Gamble eventually accumulated almost 3,500 acres
and was producing large amounts of sugar. It was
transported on the river to New Orleans. It is said
he held more than 200 slaves to work the
property and process the sugarcane.
The Manatee River made it possible to get machinery
and manufactured goods by ship from places like
New York and England. The ships also brought cigars,
coffee, tea, twine, needles, leather, rope and seeds.
The planters shipped their commodity crops
downriver and across the Gulf of Mexico to the
In 1849, the first sugar works were destroyed by a
fire, along with Gamble’s first sugar crop. The new mill
houses were built using fire resistant tabby clay and
brick, molded by hand by slaves.
Water was a precious resource, so Gamble had a
covered, 40,000-gallon cistern built on the west side
of the home to collect rainwater from the roof. A
wood-shake roof led to the water to a 50-foot deep
reserve, providing the household with fresh water.
“They burned oyster shells to create a limestone
wall and that was used to filter the water,” Toney said.
“Minnows were also added to eat the mosquitoes
and the algae, helping to further filter it and make it
Gamble also grew cotton to be used for bedding
and clothing, and tobacco for his own enjoyment.
A hurricane hit in 1856 and destroyed some of the
crop. Another crop was destroyed when the temperature
dropped to 27 degrees, freezing the plants.
Those natural disasters along with a fickle sugar
38 GASPARILLA ISLAND November/December 2017
Gamble had a
cistern built to