Penfield Project

Mapping Slavery at Mercer University’s Original Campus


Mercer University originated on Muskogee/Creek lands in northern Greene County in 1833. The town of Penfield (1837), named after the school’s first benefactor Josiah Penfield, surrounded the burgeoning Mercer Institute and was carved out of the 1000-acres of plantation land that had been purchased some three to five years earlier in two separate purchases. Until 2020, there had been no acknowledgment of land grab that preceded the formation of Mercer Institute or the enormous wealth held by the founders within the slave economies of Georgia. By mapping Penfield through the creation of a database system, the King Center for Southern Studies hopes to provide a new understanding of the institution’s rise and fall in the kingdom of cotton planters, leading to the need to relocate its campus to Macon, Georgia.

The King Center for Southern Studies will provide umbrella support for research projects by Mercer faculty and students, as well as outside researchers interested in Penfield, Baptist life, Georgia, and slave economies of cotton producers.