Old Kings RoadTracing the history of Flagler County Florida

The distant sounds of the past still quietly resonate in street names and places, Indian Trails, Matanzas, Turnbull Woods, Pellicer, St. Joseph, Seminole Woods, Graham Swamp, Moultrie, Bulow.

Taken from The Search for Old Kings Road copyright 2006 ISBN 978-1-60179-033-0 William Ryan

They arrived in Flagler County and Palm Coast Florida from almost every point in America. From New Jersey, from New York, with moving vans from Chicago, home buyers immigrating from Knoxville, and even from the multitude of islands in the Caribbean, or distant points in Russia. The land salesmen brought the normal Florida sales point of moving to a paradise. Roads were cut and paved, lots sold, and a new community had begun. The rural nature of Flagler County was forever changed.

Soon Flagler was named as the fastest-growing county in the United States. Each new immigrant brought memories from distant places. Their new Florida homes trimmed with stucco gave a fresh start. As the existing pine forests cracked down and vanished under the land clearing dozers, only a brick or two, or perhaps a trimmed cypress log would emerge in the rubble to hint that someone had been there before. The old Florida grew fainter as the older residents and pioneer families faded. Gated communities adopted old Plantation names onto their impressive brick gate facades along the waterways where the early settlers once farmed.

“The King’s Road is indisputably one of America’s most historic pathways. Remaining physical traces of the original road should be preserved and advertised where that is practical…..”

Old Kings Road

Memories still exist in Flagler County. The distant sounds of the past still quietly resonate in street names and places, Indian Trails, Matanzas, Turnbull Woods, Pellicer, St. Joseph, Seminole Woods, Graham Swamp, Moultrie, Bulow. They trace a very real thread that passes by them all: Old Kings Road. The violent past that shaped this area is in the far past. Old Kings Road today is mostly a paved, wandering bypass that might annoy busy drivers with its curves, and the heavy cross-traffic that inches past as Old Kings crosses the modern Palm Coast Parkway and St. Joseph’s shopping plaza. Long lines with slowly moving traffic now impatiently await the green stoplight at the black-topped-over intersections that cover the memories of our now distant history.

Things were not always peaceful in Flagler County. This was once a violent area, full of war, death, and struggle. Prior to the Civil War era, what is today Flagler County was almost depopulated.

Unpaved Old Kings Road

If you drive north on U.S. Route 1 nearing the Flagler County north borderline, where it ends near Pellicer Creek, you are passing one of the most historic corners in the United States. At one time, Route 1 was the main avenue into Florida. Here the 1960 era cars would zoom by a then-unknown dirt road turnoff that had a small sign designating it as “Old Kings Road”. Today this dirt road was once a remaining bit of the original Old King’s Road, an antique byway. It is now totally paved.

It began as a road before the American Revolution!

In 1765 Colonel James Grant, the first Governor of British East Florida recognized the need for a road to link his command together. Florida was a wilderness place, but British investors saw the profit in building plantations along the east coast. Plans began to make a roadway following old Indian trails. Thus began one of the first major roads in America.

Clearing tractors plus surveyors today point toward paving and improving this old tract through Flagler County; soon it will lose its character as an unpaved dirt road that journeys through the past. Here soldiers, investors in the land, travelers, Florida Crackers, Indians warriors, desperate Minorcan settlers plus seekers of the Florida Live Oak tree marched across this southerly turn from Pellicer creek, traveling through a border of what is now Flagler County or “Mosquito County,”…. For this is the name by which our area was once called. Along this road grew huge commercial enterprises, some with English shareholders, developing large areas of Flagler County as far back as the Revolutionary War days.

The distant sounds of the past still quietly resonate in street names and places, Indian Trails, Matanzas, Turnbull Woods, Pellicer, St. Joseph, Seminole Woods, Graham Swamp, Moultrie, Bulow.

As you travel towards the Princess Place, and the new Florida Agricultural Museum you are moving along one of the oldest roadways in North America. Flagler County has a rich history, much of it has flowed past this turn in the road. This small piece of unpaved Old Kings extends along one of the oldest known roads in North America. Most of Old Kings Road today consists of paved highway winding through the modern developments, housing, and shopping districts of Palm Coast. Some of the Old Kings have been relocated many times, but the present dirt road near Flagler’s Princess Place Preserve is dead on the original route!

Seminole Indian

In 1767 the British Lieutenant-Governor John Moultrie had stated that a road from St. Augustine to Turnbull’s new plantation at Mosquito inlet was blazed by “his Indian friend Grey Eyes.” He was a Creek Indian, probably part of the Alachua people under their leader Cowkeeper. Grey Eyes had to be a remarkable man being a friend of Governor Moultrie and one to whom he entrusted the job of scouting the existing Indian Trails down to new the settlement of Smyrna being planned by Dr. Turnbull. The Indian trails avoided the low spots in the swamps and wetlands and thus were of a wandering, winding nature. Grey Eyes appears again in the account “Mullet on the Beach The Minorcans of Florida” by Patricia C. Griffin. He was reported as driving a herd of cattle down the trail toward the Turnbull estate when the Minorcans first arrived! Grey Eyes then vanishes from history, although an internet web search shows it is a common Indian family name.

Most Florida Indians had arrived from the north, being pressured by the influx of white settlers. They were often known as Seminoles, which could mean “stranger, or wanderer”. The Indian trails extended across Florida, used by Indians moving from their settlements. Often the Seminoles kept cattle, horses, raised food on their small farms and traded with the plantations being developed along the St. Johns River. They had arrived in this area from various Indian tribes, being pressured by white settlers moving into Georgia and the Carolinas, or displaced by war. For the most part, they got along well with the Plantation managers and could work for wages or trade during the harvest seasons or supply needed game. They did fear the influx of white settlers as a danger to the land they believed to be theirs.

In March of 1765 East Florida’s Lt. Governor, John Moultrie planned to start a road southward to reach an anticipated settlement of Dr. Andrew Turnbull, who wished to make a massive development near Mosquito Inlet. Governor Grant had returned to England, obtained authority for funds and directed the road begun to the south.

