Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park is a state park located in Homosassa, off U.S. 19, along the Middle River. The mill was built in 1836 and operated until 1844, when it burned down. It produced sugar from sugar cane grown on lands owned by David Levy Yulee, who leased the land from Major Andrew Jackson.
Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park hosts numerous outdoor activities. Visitors can enter the historic structure for tours, and there are plans to establish a museum to tell the story of the mill.
In 1765, Abraham Muscio opened a plantation near the site of the future mill, but left the area soon after to live with his son Joseph in St. Augustine. After Yulee’s death, control of the plantation fell into dispute between his widow, Mary Lee Yulee Johnson, and her daughter Elizabeth Downman Yulee Johnson. When the estate was put up for sale in 1834, Mrs. Johnson bought out her cousin and took over management of the property. She later married John P. Duval, and they moved to America where she set up housekeeping at Fort Brooke, then stationed there with her husband. Upon their divorce, she returned to manage the plantation alone.
At this time, she decided to build a sugar mill, which would provide an income to support herself and make possible large-scale operations. She obtained a contract with the United States government to supply sugar for the fort, and laid the foundation of what would become one of the largest mills in the South. Construction began in October 1836, and finished that same year. Built entirely of local materials, its construction cost $500,000, of which Yulee Johnson spent about $300,000. The mill ran continuously until March 1844, when a fire started during harvesting season. Although much of the crop was saved, the mill was completely destroyed. No one was killed in the fire, though many were injured trying to save the mill. Following the fire,
Yulee Johnson went bankrupt, leaving the plantation under the control of her ex-husband, Colonel John P. Duval. He died in 1850, leaving the plantation to be managed by his son William Moultrie Duval. A second generation descendant of Abraham Muscio, William Moultrie Duval served as a major in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. His unit, Company D, First Regiment Florida Volunteer Infantry (USV), fought mainly against Union forces in North Carolina, but also participated in skirmishes elsewhere. One such fight occurred on April 20, 1865, at Honey Hill Swamp. There, while on picket duty, Company D charged across open ground toward the Federals, only to discover upon reaching the swamp that they had run headlong into a column of Federal infantry. Realizing their mistake, the Confederates beat a hasty retreat back to camp, sustaining several casualties in the process.
On returning to camp, Duval learned of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, effectively ending the war. With the conclusion of the conflict, William Moultrie Duval surrendered the plantation to the Union, who proceeded to occupy it for nearly two years. During this period, the former sugar mill lay dormant, unused and undisturbed. As part of the settlement following the Reconstruction Era, the federal government granted a patent for the property to Emma Amelia du Pont, whose family owned it until 1903, when it was sold to a group of investors led by Richard K. Mellon. Known simply as “the Old Plantation,” it became a popular tourist attraction offering recreated historical scenes, and hosted events including Marked Men reenactments.
By the turn of the twentieth century, however, the old plantation was showing signs of ruin, and was eventually torn down in 1910. The mill remained standing until 1930, when it too was dismantled. Some timbers were used to reinforce the foundations of other buildings around the campus of the University of Pittsburgh, and some pieces were made into souvenirs. However, most of the machinery was removed, and the building stood vacant until 1961, when it was purchased by the city of Homosassa for use as a community center.
Outdoor activities include:
- mountain biking
- nature viewing