Ellersly Plantation

By: René Harris

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: July 23, 2016

Ellersly (Ellersley, Ellerslie) Plantation was established by John Greenville McNeel on land granted to him and his brother, George W. McNeel, by the Mexican government under Stephen F. Austin's first contract in 1824. It included one-half league on the Brazos River and one-half league on the San Bernard River. George died, and John Greenville built a prosperous sugar plantation in the area known as Gulf Prairie, on the San Bernard River eight miles from the Gulf of Mexico in Brazoria County. The plantation house was located in a grove of live oaks between two roads, and the entrance gates were flanked by hand-hewn oak posts topped by carved replicas of a spade, a diamond, a club, and a heart. The two-story house was constructed of slave-made bricks. It had twenty-one rooms, and galleries with pillars extended the length of the house on the west and south. The stairs and bannisters were made of mahogany, and the ceilings were plastered and decorated with intricate medallions. The fireplaces and mantels were made of marble, and the floors were carpeted. The furniture was either walnut or mahogany. Atop the house was a laboratory with a telescope. All in all, Ellersly was considered the finest home in Texas before the Civil War.

The plantation had an immense brick sugar mill that resembled a turreted castle and enclosed a double set of kettles. Outbuildings included a brick overseer's house, a cotton gin, a blacksmith's shop, and a hospital. The brick slave quarters lined a street leading off the main road; each consisted of two rooms with a double fireplace that accommodated two families.

Greenville and his family entertained often-dancing, fishing, hunting and riding. He had a stallion that cost $6,000. His brothers, Sterling McNeel, Pleasant McNeel, and Leander McNeel, lived on neighboring plantations. Ellersly was prosperous; in 1852, for example, it produced 408 hogsheads or nearly 149,000 pounds of sugar. In 1860 the census appraised J. G. McNeel's real property at $100,000 and his personal property at $216,400. He owned 176 slaves. The 1870 census reflected his losses during Reconstruction, however, for he was listed with no property.

After his death in 1876 his heirs sold the plantation to James Marion Huntington, who was married to Greenville's niece. After her death Huntington remarried. The main house burned in the 1890s, and the family moved into the old brick hospital. It blew down in the Galveston hurricane of 1900, and they moved into the overseer's house. The descendants sold the house and property to the Phillips Petroleum Company in 1974. The overseer's house burned in 1983.

Randolph B. Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821–1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989). Abigail Curlee, A Study of Texas Slave Plantations, 1822–1865 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1932). Abigail Curlee Holbrook, "A Glimpse of Life on Antebellum Slave Plantations in Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 76 (April 1973). C. Richard King, ed., Victorian Lady on the Texas Frontier: The Journal of Ann Raney Coleman (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971). Allen Andrew Platter, Educational, Social, and Economic Characteristics of the Plantation Culture of Brazoria County, Texas (Ed.D. dissertation, University of Houston, 1961). Abner J. Strobel, The Old Plantations and Their Owners of Brazoria County (Houston, 1926; rev. ed., Houston: Bowman and Ross, 1930; rpt., Austin: Shelby, 1980). Vertical File, Brazoria County Historical Museum, Angleton, Texas. Ralph A. Wooster, "Wealthy Texans, 1860," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 71 (October 1967). Ralph A. Wooster, "Wealthy Texans, 1870," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 74 (July 1970).

  • Agriculture
  • Plantations
  • Architecture
  • Houses, Mansions, and Plantations
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

René Harris, “Ellersly Plantation,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 17, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/ellersly-plantation.

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July 23, 2016