by Dan Smith
When the first settlers arrived on these shores, the Tomoka River was a highly valued waterway.
If you look at a map of Florida's East Coast you will notice there are precious few navigable streams heading west. With no roads, in order to escape the harsh salt environment, they would need to sail inland. Although the Tomoka is only around 16 miles in length it did provide a means of getting west.
Beginning in the early 1700s the British began clearing land on the north side of the Tomoka River for sugarcane plantations. Eventually they would dig the canals connecting Bulow Creek to what is now the Halifax River on the Ormond Loop. There was also a road constructed in order to get their goods to market over land.
Those of us who love local history have known about the road that became known as "The Lost Causeway," for many years. Indeed, John Bostrom chronicled his search for it in the 1800s and my friend Charlie Dutoit was credited with re-finding it in 1986. At that time Charlie was working as a biologist at Tomoka State Park.
Being the fisherman that I am I had "found" a portion of the causeway on Thompson's Creek back in the '70s. In those days I fished Thompson's and Strickland Creeks every week.
Each time I would pass the causeway I would ponder the mystery it provided me. The causeway consists of a berm filled with shell marl and the like to create about a 10-foot-wide road over the salt marsh. It is lined with palm trees. Each stream it crossed had to be bridged. Of course the wooden bridges have long since disappeared.
For years I wondered where the road would have crossed Strickland Creek. You see, the two streams are divided by a narrow island. It was clear the causeway had to continue on the east bank of Strickland Creek, but where? Nowhere along Strickland was there any sign of a manmade road like on Thompson's. It was a mystery.
About six months ago I received a call from Ron Howell, a local historian and author. Ron and I both serve on the board of The Ormond Beach Historical Society, as does Charlie Dutoit. Ron asked if I would take him to photograph the Lost Causeway for his new book on John D. Rockefeller.
As we motored out in my little skiff I told Ron of my mystery. Once we arrived and the pictures had been taken, I mentioned that I had always wanted to go straight across from the causeway and walk the island to Strickland, but the vegetation was so thick I had never tried it. With Ron's encouragement, we did it. We both suffered some scratches and muddied clothing, but soon we were standing on the banks of Strickland Creek, staring over at the far shore.
Nothing there to see. But then as I scanned to the north, I saw the path that runs the half-mile up to Ormond Beach Middle School. After all of these years, a light came on. That path ends at the narrowest part of the creek. If you were making a bridge where would you do it? Of course! Also I remembered that Strickland Creek averages about 10 feet deep for the length of its four miles, but at that narrow spot it is only 3 or 4 feet deep. Sure! There is an ancient wooden bridge buried there. After years of attracting silt and sediment it has created a shallow spot.
For years people (including me) have been using that path to walk to the creek. As far as I know, no one has put together the probable fact that it is the extension of The Lost Causeway. Finally a mystery has been solved. Get a copy of Ron's book (with my photo of The Lost Causeway on the back) at The Ormond Beach Historical Society Office, 38 E. Granada Blvd., or call (386) 677-7005
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.