Ruins of the Early Plantations of the Halifax Area

Today, all that is left of the once fabulous Bulow Plantation are the extensive coquina ruins of the great sugar mill, several well-preserved wells, a unique spring-house and the crumbling foundations of the formerly hospitable mansion.

from Ruins of the Early Plantations of the Halifax Area edited by Edith P. Stanton Volusia County Historical Society

BULOWVILLE By E. H. Butts (The following account is reprinted by permission of the writer )

Today, all that is left of the once fabulous Bulow Plantation are the extensive coquina ruins of the great sugar mill, several well-preserved wells, a unique spring-house and the crumbling foundations of the formerly hospitable mansion. But so lush and romantic are these ruins in their beautiful surroundings of dense hammock growth, few can view the fine old arches and towering chimneys, unmoved. 

From excellent documentary evidence, more is known today of Bulow, which was one of the largest and strongest of all the plantations of the Halifax Country, than of the others that flourished during that period of.. plantation economy, from the beginning of the nineteenth century until all were destroyed by the fury of the Seminoles in 1836. In 1812, James Russell traded a schooner, “The Perseverance,” valued at $2,500 in which he and his family and100 slaves had come from the Bahamas, for a grant of 2,500 acres of virgin land, from the Spanish crown. 

He established a plantation on the present site, which he called “Good Retreat.” However, little more is known other than his death, three years later. In 1820, his heirs sold the property to Major Charles Wilhelm Bulow of Charleston who, acquiring a tract of nearly 6,000 acres, engaged upon a very considerable undertaking, clearing 1,500 acres for the production of sugar cane, 1,000 for cotton, and lesser plots for indigo and rice. Having much wealth, Major Bulow was able to establish a strong plantation in Florida.

 Over 300 slaves were brought from the Bulow plantation around Charleston to clear the land and erect the numerous buildings which comprised this veritable little kingdom in the wilderness. Lumber and coquina rock were available upon the lands, and fields as fertile as any the world has ever known) awaited the plow and hoe after the ax carved them out of the jungle. But the vision, wealth and sound judgment were essential to the project) and with these, the Bulows were amply endowed. Yet in three short years, Charles W. Bulow, aged 44, was laid to rest beneath his marble tomb. in the Huguenot Cemetery of St. Augustine …but not before he had seen to the establishment of one of the finest plantations of his day) in this region.

 His only son) John Joachim, was still a minor at his father’s death, and he) his mother, and adopted sister) Emily Ann) later Mrs. William Buchnor of New York City, inherited the vast Bulow fortune, which had been founded by the great grandfather, Baron Joachim Yon Bulow*, who had been sent by the Elect of Wurtemburg to establish the Lutheran Church in the Carolinas. This fortune increased through, successive generations, consisted of several plantations-the most celebrated being called “Savannah)” a fine townhouse on Meeting Street) Charleston) a townhouse on Charlotte Street) St. Augustine) the flourishing Bulow Bay Plantation In East Florida and numerous government bonds and bank accounts. Actually) Charles W. Bulow was born in Ashley Hall, another of the family holdings in Charleston) and one of that city’s most beautiful and celebrated houses. John J. Bulow, having returned from Paris where he was being educated, continued the management of his large properties under trusteeship until reaching his majority. 

That he performed his duties with judgment and acumen, enlarging aqd increasing the production of his holdings) we know from the letter written by John James Audubon, from the plantation, where he stayed as a guest in 1831 ~ and in which he describes the erection of an addition to the mill. (In Mrs. Audubon’s biography of her husband) she states that when he left the Bulow Plantation he was accompanied by Bulow’s scotch overseer and his son) **. 

James Ormond III also gives tantalizing glimpses of life at Bulow Ville, and writes of a fine library, and the beautiful eight-oared bark in which young Bulow used to travel in the state down the Halifax River as far as Jupiter Inlet, with his oarsmen, cooks, and tents. The slip where this fair vessel was moored is still to be seen, together with two others) on the banks of Bulow Creek. That time nor tide have not obliterated them is due to the sides of the harbors having been re- <* From the correspondence of Miss Frances Bulow in 1947. ** According to a letter from the late Dr. Thomas Barbour, 1942> in forced with countless imported ale and wine bottles the contents of which, doubtless cheered the lonely evenings of the dashing young man and his guests. Life flowed along apace, with the name of the Bulow Plantation synonymous with bounty and wealth, until the outbreak of the Seminole War in 1835.

