Date Visited: 5/7/2019
In past post I’ve mentioned that my perspective has changed as I get older. For instance, our next daytrip took us to a place I’ve visited many times as a child on both field trips and family outings. During those long lost years I was more fascinated by the rocks and the ancient vibe of a crumbled old building than by the long and often incorrect history of the ruins.
I had all but forgotten this place since it had been over 40 years since my last visit and frankly all I could remember was a vague shadow of some mystical ruins. Once thought to be an abandoned mission by the locals this 17 acre site is actually the remains of the Cruger-dePeyser Sugar Mill.
In 1830 William dePeyster and Henry Cruger purchased 600 acres of land in the area of New Smyrna Beach, FL. Interesting fact, New Smyrna is also the second oldest established city in Florida. The duo contracted with William Kemble to build a steam operated sugar mill and saw mill on the property. The building was erected using coquina and sedimentary rock and the steam operated mill was far advanced machinery for the time.
However, production at the plantation and mill were short lived. In December of 1835, during the Second Seminole War, the plantation and mills were destroyed by Seminole Indians who were rumored to be aided by the plantation slaves. The plantation overseer, John Dwight Sheldon and his family fled the mill and retreated across the nearby Halifax river.
In the 1840’s some of the machinery was salvaged and moved by John Marshall (another sugar maker) to the Dunlawton plantation, in today’s Port Orange which we will be visiting next.
Another interesting note is that the property was also visited by John James Audubon in 1831. Seems Mr. Audubon really got around.
The property was purchased in 1913 by Washington Everette Conner and his wife. After Mrs. Conner’s death in 1927 the property was deeded to the Florida Park Service in 1929.
On August 12, 1970 the site earned its place on the National Register of Historic places and remains in a preservation status for all to enjoy.
Don’t miss the small nature trail located on the north side of the property behind the ruins. It’s a brief walk but quite nice.
There are informational signs that explain the history and workings of the mill on the property along with a few period pieces of machinery that are spread around the property. I took picture of the machinery but have left it for you to discover should you visit someday.
Just a note. The coquina remains were preserved and the walls stabilized in 2007. Unlike it’s appearance, coquina without the protective layer of lime coating to shield it from the elements is actually fragile. As children we were allowed to climb on these ruins, but with time taking it’s ware and with the growing historical significance of these ruins the practice of allowing children to interact with these sites is no longer allowed and rightly so. Times have changed indeed. Half a century ago, when I was a child, it was thought to be okay for children to sit on the backs of sea turtles while they laid there eggs along the shore of New Smyrna Beach. But that’s a story for another time.
Next week we trace the path of the missing machinery to the Dunlawton Sugarmill where dinosaurs also roam!
Until then, take care and enjoy the journey!
Sugar Mill Ruins
600 Mission Drive
New Smyrna Beach, FL
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