“By June 20, 1772, Moultrie could inform Grant: ‘I have at several times gone over the road leading from this (town) to the Matanzas Swamp and could not think much of giving it any little help it could want.'”…

The Kings Road, Florida’s First Highway by Dr. William R. Adams.

By 1774 much had been accomplished, streams bridged by contractor Robert Bissett. Sometime in 1775, the northern segment of the road was completed to Colerain Georgia. The roadway was reported to be sixteen feet across, with ditches and pine logs laid crosswise in the wet portions. It was an open door for immigrants from the northern colonies. It was reported to be an excellent, broken shell surfaced roadway, well suited to a coach and team for travel south.

Also by 1774, it was reported that the roadway now reached the colony of New Smyrna. The roadway is mentioned in several accounts concerning the arrival of the new colonists.

In 1768 the settlement of New Smyrna had been established south of what is now Flagler (or Mosquito) County. Smyrna was ill-starred, suffering from a rebellion of its settlers against poor management. The unhappy settlers (largely from the island of Minorca in the Mediterranean) were suffering ill-treatment, starvation, and death. They needed to reach the authorities in St. Augustine. The settlement was established by Dr. Andrew Turnbull. It began with eight ships in 1768 with some 1,400 workers who traveled to the New World.

Others are reported to have journeyed by land using the trail blazed by the Indian Grey Eyes.

There were Greeks, Italians, all residents of the Island of Minorca, who signed indentures to work and escape the problems of their home. The English controlled their island, and the Minorcans, who were Catholic, hoped for more religious freedom in America. They also spoke a common language and were known for their hard work and serious nature.

Dr. Turnbull had a strong influence on the English government. He desired the completion of the “Kings Road” along the existing Indian trails. He had traveled the Mediterranean and formed a stock company to develop a profitable plantation in Florida using indentured workers from the island of Minorca along with imported slaves. A detailed “plan for profitability” was drawn, with funds allocated for what they believed would be all contingencies. The workers were promised land of their own after their period of indenture was finished. They probably were the first Florida immigrants attracted by the glowing promises of a land developer.

The Florida climate was terrible for the Mediterranean settlers. Insects, disease, poor food and hard work plus brutal treatment from the English supervisors, drove the survivors to desperation. Turnbull and his partners had tried to make the colony a success but did not improve the living conditions. By 1768 some 450 of the original group were reported dead. Desperation caused the seizure of an English supply ship in 1768. The rebels were captured. The leaders were taken to St. Augustine where they were tried and two hanged. The capture of an English flagged ship was piracy and left the St. Augustine governor little choice. Dr. Turnbull also still had influence. One rebel, who was a Greek from Corsica, was offered his own life if he hung his other two rebels, who were of Italian descent. His fellows convinced him to proceed, and he lived.

British troops were also dispatched to the colony and had reported very difficult problems marching to the colony over the then-existing trails and road. Efforts were increased, and money was then allocated to improve and extend the road from St. Augustine to the Turnbull property by the English governor.

By early 1777 three desperate men had left the colony and made their way over the 75 miles to St. Augustine to report their plight.

Patrick Tonyn
Patrick Tonyn

A new governor, Patrick Tonyn had arrived. He was more sympathetic. Legal reports were filed, the reputation of Dr. Turnbull began to weaken. There were terrible reports of murder, deaths, and ill-treatment in the colony. By mid-April a group of some 90 men, women, and children, led by a Minorcan carpenter, Francisco Pellicer struggled in the three day trip to St. Augustine, later followed by some 600 walking north in June.

Today, the Minorcan descendants still live in St. Augustine, proud of their ancient heritage of being survivors. Several books have been written about their suffering in Turnbull’s colony.

Minorcans in Florida by Jane Quinn 1975 includes a detailed map of the Old Kings Road route and accounts of their mistreatment in the Turnbull colony. Mr. Pellicer will also appear again in the history of Old Kings Road. He is the ancestor of several prominent families still living in Flagler County.

By 1774 Old Kings road had been reported as complete to New Smyrna. There is little doubt that the trail used by the surviving Minorican settlers was that of “Old Kings Road”. It was the only pathway they could have followed to St. Augustine. Again a name rings out in “Pellicer Creek” today a northern landmark of Flagler County! Marching through the June Florida heat, lacking clean water and food, suffering the biting Florida Yellow Flies and mosquitoes, it is a wonder that many survived the 75-mile trip. We can imagine their condition as they made the turn through what is now the Flagler area to cross over the deep stream that would later be named Pellicer Creek. What joy than to encounter the broad, straight, 16-foot wide shell, road to St. Augustine and civilization as they moved past swamps and wild unsettled areas… The ragged and hungry settlers marched along with our piece of the roadway. It was said they arrived with an ox-cart and on foot to seek aid and residence in St. Augustine.

Francisco Pellicer, their heroic leader, was a skilled carpenter, and well-known citizen of St. Augustine.

He then established a farm on what is today known as Pellicer creek which was then bridged by Old Kings Road. His name became part of Flagler’s history and location names. Though his farm is long departed. (see Pellicer Land Grant along Old Kings Road) the Flagler Princess Place preserve is today part of his original Spanish Pellicer Land Grant.

John Moultrie had probably begun the first real public road. Work continued with bridges over streams, surveying the best paths, and an attempt to reach New Smyrna with a road that had the objective being transversed by either wagon or coach. The path from St. Augustine to what is now Flagler’s north borderline was relatively straight and a normal task for the British engineers, until they reached Pellicer creek and the then impenetrable Matanzas and Grahams Swamp of our county. Pellicer flowed deep and emptied into the shallow lagoon leading to the St. John’s River. It had to be bridged, but then came the deep and apparently trackless wetlands.

Here is some of the story as related by local attorney and historian Allen Hadeed:

“When the British came, most of the means of transportation within this region was by water on the Matanzas River. The British knew this was a hindrance to the economy, to exploitation, to plantation production, so they wanted to build a road along the coastline so all the plantations could more easily ship goods and have commerce. That gave birth to the Kings Road. We know it today as the Old Kings Road. I don’t know how many of you know this but the Kings Road, the remnant of it that exists in Flagler county today is the longest existing segment of the Kings Road built in the United States. It is for the most part, with some exceptions, on the original alignment of the Kings Road.

