‘A Grave in the Street:’ Why is there a tomb in the middle of this Florida road?

Given the number of tourist hotspots in New Smyrna Beach, there’s little reason to visit this quiet neighborhood nestled in the city.

But for those who take the backroads and drive through Canova Drive, they’ll see a strange site in the middle of the street.

An eerie tomb sits on an island in the middle of the roadway.

Canova Drive (Anthony Talcott/)
An island in the middle of Canova Drive where Charles Dummett’s gravesite sits (Anthony Talcott/)

Upon closer inspection, the tomb features a small statue of a dog, and an inscription that reads as follows:

Close-up of the top of Charles Dummett’s tomb (Anthony Talcott/)

The small island is still maintained by either local residents or the city, and a couple of nearby signs indicate that it’s a popular spot for turtles.

But why is this nearly two-century-old grave in such an unusual spot?

Gravesite of Charles Dummett (Anthony Talcott/)
“Turtle Crossing” sign
“TURTLE XING” sign (Anthony Talcott/)

According to the local history museum, it all began when the Dummett family came to Florida in the early 1800s.

The family had decided to abandon their plantation on Barbados Island (a British colony in the Caribbean) to avoid freeing their slaves, which was required under a new British law.

As a result, the family moved to St. Augustine, and one of the sons — Douglas — later left for Volusia County (called “Mosquito County” at the time) and went into the citrus business.

1833 map of Florida by H.S. Tanner. Mosquito County is marked in pink stretching along Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

According to the museum’s executive director, Greg Holbrook, Douglas Dummett later took a young slave girl — half black and half Seminole Indian — named “Anna” as his wife, and they had three daughters and one son: Charles Dummett.

In a decades-old article by the Ocala Star-Banner titled “A Grave in the Street

,” Charles Dummett was described as his father’s favorite, and he was sent to a school up north for “a proper education.”

However, when 16-year-old Charles returned home for holiday on April 23, 1860, he decided to go hunting with a friend.

During the hunt, Charles Dummett reportedly tripped over some foliage, and as he tried to regain his balance, his gun went off — leading to the teen’s death.

In the aftermath, Charles was buried a short distance from the family’s home, and the remainder of the family moved to an orange grove in Brevard County. Douglas Dummett died around 12 years later, and he was buried in an unmarked grave on Merritt Island.

An Italian duke built this home — dubbed “Dummett’s Castle” — on Merritt Island in 1881 after buying Douglas Dummett’s orange groves. While it was later planned to become a museum, the historic building burned down in 1967 before that could come to pass.

Unlike his father, though, Charles Dummett’s grave is still marked.

Nearly a century later, the property his family once lived on was razed by construction crews, though his tomb was left where it stood.

Allegedly, it would have been more trouble than it was worth to go through the legal channels necessary to move it, and the pavement along Canova Drive was instead split to go around it.

Over 164 years after Charles Dummett’s death, his tomb still sits there.

And it’s not likely to go away anytime soon.

Photo of the tomb’s base (Anthony Talcott/)

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