestnut
Flora Kelley Jackson
Napolean Jackson

Jim Whitaker

John Taylor
Amos George
Aunt Milley

Antony Dubose
Albert Dubose
Ned Owens
Wright Clark

Mary Ann

(Researched and written by Karen Kirkman, Historian, Historic Haile Homestead, 2004, with contributions by Isaiah Branton. All rights reserved. No part of this piece – text or pictures – may be reproduced without permission of the Historic Haile Homestead Inc.)


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8500 SW Archer Road

Gainesville, FL 32608



4941 SW 91st Ter., Ste 101

Gainesville, FL 32608