I’m going to tell you a little story about how the Kings Road came to be. At that time, when they built the Kings Road, they stopped it at what is today the Flagler County line. We weren’t Flagler County than of course. They stopped it at the Flagler County line because the British engineers did not know how to take it through Flagler. We were then known as the Matanzas Swamp. They were unable to traverse the swamp. I mean no insult to anyone here who is an engineer, but engineers like to do things in straight lines. And so, the Kings Road north of Flagler County is a straight line.

They built causeways, bridges but when they got to Flagler County you couldn’t just do a straight line. So the British Governor went to his Indian friend, Grey Eyes. After years of trying, the British engineers could not build the rest of this road which was vital to the commercialization of Florida. So he asked Grey Eyes to plot the road for him. And of course, we all know today what Grey Eyes did. He used his eyes. He followed the game trails. He followed the ridges. And that is why the Kings Road curves through Flagler County because of that Native American’s contribution.

The curious shapes and great strength of the Florida Live Oak made it excellent
for shipbuilding.  “Old Ironsides” the famous American fighting ship of the
Revolution was said to make cannonballs bounce off its Live Oak beams.

What was grown then was sugar and indigo. Indigo was a very important plant dye. It was extremely valuable in Europe. Do you know what else they coveted here? Our timber. Our Live Oaks. Live oaks are great for boats. And of course, what was happening in Europe and the Americas? Naval engagements, Naval wars… Shipping and commerce. So they wanted our live oaks. In fact, there was a sawmill built close to where U.S. 1 crosses Pellicer Creek. In fact, Pellicer Creek used to be called Woodcutter’s Creek during the time of the English. There was a mill site there and they clear cut the forest in Flagler County for the live oak used in the Americas and Europe for shipbuilding.” …Al Hadeed Flagler Historian

Second Spanish Period Flag
Second Spanish Period Flag

Florida was a colony of Spain from 1513 and had been ceded to the British empire by 1763. It was returned back to Spanish control by England in 1784. After the war of 1812 between the young United States and England, President James Monroe recognized the Adams-Onis Treaty which put Florida permanently under U.S. control.

In these turbulent times what was called Old Kings Road had been destroyed many times in Indian fights, bridges burned, and the road itself relocated and repaired. Soldiers marched and countermarched along with it. Forts were built, abandoned and fell into the wilderness. Revolutionary War soldiers in both 1776 and 1812 had used this pathway.

The roadway was important to the Plantations and farms to get their crops to market, or to reach the nearest navigable waterway. In 1784 after return to Spanish control, the roadway was reported to be in poor condition but still very much there.

Bulow Survey

Many of the British Plantations along Old Kings Road south of St. Augustine had for the most part been abandoned after the Spanish takeover. The Spanish, wishing to repopulate this area issued many land grants to encourage settlers to return. In spite of wars, Indian fights, and the constant battle with Florida’s climate and rapidly growing foliage, what was called “Old Kings Road” endured. During the second Spanish period of control, after 1787 it was desired to repopulate the area, and as Spanish land grants issued, many grant surveys used Old Kings Road as a reference. A succession of grants was made along the east coast between St. Augustine and the Mosquito inlet alongside of Old Kings Road. These grants later became the basis of many famous early families and settlers such as to trace their linage and ownership. Old Kings was the reference point and was also called “the public road.”

Some of these original land grant documents exist in private collections.

The Pellicer Land Grant references the “Public Road” which was Old Kings Road.

After the Spanish takeover and issuance of land grants, great plantations grew and prospered in what is now Flagler county. These were strung along Old Kings Road which today is a winding, paved thoroughfare going from the north of Flagler County to its southern border. An interesting history of these lost plantations is contained “Ashes on The Wind” by Alice Strickland which is found in the Flagler County Public Library’s history collection. The string of plantations and smallholdings along Old Kings Road are a true story of adventure, disaster in the violence, war, and destruction that fell upon the area. At one time this area was almost totally without residents. It was too dangerous to live here.

Joseph M. Hernandez

Local historian John Clegg “The History of Flagler County” reported that a number of Spanish grants were purchased by Joseph M. Hernandez whose plantations called St. Joseph, Bella Vista, and Mala Compra (that translates as ‘bad purchase’ in Spanish) figure strongly in Flagler County’s history. St. Joseph Plantation had a sugar mill that was near a prior St. Joseph Mission, an Indian mission run by the Franciscan Friars. Mr. Clegg said the foundation of the sugar mill existed until the time of the Palm Coast development. Today there is “St. Joseph Plaza” near the traffic-heavy paved section of Old Kings Road.

The sugar mill was reported to be in the area of 45 Park Drive today near Old Kings Road. A record of the research to locate this Mission is located at the Flagler Beach Museum.

Mala Compra today exists within a Flagler County Park near A1A and was explored and relics shown in a library display. Some relics also exist in the Flagler Beach Museum.

It can be said that the streaming auto traffic that now passes Palm Coast Parkway and Old Kings Road is also intersecting near one of the most historic areas in Flagler County.

Major plantation locations included Mala Compra, St. Joseph, New Hartford, Bulow, Dunlawton, Putnam, Addison, Bunch, Oswald and Smyrna. There was also a multitude of smaller holdings along the route. Many of the Spanish land grants, which extended from St. Augustine to New Smyrna used Old King’s road as a reference point, it was sometimes called “public road.” These grants indicated that Old Kings Road pretty much followed the original British tract.

These plantations needed the roadway. During the second Spanish period it was reported that maintenance was effected by local workers, and slaves from the adjacent plantations. Road maintenance fees were collected… The Kings Road Florida’s First Highway by Dr. William R. Adams, University of Central Florida Libraries.

During the War of 1812 between England and the young United States, Old King’s road had been actively used by troops both American and Spanish militia. In 1821 when ownership of Florida was returned to the citizens of the then United States, it soon became apparent that this old trail and road had to again be rebuilt, repaired and put in order for the new territory to become viable again. Where it was not maintained, the aggressive Florida fauna quickly took over, or it sank again into swamps and wetlands. By 1821 it was reported that sections had vanished into the muck and Palmetto Palms.

