« Tomoka State Park | Main | Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park »

February 16, 2006

Bulow Plantation Ruins

bulow plantation ruins 002.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 021.JPG
Lots of Big Trees here...

bulow plantation ruins 017.JPG
Front Door...

bulow plantation ruins 018.JPG
Back Door! You'll see more Big Trees at the end!

History of Bulow Plantation
The early 1800s marked a turbulent era in Florida’s history as settlers began establishing plantations on lands that the Seminole Indians believed to be theirs.
In 1812, on the 8th of June, John Russell and his family came to this place form St. Augustine to claim a land grant from the Spaniards in exchange for a 53 ton schooner. John Russell, shipwright, a British subject born in So. Carolina, built the ship while living in the Bahamas where he went when the American Revolution began. He died before doing much except marking the land by blazing the trees with his initials.
The land was then sold to Charles Wilhelm Bulow, a wealthy cotton grower from Charleston, on August 1, 1812. He acquired 4,675 acres of wilderness bordering a tidal creek that would bear his name. Using slave labor, he cleared 2,200 acres and planted sugar cane, cotton, rice and indigo. Soon after the plantation was established and in production, Major Bulow died at age 44, leaving all his holdings to his only son, John. Under John’s skilled management, production increased and the plantation prospered until the outbreak of the Second Seminole War.
At the end of 1831, John James Audubon visited Bulowville while on a collecting and painting trip through Florida. He spoke of Bulow as a rich planter at whose plantation he received most hospitable treatment.
Young John Bulow, like some other settlers in the area, did not agree with the US government’s intentions to sent the Seminoles to reservations west of the Mississippi River. He demonstrated his disapproval by ordering a four-pound cannon to be fired at Mojor Putnam’s command of State Militia, the “Mosquito Raiders,??? as they entered his property. Troops swarmed onto the plantation, taking Bulow prisoner. After a brief unsuccessful campaign against the Indians, and with most of the troops ill with dysentery and yellow fever, Major Putnam’s command relocated to St. Augustine. Realizing that the Indians were becoming more hostile, young Bulow, along with other settlers and their slaves, abandoned his plantation and followed the troops northward.
Around January 31, 1836, the Seminoles burned “Bulowville??? along with other plantations in the area. John Bulow, discouraged by the destruction, went to Paris where he died three months later at the age of 26.
All that is left today of the once thriving plantation are the coquina ruins of the sugar mill, several wells, a spring house and the crumbling foundation of the mansion. The cleared fields have been reclaimed by the forest, and the area looks much as it did when it belonged to the Seminoles.

bulow plantation ruins 001.JPG
Plantation Road, original road to the plantation

bulow plantation ruins 133.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 003.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 004.JPG
Bulow Creek

bulow plantation ruins 006.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 008.JPG
Boat Slips
When the Bulow Plantation was active, these boat slips harbored both work and pleasure crafts. The slips have, fortunately, survived time because John Bulow reinforced the embankments with ale and wine bottles which were discarded from house parties.
Bulow’s flats, or barges, hauled the plantation’s produce. Particularly sugar, molasses, and cotton down the creek to the Halifax River, and then south to Mosquito Inlet (now Ponce Inlet), where it was carried by schooners to east coast and Carribean ports.
Canoes and skiffs were also outfitted here for hunting and fishing trips. John Audubon, famous naturalist and guest at the plantation in 1831, embarked here, with his host, on an expedition in search of new Florida birds.

bulow plantation ruins 011.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 011b.JPG
Plantation House
White posts mark the corners of John Bulow’s plantation house. In 1830, these posts would have been stone columns, the corner supports for a second-story balcony. Today, there is no trace of the balcony or outer columns. All that remains is part of the limerock foundation that supported the inner walls.
The view from the house in 1830 would have been very different from the scenery that now surrounds the ruins. Rice was cultivated on the salt marsh, and sugar-cane grew on the higher ground between the creek and King’s Road. This expanse of open fields was punctuated by various plantation buildings: slave cabins, barns, stables, and a large sugar mill.

bulow plantation ruins 087.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 101.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 010.JPG
Well at Plantation House ruins

Artifacts from Plantation House
bulow plantation ruins 090.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 088.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 096.JPG
Glass from the “Great House??? and lead from the sugar mill were both melted by the fire that destroyed over sixty buildings.

bulow plantation ruins 100.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 015.JPG
Slave Quarters
John Bulow owned 159 slaves who were quartered in 46 houses. The small wood cabins, 12 feet wide and 16 feet long, were built on foundations of native limerock. These “Coquina??? foundation blocks are the only surviving parts of the original structures.
A large work force was essential to the operation of a frontier plantation. The slaves cleared the forest, planted and harvested crops, and worked the sugar mill.
A neighboring planter commented that the Bulow slaves “fared fairly well???. He remembered the slaves having their own garden plots and some leisure time to hunt and fish. Other accounts of slave like at Bulow Plantation have been less favorable.

