300 Years, 100 Miles, 4 Hours... Imagine - Part 2
Continued from Part 1
All along the Dixie Highway, towns that once were: DuPont, Bimini, Dinner Island, Haw Creek, Cody’s Corner, Brick Road Township, Sawmill Estates are gone; yet, the works of volunteers still remain. The town of Korona offers wonderful examples of what volunteers can accomplish. During the early 1900s, Bunnell Home Builders published an advertisement in Poland. Polish immigrants came here and settled in the area known as Korona, which is Polish for “Crown”. Polish carpenters used local wood to construct St. Mary’s Church. A short drive from St. Mary’s brings guests to the Carmelite Monastery, perhaps one of the best kept secrets in Flagler County. The non-descript driveway leading to the Carmelite Monastery, is flanked by a beautiful hedge. Upon arriving, the entry to the tribute to Mt. Carmel from the 12th century is but a glimpse of the wonders found along a quarter mile pathway. Here, the Stations of the Cross offer stunning images, all built by volunteers. It is called the Crown Jewel of Korona; it could easily be the Crown Jewel of Flagler County. Imagination is not needed. A little patience will provide the human eye with an almost sensory overload as each Station passes. As travel continues, prepare to visit Ocean City.
On the way to Ocean City, imagine a swamp spanning from the Tomoka River to the Matanzas Inlet. A swamp not easily traveled and filled with mosquitoes, wild animals, and harsh living conditions. At the time of the Egyptian pharaohs, ancient tribes of Native Americans lived in wooden houses, not teepees. For 200 years, the Spanish inhabited this area, followed by the British for 38 years. The Spanish returned for another 40 years and finally, in 1821, Florida became a U.S. territory. That territory was a “wild and wooly” place, to quote our tour guide. Yet, it provided refuge to thousands of slaves fleeing the North and the South and to Native Americans fleeing the implementation of the Indian Removal Act, which led to the Trail of Tears. The main route of travel was the King’s Road, which followed the edges of Graham Swamp. Along this road, land grants from the Spanish provided for the creation of more than 20 plantations including: Bethune, Pellicer, and Bulow which covered more than 9,000 acres and housed more than 300 slaves. The ratio of fleeing Native Americans and slaves to white settlers was such that a cooperation developed between the plantation owner and the workers that allowed the slaves and Seminoles to manage the operations. The Seminoles are not descendants of the ancient tribes that once inhabited Florida. Their name is derived from the Spanish, Cimarron, meaning “wild” or “untamed”. Imagine traveling the King’s Road and seeing fields of cotton and sugar cane, not palm trees. Imagine passing a stage coach on its way from Jacksonville to New Smyrna, providing one day letter service. Look at the Spanish moss that still hangs from the old oak trees and imagine the wars witnessed. Imagine supplies: cattle, lumber, sugar, indigo, cotton, and salt, all products from this area traveling along the King’s Road bound for soldiers in the north. It’s a part of our heritage that lies just beneath canopies of trees and patches of grass; yet, still there for all to see.
The Jesse Fish Plantation, originally located along present day Route A1A and on the way to Ocean City, shipped fresh Florida oranges to England. Those oranges were ground and combined with a bit of rum to make a popular drink known as a Flip. Ocean City, today’s Flagler Beach, was initially accessible by way of a river barge. It was home to bath houses, a pier (later destroyed by a hurricane), and a casino. Today, the casino is Finn’s Beachside Pub. During World War II, German submarines were spotted off the coast of Flagler Beach and volunteers flew 17,000 combat hours using 3rd Street South as a runway. Curators from the Flagler Beach Historical Museum hop on the bus long enough to welcome tour guests. The museum proudly displays artifacts from “the Stone Age to the Space Age” and each trip offers the promise of discovering something new. The trip heads north along Scenic Highway A-1-A. Imagine, as you gaze at the ocean and sea shore, French Huguenot soldiers marching along the uneven undulations of the coquina sand only to meet their fate at Matanzas. A-1-A winds its way through an area known as The Hammock, once home to large plantations owned by Mr. Hernandez, an attorney from Cuba. The owners of the hardware store in the Hammock represent generations of shipbuilders, most notably ships for 1776. The three plantations: Buena Vista, Mala Compra, and St. Joseph are known today as Washington Oaks, Bing’s Landing, and the St. Joe Plaza in Palm Coast. Bing’s Landing is the half-way point of the tour and offers history enthusiasts a chance to take a break and stretch their legs.
More to come...