Joseph Hernandez was Florida’s Territorial Delegate in Congress and responded to the pressures to improve and repair this road. On February 5, 1823, a bill was passed in Congress to open a road through Florida following the tract of the then ancient “Old Kings Road.” By 1829 much work had been done to make the roadway again useful. By 1834 it was reported that mail service to New Smyrna could be accomplished along the roadway. The Kings Road, Florida’s First Highway

The arrival of the “Live Oakers” – – the harvesting of The Florida Live Oak trees.

Traveling along what is now the paved version of Old Kings Road, past the Bulow Plantation, on to the Ormond Plantation site you will find the “Fairchild Oak”. It has been around since the era of settlers and Seminoles—– about 800 years. Surrounded by sugar plantation ruins,

safeguarded as an archeological site, the tree stands in Bulow Creek State Park. There are few of the grand old oaks still remaining in Flagler County although it was reported that once great forests grew here.

The early Spanish settlers and later the English found a great Florida treasure—– the Live Oak. Unfortunately, it was too valuable and by 1800 large tracts of live oak forests had been cut down. The lumber was vital for shipbuilding. It often came in exactly the right shape for ship’s frames, or knees, and was almost indestructible compared with other available woods. The wood was valuable and a market existed for it in Europe where most of the great Oaks had long ago been cut down.

By 1827 Navy Secretary Samuel Southard informed Congress that large amounts of timber along the St. John’s river and along the sea coast had vanished.

President John Quincy Adams became one of the first conservationists in fighting for laws to protect this valuable resource. It was not to be. Political infighting, the election of Andrew Jackson and the subsequent Indian wars in Florida left an open door to those who were enough to cut the timber and transport it to markets in ports such as St. Augustine via the accessible waterways.

The logging crews that flooded into Florida were called “Live Oakers” and precipitated bitter political struggles within the new U.S. government, and many financial scandals. There is little doubt that Old Kings Road provided an avenue for loggers to reach the accessible water transport, and bring their valuable cargo to St. Augustine. It is likely that a side road, near what is today the Princess Place Preserve was a route from stands of Oak Trees to the waterway.

A few examples of the magnificent Live Oak trees still remain in Flagler County located on the present Princess Place Preserve, which is today one of the first turns offs on the unpaved, Old Kings Road. We could speculate how many of the wooden ships of the English Navy carried Live Oak frames and knees originating from what is now Flagler County. It is likely that active logging activity took place in this area. A local name for Pellicer Creek was Wood Cutters Creek and a mill, called Hewitt’s existed in the area, on the west side of Old Kings. The objective was to get this valuable wood up to St. Augustine, where it could be shipped to Europe and a ready and profitable market. Hewitt’s Mill appears on several maps of the period. A sawmill site owned by John Hewitt, a citizen of St. Augustine, during the British period is located on a tributary of Pellicer Creek near Old Kings Road, known as the Hulett branch. The mill site was recently donated to the Florida Agricultural Museum by the owner Palm Coast Holding Company. The site was investigated in 1977 and an earth dam, plus wooden artifacts were located. It was also described in detail in the Palm Coast Cultural Resource Assessment Report of 1978.

There were often Indian incidents in the Mosquito County area and travel could be dangerous along the Old Kings Road trail.

John Audubon visits our area and his account of the Live Oakers

John James Audubon
John James Audubon

In 1831-32 John James Audubon the famous naturalist traveled in portions of Old Kings Road, after a visit to what is now Flagler County where he stopped at the Hernandez plantation in middle December 1831. He was accompanied by Henry Ward, an English taxidermist, and George Lehman a landscape painter. Audubon also wrote about his visit to the Bulow Plantation which also lies along Old Kings Road in Flagler County (as it is called today) On January 14, 1832, Audubon and his party returned to St. Augustine from Bulowville, traveling on Old Kings Highway by wagon and six mules. He wrote a detailed report on his experiences.

Audubon does not comment on Indian dangers but there surely were risks in his trip at that time. Visiting Mosquito County (or later Flagler County) could have been a dangerous venture for him. They journeyed by boat but also certainly found the Old Kings Road running nearby to the Bulow Plantation, and on their return, they did an 18-mile stretch via mule and wagon along ‘a Seminole trail’ which was almost certainly Old Kings Road. His paper on the visit to our area was widely published, but his comments on the Live Oakers are not as well known:

The Live Oakers as visited by Mr. Audubon (famous naturalist James Audubon and friends, visited this area in 1831 and wrote about the Live Oak Cutters—here is part of his report which describes our Flagler County area)

Read Audubon Report about the Live Oakers

A 19th Century Viet Nam type battle in Mosquito County (today Flagler)

Much work and contracting were accomplished and by 1829 it was reported that an extension of the road was again complete to New Smyrna. It was a continuous battle against nature, hostile Indians and the small supporting population to keep the Old Kings Road open and effective. And, by 1835 affairs and relationships with the Indian residents have broken into open warfare. In what is now Flagler County, occurred what has been called “A 19th Century Viet Nam”. To understand how this happened, a brief review of the policies of Andrew Jackson should be made.

The hero of the Battle of New Orleans and the war of 1812 had placed a heavy fist onto “Mosquito County.” Andrew Jackson was elected President of the young United States. One of his early actions was to support an “Indian Removal Act” in Congress.

President Andrew Jackson

President Andrew Jackson hated Indians. The “Seminole Indians” were not a tribe, but was the name given to the many groups and individuals that fled to Florida from Georgia and other states where they were being forced out by white settlers and farmers. There were many incidents of Indian troubles in Florida over the years. The Plantation Owners were disturbed when valuable slaves would escape their plantation and join with local Indian groups where they were readily accepted. In 1830 the U.S. had passed the Indian Removal Act, to relocate all tribes west of the Mississippi. This has explosive results in our area. It has a dramatic effect on Old Kings Road which changed from a route of commerce to an arena of war.

President Jackson had pressed Congress hard for an Indian removal act. An act to remove all Indians to reservations west of the Mississippi River. He envisioned savages, wandering through unmapped wildernesses, as a stoppage to development and civilization by the white settlers who came flowing into Georgia, the Carolinas, and Florida. His views were reflected in a speech made to Congress on 8 December 1830:

President Andrew Jackson’s Case for the Removal Act
First Annual Message to Congress, 8 December 1830

The Jackson speech sounded good. It proposed the removal of all Indians to reservations West of the Mississippi River. Congress passed this Indian Removal Act, but the results were not exactly what Mr. Jackson had predicted.