bulow plantation ruins 068.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 026.JPG
Fields of sugarcane once surrounded the mill at Bulow Plantation. This tropical plant was first used for making sugar in ancient India. It arrived in the New Worls with Columbus and spread throughout the Caribbean and southern United States. By 1830, ten plantations were producing sugar along the east coast of Florida. Bulow Plantation with over 1000 acres of sugarcane, was the largest. Molasses was a by-product of the sugar mill. It was shipped to the Caribbean Islands for making rum. Truly “Liquid Gold,??? Rum was used as payment for African slaves- the backbone of the sugarcane plantation.

bulow plantation ruins 076.JPG
Bulow Sugar Mill
This was the largest sugar mill in Florida. It was operated by Charles Wilhelm Bulow and John Joachim Bulow from 1820 until it was burned by the Seminoles in 1836.
Sugar cane was planted in January and February and was ready for harvesting by mid-October. Field workers cut the cane and loaded it on wagins that brought it to the mill for processing.

bulow plantation ruins 027.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 029.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 032.JPG
This well supplied water for the boiler that produced steam to operate the mill’s cane-crushing machinery.

bulow plantation ruins 033.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 037.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 038.JPG
Boiler and Machinery
A large, long boiler and furnace filled the right half of this room. Steam from the boiler was piped to an engine on the second floor of the building to the right. This engine operated a large gear that turned the rollers to crush the cane.

bulow plantation ruins 040.JPG
A sawmill 18 feet beyond this sign was run by the same steam engine as the sugar mill when sugar was not being made.

bulow plantation ruins 043.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 044.JPG

Cane Juice
Cane was placed on a conveyer starting in front of "Cooling Vats" location (below images). The conveyer, about three feet wide, lifted it to the roller crushers on the second floor. The juice ran into the settling vats. The crushed cane called the “bagasse??? came out the opposite side of this building and was hauled away in carts.

bulow plantation ruins 049.JPG
bulow plantation ruins 53.JPG
bulow plantation ruins 054.JPG

Kettles and Operation
The juice flowed from the settling vats on the second floor into the “grande,??? the largest of the five kettles built into the furnace below. The “grande??? was also the coolest, being farthest from the “batterie??? kettle under which the furnace was fired. The chimney draft pulled heat from this fire through the furnace to heat the other kettles. The heated juice was hand dipped from the larger to the smaller kettle and ended as syrup in the “batterie,??? the smallest and hottest. Here it reached the “strike??? (sugar) stage. It was then ladled into a trough and flowed into large wooden cooling vats to harden. After hardening it was spaded into slices, carried in small tubs to the “purgery??? (curing room) and packed in hogsheads (wooden barrels).

bulow plantation ruins 055.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 057.JPG
Curing Room “Purgery??? (Room that is seen through arc where George is standing in one of the previous pictures.)
The hogsheads were kept in this warm curing room for 20 to 30 days until all the molasses had dripped from the sugar into a cistern located in the recess beneath. The molasses was sold for making rum. The partly emptied hogsheads were then refilled with sugar and stored.

bulow plantation ruins 060.JPG
Storing and Loading
The hogsheads were stored on the floor above this room and lowered through an opening onto wagons below. The wagons left through these archways and hauled the sugar to a landing for shipment by boat to Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and Savannah.

bulow plantation ruins 062.JPG
Second "Purgery" room, to the right of Storing and Loading Room

bulow plantation ruins 035.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 034.JPG
As seen from other side (with Boiler and Machinery Room directly behind)

bulow plantation ruins 066.JPG

Artifacts from Plantation
bulow plantation ruins 069.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 104.JPG
Sugar Kettle

bulow plantation ruins 083.JPG
Canoe found 3 miles down the creek; was made by slaves and used during down time

bulow plantation ruins 064.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 074.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 078.JPG
bulow plantation ruins 079.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 109.JPG
Ruins of Spring House

bulow plantation ruins 110.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 093.JPG
Greater Yellowlegs by John James Audubon
The Greater Yellowlegs is a familiar bird along Florida’s coastal rivers. Some scholars believe that Audubon painted the yellowlegs here, at Bulow Creek. The small buildings in the background of the print are probably slave cabins. Audubon’s painting may be the only view of Bulow Plantation when it was in operation.

bulow plantation ruins 102.JPG

More Trees!
bulow plantation ruins 023.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 125.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 107.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 115.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 121.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 118.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 116.JPG

bulow plantation ruins 117.JPG

Posted by Heather at February 16, 2006 07:37 PM


So have you contacted any travel magazines, newspapers or even considered publishing your own tour guide??
You have a real talent.

Posted by: Kay Aurin at February 18, 2006 10:25 AM

Post a comment

Remember Me?