St. Joseph's Plantation
by Bill Ryan Flagler County Historical Society
In a busy Palm Coast shopping center that is bounded by Old Kings Road,
Palm Coast Parkway and Florida Park Drive North lies the memory of a
great and historic sugar plantation called St. Joseph's. It was part of
a complex of properties owned and developed by Joseph M. Hernandez
including those of Bella Vista (now Washington Gardens), and Mala Compra
(now Bings Landing Park and the A1A MalaCompra Greenway) plus many other
land grants and developments. In the American State Papers is was
recorded the land for MalaCompra was originally granted to Josiah Dupont
in 1792 by the Spanish authorities, then re-granted by the Spanish
authorities to Michael Crosby, a Catholic Priest also known as Miguel
Crosby in 1804. Dupont lost his entitlement because the Spanish deemed
him to have abandoned the land grant during the First Seminole Indian
War. After further use of the land grant for agricultural pursuits,
Priest Crosby sold the land grant to Hernandez in March of 1816.
Hernandez then obtained some 800 acres immediately south of the
plantation at the head of the Matanzas River to expand his area of
production. By the 1820's all the land was reportedly in full production
and in the 1830's the Hernandez family were living at MalaCompra. The
remains of his plantation house, with artifact displays, are in a public
archaeological interpretive facility at Bings Landing.
In 1834 the Hernandez properties were heavily mortgaged. He had borrowed
monies to continue and expand. A step-son, John T. Williams was engaged
as plantation manager. Thus, it was a disaster when the Second Seminole
War began in December of 1835. MalaCompra was used as a fortification by
the federal troops fighting the Seminoles. Federal troops also occupied
St. Joseph’s in February of 1836, using it as a field hospital named
Camp Brisbane. Sometime in February of 1836 both plantations were burned
and by the Seminole Indians. It was the war practice of the Seminoles to
burn any facilities used by the federal troops in the field of battle in
order to deny the federal troops any refuge or fortification from which
to launch or continue their maneuvers.
The MalaCompra ruins to the extent existing in 1990 were preserved by
Flagler County in a series of parkland acquisitions covering the
plantation enterprise. On the other hand, when the new development of
Palm Coast was constructed the extensive ruins of the St. Joseph’s
Plantation were destroyed and removed leaving not even a marker to this
great enterprise of Hernandez. Fill dirt dredged from the finger canals
was laid over the ruins. The St. Joseph’s Plantation was frequently
mentioned during the Second Seminole War which began on Christmas of
1835 as it was a place of refuge for frightened refugees and wounded
soldiers. Here is what I wrote for my book "Bulow Gold" with appropriate
"It was near
dusk Sunday January 23 1836. A large group of frightened refugees, badly
wounded and sick soldiers in ox cart and walking slaves departed the Bulow
Plantation on Old Kings Road. They were seeking safety at today would be
Palm Harbor shopping area near Old Kings and Palm Coast Parkway.
Here General Hernandez had his huge sugar works with a two story coquina
rock curing house. It took in some 200 acres, cross ditched for
drainage. The curing house was 67 x 31 feet, a boiling house 41 x
32 feet, steam engine house with rotary-valve engine, and various store
houses made it one of the most elaborate plantations in Florida for
production of sugar. Some 55 wounded, sick soldiers arrived on
Monday and were then sent onward to St. Augustine by boat. The refugees
and slaves had to walk. Young John Jacob Bulow was under arrest
and also had to walk for opposing the army taking over his own
plantation. When Palm Coast was being developed engineers found
many ruins which some locals had called “an old Spanish Mission.” The
State of Florida in approving the development of Palm Coast required ITT
to document the historic resources in a report but allowed the developer
destroy and fill-in the historic ruins. Judge Billy Wadsworth purchased
property for his house in the 1970's and found the immense sugar house
floor made from cut coquina rock. He long took pleasure in showing
visitors the mill floor on his property and telling the Hernandez story.
The plantation was burned during the Seminole War."
In 1842 Hernandez tried to
re-establish St. Joseph's. His first crop was poor due to a wet
season, but by 1850 he was reportedly yielding 3,000 gallons of syrup, and
300 hogsheads of sugar. (Mildred
L. Fryman PhD Oct 1992 Report)
In 1856 he abandoned his
efforts moving to Cuba.
Here is a story of St.
Joseph's as written by Eileen H. Butts who played a major role in
the preservation and
establishment of the Bulow Ruins State Park in Flagler County.
The St. Joseph Plantation story by
Alice Strickland in "Ashes on the Wind"
picked an interesting name "St. Joseph's" for his plantation. The
Spanish had been in Florida for some 200 years prior. They did build
a series of missions including one called "San Josef de Jororo."
Because the early plantation ruins had such a "Spanish look" many locals
theorized that there were missions perhaps at Bulowville and at St.
Joseph's. One researcher John A. Gallant wrote Florida State
University in March of 1964 as follows:
"I first heard of the site from
D.D. Moody, Flagler County's Tax Assessor and a surveyor there for nearly
40 years. He told me he had first seen it in the early 1920"s while
running a survey, and a few years later took the late Jeannette Thurber (Mrs.
Washington T.) Connor there. He recalls that she had a list of three
missions to the Jororo built in the 1690's, together with their exterior
dimensions, and the Flagler ruin fitted almost exactly her description for
He enclosed his findings, plus artifacts located. The Florida State
experts called them 18th to late 19th Century and not from the Spanish period.
He had enclosed a detail report
plus an area that did not appear to be the same as the other Plantation
In the 1950's several archaeologists including John W. Griffin
wrote that the possibility of Spanish Missions in Flagler or Volusia
Counties did not exist. Articles and papers were written stating the
Spanish had no missions in this area. However, D.D. Moody and others
were convinced there were. Some refer to the shopping area by the name
"St. Joseph's." The shopping center is a couple of miles away
from the main plantation area but the former name of the main road in the
area before the development of Palm Coast was the St. Joe Grade.
This road ran through the plantation and served as the main access to the
St. Joe Still, a turpentine operation in the early 1900's. Relatives
of D.D. Moody operated the turpentine camp and the area was well known to
him as a surveyor.
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