To understand this, and the almost instant effect on the Flagler area (it was quickly almost totally emptied with refugees fleeing North along Old Kings Road) some further understanding of Andrew Jackson and the relations with Indians must be made.

Jackson was a great hero in the battle of 1812 in New Orleans (which sadly happened after a treaty of peace was signed, but neither party was aware of it). The British had recruited Indian allies. The Creek nation favored the British side. Many Indians fled into what was then Spanish Florida (the Florida Panhandle) and continued to raid across the border. Valuable slaves were escaping too and joining up with the Indians. In 1818 Jackson raised a volunteer group plus Indian allies and invaded Spanish Florida. He had begun the first Seminole war.

Two British loyalists Robert Armbrister and Alexander Arbuthnot had the bad luck to come afoul of Jackson. They were accused of gun-running and supplying the Indians with their small schooner, the Chance. Jackson had Armbrister shot, and Arbuthnot hung from his ship.

Jackson continued onward and took the city of Pensacola, the Spanish capitol. There was later political fury in the capitol of the new United States, and the threat of war with Spain. However, Spain soon renounced its claim to Florida and gave over ownership to the United States. Jackson’s critics in Washington did not avail as the pressure for new lands was intense. Old Kings Road had become a major route for white settlers from the North looking for land, much of which the Indians believed they owned.

It could be said that Jackson did not favor the Indian, he sponsored the Indian removal act. The act did not recognize that many Indians are settled farmers with land, slaves of their own, cattle and property much along Old Kings Road. Many of the escaping slaves had joined with Indian families, married and raised families of their own. The relationship of the Indians with the blacks was complicated. Some Indian leaders kept slaves of their own, others permitted free living in their conclave with payment of a “tax”. In many cases escaped slaves would marry into an Indian family and were well accepted. In the War of 1812 and later the first Seminole war, the British had an interest in keeping the Indians stirred up. There had been attacks and fighting across Florida. The new settlers had strong anti-Indian feelings.

Jackson’s Indian Removal Act thus triggered the later “Trail of Tears” when the Cherokee farmers were forcibly removed from their lands in North Georgia, and caused a true disaster for the Plantations and small farms along Old Kings Road. Jackson as President probably did not believe his own words: “Toward the aborigines of the country no one can indulge a more friendly feeling than myself, or would go further in attempting to reclaim them from their wandering habits and make them a happy, prosperous people.” in his speech to Congress. Many of the Seminoles in Florida were not “wandering people.” Nor were the Cherokee farmers of Georgia.

At first, the Indian tribes tried legal resistance. But, the courts were closed. In Cherokee Nation vs the State of Georgia in 1831, the court said although they were sympathetic to the Indian’s plight, they would not intervene to halt the seizure of their farms because they were not a nation recognized by our government. Cases were taken to the U.S. Supreme court but no action resulted. Later during the “Trail of Tears,” it was reported that 25% of the Indians died on the route to Oklahoma. These were not the wild aborigines as described by President Jackson.

Indian relationships in Florida were also very disturbing to the new and existing residents.

On March 6, 1826 Planters and Inhabitants of St. Johns County wrote to President John Quincy Adams:

  1. The Indians from Alachua area are roaming at large over the country, doing serious mischief to the Inhabitants by killing their cattle and hogs, robbing their plantations, and enticing away their slaves;
  2. Florida Indians are a turbulent and lawless set who have fled from the laws and justice of their own Nations for refuge among the Seminoles;
  3. That the Indians have refused to give back the slaves; the Governor has no power to order military action. They have been unable to recover property and will be ruined if no control is granted.

(Memorials of the Planters – Palm Coast Cultural Resource Assessment James Miller July 1978)

The escape of slaves, who were of great value, was a hot issue to the local planters along Old Kings Road. Further, there were many Indians arriving from areas that had been at war during the first Seminole war. Although the local Plantations reported good existing relationships with the local Indians, tensions were growing rapidly often with newcomers.

The Seminoles in Florida were offered “treaties” to move to designated spots in central and southern Florida but neither the Indians nor the white settlers believed in their effect. The act removed any pretense that Indians had any title to their lands. The flow of wagons along Old Kings Road bringing white settlers from the north made a sham of any agreements or treaties made. The Seminole land was at risk. They found leaders, arms and decided to fight.

In 1832 Seminole chiefs met attracted by promises at Payne’s Landing on the Ocklawaha River, offering them land in Arkansas. It was called the Payne’s Landing treaty and was perceived to be a fraud.

It was reported that Osceola drove a knife through a treaty paper that the Indians knew would be false.  After a bloody war, he was captured by Gen Hernandez when Osceola  arrived under a flag of truce for a meeting.  He died in captivity.
It was reported that Osceola drove a knife through a treaty paper that the Indians knew would be false. After a bloody war, he was captured by Gen Hernandez when Osceola arrived under a flag of truce for a meeting. He died in captivity.

In 1835 General Thompson called a meeting where the Seminole leader Osceola is said to draw a knife, stab it into the paper and indicate his resistance. The Seminoles organized and a bitter guerrilla war began along Old Kings Road. The Seminoles were probably well aware of other efforts in the north being made for their removal. They had arms, were organized and ready to fight.

It was a bloody and protracted Indian war from about 1835 to 1842 (there had been prior Indian uprisings, but the last bloody event was called “The Second Seminole Indian War” There was much destruction along the Old Kings Road, bridges were burnt and destroyed, much of the road was abandoned, although portions served as military routes, and new extensions were made. There were continuous fights, destruction with armies marching down the road. There were attacks, countermarches, and military disasters, using Old King’s road as a reference through the mostly unmapped Florida wilderness. While the war “officially” ended in 1842, it still continued with the Flagler area being almost without residents until Civil War times. Seminole villages were burned, massacres happened on both sides. The great plantations, small farms, and individual homes were burned, destroyed and abandoned. It was of interest that in many reports, the slave quarters on the plantations were the only structures left untouched by the Indian raiders.

