If there is one thing you can find in Florida with relative ease it’s the ruins of a sugar cane plantation.
Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park is a 150-acre state park with hiking, canoeing and a brief, but interesting history.
Around 1821 Major Charles Wilhelm Bulow began to develop his 4675-acre tract into the largest plantation in East Florida. 2200 acres of the vast plantation were cleared for the production of sugarcane, cotton, rice and indigo. Two short years later, in 1823, Bulow died at the age of 44 leaving the property to his young son John.
Although young, John ran the plantation successfully. The plantation was productive and John’s hospitality toward others was evident by the 1831 Christmas week visit from none other than John James Audubon. Things were going well for John Bulow until the outbreak of the Second Seminole War. Like other plantations in the area, war would soon have its negative impact.
What I found really interesting was that although John sympathized with the natives it had no bearing on the final outcome of the situation. This plantation, like all the others in this area, would meet it’s end at the hands of the native Indians.
This is a quote from the brochure we picked up at the ruins.
“John Bulow did not agree with the U.S. government’s intentions to send the Seminoles to reservations west of the Mississippi River. He demonstrated his disapproval by firing a fourpounder cannon at Major Putnam’s command of State Militia as they entered his property. Troops took Bulow prisoner. After a brief campaign against the Indians and with most of the troops ill, Major Putnam’s command relocated to St. Augustine and allowed Bulow to go free. Realizing that the Indians were becoming more hostile, young Bulow, like other settlers and their slaves, abandoned his plantation and followed the troops northward.”– Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park (floridastateparks.org)
In 1836, after John abandoned the property, the Seminoles burned it to the ground. In 1945 the property was acquired by the state of Florida and it became a state park in 1957. Several years later, on September 29, 1970 it would earn its place on the National Register of Historic Places.
If you recall I mentioned last week that Mr. McGee had a run in with a Coral snake. So as promised here is that little story.
We parked in the parking lot so we could take the short hike through the pines to reach the ruins. If you don’t care for short hikes there is also a circular drive that takes you there by vehicle. We enjoy walks together in the woods and as this area had been used for turpentine production prior to WWII we were also looking for the pine scars and to see if there were any remains of the slave quarters. We spotted neither, but there was a plaque marking the spot of the slave quarter sites and what we think might have been a few random pieces of coquina. None-the-less it was a peaceful little walk.
Once we arrived at the mill site, I sent Mr. McGee ahead so I could get a picture of him in front of the ruins for the scrapbook. Always obliging he hurried ahead and I snapped the picture. As I approached him I saw something slither off from beside his right leg. Upon closer investigation we realized it was a snake (the poisonous kind).
When I was little we spent a lot of time in the Florida wilderness camping, hiking, and fishing. I remembered the little jingle my dad had taught me so I’d know the difference between a Coral snake and a King snake and which one was dangerous: “Red on yellow – kill a fellow. Red on black – a friend of Jack’s.” This seemed an appropriate time to teach this little song to Mr. McGee as he wasn’t sure which was which.
Thankfully, Mr. McGee was left unscathed and since Coral snake sightings in Florida are somewhat rare (they are shy little fellows) we enjoyed our time observing this guy at a safe distance.
The ruins were beautiful and haunting in their own unique way with the moss covered coquina and the scars of flames still visible on the structure. The information signs were much the same as other ruins we had visited, so we made our way down another short trail to the remains of the spring house.
The ruins were interesting, but the water was not the crystal clear fountain of youth I had expected. It was pretty gross actually. Even the frogs were having a hard time making their way through the algae and goop. But this was a new experience. None of the ruins we had visited prior had a springhouse that was still partially observable.
Aside from the short trails within the park there is also a much longer trail called the Bulow Woods Trail that runs from the site here down to the Fairchild Oak at Bulow Creek State Park. It was late, the park was closing in a few minutes so we had to save that for another time as it is a half days walk round trip.
We walked back to the parking lot and visitor center and discovered the site of the plantation house. Nothing remains of it but an informational sign with a rendering of the home and a brief bit of information.
Before leaving we walked out onto the dock and took in the peaceful views of Bulow Creek. The wind was still and the water was a glassy mirror. The golden hour had started to set in and the view was perfect.
A visit to this park doesn’t take much time at all, I think we spent about 30-40 minutes including the walk down the short trail. On our way out we spotted a small little group of deer feeding on the lawn at the park rangers residence.
Next week we take a moment to scout out a small campground at one of Florida’s lesser known state parks.
Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park 3501 Old Kings Rd. Flagler Beach, FL 32136 Website
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