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An angler paddles his kayak near a sandbar as gulls watch his approach. Rangers fight fire along Old Dixie Highway at Bulow Creek State Park. Park visitors can enjoy the cool shade beneath the moss-draped canopy of the ancient Fairchild Oak tree. The remains of the 1825 Dummett sugar mill stand today as a reminder of the plantation economy that operated for a short time in east Florida.
Bulow Creek State Park
Bulow Creek winds its way through the marsh on either side in this habitat of coastal forest and estuarine wetlands.

History and Culture

Eleven known plantation sites have been located within Bulow Creek State Park. The Dummett Mill Ruins, which can be seen from Old Dixie Highway and the nearby Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park, are the most notable sites. British noblemen or military officers that received land grants for their service owned these plantations. They produced rice, cotton, sugar cane and indigo. The sugar cane was processed in mills and yielded molasses and sugar. The Dummett Mill was also used to produce rum. It was in operation from the 1820s until 1836 when they were destroyed during the Second Seminole War.

Hikers will appreciate views of this live oak hammock on Bulow Woods Trail.

Shady Live Oaks

Bulow Woods has one the largest remaining tracts of old-growth live oaks along the east coast of Florida. The forests of Bulow Creek were originally inhabited by American Indians and later by European planters who cultivated indigo, cotton and sugarcane on large land grants. The planters cleared hundreds of acres, but large patches of forest were never disturbed, surviving uncut into the 20th century. In 1981, the state of Florida purchased 1,990 acres in Bulow Woods as the initial acquisition for Bulow Creek State Park. It included some exceptionally large trees, most notably the Fairchild Oak. Dr. David Fairchild, for whom the Fairchild Oak is named, was a botanist who introduced many new species of plants to the United States from around the world. Fairchild visited the Bulow Creek area as a friend of Oaks Ames, director of the Botanical Museum of Harvard University who wintered in Ormond Beach during the 1940s. Oaks Ames, and his wife, Blanch, explored the plant life of Bulow forest, especially orchids. Together they published a book entitled Drawings of Florida Orchids, with superb illustrations by Blanch Ames and scientific notes by Oaks Ames. The book describes two orchids from Bulow Woods, the spring coralroot and the shadow witch orchid, both of which still flower in Bulow Creek State Park.

This platt map shows the Bunch land grant from 1830 near what is now Dummett Mill.

Bunch Plantation Map

What did Bulow Creek State Park look like in the past, before cameras and satellites could capture images from the ground and sky? Archaeologists have located the physical remains of a variety of plantation sites, house foundations, kitchen hearths and wells, and sugar mill works. Although these ruins are of great interest by themselves, the discovery of historical maps provides an overview of the plantations on Bulow Creek and the Tomoka River. One of the best preserved maps is the John Bunch grant drafted by surveyor Robert McHardy in 1818. The Bunch plantation of 1,168 acres was located on the Tomoka Basin in the present vicinity of Dummett Mill. The 1818 map shows a Landing on the Tomoka River, with a path leading across hard marshes, through pineland and hammock to a field with 'negro houses'. The western boundary of the Bunch grant is labeled as 'Public road' which was the Kings Road leading from St. Augustine to New Smyrna. Archaeologist Ted Payne has located many of the features on the 1818 map. Payne identified the Bunch Landing site on the Tomoka River and the dams and ditches in the marsh that were part of the old rice fields on the map. One of the most significant finds were the remains of 'negro houses', including coquina-block footings and nails from slave cabins and hosuehold wares that were typical of a slave village in the early 1800s.

This early photograph shows the overgrown ruins of Dummett Mill.

Dummett Mill

The chimneys of the Dummett Mill ruins have been a local landmark to travelers on the Old Dixie Highway since the early 1900s. This photo, taken in 1935 from the back of the mill, shows the north wall and two large chimneys. The mill was constructed with coquina, a limestone rock containing the common beach shell, coquina clam. In 1935, most maps of the area showed the Dummett ruins as 'Anacape' mission. Some historians believed that the arches in the north wall were evidence of a Spanish mission built by Franciscan friars in the early 1600s, known as San Antonia de Anacape. In 1825, Colonel Thomas H. Dummett, a British officer and planter from Barbados, acquired 1,168 acres on the Tomoka River from John Bunch. Dummett hired Scottish engineer, Reuben Loring, to build a sugar mill and rum distillery using steam-powered machinery. A dispute between Loring and Dummet over payments for the construction of the mill eventually led to the true story of San Antonia de Anacape. In 2001, Patricia Griffin of St. Augustine found court records from Loring vs. Dummett - 1828, containing sworn testimony that he (Loring) agreed to erect the walls and chimnies, arches, and set of boilers of the said sugar house for the said Thomas (Dummett). Additional documents confirm that the Dummett ruins were not a Spanish mission, but most of the physical evidence was lost when the sugar mill was destroyed by raiding Seminole Indians in 1836.

The Harwood House, circa 1890, once stood near the Fairchild Oak.

The Harwood House

Bulow Creek State Park was dedicated in 1982. When the public gathered under the Fairchild Oak to listen to invited speakers, few knew the story of the large white house, which stood just beyond the canopy of the great tree. The Harwood House, nearly 100 years old, was in very poor condition and was taken down in 1986. In 1888, Norman Harwood of Minnesota arrived in Florida just ahead of the railroad from the north. Harwood acquired the James Ormond grant and McHardy grant , more than 4,000 acres of abandoned plantation land. He built a two-story house and laid out the town of Harwood next to the railroad line. According to local history, few settlers stopped at Harwood and the enterprise collapsed. The story of Norman Harwood's death in 1893 remains a mystery, although some suspected that he committed suicide. In 1979, state archaeologists dug a test pit in the yard of Harwood House and found fragments of old bricks, glass and nails. They also uncovered various household wares dating to the time period 1780-1830, which coincides with the Ormond plantation, started by James Ormond I in 1789 and ending with the death of James Ormond II in 1829. Like Norman Harwood, the Ormond family had built their residence next to the Fairchild Oak.

Two white-tail deer in the forest.

White-tail deer

Several trails allow hikers to explore the interior of the park, where visitors can see white-tailed deer, barred owls, and raccoons. The Bulow Woods Trail, nearly seven miles long, takes hikers to Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park. (Photo by Tiffany Troup)