“During the winter of 1835-36, the citizens of St. Augustine watched in dismay as clouds of billowing smoke drifted towards the city from the south. Except for the slave quarters, all of the plantations along the Halifax and Tomoka Rivers were burned to the ground by the Seminole Indians. Efforts to save the plantations were futile. The people of St. Augustine provided refuge for an exodus of plantation inhabitants. Within one month, the thriving plantations from Pellicer Creek to Cape Canaveral were reduced to ruin. The heyday of sugar was over, and it was never fully re-established as an important crop in Northeastern Florida.” – – Volusia County History Website

The great cotton, sugar, and Indigo plantations, with thousands of workers, large amounts of steam-driven machinery, and huge capital investment were gone from Florida, never to return.

The surviving Seminoles retreated to the deep southern Florida grassland swamps of today’s Everglades, but never ceased their opposition to the rapid settlement of Florida. Some reportedly were able to escape with their families to the Caribbean Islands. Their famous leader Osceola was captured by the then General Hernandez during a white flag of truce meeting. The war ended when the U.S. government “declared victory” and departed the area, leaving a virtual waste of abandoned plantations and farms.

The war never really ended.

In February of 1840 a military post, Fort Fulton was reported constructed on the right side of Pellicer Creek, between Pellicer and Old Kings Road West of present U.S. highway 1. Hewlett’s(sp) Mill, a sawmill built by John Hewitt was 1500 feet SW of Fort Fulton… Flagler Beach Museum unpublished documents. Old Kings Road was now a highway of disaster and destruction with refugees fleeing north to St. Augustine and further.

An example of this conflict lies off the southern portion of Old Kings Road as it approaches the Volusia county border. Down a narrow path thru beautiful live oak trees, huge palmetto plants, and thick Florida foliage, lies Bulow Plantation ruins, now a State Park.

“The Old Road”, running from the paved portion of Old Kings, is said to look very much like the roads appeared in 1835. It too is a last remaining, unpaved memory of what once was. The lane runs through largely untouched wild Florida and was probably much like that viewed by naturalist Audubon during his visit. The Spanish land grant for this Plantation clearly shows the location of Old Kings, marked “public road.”

The early 1800s had been a turbulent era in Florida’s history as settlers began establishing plantations on lands that the Seminole Indians believed to be theirs. In 1821 Major Charles Wilhelm Bulow 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, he died at age 44. His only son John took overproduction and the plantation prospered until the second Seminole War.

Reconstruction Bulow Sugar Mill
Reconstruction of Bulow Mill

John Bulow like some of the other settlers in the area did not agree with the U.S. government’s intent to send the Seminoles to reservations west of the Mississippi River. He had always had a good relationship with the Indians. John Bulow also believed that any fortification of his Plantation would cause an attack. He demonstrated his disapproval by ordering a four-pound cannon to be fired at Major Putnam’s command of State Militia, the “Mosquito Roarers,” as they entered his property.

Electronic rendering of Bulow house by Bill Ryan - "Bulow Gold"
Electronic rendering of Bulow house by Bill Ryan – “Bulow Gold”

On December 28, 1835, Major Benjamin A. Putnam and his company of men had reached Bulowville after abandoning another plantation. Bulowville was converted into a military fortress, with stockade and breastworks of bales of cotton. A large number of refugee planters and their negroes came down Old Kings Road for protection. The plantation house was packed with anxious settlers anticipating an Indian attack.

John Bulow was made a prisoner for his opposition. However suffering from dysentery and yellow fever, Major Putnam’s command retreated along Old Kings Road to St. Augustine.

Realizing the Indians were now hostile, young Bulow was taken with other settlers and their slaves to St. Augustine. He died there under mysterious circumstances on May 7, 1836.

Bulow Ruins
Bulow Ruins

Around January 31, of 1836 the Seminoles burned “Bulowville” leaving other plantations along Old King’s road in flames.—–exhibit Bulow Plantation Ruin, Historic State Park.

The visible wreckage of the sugar mill installation that exists today shows what an impressive operation these plantations represented. There had been a huge investment in machinery and structure to process sugar cane, the ruins today are massive. The Plantation House is long gone in the fire, but the large processing plant and warehouse ruins show what might have been. The fields have long been recovered by the Florida wilderness. Of the other plantations and farms, only a few stones here and there still exist in Flagler County. Bulow is the remaining sample of the many large and smallholdings that were wrecked and burned along the Old Kings Road route. The era of large Plantations along Old Kings Road had ended, never to return. Today Flagler’s gated communities and developments post the names of these long lost plantations. Old Kings Road still remains.

It was reported that over 1,466 soldiers lost their lives, probably many more uncounted civilians, and over 20 million dollars in expenses occurred. This is huge when you consider this was in 1842 and the U.S. regular army was very small. It was estimated that over 30,000 troops were engaged in the “Indian Removal Project”. The great plantations that had lined Old Kings Road were almost totally gone, burned with nothing of value left. The destruction is dramatically related in Ashes On the Wind, but one ponders the fate of the thousands of slaves that once labored in the Flagler area. History is not always clear on their fate although certainly many were transported to St. Augustine and re-sold. Great enterprises were destroyed in what would later become Flagler County. Many slaves, who had a great monetary value to their owners, had previously fled to the Indian camps where they were welcomed, and caused increased political pressure for a solution to “the Indian problem.” The destruction levied upon the Indians can only be imagined. The U.S. sent their best generals and soldiers into bitter campaigns toward the elimination of the Indians. The effect on the free blacks and slaves was beyond calculation, their story remains for the most part unwritten. Black families were separated and families destroyed.

Sale of Indian Cattle and Horses

A copy of a newspaper advertisement of the time for “Sale of Indian Cattle and Horses” in Jacksonville reflects the pain of the Indians during the great relocation effort. While Andrew Jackson had spoken of Indians wandering through trackless forest as hunters, this was often not the case. Many had established farms, grew cattle and crops. It was also reported that Indians who were part negro or had ‘black blood’ could not take part in the relocation program and would be resold as slaves. Many slaves had run away and joined the Indian groups. Being recaptured after marrying into Indian groups and raising families of their own would lead to a life of desperation. This is described in an excellent fictionalized account of the times

“Red Blood, White Lies” by Louquitas Belloit 2004. This story relates to the efforts of free blacks, sympathetic white farmers, and the Seminoles to survive during the Indian Removal and war. Much of her book is set in the Pellicer Creek area of what is now Flagler County along the Old Kings Road.

