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Monday, July 29, 1996

ARCHAEOLOGIST SEEKS ANSWERS TO THE PAST

By Carol B. Cole

DAYTONA BEACH -- For more than a year, archaeologist Ted Payne has been asking questions and seeking answers about former plantations in the Tomoka Basin area.

Other developments have coincided with his work to renew interest in the 18th and 19th century plantations that once thrived in Volusia County:

  • In April 1995, local historian Harold Cardwell sent a letter to the editor to The News-Journal about the need to take steps to preserve sugar mill ruins. Cardwell said concerned people started calling him after his letter ran along with a photograph of the deteriorating Dummett sugar mill ruins.

  • Also in the spring of '95, Payne began to investigate the ``Three Chimneys'' site, which turned out to be an 18th century, animal-powered sugar and rum factory owned by Richard Oswald.

    Payne said the research came about through a contract with Ormond Beach and the Ormond Beach Historical Trust. The city wanted to determine what was there so it would know how to manage the site, just north of S.R. 40, he said.

    Payne and his wife, Rae, co-own American Preservation Consultants Inc. in St. Augustine. The company specializes in cultural resources management services. Those services include performing archaeological surveys necessary for compliance with government regulations to protect historic sites.

  • Last fall, Lorie Kash, president of the Volusia Anthropological Society, noticed that couches, old mattresses, beer bottles and trash littered the Dummett sugar mill site in Northeast Volusia. Graffiti defaced the ruins, and it was evident people had been carting off coquina.

    ``It was being vandalized badly,'' Kash said. ``There was a whole wall and now we're down to a quarter of a wall and two chimneys.'' On a recent visit, rappelling ropes dangled from the chimneys.

    Concerned, Kash contacted Clay Henderson, a trustee of the nonprofit Volusia Land Trust (VOLT), since the mill lies on VOLT property. Henderson got permission for her to go onto the land to clean it up and survey what was there, she said.

    ``It sort of resurfaced sugar mills in people's minds,'' she said of the project. ``Everyone knew they were there.''

  • Meanwhile, Kash had responded to an advertisement for volunteers to work at Three Chimneys. There, she met Payne. ``I invited him to look at Dummett and he's been at it ever since,'' Kash said.

    Payne began his survey of the land, which had been alternately owned by John Moultrie, John Bunch and Thomas Dummett. ``It all sort of grew from that,'' he said.

    Kash praised the dedication of Payne, who has donated his company's time and materials since beginning work at the Dummett site. His dedication has inspired her efforts to assist him.

    ``I don't think I'd have done this as long as I have if it weren't for Ted,'' Kash said. ``He's doing this just because he knows it has to be done. There are no ulterior motives. If you wait for all the haggling, and the grants, it could be years.''

  • Early this year, a group of people ``rediscovered'' ruins of the MacRae sugar mill, located near the Addison Blockhouse within the boundaries of Tomoka Basin GeoPark.

    The group comprised Park Manager Benny Woodham, Park Biologist Charles DuToit, county Historic Preservation Planner Tom Scofield and David Brown, who co-owns Natural Assets Group Inc. in New Smyrna Beach and conducts natural history tours.

    They were in the area to map out a boat and walking tour to the blockhouse when they came upon the mill ruins, camouflaged by dense vegetation. Since then, park officials and others have been discussing ways to preserve the site, facilitate excavations, and eventually open it to the public.

  • Significant archaeological work is under way in New Smyrna Beach at the Old Fort, which may prove to be Andrew Turnbull's former residence, and at the old stone wharf at the east end of Clinch Street.

    During excavations at the Old Fort in June, three layers of tabby flooring were found. The discovery could be the most important archaeological find in New Smyrna Beach, according to Dana Ste. Claire, curator of science at the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach.

    He believes the date of the floor will determine the origin of the ruins.

    Meanwhile, excavations at the wharf have unearthed artifacts from the British colonial and Spanish periods.

    These developments have given impetus to the county's consideration of the plantation system as an educational resource and potential magnet for tourists.

    The state recently awarded the Volusia County Historic Preservation Board a matching grant to help fund a plan to link the plantation sites into a ``heritage area.''

    The heritage plan will require considerable investment of time and money. Funding will be necessary to finance proper excavation, research, surveys and analysis, Payne said.

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