Date Visited: 12/9/2019
While in Homosassa Florida, we took the opportunity to visit the Historic ruins of the Yulee Sugar Mill located off of County Road 490 West.
Although we’ve visited many of these such mills around Florida, this one was of particular interest due to it’s association, not with the Seminole Wars, but with the American Civil War instead.
David Levy Yulee, Florida’s first senator, constructed the mill in 1851 as part of the 5100 acre Margarita Plantation which he oversaw from his home on Tiger Tail Island on the Homosassa River. Sugar crystals from the mill were shipped on barges along the Homosassa River which was only a few hundred yards away from the mill to Cedar Key where they were later shipped around the country.
Yulee, a politician and keen businessman, was also an industrialist and responsible from the development of a railroad connecting Florida’s east and west coast via Fernandina on the east coast and Cedar Key on the west coast. Yulee contributed greatly to economic development of Florida while also making himself a very rich man. However, with the civil war looming his fortunes were about to change.
In January of 1861 after, Florida seceded from the union, Yulee returned to the plantation which supplied sugar, syrup and fruit to the southern troops.
Once the war began, President Lincoln, directed the Union Navy to blockade southern ports in an effort to cut supply lines to Confederate troops, which resulted in an inevitable raid on Yulee’s Homosassa home and the subsequent burning of his mansion to the ground by Union troops. The mill, however, located further inland escaped damage by the raid but was never used again. Yulee was later imprisoned for treason for a brief time and died in 1886 without ever rebuilding his fortune.
When the Florida Park Service acquired the property the majority of the heavy equipment such as the giant grinding wheels, steam engine and boiler remained on site, along with a few other smaller pieces of equipment scattered around the property, but the ruins themselves had been scavenged of some stone, the copper and wood by locals.
With the help of the National Park Service the remaining structure including the over 30′ tall chimney were stabilized in an effort to preserve the site well into the future.
The site offers a picnic pavilion, restrooms, picnic tables, and grills for those who want to stay longer and enjoy the scenery of this picturesque site. Interpretive signs explain the process of producing sugar from cane and give a condensed history of the site.
Our stop here was brief, taking less than half an hour, but it was informative and left us with time to visit the Crystal River Archeological Site that was only 13 miles away before heading home for the evening. More on that next week.
Until then, take care…
Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park SR 490 Homosassa, FL 34446 352-795-3817 Website
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