The Flagler Public Library obtained a full-sized copy of a detailed map drawn by John Lee Williams showing 1837 East Florida. This map clearly shows Old Kings Road through what now is Flagler County. Comparing it with other survey maps shows the present unpaved stretch of Old Kings as being almost exactly as shown on more modern records. (there are variations often due to the early surveys not having accurate reference points in the wilderness.) See Flagler County Section of Map

A small portion of the Williams 1837 map  The turn south at Pellicer Creek is clearly shown
as well as major Plantations.  (there were many smaller ones not listed)  St. Joseph
Plantation or sugar mill is shown where an existing shopping plaza now exists along side
of Old Kings Road. 

1837 John Lee Williams Map courtesy of Rucker Agee Map Collection, Birmingham Public Library, Birmingham Alabama. The map shows Old Kings from St. Mary’s River in the North (Colerain Georgia) crossing through Jacksonville past St. Augustine crossing the Moultrie River, turning southeast at Pellicer Creek and following the line of Plantations to New Smyrna. Mr. Williams published his history Territory of Florida with this map in 1837. He prepared his book and map during the Seminole War.

A U.S. Survey Map also shows the Old Kings Road in the same location as shown by the John Lee Williams Map. It also shows the Mill described as being nearby.

The early surveys had great difficulty in lacking permanent landmarks or reference points, however, the Williams 1837 map is amazing for its detail.

The area south of Pellicer Creek shows Old Kings Road.  Note the sawmill location
is also shown.

The first turn off from Old Kings Road in Northern Flagler County leads you to the Princess Place Preserve. Again the narrow, wooded road to the East is linked to history – – it was part of Francisco Pellicer’s farm! While there are private homes and farms along this narrow lane; it looks much like the original Old Kings Road, the Princess Place Preserve can trace its existence to the Pellicer farm.

Pellicer’s Farm became our Princess Place of Today

Cherokee Grove was the original name for this area. Cherokee Grove was part of Francisco Pellicer’s land grant from the King of Spain in 1791. Mr. Pellicer was the heroic leader of the Minorcans as they passed by on Old Kings Road. The creek forming the Flagler line was named for him.

After obtaining the land grant, Francisco lived on the land for 38 years. Twelve of his eighteen children were born there. Known in the mid-1820s as “Pellicer Plantation,” the property was a working farm. Cash crops of sugar cane, corn and cotton were grown. Over time, most land grants were often divided up and sold off in smaller parcels or absorbed into other nearby land grants. Today there is probably not a single Spanish land grant existing in East Florida that is in its natural state or in the same configuration and size, as when it was originally granted- except for the Francisco Pellicer grant. The Pellicer family never divided the property. If historically verified, this fact would significantly enhance the historical importance of this land tract. (Courtesy of Donald F. Pellicer, a fifth-generation descendant of Francisco Pellicer told to the Flagler Parks Department)

The areas within The Princess Place Preserve retain much of the look of “old Florida” and have roadways, and walking paths well suited to bring back memories of what once was in Flagler County.

In the early 1800s, H.C. Sloggett introduced orange trees to Cherokee Grove, one of the first orange grove locations in Florida. In 1886, Henry Cutting, a New England sportsman, purchased the grove and surrounding property.

In 1887, Henry Cutting constructed a hunting lodge on the property which was designed by New York architect William Wright in the Adirondack Camp Style. The Camp Style originated in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. The Princess Place lodge is probably the only example of this style of architecture in Florida. The preserve is now a protected area owned by Flagler County. It also has what may well be the first concrete swimming pool in Florida, fed by an artesian well.

Again, the roadways leading from Old Kings Road through the Princess Place Preserve are said to reflect much of the appearance of the original highway. A photograph of these roadways shows how the area must have appeared to the early settlers.

Tracing Old Kings Road is not an easy task. For most of its journey, it has been paved over, relocated with modern roads, or returned to the woods and plants of Florida. During the many wars and events, the road was relocated, bridges were burnt, bridges were built. The modern highways such as the Dixie Highway and U.S. Route 1 replaced this ancient byway. Soon Old Kings Road began to vanish, except for the name, the declining unpaved or abandoned tracts and some very sharp curves that perhaps followed the old Indian Trails. As new highways were built, Old King’s road vanished except in name only, with just a small portion still unpaved in Flagler County. (contracts are now being made to pave this remaining section)

If you travel down today’s Old Kings highway from north to south, the roadway signed as “Old Kings”

goes straight south, then vanishes into the dense woods at the intersection of the Dixie Highway.

In the Spring of 1973, Mr. James R. Ward of the Florida Times Union began a series of articles on Old Kings Road. Meetings were held with Flagler County residents to discuss the saving and designation of Old King Road as a national treasure.

By some stroke of fortune, the route of the Old Kings Road in Flagler County was never lost except for about a mile south of Pellicer Creek. James R. Ward Florida Times Union

We were not the first! Highly organized Indian societies lived along the route that would become Old Kings, making their own paths from village to village as long as 3,000 years ago! Perhaps inspired by Mr. Ward’s articles in 1978 a wonderfully detailed report was written: “Palm Coast Cultural Resource Assessment by James J. Miller July 11, 1978.” This massive report not only detailed the history of Old Kings Road, the early plantations along with it but also went into great detail on primitive Indian sites in Flagler County some 2,000 to 3,000 years old!

It too had strongly recommended the preservation of these historic locations. A copy of this valuable report is located in the Flagler Public Library history section.

The report comments that from the mid-century with the arrival of the Spanish, there was a total Timucua population of 15,000 to 20,000 Indians living in highly organized tribal organizations. Soon after the chain of missions was established there were reports listing only the Christian Indians and by 1717 there so few of the original Indians remaining to be mentioned. The virus in the European bloodlines and contact with the Western civilizations proved to be too much for survival. Left behind were burial sites, huge piles of shell and waste from thousands of years of residence, and perhaps trails from place to place. Growing well in this area were maize (corn), beans, pumpkins, cucumbers, citrus, gourds, with two crops of corn being planted yearly.

