Of all the places in the Lower 48 to find a bird-hunter’s paradise, the South Georgia upper coastal plains easily — easily — make the short list.
That selling point was squarely in mind for the new owner of Longpine Plantation, a historic 5,850-acre quail plantation near Thomasville. After five years on the market, Longpine sold in July for $28.08 million to a Texan with a hunting and conservation bent.
Among the property’s built-in hunting features: tradition. The quail hunting so popular today and throughout the Red Hills area around the Georgia-Florida state line started back in the post-Civil War era. Longpine was originally part of an older quail plantation founded in the 1880s by Wyman Jones and his family.
Historical accounts describe the Jones family as remarkable stewards of the land, with conservation and management practices that forever shaped the beloved art/sport of chasing bobwhite quail with dogs, horses, and guns.
Jon Kohler, of Jon Kohler and Associates, brokered the Longpine sale. He said the Jones family and “their relatives and business associates became the stewards of approximately 40 plantations that are still in existence today. They laid the foundation of what today is one of the most secure real estate asset classes in the world.”
Longpine’s buyer is Rick Leverich, whose family founded Texas-based Bourland & Leverich Supply Company, according to the Wall Street Journal. Leverich, who owns a ranch in Mexico and several in Texas, grew up quail hunting with his father and plans to keep Longpine largely as-is. Wildlife preservation and habitat management is “a passion of mine,” he told the Journal.
The family trust of Josephine Clay Ford listed Longpine for sale back in September 2010. Before that, the plantation had remained in the Jones family until 1968, when its ownership was transferred to Josephine Ford, the only granddaughter of Henry Ford. She was its caretaker for more than 40 years until Leverich bought it.
Private land ownership — whether passed down through the generations, or signed over through sale — is how America will succeed in conserving quail and bird habitat. Maintaining harmony between timber interests, farming and quail woods is always going to be a challenge, and it will rarely come cheap, said Bobby McKinney, president of the Southwest Georgia Quail Forever chapter.
“These private plantations are magnificent pieces of land, wonderfully maintained and protected, and their owners are understandably protective and full of pride,” McKinney said. “There’s a mystique about private land ownership — always has been, and always will be.”
The Longpine sale includes its main house, two manager’s residences, and five tenant houses with plenty of guest accommodations. The property has a 20-stall horse barn and a kennel large enough for 35 gundogs.