Pine Forest: A Southside Gullah Geechee Community

Surrounded by modern sprawl-based development, the Gullah Geechee community of Pine Forest is one of Jacksonville's oldest black neighborhoods.

Located four miles upriver from downtown, Pine Forest is a former rural community that has been engulfed by Jacksonville’s post World War II sprawling growth pattern. The development of Pine Forest dates back to the late 18th century when Joshua Yallowley moved from Georgia to establish the Orange Bluff Plantation in 1773. Acquiring 500 acres of land along the St. Johns River, Yallowley and his uncle Captain John Fairlamb managed the construction and completion of the Kings Road between the Cowford Ferry and St. Augustine in 1774. Yallowley’s enslaved cultivated citrus and harvested timber prior to his 1784 evacuation to the Bahamas when Florida was returned to the Spanish.

Adjacent to Yallowley’s Orange Bluff, Englishman James Penman acquired what would become a 3,000-acre track along New Rose Creek called Jericho Plantation in 1774. A St. Augustine merchant, Penman’s plantation used 120 enslaved Africans to cultivate corn, beans, rice, indigo, lumber, turpentine, pitch and tar. In 1781, Penman sold Jericho and 56 of his enslaved to Denys Rolle and moved to Charleston. Rolle named the estate Chichester Plantation after his wife’s English family. When Florida was returned to the Spanish in 1784, both Orange Bluff and Chichester were abandoned by their planter families. In the case of Rolle, 42 of his enslaved perished in his attempt to relocate his holdings from Chichester to the Bahamas.

In 1793, the area became known as the Red Bank Plantation. Over the years, Red Bank’s owners included Frances Flora (1793), William Craig (1799), Isaiah Hart (1815), Isaac Hendricks (1830) and Albert Gallatin Philips (1848). Following the Civil War, the former enslaved Gullah Geechee (West African descendents) from Red Bank and other nearby plantations settled around St. Augustine Road and New Rose Creek, establishing what is now known as Pine Forest. As early as 1866, Pine Forest had become home to a church established by the former enslaved. Straddling St. Augustine Road between Emerson Street and University Boulevard, the neighborhood retains much of its rural character and charm due to being bypassed by Philips Highway after its completion in 1934.

Pine Forest was developed along St. Augustine Road as a rural farming community following the end of the Civil War. Originally called the Kings Road, the thoroughfare was built between 1764 and 1775 by Joshua Yallowley and his uncle, Captain John Fairlamb. At the time, Yallowley was the owner of the 500 acre Orange Bluff Plantation, where the enslaved cultivated citrus and harvested timber. The plantation later became known as the Red Bank Plantation.

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