Scenic USA - Florida
Old Mission Road Sugar Mill Ruins
|Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website
During the 1830s, the Florida area was still an undeveloped U.S. Territory, only accessible by way of its rivers and Indian paths. Eyeing a strip of land along the coastal peninsula, Henry Cruger and William dePeyster hatched a plan for a new business venture. They purchased 600 acres to grow and process sugarcane. This daunting task was given to African-American slaves, used to clear the land, plant the cane and erect a stone processing building. The slaves were kept on the plantation to process the cane, using heavy crushing machinery that was brought in from New York. And just like any untried 19th century venture, the pair of owners soon discovered that converting
sugarcane into refined sugar took a great deal of time, and had no chance of a quick profit.
Before any real gain from the operation was realized, warring Seminole Indians, aided by the plantation's slaves, chased away the overseer, John Sheldon. Here in New Smyrna, the revolt managed to destroy the plantation buildings, burn the cane fields and ravage the nearby town.
Almost 60 years later, a New York stockbroker, Washington E. Connor, purchased 10 acres of property which included the old sugar mill ruins. Conner's wife, historian Jeanette Thurber Connor, had great interest in the sugar mill and its short lived history. By 1929, the New Smyrna property was conveyed to the Florida State Park Service. The park offers a picnic area, playground, restrooms and a nature trail. Storyboards help portray the early history of Florida and the processes for growing and making sugar.
Location note: The address to this small park is 600 Mission Road, New Smyrna, Florida. The entrance to the park is very obscure, consisting of a gravel drive tucked between adjacent properties. A GPS will help a great deal in finding the entrance along Mission Road. The Sugar Mill Ruins Travel Park is within a quarter mile, and the kind folks there will point you in the right direction.
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