These are the ruins of people's dreams, left by successive landowners, free workers, and slaves. Hoping to make sugar in the nineteenth century, they faced isolation, hurricanes, and dispossessed Seminoles. Some lost money in their ventures, and others lost more.
A blending of family names - Dunn
- gave this spot its familiar label in the 1830s. Actually, the plantation's story began earlier, in 1804, when an immigrant from the Bahamas received a 995-acre land grant on the west side of the Halifax River. Patrick Dean produced cotton and sugar, but the War of 1812 disrupted his operations and he died violently in 1818, possibly at the hands of an Indian.
The ruins we see today are associated with later landowners: the Andersons
in the 1830s and the Marshalls
in the next decades. Sarah P. Anderson and her sons (who moved from the Tomoka River country) acquired the plantation in 1832, adding coquina works, machinery, and outbuildings. Seminole raiders soon sent that investment up in smoke.
Dunlawton's next hopeful planter arrived in the 1840s along with a skeptical wife and her energetic brother. South Carolinian John J. Marshall expanded the factory, bought more equipment, and started making sugar, with mixed success.
A stunning tragedy ended this family venture, but Marshall's own wife had never harbored illusions about the Florida frontier. When her brother's cane crop failed in 1851, Maria Hawes Marshall announced that things were turning out "like all the rest of his great expectations." Soon the Marshalls had gone and the old sugar house was evolving into a different kind of fantasy site.
[ Photo ]The Dunlawton factory after its sugar-making days. Built to enclose a cane crusher, juice-cooking kettles, and a sugar-drying room, this structure stood until the end of the nineteenth century. When the wooden features collapsed, machinery and stone ruins remained.Photo (dated 1885) courtesy of the Halifax Historical Museum, Daytona Beach.
[ Photo ]Exploring the ruins, about 1900. Dunlawton's life as a sugar plantation was much shorter than its time as a community gathering point and a Florida curiosity.Photo courtesy of the Port Orange Historical Trust/Harold and Priscilla Cardwell.
Sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Historical Resources, assisted by the Florida Historical Commission.