Soon after 1812, Captain Adolphus and Elonza Swift of Falmouth, Massachusetts, settled here in Oak Hill and started the live oak and cedar timber trade. In 1842 Captain R.S. Swift and brother of New Bedford, Massachusetts assumed the same trade. Then in 1858, Elijah and Oliver C. Swift and his son also entered the timber cutting business, but after 10 years sold it to Alfred Johnson and James Sawyer, reserving the rights to cut timber for the next eight years, but after 2 years, in 1820, they stopped cutting the timber. This made three generations of the Swift family in the timber business. Logging roads ran back into the hammocks on the Williams and Briggs-Robinson grants. The logs were cut and brought to the river and floated down the river to the inlet. They continued until the Civil War, stopped for a few years, and after the end of the conflict, continued until 1870.
Henry J. Clifton came to Oak Hill with his father in 1858; they sold four yoke of oxen to Captain Adolphus Swift for $300.00 in United States currency money, which was very scarce in those times where State Bank Notes and Spanish doubloons (Spanish coins) were usually how they paid, and simple barter or swapping of goods was usually the method used in business or transactions. They were the only ones living here except employees of the Swift brothers and a family by the name of McDonald, spelled McDaniel at first, from North Carolina; Edward Archibald McDonald came here in 1857, with his grandson, William LaFayette. When the Civil War broke out, the Swift brothers quit cutting timber for a while and the McDonalds made salt out of Halifax River water during the Civil War, using old sugar mill kettles from the Dun-Lawton mill and sold it to people in the interior. They came here on a “barefoot cart”, one with wooden wheels.
In 1859, William LaFayette worked for Captain Adolphus Swift selling steers also. William Lafayette, son of R.H. and Carrie (Misslie) McDonald, had a son named R. H. McDonald and was born in Port Orange, Florida on March 24, 1879. His grandfather was Edward Archibald. They came and settled in 1857, locating on Rose Bay. R.H. McDonald continued in the cattle business, becoming probably the oldest butcher and meat dealer in the entire county of Volusia. He married Mary B. Diston and had two children, Lola Lavela and John Ditson.
Captain Swift and his schooners quit coming so the McDonalds made salt.
Charles M. McDonald, who was a son of Archibald Edward and Elizabeth McDonald, came in 1857. He married Maggie M. Jones in 1890 and had two sons; Arthur and Cecil I. Cecil bought out his father (Charles M.), a large boat building business. In 1925, he began a dredging business. He married Winifred A. Summer on January 18, 1915 and had one son, Charles M.
In 1856, Mr. and Mrs. Shives and two children moved here from Philadelphia and rented the Sheldon (Murray) home. Mrs. Dwight Sheldon, born Jane Murray, came to New Smyrna in 1804. They intended to settle permanently, but on the 24th day of December, Mrs. Sheldon’s two sons decided to go duck hunting; they had killed quite a few ducks and decided to go by and give the Shives some. As they neared the Shives’ place, they saw the house was gone, only to think it burned accidentally. They went on up to their place and to their horror, they saw Mr. Shives and the little boy lying dead near the water. They then concluded it was the work of Indians and returned to warn messengers E.K. and John Lowd and their uncle, Arad Sheldon, who were the only settlers at Oak Hill. The neighbors got together and went down to investigate, only to find Mr. Shives, the son, and also Mrs. Shives back of a hill, and the bones of a second child in the ruins of the house just burned. The bodies were taken to New Smyrna and buried. A dispatch was sent over to Mellonsville to a volunteer company that came to help out when trouble arose. Mellonsville is in the northeast section of Orange County, which is now called Volusia. They came and followed the Indians for seventy miles, but the Indians (nineteen of them) having several days start, were not overtaken. They had packed themselves with so much food, clothing, goods, etc. that they had to leave much of it on the way, leaving a trail.
George Murray, Jane Murray’s father, a Philadelphia engraver, settled on a Spanish Grant, at the McDougal Plantation (now known as the Packwood Place). Here Murray was granted a 600-acre tract by Governor White on July 28, 1803. Murray died later and the grant was confirmed by the US Government to his daughter, Jane Murray, on August 23.
Oak Hill is the most southerly town of Volusia County and is located high on the banks of the Indian River. The head of the Indian River is five miles south of Halifax Avenue. It was settled shortly after the War Between the States in 1865 by native Floridians, joined by settlers from New England and New York. The earliest settlers were George Murray, who secured his land grant in 1804; E.A. Marsh; A.A. Berry, who settled at a historical place at first called Live Oak Hill. W.C. Howes, father of Mrs. Cornelius Christany of Allandale, was a postmaster. The Oak Hill locality has long been known to be a fertile field for orange culture. Some of the other early growers were Fred W. Hatch, W.A. and Charles Goodrich, Henderson Williams, Z.T. Williams, H.H. Guller, J.W. Fountain, J.F. McCarthy, R.A. Sanchez, J.W. Hatch, A.J. Wilson and W.C. Howes.