For years, these village sites were explored by early Flagler County residents, and many private collections exist. Human and bones of now-extinct animals may be viewed in a private collection donated to the Flagler Beach Museum. Their locations were well known to the early residents.

The agony of an archeologist visiting Indian sites along Old Kings Road during the rapid construction of Palm Coast with the roaring land-clear bulldozers is reflected in this part of the report:

Eatman Mound

Situated on Palm Coast property in the vicinity of current construction, the Eatman mound was not recorded until the present study. Its location was revealed by a local resident. The site was visited and found to be heavily damaged. Bulldozer tracks led to the site from a recently cleared area where roads and lots were laid out. The vandalism was so recent that only a few small, grassy weeds had been able to grow in the fresh, white sand.
…the bulldozer operator, or perhaps a later visitor walked across the site a few times, picking up human bones and pottery, leaving the collection in a pile in the center.
…the mound which had stood the test of perhaps 2,000 years, was destroyed in probably less than 15 minutes. James J. Miller, July 1978.

A significant ancient Indian mound was also reported on as the “Old Kings Road” mound located about 2 miles north of Bulow Plantation. “near the southern boundary of St. Johns County, about three miles north of Bulow Forks, on the east side of the old “Kings Road.”

There were many other ancient Indian sites reported along the antique roadway.

Prior to Mr. Miller’s survey report, in March of 1974, a committee was formed to identify Historical Sites within Flagler County and adjacent counties through which the roadway could be identified.
Ralph Cooper report 1974 – Flagler Public Library

A subsequent major effort was made by the New Smyrna Beach Commission and the Volusia County Council to trace Old Kings Road in 1997. A privately prepared report was made by Dr. William R. Adams, under the auspices of Historic Property Associates of St. Augustine. This detailed report was titled The Kings Road: Florida’s First Highway. It is not a readily available document being bound in photocopy format. It contains detail information on contracts, construction, and timelines in the life of Old Kings Road.

Copies of this report exist in the State Library system under call letters HE356.K564 A373 1997. Work on the road, contracts let, Spanish land grants and their relationship to Old Kings are described.

This significant work gives excellent timelines on the efforts to construct and maintain this road, begun by the British, following Indian trails, destroyed many times, and re-built by the new U.S. government. The trace of Old Kings Road slowly vanished under modern highways although the name was actively used on many city streets and lanes. When the report was written, it identified Flagler County as having a portion of the roadway much in its natural state.

There is no evidence that these prior efforts and reports on Old Kings Road produced further results to designate the remaining roadway as a National Treasure being one of the first public roadways in the North American continent… The remaining dirt structure is presently scheduled to be paved with a modern roadway, and only the side roads such as the “Old Road” into Bulow Plantation and some of the side roads into The Princess Place Preserve reflect how the area appeared during the time of the American Revolution and the British Period before.

A wandering road that traces old Indian pathways

As it wanders and turns through Flagler County, Old Kings Road is perhaps the last physical trace of the surveying skill of the Indian Grey Eyes, the Indian who knew how to bypass the wetlands and swamps of the area, and who appears briefly in several reports written about this roadway. There were Indian trails long before Old Kings Road, we don’t know for certain that Grey Eyes blazed the path through Flagler County southward, but there are hints in several books and reports, that he did. A memory can sometimes be only a twist in a road. This road is now being paved into a 4-lane highway. Sadly, some more history is vanishing.

Much history flowed through this roadway; the small unpaved section in Flagler is one of the last pieces remaining. It intersects the new Florida Agricultural Museum and the protected Princess Place Preserve and is just a short distance away from the “River to the Sea” Marine Estuary now under Federal protection. This is a very valuable and historic spot that still reflects Florida’s great beauty and also some of its most violent times. There are still spots in the area that must look like the site in the 1800s. It is still an area where the grasslands, oak trees, and waterways still exist in a natural form.

The New Smyrna Beach report concluded:

“The King’s Road is indisputably one of America’s most historic pathways. Remaining physical traces of the original road should be preserved and advertised where that is practical…”

They continued:

Appropriate historical markers should be placed in highly conspicuous locations to attract public attention to the road…”

See: The Search for Old Kings Road


This website is not a historical document but is a general report intended to inform Flagler County residents concerning the history surrounding their Old Kings Road. Primary sources used were:

Palm Coast Cultural Resource Assessment – Comprehensive Land Use Plan Report by Cultural Resource Management, Inc. Tallahassee, FL James J. Miller July 11, 1978

Flagler Public Library History Section

Report: March 5 1974 Ralph Cooper, Jr. St. Augustine’s Committee for National

Bicentennial, Inc. Recommendation for tracing Old Kings Road

Flagler Public Library History Section

The Kings Road, Florida’s first highway” report by Dr. William R. Adams

Florida State Library system under call letters HE356.K564 A373 1997 unpublished report of construction of Old Kings Road in great detail.

Daytona Beach News-Journal July 28 1996 “Future may be found in saving parts of the past”

Jacksonville Times Union December 19, 1973 Kings Road Stays Intact in Flagler” by James R. Ward.

Lecture Allan Hadeed – Palm Coast Methodist Church history society

History of Flagler County by John Clegg Flagler Public Library Historic Collection

Personal interviews with Mr. Clegg

https://volusiahistory.com Volusia County History website


Bulow Creek Plantation Exhibit and Park

Ashes on the Wind by Alice Strickland 1985 Flagler Public Library History collection

Andrew Jackson’s Case for the Removal of Indians


St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine St. Augustine


Flagler Beach Museum—unpublished documents by Flagler historians

Mullet On The Beach The Minorcans of Florida by Patricia C. Griffin

El Escribano The St. Augustine Journal of History 1990

Minorcans in Florida their history and heritage by Jane Quinn 1975

Red Blood, White Lies by Loquitas Belloit 2004

Images in this document may be subject to copyright and may not be reproduced

Author: Bill Ryan