Chinsegut Hill Historic Site


The Chinsegut Hill Historic Site is far more than just a wedding picture-worthy home on a central Florida hill. The land upon which you are standing, and that sprawls around you, has a human history that spans millennia. Prehistoric people, Seminole Indians, wealthy American planters, enslaved individuals, political crusaders and more inhabited this ground.

The signs that dot the property tell the story of these people and the Florida environment in which they lived. We invite you to walk these grounds and learn more about this Florida landscape and the people who called it home.


A beautiful natural landscape surrounds you, doesn’t it? Well, not really.

Before humans cleared land and grew crops and ornamental plants here, an upland pine forest stood. This forest was regularly regenerated by fires sparked by lightning strikes. Are you standing in a pine forest now?

No. You are in a human-altered landscape. When you take into consideration the long environmental history of this place, many of the plants around you are as alien to this landscape as this sign.


We are not exactly sure when prehistoric people first occupied this hill. But archaeologists have found ancient ceramic fragments and stone implements that suggest prehistoric people used and refurbished stone tools here long before Columbus crossed the Atlantic.

Humans first came to Florida approximately 12,000 years ago. Florida was drier, colder and wider then, and Florida’s first people hunted small and large game, including mammoths and giant sloths, for survival near freshwater sources.


From the late 1700s to the mid-1800s, Seminole Indians lived in areas of northern and central Florida.

The U.S. waged a war of removal against these Seminoles, and after the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), U.S. legislators passed the Armed Occupation Act of 1842. The act granted tracts of central and south Florida land to white homesteaders. This lured settlers, like Bird Pearson, to apply for land grants in this area.

By 1860, few Seminoles were left in central Florida.


The Pearson and Ederington families established plantations here after the Second Seminole War.

Bird Pearson, an indebted planter, acquired this land and relocated his family and many enslaved people here. Pearson built a log home and ordered the planting of corn, sugarcane and other crops.

Pearson sold this land to Francis Ederington, a planter from South Carolina, in 1851. Ederington purchased adjacent acreage, and by the mid-1860s, he had established a lucrative timber harvesting operation. During the Civil War, he leased mule teams to the Confederacy.


Members of the Ederington and Snow families are buried in this family plot. Francis and Precious Ederington are interred here alongside their children, who died young. Edgar Snow, the child of Joseph and Charlotte Snow, is also buried here.


This property’s first enslaved residents built their homes and raised their children on the ground just in front of you.

From the mid-1840s to 1865, more than 60 enslaved individuals lived on and around this hill. They likely cleared forests, planted crops, worked as domestic servants, and harvested area timber. Enslaved inhabitants far outnumbered the hill’s white residents during this time, and their coerced labor made this land part of the slave-centric plantation South.


Gulf Archaeology Research Institute dug this spot in 2014 and discovered something magical: garbage.

What’s so great about trash? Human garbage is an archaeologist’s best friend because it provides a window into the lifeways of people long gone.

The archaeological team found animal bones, tools, shotgun shells, gold-banded china and more. The unearthed evidence revealed that the area’s first U.S. settlers hunted deer, turkey and other wild game for food. Later settlers consumed more domesticated animals and eventually brought Heinz Company condiments to the hill.


Joseph Snow married Charlotte Ederington after the Civil War, and the couple raised their children atop the hill. Joseph served on the Florida House of Representatives, and the 1885 census states the family grew corn and sweet potatoes.

The 1890s proved a difficult decade for the family and the property. Charlotte died, deep freezes destroyed local citrus groves, and the home was damaged by a storm and abandoned.


The Robins family acquired this property in 1904 and repaired the house. For 20 years, this was a second home and retreat for Raymond and Margaret Robins, both of whom were involved in  progressive political causes.  Margaret was head of the National Women’s Trade Union League from 1907 to 1922.

The Robins family named this hill “Chinsegut,” an Inuit word meaning “where lost things are found,” and moved here full time in 1924. The couple hosted well-known Americans, including Jane Addams and Thomas Edison, on the property.


The home you see in front of you has changed dramatically over time.

The first home was a log structure that may have been encircled by a defensive fence. Only fragments of this building remain.

A two-story home was constructed on the same spot in the 1850s. This was the first version of the home you see today. Years later, Joseph and Charlotte Snow built the verandas and installed screens. The Robinses made changes to the home and the landscape, as well, and the University of South Florida removed the home’s observation deck in the 1960s. 


Elizabeth Carr Washington worked on this property for several decades. Elizabeth first arrived here as an enslaved child from South Carolina. After the Civil War, she worked for the Ederington, Snow and Robins families. She had nine children and acquired nearby land in the late 1800s.

Fielder Harris, born into slavery in the 1850s, befriended Raymond Robins in the 1880s. Raymond later hired him to be Chinsegut’s caretaker. Fielder lived on the hill in a home that has since been demolished.


The Robins family deeded this property to the U.S. federal government in 1932. The agreement stipulated that the Robins family could live on the hill until their deaths, which they did.

The U.S. government’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and USDA established outposts here and conducted conservation projects and agricultural research experiments that aided Florida farmers.


The federal government deeded Chinsegut to the University of Florida in 1958 and, shortly thereafter, UF leased it to the University of South Florida. USF built the guest cabins that stand today and oversaw the property until 2008. USF administrators and professors held conferences, workshops and retreats at the home. USF’s Dr. Georg

Kleine brought student groups to the hill for “socialization” for over 30 years. During these multi-day stays, Kleine’s students discussed books, marched through the woods at night, and played volleyball games on the yard. It was a defining collegiate, and collegial, experience for many students.


From 2008 to 2019, the Friends of Chinsegut Hill and Hernando County took over the property and offered tours and accommodations. 

Beginning in 2019, the Tampa Bay History Center, Mid Florida Community Services, Inc., Hernando County and dedicated community members have teamed up to tell the story of this land and its people.

History of Chinsegut Hill

1842The Armed Occupation Act offers homesteaders Florida land.

1840s-1852Bird Pearson acquires a Florida homestead and moves his family to Hernando County. The family brings with them more than 20 enslaved individuals. Bird practices law and establishes a plantation.

1852-1866The Ederington family acquires the property from Pearson in 1852. Like Bird Pearson, Ederington is a lawyer and slave owner who establishes a plantation. While living in Hernando County, he acquires more land, is involved in the timber business, and builds a new home on the hill. That home was the first version of the current house.

 1866-1904:  Charlotte Ederington Snow and Joseph Russell Snow acquire the property. Joseph was a farmer and state politician. He served on the local county commission and as a state-level lawmaker in Tallahassee. The family grew crops on their land, but freezes in the 1890s devastated their citrus trees.

1904-1932:  In 1904, the Robins family repaired the house, and named it Chinsegut Hill. The Robins family was actively involved in progressive political causes. They advocated for greater rights for women, the working class and the impoverished. They entertained famous Americans at the home, including Thomas Edison, J.C. Penney and Helen Keller.

1932-1954Raymond and Margaret deeded over 2,000 acres of their Hernando County property to the U.S. federal government for $1 during the Great Depression. The agreement, however, stipulated that the Robins family could live there until their deaths. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Civilian Conservation Corps established a camp at Chinsegut and conducted agricultural research and conservation projects.

1954-1958The U.S. Department of Agriculture deeded the manor house and the 114 acres around it to the University of Florida.

1958-2008The house and 114-acre property was leased to the University of South Florida for $1 per year.

2008-2019The Friends of Chinsegut Hill group operated the property.