A map made in 1591 by LuMoyne, a French Huguenot who escaped the Fort Caroline Massacre and afterwards wrote chronicles of Florida, gives the names of Indian villages of his time, and as we know the locality today, they were located about as follows:
Packwood Place is one of the oldest landmarks in Volusia County. From earliest public records, it is shown as part of an old plantation of about 600 acres of swamp and shell mounds, originally known as McDougall’s Swamp. In the “American State Papers”, it was described as a swamp eight miles from Turnbull Wharf.
The land was granted to George Murray by the Spanish Government on July 28, 1803 and upon his death, the land went to his daughter, Jane. She married John Sheldon, a scout for the United States Government during the Seminole Wars. In 1856, the Seminole Indians made their final raid on the white settlements of Volusia County. Planning a revenge attack on the Sheldon family, Indians were unaware that a Philadelphia family named Shives had occupied the Sheldon house. John Sheldon had joined federal troops and Mrs. Sheldon had gone by boat to New Smyrna, only hours prior to the attack. The Indians, assuming the inhabitants to be John Sheldon and family, and considering him an enemy because of his connection with the army, made an attack on the house, killing Mr. and Mrs. Shives, their son and infant daughter. Before leaving, they set fire to the house, which burned to the ground.
Records show a warranty deed granted to Frances Joseph Packwood on April 14, 1876 for this tract of land, which contained three shell mounds. The highest mound was 30 feet and it was on this place that the Packwood House was built. Experts who have studied this area believe that this mound was inhabited over 900 years ago, based on the similarity of the Packwood mound to the Green Mound just north of New Smyrna and the Castle Windy Mound to the south. An old Spanish map recorded the Surroque Indians, a sub tribe of the Timucuas nation, inhabited the territory from the Mosquito (Ponce) Inlet to the Haulover Canal.
In 1894, Packwood granted all shell rights on the north 250 acres to Marion A. Brunson. Winding wagon and ox cart trails from the main road to the site were made so that trams could haul this shell to Jacksonville and points in between. The present day entrance to Packwood Place from US1 is via that same winding wagon trail. The large shell mounds were gradually leveled, as this shell was needed for the building of roads.
After the Civil War, Edward and Elizabeth Clinton packed up their belongings and children and traveled from White Springs, Georgia, in an ox cart to homestead on a tract of land near Packwood Place, where Clinton Cemetery exists today. Clinton was a cattle rancher by the early 1900s and his sons, Buck, Wash, Mac, John and Marion worked with their father to care for 1,000 head of cattle grazing on the open range. Mack Duffie Clinton, known by all as “Mac” married Fannie O’Quinn and settled in a house on Ariel Road. They had two sons, Kirby and Seth.
The boys played, fished and went swimming and oystering on the Packwood acreage. “I can remember my dad telling about gathering oysters, opening and selling them for 25 cents a quart,” said Clinton with a grin. As a child, Seth was unaware that his dream about the Packwood Place would come true. “I always thought it was the prettiest place in the world,” he said.
In 1949, Seth and Esther Clinton purchased it from the estate of Captain George Lourcey. “As far as we know, this is one of the first fish camps on this part of the river,” Clinton said. They bought it to run the fish camp and small oyster shed, which had been added to the camp in the early 1900s. By 1952, The Clintons had to build a new oyster house, and in 1955, they had to more than double the size of the building. They gave up the fish camp and put in a large dock for night fishing, as the oyster house became more demanding.
In April of 1976, the Clintons began construction on their two-story house near the oyster business, and on the approximate location of the Packwood House, built exactly 100 years earlier. During construction, they found many Indian artifacts, including arrowheads, pieces of pottery and an old Indian well, which is close to the entrance of the house.
In 1976, Seth and Esther turned the management of the oyster house and business over to their son, Terry, who has continued to remodel and expand the facilities. During their season, from October through April each year, they serve steamed oysters, fried flounder fillets, New England clam chowder, baked beans, tossed salad, cole slaw, four bean salad, relish tray and coffee on the buffet, to several thousand seafood lover who come from all over the world.
“Recently a man told us that he heard about our place at a business meeting in Tokyo, Japan,” said Terry Clinton. They have served NATO leaders, politicians, sports announcers, professional athletes, race car drivers and several movie stars, as well as local clubs and civic organizations who know to make their reservations a year in advance for their special annual meeting night at Packwood Place.
During the busy season, Esther assists Terry as manager and bookkeeper and Seth does anything to help out, but most of the time, the Clintons take time to enjoy “the prettiest place in the world.”