Ormond Beach, Florida: Dummett Sugar Mill Ruins (20 July 2012)

This post is a part of the Ormond Beach series.
Click Here to start at the beginning.
Or view the entire series Here.

In the late 1770s, the Rosetta plantation was developed by John Moultrie, growing and processing indigo, rice, and eventually corn and sugar cane. Rosetta was abandoned when Florida was ceded back to the Spanish by the British in the 1780s. Eventually, in 1803, John Bunch acquired the property. In 1825, after a few decades of development and shortly after Florida became a territory of the United States, Bunch sold the property to Colonel Thomas H. Dummett, a British officer whose family had recently moved into the region, along with so many other developers.

Thomas Dummett modernized the plantation and built a limestone rock (coquina) sugar and rum distillery. Hiring Reuben Loring to engineer the facility, Dummett’s mill was one of the first steam-powered distilleries in the region.

The north wall and two chimneys of Dummett Mill viewed from the back.

In 1828, management of the Dummett operation was passed to Thomas’s son, Douglas Dummett, who ran the plantation until the eruption of the Second Seminole War in 1836. Douglas also served as the first postmaster of the Tomoka region between 1833 and 1836.

When the Second Seminole War fully erupted in 1836 (it had actually started to gear up in 1835), the Dummett family relocated to St. Augustine and the plantation operation shut down. As for Douglas Dummett himself, he joined the anti-Seminole Mosquito Roarers militia and was ranked a Captain. Along with his neighbor, James Ormond III, Dummett fought against the Seminoles at the Battle of Dunlawton Plantation a few miles to the south in what is now known as Port Orange. Dummett was wounded in the neck during the battle and his life began to change direction and course.

An old well at the Dummett Sugar & Rum Mill.

Dummett married a wealthy socialite, Frances Hunter, in 1837, but she filed for divorce a few years later in 1844. After having lived in Tallahassee for some time, Douglas Dummett returned to the Ormond area for a while and eventually found his way south to Mosquito Lagoon, where he took up citrus production. The aging Dummett built an orange grove complex on his property tucked between two lagoons in coastal Brevard county (the Merritt Island area). He was adept at grafting oranges that were frost-resistant. The “Indian River Orange” is attributed to his manipulated groves and citrus expertise.

Dummett lived most of the latter portion of his life in relative seclusion, working on his orange groves and sharing his methods with other citrus growers in the area. He was also active in local policy affairs, but most of his time seemed to have been dedicated to quietly working his citrus magic. Dummett eventually died in 1873, nearly thirty years after Florida acquired statehood. Two decades later, in 1893, Dummett’s remnant grove plantation was destroyed by a hurricane. In 1963, his old property became a part of the Kennedy Space Center at Merritt Island.

Crumbling coquina walls at the Dummett Mill.

As for the old Dummett sugar and rum mill back in Ormond, at the time of Dummett’s death in 1873, it had long since been burned and destroyed during the Second Seminole War and retaken by the Tomoka and Bulow forests of Volusia county. In the twentieth century it was somewhat shrouded in mystery and local lore, its history not fully recognized or understood. Called “Anacape” for sometime, there was debate about who built it and when. Some believed it was an old Spanish mission from the 1600s (hence the name “San Antonia de Anacape”). Eventually, however, historical research revealed legal documents between Loring and Dummett and the construction plans for the steam-powered Dummett sugar and rum mill (St. Augustine’s Patricia Griffin discovered the evidence in 2001).

A view of the Dummett Mill from the front.

When I was a kid, the mill was still engulfed by the forest. It wasn’t easily spotted from Old Dixie Highway, but it was very much a part of our culture. I remember trekking back into the bush many times during high school during the early 1990s to check out the ambiguously uncertain historical site. I remember it being referred to both as a mission and as a sugar mill. It wasn’t until much, much later that I learned about the Dummetts and their family’s background in the region and the details of the old steam-powered sugar and rum distillery.

Today, the ruins have been cleared of vegetation and fenced off for protection and preservation. There’s now a small parking area on the Old Dixie for visitors to park and walk around the grounds.

Next Up on Dust Tracks: The Fairchild Oak of Bulow Creek State Park!

~ janson

8 thoughts on “Ormond Beach, Florida: Dummett Sugar Mill Ruins (20 July 2012)”

    1. Well, as I type this comment, I just finished the first leg of the Ormond series. There’ll be another in a few months, once I get the photos I want. I really do love the Flagler/Volusia/Brevard corridor of Florida. It’s always fascinated me.

  1. Janson,
    Much appreciated your info and comments about the Dummett mill,and I like your website in general. I’m an old Ormond boy and in fact am writing a book about growing up here, not family stuff but about what it was like in small Florida coastal town in the middle of the last century. Should get it printed by this Fall. Thanks, Skip Lowery

    1. Skip! Good to hear from you and thanks for the comment. Your name was wicked familiar. I think I’ve seen some of your Ormond Loop material in the past. You can bet I’ll be celebrating more than a little of the Ormond Loop and all its rich goodness once I get back down there. For my 20th high school reunion (Seabreeze), I had a ball covering the sugar mills and plantations (http://dusttracks.com/category/locations/ormond-beach/) while I was in town. I hope to do a lot more with that. The main focus with Dust Tracks is certainly memoiristic wildlife encounters, but I’m a sucker for Volusia / East Coast Florida history. I have a term for the ethos of Floridian historical remnants — the Nouvelle Archaic. That’ll definitely be a tag/series in the years coming. Can’t wait to get into it. And definitely keep us updated on your OB book. Can’t wait to check it out. After twenty years of galloping around North America after highs school, I’m extremely grateful and excited to finally be settling back home.

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