At nearly 5,000 acres, the Bulow Plantation was one of the largest agricultural estates in territorial East Florida, the main product was sugar, but it also grew indigo, cotton, and rice. It was built and managed almost entirely by enslaved laborers, who were very skilled workers and craftspeople. The Second Seminole War sealed its fate. The 150 acres of Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park stand as a monument to the rise and fall of the plantation system in East Florida.
In 1821, Major Charles Wilhelm Bulow acquired 4,675 acres of wilderness bordering a tidal creek that would bear his name. Using the labor of enslaved people, he cleared 2,200 acres and planted sugarcane, cotton, rice and indigo. Soon after the plantation was established, Major Bulow died and his 17 year old son John took over operations, the estate prospered. In 1828, young James Emanuel Ormond III lived on the plantation and wrote a brief account. He said there was an eight oar fishing boat large enough for guns, nets, tents and cooks. The 2 1/2 story main house had two separate kitchens, there were 46 houses located in a semi circle around the main house where the 300-400 enslaved workers lived. A sawmill, corn house, huge sugar works with steam engine, cotton gins, poultry houses, blacksmith shop, fodder storage and river piers were also on the property. Few of these buildings have been located. Among the crops and produce he mentioned, were molasses, corn, sweet potatoes, cotton, indigo for dye, and large rice fields located across Smith Creek to the east. A roadway and bridge was built from the plantation, across the creek and leading to the ocean on the east. Also several extensive coquina quarry were used to cut the valuable building material.
John J. Bulow reportedly had a good working relationship with his Seminole neighbors, and some accounts claim he resisted the fortification of his home by the militia under Major B. A. Putnam in early 1836, by actually firing a small cannon at them. The estate was taken over, and he was placed under house arrest while the militia used the plantation's boats to travel along the creek to raid Seminole camps. In late January 1836, they were forced to flee the Bulow Plantation and about a week later, the Seminole arrived and burned the whole estate. On April 1, 1836 Bulow appeared before a Justice of the Peace in St. Augustine, making a statement of losses due to the army occupation and hurried evacuation, which did not allow anyone to take their personal belongings. He blamed the US Army for the loss of his prosperous plantation. Bulow reportedly died in St. Augustine on May 7, 1836.
All that is left today 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 once did when it belonged to the Timucua Indians, the first inhabitants in the area.
page information credit: Florida State Parks, Friends of the Tomoka Basin State Parks, Flagler Library Friends, Florida Frontiers, Wikipedia
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