The Gabordy Canal Historic Marker is located where the cities of New Smyrna Beach and Edgewater come together. The name of this canal is often spelled in differing ways. I have seen alternative spellings of Gabardy, Garbordy, and Garbardy.
The Gabordy Canal marks the dividing line between the city of New Smyrna
Beach, to the north, and Edgewater, to the south.
This marker is located on the eastern side of the road, near the corner of Riverside
Drive (north and south) and Hamilton Road (west). Private property surrounds the area and the marker is located close to the busy south Riverside Drive.
There is really no parking right at the marker (don’t park in people’s yards). There
is a sidewalk located on the eastern side of Riverside Drive. See the image below to note
just how close this marker is to the road.
This marker, while important, has multiple problems in its text.
The marker itself does not talk much about the canal system. The marker also uses
the terms “colonization” and colonist” when the more accurate terms are
“settlement” and “settler” (as in the Turnbull, or Smyrnea, Settlement). The use of
terminology related to the word colony implies Florida could have been associated
with the original thirteen colonies we have learned about since grade school.
The marker references the number of over 1,400 persons being “attracted” to the area.
While there is some truth to this number, it being the number who originally left
Europe, less than 1,300 appear to have survived the journey. Archaeologists Dr.
Roger Grange and Dorothy Moore have put forth the number of 1,255 who
survived the voyage across the Atlantic. As to whether those owing indenture to Andrew Turnbull and his partners were “attracted” to the area, I think history showed that is highly debatable.
Finally, though the marker text states that Governor (James) Grant granted release
to the settlers from their indenture, it was Governor Patrick Tonyn, (who served as
governor of East Florida from 1774-1783) a confirmed enemy of Turnbull, who
did such. (See Grange and Moore p. 25, linked below)
For more information on the Smyrnea Settlement, I recommend reading a booklet
written by Dr. Grange and Ms. Moore and published by the New Smyrna Museum
of History. In addition to clicking the link provided above, you may pick up a free copy at the museum.
I also recommend reviewing the University of North Florida, Florida History Online site for letters and papers related to the Smyrnea Settlement.
The Gabordy Canal
The Gabordy Canal, also known as the South Canal, was built by colonists brought to the New Smyrna area in 1768 by the Scottish physician, Dr. Andrew Turnbull. As part of the largest single attempt at British colonization, New Smyrna attracted more than 1,400 Minorcans, Corsicans, Greeks, and Italians who sought new opportunities as indentured servants. Turnbull, impressed by the Egyptian canal system, wanted to replicate it in New Smyrna. Three canals, including this one, ran east-west and were linked with a fourth, longer canal that ran north-south. These hand dug canals provided irrigation and drainage or rice, hemp, cotton, and indigo crops grown by the colonists and served as a mode of transportation withing the colony. Local historians believe that the Gabordy Canal was named after the Gabardis, an original colonist family who lived in the vicinity of the canal. After nine years of harsh treatment, drought, and crop failures, the population was reduced to about 600 people. A group of colonists petitioned English Governor James Grant of St. Augustine in 1777 for release from their indenture. The governor granted land north of St. Augustine to these colonists.
A Florida Heritage Site
Sponsored by the City of New Smyrna Beach, the Historic New Smyrna Beach
Preservation Commission, Mayor James Hathaway, Vice Mayor Judy Reiker,
Commissioner Jake Sachs, Commissioner Jason McGuirk, Commissioner Kirk
Jones, and the Florida Department of State.
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