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February 16, 2006

Bulow Plantation Ruins

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Lots of Big Trees here...

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Front Door...

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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.

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Plantation Road, original road to the plantation

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Bulow Creek

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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.

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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.

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Well at Plantation House ruins

Artifacts from Plantation House
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Glass from the “Great House??? and lead from the sugar mill were both melted by the fire that destroyed over sixty buildings.

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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.

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Sugarcane
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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Sawmill
A sawmill 18 feet beyond this sign was run by the same steam engine as the sugar mill when sugar was not being made.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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Second "Purgery" room, to the right of Storing and Loading Room

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As seen from other side (with Boiler and Machinery Room directly behind)

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Artifacts from Plantation
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Sugar Kettle

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Canoe found 3 miles down the creek; was made by slaves and used during down time

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Ruins of Spring House

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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.

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

Comments

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

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

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