More than 20 years before Florida became a state, a South Carolina man named Charles Wilhelm Bulow bought up thousands of acres of land along the central coast, not far from present-day Daytona Beach. Since Bulow wasn’t the oldest son, convention of the day dictated that he couldn’t inherit his dad’s massive fortune—so he set out to create his own. The result was Bulow Ville, or the Bulow Plantation, its ruins now part of the Florida State Park system.
The origins of the plantation go back to the early 19th century. Bulow acquired two tracts of land that he combined to a whopping 9,000 acres, and being Florida land he would be able to grow sugarcane, cotton, rice, and even indigo (the plant stuff used to make blue dye). By 1821 Bulow had the acreage, he had the climate, and with a tidal creek just alongside his property, he had an easy way to transport crops.
What he didn’t have was cleared land. This being the antebellum South, clearing thousands of acres of densely forested land meant using the labor of enslaved men and women. It’s speculated that about 300 enslaved people were sent from his older brother’s plantation in South Carolina to do the work. Two years later Bulow died at the age of 44. His son John, who was studying in Paris, was sent for to take over, though he was only 16 at the time. When he returned, he ordered the construction of a mill to turn Bulow Ville’s sweetest commodity (sugarcane) into sugar, molasses, and rum.
By 1835 the second of the Seminole Wars (also known as the Florida Wars) was raging, as the U.S. government tried to force the Seminole Indians (actually a number of different Native American tribes) out of Florida. John Bulow was forced from Bulow Ville by the local militia, who wanted to use the sturdy stone buildings as a fortified base of operations. They didn’t last long, and they were soon attacked and burned out by the Seminole, putting an end to the plantation that had lasted only 15 years. Most of the buildings are long gone, but today stand the the eerie ruins of the sugar mill and a few chimneys and wells.
Know Before You Go
Park is three miles west of Flagler Beach - off Old Kings Road So., off I-95 exit 284.
Ruins and parking are free.