Thursday, June 24, 2010

Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park - Homossassa, Florida

David Levy Yulee was one of the first great business leaders of the fledgling state of Florida. While little remains to commemorate the role of this industrious 19th century leader's role in the development of our state, the picturesque ruins of one of his enterprises have long attracted the attention of visitors to the Gulf Coast north of Tampa.

Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park in Homossassa preserves the surviving ruins of a sugar mill built by David Yulee on his 5,100 acre Margarita plantation.

The man who served as Florida's first U.S. senator when the former Spanish colony became a state in 1845 lived on a nearby island in the Homossassa River from which he could supervise his vast holdings. Sugar was then a major export product and the marshes and lowlying swamps along the rivers of Central and South Florida provided ideal for growing sugar cane.

The mill began operating in 1851, served by the labors of 69 slaves who planted and chopped the sugar cane, ran the stalks through the rollers of the cane press and then boiled the juice to make sugar. Packed into hogsheads (large barrels), the sugar was then placed aboard vessels in the Homossassa River for shipment to both American and foreign ports.

The mill operated until the Civil War, when the Union blockade brought the sugar export business to a temporary end. Yulee's house was burned by U.S. sailors, but the mill survived the war only to fall into disuse and eventually crumble into ruins.

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