Colonial Tobacco TradeBefore you stands a crop of tobacco planted to reflect the historic tobacco trade that flourished at Mount Harmon in the colonial era. Tobacco was an important cash crop that helped build early American settlements, and by the mid-1600s had evolved into the main cash crop of the Tidewater region. Tobacco was even used as legal currency by planters to make purchases, pay fines, and taxes! By the mid-1700s, Mount Harmon was a bustling 1,200-acre tobacco plantation, trading with the British Empire via the Chesapeake Bay.
Seventeenth Century FarmingTobacco plantations were very labor intensive. It took one person to cultivate 2-3 acres of tobacco. At first, indentured servants and other European immigrants did this hard work, but by the late 1600s slaves were imported from the Caribbean and Africa. Slave labor was used on Mount Harmon by tenant farmers until the Civil War, although Mount Harmon owners, Mary Louttit George and Ann Eliza George Fisher, freed their own slaves in 1808.
Twentieth Century FarmingOver time, tobacco was found to deplete the soil. As the soil grew poor and tobacco became less profitable, planters at Mount Harmon and other Cecil County farms switched over to wheat production and other crops. By the American Revolution, Tobacco was not a major crop at Mount Harmon, and was replaced by wheat, rye, flax, hemp, cattle, and orchards. Mount Harmon continued to be a productive agricultural farm into the 20th century, and today reflects four centuries of agricultural history on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
(Inscription next to the image at the left bottom) Ships full of tobacco sailed from the Mount Harmon wharf, down the Sassafras Rive, into the Chesapeake Bay, and across the Atlantic Ocean to England. The ships returned full with necessities and luxuries for the plantation and its inhabitants. Mount Harmon relied on tobacco for income, but also produced grain and livestock, and had skilled tradespeople including blacksmiths, coopers, carpenters and tobacco agent.