 Young Bulow, together with most of the settlers on the Halifax did not agree to send the Indians west of the Mississippi, as their relations were friendly with the Seminoles, who supplied the planters with fresh meats. Hence, Bulow, to express his disapproval, resisted Major Putman and his Mosquito Roarers when they entered his plantation, by firing a small cannon ( a four-pounder), ordinarily used to protect property. This was courageous but regrettable in as much as Putman and his “troops swarmed onto the Bulow Plantation, taking Bulow a prisoner, keeping him under guard, even pressing him into service.

The place was turned into an armed camp from which sorties were made for which, James Ormond III tells us, the green Mosquito Roarers were little trained. After a most unsuccessful campaign, with Putman wounded, and half the soldiers ill of dysentery or yellow fever, all the settlers and their numerous blacks having already been brought to Bulow Ville for protection, a retreat to St. Augustine was ordered. After the dismal evacuation, all the plantations were abandoned to their fate, and while the exact dates of their total destruction are not known, it is believed Bulow Vine was fired January 31, 1836–for the fires were so great a rosy glow was observed forty” miles away in St. Augustine. At all events, the Seminoles made good their revenge and laid waste in the entire area. 

-Later those who had known Bulow Ville in its heydey gazed with sorrow and dismay at the smoldering ruins of that once famed plantation. And the gay and debonair Young Bulow, too disheartened and discouraged to rebuild, what with the wanton destruction of his fair estate, and the lowered tariff on sugar from the West Indies returned to Paris, where he died unmarried before his 27th year.*** 

<*** From Bulow family records of Miss Frances Bulow of Charleston, South Carolina, Research by James Fiske indicated that he did not return to Paris, but died and was buried in St. Augustine.>

When the Bulow heirs were pressing their claims against Congress for the destruction of their property by the India1;1s, Major Putman was called in to testify, and it is from his testimony that much is now known of those last days on the plantation when it became Camp Bulow. Putman swore that he kept Bulow under guard, not permitting him to come to mess at his own table, and not allowing him to take so much as one article of all his numerous conveyances and boats belonging to him were pressed into service. And Major Putman acknowledged that baled cotton, valued at $20,000, which had awaited shipment, had been used as breastworks by the soldiers. At present, the best way to reach BuIow ruins is to drive six miles north of the Tomoka Bridge, turn right one and four-fifths miles to Mound Grove, then proceed by boat on Bulow Creek to Bulow Landing. 

MOUND GROVE Mound grove does not belong to the period of the early plantations, but it is a part of Bulow Ville. L. B. Knox, G. F. Beed, and Arthur Beed bought this tract, which included a large acreage of wild orange trees, in 1879. They re-budded the trees, developed a fine orange grove and Were the first to introduce the King orange, which they imported from China. These pioneers .built, at their own expense, bridges and several miles of roads. They dredged and widened Bulow Creek, making it possible for small boats to reach the Bulow ruins, and also opened a canal for transporting citrus fruit from the groves to the old “Orange Dock” in Ormond, whence it was shipped via railroad. .'(The railroad was completed in 1887.) Prior to the coming of the railroad, the fruit was taken in rowboats and sailboats to Port Orange and loaded on schooners for St Augustine. Mr. Knox built the first bridge across the present East Coast Canal. He also kept other bridges in repair throughout the years. 

When the present great steel bridge was dedicated on September 14, 1955, Volusia County erected a plaque naming it the Leonard B. Knox Bridge. Knox’s son, Donald, when only a youth, planted numerous date palms along the winding road which parallels the Mound grove canal and today form part of the magnificent palm avenue so well known to those making the “loop drive.” High on a mound, overlooking the vast reaches of marsh and forest is still standing the Knox mansion with its long galleries an4 “widow’s walk,” now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Richard Cobb. Close by is the G. F. Beed house, now occupied by R. M. Coe, manager of the present Mound Grove Fruit Co., and Mrs. Coe. Mr. and Mrs. William Buchnor spent many years in this community,

Mrs. Bucknor being a sister of John Bulow. About 1890 this aged couple attended regularly the Ormond Union Church, going the long distance by sailboat. They would meet James Ormond III, who spent his last winters at the Hotel Ormond, and come across the river in the old horse car. These friends were the last survivors of the early plantation days of the Halifax.

Author: FCHS