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Now browsing: Hometown News > News > Volusia County

Poking around in Tomoka history
Rating: 3.1 / 5 (39 votes)  
Posted: 2012 Oct 19 - 00:12

Land Lines

by Dan Smith

It is a poorly kept secret that many of us categorized as senior citizens are really kids at heart.

Sure our bodies may be battered by time, but when we look into the mirror we still see the wide-eyed exuberance that was our youth.

On a beautiful October morning, I met with Ron Howell and Charles Dutoit at the parking lot of Ormond Beach Middle School, three men in our 60s alive with adventure in the air.

You may recall a column I wrote a few weeks ago about an 18th century road through the swamps north of Ormond Beach now called "The Lost Causeway." It was built by the British to get their goods to market from the sugar plantations that had sprung up on the banks of the Tomoka River. I had written about a trip Ron and I had made by boat to a portion of the causeway on Thompson's Creek. That trip was almost a year ago, but had left us with a mystery to solve.

Our quest on this fall morning was to try and determine where Strickland Creek had been bridged as part of that ancient road. Armed with aerial maps printed from the Internet, we struck out carrying various prods to test the creek bottom. As one who had fished and boated Strickland for many years, I had suggested only one possibility. I knew where the most narrow section of the creek was and that also happened to be the most shallow. We knew the walk would be over a half mile in each direction, but the three of us were eager to investigate a famous part of local history.

Since the early days of the settlement of Ormond people have shown an interest in finding the causeway. One of the earliest residents John Bostrom wrote about his difficult trip into the swamp to look for it.

John Anderson, who was one of the builders of the Ormond Hotel, also made the attempt.

Now, it was the turn of biologist Charles Dutoit, engineer and author Ron Howell and writer Dan Smith to take a crack at it.

We walked briskly into the damp swamp and excitedly spoke of what we might discover. Just then I noticed a strange happening. Stiff and arthritic joints began to loosen as our breathing became easier and maybe, just maybe, three gray heads began to darken some.

Now, we were Ronny, Charley and Danny off on an adventure just as we might have as 12-year-old boys. The mystery of what lay ahead propelled us through the swamp at a pace too quick for men our age. Soon we were at the bend of the creek that we sought. Ronny began snapping photos with his camera while Charley and Danny donned masks to jump into the dark tannic stained waters.

With prods in hand, we began poking into the bottom, hoping to learn what was hidden beneath the sand. Charley and I frolicked in the warm water like two carefree river otters as Ronny watched for gators. Many years ago Strickland Creek was a shallow little estuary, but at some time in the 1950s it had been dredged in anticipation of future development along its banks. After the dredging, Strickland was around 12 feet deep for all of its four-mile length - all but this one place - here at the most narrow point it was only four or five feet deep.

It seemed obvious the British would build their bridge at the most narrow spot on the creek, but why had the workers not dredged the crossing to the same depth as the rest of that waterway?

Sure! It was because of the large timbers they found at the bottom. They chose to go around them instead of doing the work to remove them. This was the site of the bridge connecting the lost causeway to the mainland.

Charley, Ronny and Danny were thrilled with their discovery. On the walk back, they decided not to allow the adventure to end and vowed to take the boat out in November to try and determine how the portions of the causeway connected into a single road.

Ha! More fun!

Back at the parking lot there was mention of aching joints and a few mosquito welts they had not noticed on their journey.

Charles, Ron and Dan would have to deal with reality until their next adventure.

Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society, The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of a fishing book.

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