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Retrieve Plantation

Paul M. Lucko General Entry

Retrieve Plantation was on Oyster Creek four miles north of Lake Jackson in Brazoria County. Abner Jackson opened the plantation in 1839 and equipped the property with a two-story mansion, slave cabins, a sugar house, and an oven, all constructed with brick. Around 1842, Jackson sold half his interest in Retrieve to James Hamilton, a former governor of South Carolina and an emissary for the Republic of Texas in Europe. After Jackson built a home on the Lake Jackson Plantation in 1842, Hamilton sent slaves from South Carolina to further develop Retrieve. During the 1850s the plantation produced several sugar crops that helped make Jackson and Hamilton two of the largest sugar producers in Texas. By 1860, Jackson was the second largest slaveholder in the state. Steamboats traversed Oyster Creek to a point on Retrieve known as Steamboat Landing and carried goods to and from the Retrieve and Lake Jackson plantations before the Civil War. After Hamilton's death in 1857, his family continued to operate their share of the plantation and established Retrieve as a home before T. Lynch Hamilton, executor of the Hamilton estate, sold the family's interest in 1868. The estate of George Ball owned Retrieve from 1868 until 1904, when Nellie B. League became the new owner. During 1911, H. L. Trammel leased Retrieve and hired laborers from the prison system. When the convict lease system ended in 1912, the state continued on a share-crop basis to lease the land, where prisoners raised cotton, corn, and sugarcane under state supervision. The state purchased the 7,424 acre plantation for $320,829.60 in February 1918 and continued to use the property as a prison farm. Prisoners who labored in the hot and humid Gulf Coast climate sometimes referred to Retrieve as "Burnin' Hell." An infamous murder occurred at Retrieve in December 1948 when a prisoner beheaded another convict with a cane knife during suppertime at the inmate dining hall. The Retrieve Plantation operated in 1990, largely intact, as the Retrieve Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division. More than 700 male prisoners raised crops and livestock on the plantation, one of the most productive farms in the prison system.

Madge Evalene Pierce, The Service of James Hamilton to the Republic of Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1933). Allen Andrew Platter, Educational, Social, and Economic Characteristics of the Plantation Culture of Brazoria County, Texas (Ed.D. dissertation, University of Houston, 1961). Albert Race Sample, Racehoss: Big Emma's Boy (Austin: Eakin Press, 1984). 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). Texas Legislature, Senate Journal, 35th Leg., 4th Called Sess., February 26-March 23, 1918.


  • Agriculture
  • Plantations
  • Architecture
  • Houses, Mansions, and Plantations
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Prisons and Correctional Facilities

Time Periods:

  • Antebellum Texas

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

Paul M. Lucko, “Retrieve Plantation,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 23, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.