Yulee, was born in 1810 on the island of St. Thomas in the Caribbean and was of Moroccan-Jewish ancestry. He ran the successful Margarita sugar plantation from 1851–1864. From 1855–1866, he served as
president of several companies, including the Florida Railroad Company. He
played a major role in bringing railroads to the state and was dubbed
the Father of Florida Railroads.1
Prior to the the Civil War, Yulee was serving in the U.S. Senate. Known for his pro-slavery rhetoric, Yulee returned to Florida after it seceded from the Union in 1861 to support the Southern cause, even serving in the Confederate Congress. His sugar mill and home supplied the Confederate Army. In 1864, A Union naval force conducting a raid up the Homosassa River burned the down the house/supply depot after being fired upon by Confederates. Owing to its distance from the house, the mill was left intact. After the war, Yulee
was captured and imprisoned at Fort Pulaski for several
months for supporting the South.
Yulee's plantation covered more than 5,000 acres and produced sugarcane, citrus, and cotton. It was worked by 1,000 enslaved African Americans. The mill structures were constructed from Florida limestone, brick, and wood. It produced sugar, syrup and molasses. Machinery for the mill came from New York, brought in by ship. A high-tech steam engine drove the grinding rollers. Also on site were large kettles for cooking down the sugarcane juice produced nearby. At its height, the mill was worked by over 100 slaves.
Today, all that remains of the mill is the 40-foot chimney, the iron gears, the cane press, and some of the other machinery. The structures have been partially restored and are now part of the Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park. In 1970, the National Park Service added the ruins to the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can tour the site, guided by informational signage that explains the operation of the mill and Yulee's antebellum plantation. Admission is free.