Savannah, Georgia — At this site was located the first public agricultural experimental garden in America. From this garden was disseminated the upland cotton which later comprised the greater part of the world’s cotton commerce. Here were propagated and from this garden distributed, the peach trees which gave Georgia and South Carolina another major commercial crop.
The garden consisted of ten acres. It was established by Oglethrope within one month after the settlement of Georgia. Botanists were sent by the Trustees of the Colony from England to the West Indies and South America to procure plants for the garden. Vine cuttings, flax, hemp, potashes, indigo, cochineal, olives, and medicinal herbs were grown. The greatest hope was centered in the mulberry trees, essential to silk culture. In the early days of the Colony, Queen Caroline was clothed in Georgia silk, and the town’s largest structure was the filature.
The silk and wine industries failed to materialize. The distant sponsors were unable to judge of the immense importance of the experiments conducted in other products. In 1755 the site was developed as a recreation section.
— Georgia Historical Commission, 1952
In 1793 English inventor Eli Whitney stayed at Mulberry Grove Plantation — just three miles up the Savannah River — where he perfected the cotton gin, a device that significantly simplified seed removal from cotton, something that before then took much time and labor. Within two decades, cotton replaced rice as the paramount trade commodity in Georgia. In 1790, cotton exports for Georgia were barely 1,000 bales. By 1821, exports nearly reached 90,000 bales for the entire state, with Savannah serving as the primary port of exit.