Yulee Mills

Nestled in a small wooded area near Homosassa, the ruins of the Yulee Sugar Mill are one of Florida's most evocative historic settings. The picture was taken during the archaeological assessment of the mill works and equipment.

David Levy Yulee, one of Florida's most outstanding historic figures, was born June 12, 1810, on the West Indies island of St. Thomas. A merchant and contractor, Yulee's father was a prosperous man who developed an enduring interest in the new territory called Florida. In 1817. he bought 36.000 acres near Micanopy and settled with his family there.

When David was nine, his father sent him to a private school in Virginia. and later to law school in St. Augustine. An intelligent and personable man, Yulee became a member of Florida's first constitutional convention in 1838-39, and in 1841, was elected as a territorial delegate to the Congress. When Florida became a state in 1845, he was chosen as its first U.S. senator.

He married the daughter of a Kentucky governor and moved to his 5,100-acre plantation called Margarita near the Homosassa River. Though a politician, he stayed involved in agriculture and built some of Florida's first railroads. His Atlantic and Gulf Railroad , completed in 1860, connected Fernandina on the Atlantic coast to Cedar Key on the Gulf Coast.

In 1851, 69 workers built the Yulee sugar mill, using expensive machinery imported from New York. The operation employed some 100 slaves. The mill was in operation until 1864. For 13 years, it was a time of peace and prosperity for Yulee, until the Civil War drove him to a fateful decision.

In 1861, he made the hard choice of serving in the newly created Congress of the Confederacy, but resisted the idea of using his rails to make connections that would better aid the war effort. The mill served as a supplier of sugar products for Southern troops, and his mansion became a stockpile for ammunition and supplies.

In May 1864. a Union naval force burned his home on Tiger Tail Island in the Homosassa River to the ground. The ruins of this mansion are shown in the above picture of 1920. The mill, located inland, escaped damage, but never resumed operation after the war ended and eventually fell into ruin. The picture below was taken around 1920.

Yulee was briefly imprisoned in Georgia, accused of aiding the flight of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet. After a presidential order from Ulysses Grant, he was freed and resumed his railroad interests. He died in New York in 1886.

Hewn from native limestone. the mill has been partially restored. It currently consists of a large chimney with an extending structure about 40 feet long that houses the boiler. Beside the mill's remains are parts of the grinding machinery.

First presented to the Citrus County Federation of Women's Club in 1923, the 6 acre Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins site was deeded to the state in 1953. Since then the Florida Park Service has made several improvements to this small wooded area in Homosassa, Florida. With the most recent stabilization effort of the masonry in 2006 (picture above), using the original Lime and sand mortar mix proportions, the Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park has become a true landmark of Old Homosassa.
Visitors can tour the ruins at their own pace with the help of a concrete path and interpretive plaques. The site also offers picnic facilities. With 10 days notice, a guided tour for groups of 10 or more can be arranged based on the availability of park personnel.

For more information, contact
Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park,
c/o Crystal River State Archaeological Site,
3400 N. Museum Pointe,
Crystal River, FL 34428
Tel:(352) 795-3817.

Norita Shepherd Moss

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