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February 14, 2006

Tomoka State Park

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In the early 1600s, Spanish explorers found Indians living here in a village called Nocoroco. Although nothing remains of the village, shell middens- mounds of oyster and snail shells from decades of Native American meals- reach 40 feet high at the river bank.
After Spain traded Florida to the British in 1763, the area became part of the vast land-grant holdings of Richard Oswald. This wealthy Scots merchant and statesman helped negotiate the treaty ending the American Revolution. Oswald had tracts of forestland cleared to grow indigo, the source of a valuable blue dye used during the Colonial years. Rice was grown in the wetter areas.
In the early 1800s, highly productive sugar plantations doted the region. Most were destroyed in 1835-36 during the Second Seminole War. The ruins of stone sugar mill buildings from the American Territorial Period (1821-45) can be seen in nearby parks, which will be the subject of a future post.
The site was abandoned for decades and in the 1920s became home to Sunset Park and Hotel. In 1946 it opened as Tomoka State Park.

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The name Tomoka comes from Timucua, a group of Native Americans who lived in northeast Florida centuries ago.

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The Tomoka River and Halifax River (the Intracoastal Waterway) meet at the north end of the park forming a natural peninsula.

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Sparkleberry- this small crooked tree is often used in ornamental plantings because of the profusion of fragrant bell-shaped flowers, which bloom in spring. It is related to the blueberry and its small blackberries are eaten by many birds. The wood has been used for tobacco pipes and its reddish bark is suitable for tanning leather.

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Yaupon- A true holly, yaupon is used for Christmas decorations. Because of its shiny evergreen leaves and bright red berries, it is also used as a native ornamental planting in hedges and as shrubs. The Indians boiled yaupon leaves to make a ceremonial drink known as casina. In years past, the leaves have been used in preparing a purgative. Only the female trees will produce the berries.

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Indigo Production
Vats and drying racks were used for the production of indigo. The vats were large holding up to two thousand gallons of liquid. The stems and leaves were cut and laid in the larger vat. The stems were covered with a urine and water mix and left to soak. The liquid darkened to a gold or olive color. After eight to twelve hours the liquid was added and the liquid was vigorously beaten. This added air to the fluid turning it blue. The indigo settled to the bottom of the vat as sludge. After a few days the clear water was drawn and the residue of indigo was scooped into linen bags and hung to dry. After it reached a pasty consistency it was spread out on boards to dry and harden. Finally it was cut into small blocks for shipping.

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John Addison was one of the early settlers on the Tomoka River. In 1816, he obtained a Spanish land grant of 1,414 acres on the west bank, about 1 mile upstream from the boat dock at Tomoka state park.
Under Addison’s direction, a work force of 67 slaves, using only axe and hoe- no “beast or machinery???- cleared the forest and planted the rich lowland soil to cotton. The plantation, named “Carrickfergus??? after Addison’s birthplace in Ireland, prospered under industrious cultivation and was to outlive its owner. Addison died in 1825 and was buried on the plantation, which, there after, continued under new owners, the Macraes, and a new crop, sugarcane, until destroyed by Indians at the onset of the second Seminole war.
Time and vandalism have added to the purposeful destruction by the Seminoles: Addison’s memorial when recovered by the state had been broken and removed from the gravesite. Letter Memorial Studio, of Ormond Beach, restored the stone and it has been relocated here for its protection.

Posted by Heather at February 14, 2006 11:49 AM


"The site was abandoned for decades and in the 1920s became home to Sunset Park and Hotel. In 1946 it opened as Tomoka State Park."... but what happened to the Park and Hotel?

The reflections are amazing. I love to see how water reflects landscapes. (as you know)

Oh.... and Happy Valentine's Day!

Posted by: Nicole at February 14, 2006 11:13 PM

That river and it's "blue" weater is beautiful.

Posted by: Mom at February 15, 2006 02:00 PM

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