Welcome To KEY TO THE CITY's Page For
New Smyrna Beach
Volusia County, Florida
Dr. Andrew Turnbull, a wealthy physician from Scotland, who resided in London, founded New Smyrna Colony in 1768. Turnbull was impressed with the climate and the soil, believing it was suitable for raising indigo, rice, hemp, cotton and other crops.
Dr. Turnbull named the colony in honor of his wife's birthplace, Smyrna, Asia Minor. After the Spanish ceded Florida to the British in 1763, the British Government offered large land grants and bounties to encourage colonization and cultivation of cotton, hemp, indigo and silk. Later that same year, Turnbull sailed to Greece and recruited 200 mountain tribesmen, traveling next to Corsica, where he took on 110 settlers. On Feb. 1, 1768, he arrived at Mahon, Minorca, where the people had suffered three years of famine and 1,190 heeded the promise of new opportunities in Florida.
In the summer of 1768, after a journey of more than three months, during which 148 settlers were buried at sea, the ships arrived at St. Augustine. The remaining settlers continued on to New Smyrna, some by sea and some by land. Preparations had been made for about 500 colonists, not the 1,200 plus, who arrived, making New Smyrna the site of the largest British attempt at colonization in the New World nearly three times larger than Jamestown, Virginia. As an economic enterprise, New Smyrna was not a failure. The colony was perhaps the most lucrative of all the colonies in the New World. Unfortunately, from the beginning, shortages, hard labor and mosquitos took their toll and in nine years the difficulties of life in the colony and tyranny on the part of overseers reduced the number of settlers to 600. In 1777 a group of the indentured colonists arrived in St. Augustine and petitioned the English governor to let them stay. Court was held and accusations of cruelty and ill-treatment by the overseers were made. The governor offered land grants to the north of St. Augustine to the colonists, and many of their descendants live there today.
The Spanish regained control of Florida in 1783, ceding the Bahamas to the British for Florida. Spain encouraged colonization and Dr. Ambrose Hull, an Episcopal minister from Connecticut, obtained grants of more than 2,000 acres at New Smyrna in 1801.
Following portions of Indian trails,The Spanish laid the King's highway in 1632 the first land route along Florida's East Coast. In 1768, the British enlarged upon earlier work, cutting a road 30 feet wide through dense foilage. The highway began at the St. Mary's River and went to St. Augustine. Turnbull persuaded the English governor to extend the highway south to New Smyrna.
The Old Stone Wharf was the center of town in the 1770's. It marked the southern end of the King's Highway. Built of native coquina rock, the two pillars set into the bank along South Riverside Drive at Clinch Street. The wharf was one of Dr. Turnbull's first public works, and was used as a point of export for the colony. The wharf was the site for an engagement between Confederate forces and seamen from the Union steamers Penguin and Henry Andrew, since New Smyrna was one of the busiest blockade running ports in the South. Goods arrived here from Europe and were transported by wagon to the St. Johns River. Union gunboats were dispatched to curtail blockade running activities and capture vessels carrying contraband. On March 22, 1862 a skirmish took place that left two Union officers and six crewmen dead, six others wounded and two taken prisoner, while Confederate troops suffered no casualties, and had only two men who received minor wounds. As one drives into a clearing of tall pines and grass, the coquina rock walls of the ruins become visible just past an old cane press, which was mule powered. Under the century old oaks one finds the old cast iron sugar vats, the old sugar press and iron lever that was once part of the steam-powered machinery. There is also a short nature trail that wanders through a palmetto hammock, providing a view of what Florida looked liked to settlers in the 1800s. Admission is free.
Today in the center of Canova Drive, beachside, the grave of Charles Dummett, who was laid to rest 135 years ago, still stands. The 16 year old youth was killed on April 23, 1860, when he tripped while hunting with a friend and his gun discharged. His father, Douglas Dummett, buried Charles where he fell. The marble slab on the sarcophagus reads, "Sacred to the Memory of Charles Dummett, Born August 18, 1844 Died April 23, 1860. Developers chose to leave the grave where it was, and thus the pavement on Canova Drive is split, leaving the grave in the middle of the street. The rich history of New Smyrna Beach makes it one of the most important historical areas in the state of Florida.
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