Douglas Dummett and His Castle
Indian River Citrus Pioneer on North Merritt Island
Almost every day I drive by the old Dummett property on north Merritt Island I conjure up thoughts of what it would have been like to pioneer Florida in the early 1800’s. No roads, no conveniences just you, a wagon, some farm animals and hard work. As a Mosquito Lagoon fishing guide, my thoughts wander how rough it must have been when the county was then named Mosquito County and known for Gallinippers, rattlesnakes and Florida panthers, Merritt Island was surely magnificently wild and grossly unhospitable.
Arriving from Barbados as a young man and living near Tomoka with his dad Thomas; Douglas Dummett’s father purchased and ran a sugar mill for making molasses and rum. The young Douglas Dummett would eventually become involved in Florida politics and fight in the second Seminole War. Douglas Dummett married in 1837 and divorced in 1844 and from the accounts I’ve read, his bride had enough of the rough life in early Florida and left him.
Dummett soon married again moving to a secluded area on the Mosquito Lagoon on north Merritt Island near present-day Dummett Cove. Dummit was instrumental in cultivating wild oranges and grafting to make them sweet. His crops led to the recognition of Indian River Citrus, and his efforts continued until his death in 1873.
Today you can drive on the old Dummett property where a scouting camp resides. The ancient oaks, dark roads, and Indian River make for a beautiful park from yesteryear. The shoreline’s of Dummett’s property on the Indian River Lagoon is a well-protected bay and a fishing area called (wait for it) Dummett’s Cove.
I suppose one of the reasons why I’m interested in the history of my area is because of the random names and labels inherited on navigation charts and other maps. Haulover Canal, Peacock’s Pocket, Turnbull Creek and other names will keep me digging for more. If you have some interesting facts and ideas about the earliest moments in Brevard County, make some comments below.
You should read the book “Canaveral Light” by Don Argo. It’s the reason I’m here right now. It’s a book about early Florida… mostly the Indian River area and talks about so many places we all know so well, but have no real idea as to how they got their name. For example, Haulover Canal was originally an area the Indians of the area used to haul over their canoes to get from the Banana River to the ocean. They used it so frequently that it actually became a path. Eventually, it was dug into the canal we know today. Anyway, this book gives some real insight to the early days of the east coast of Florida.
Yeah, I’m always prowling the internet looking for good content. Thanks for the advice on Canaveral Light by Don Argo. I started a Haulover Canal article and will try and finish it soon. Surprising that many of my lifelong friends and residents don’t even know where the Haulover Canal is. LOL
Ok, that part about Haulover Canal…I think I said Banana River to the Ocean. I meant Mosquito Lagoon and Indian River! I was thinking of the wrong canal with the location! The other part about the haulover canal is correct. Indians did use it as an area to haul over their boats. I never gave it any real thought before until I read Canaveral Light. It talks about it several times. It mentions so many of the areas we grew up with. Dr. Don Argo, the author, was a math professor at BCC.