Cruger-dePeyster Sugar Mill

In 1830, Henry Cruger and William dePeyster of New York purchased 600 acres near New Smyrna to establish a sugar plantation. William Kembell was contracted to construct a steam-operated sugar mill and sawmill from local coquina blocks, using machinery made by the West Point Foundry of Cold Spring, New York. Work was done by slaves and draft animals, and overseen by John Dwight Sheldon. By 1835, the mill had become quite profitable.

This prosperity was not long-lived, however. On December 25, 1835, a band of Seminole Indians raided the plantation. Sheldon and his family fled, leaving most slaves behind. The Seminoles, aided by the remaining slaves, burned the mill and destroyed the crops. Afterwards, a defeated Cruger and dePeyster sold the (mostly undamaged) machinery to John J. Marshall and it was moved to the Dunlawton Plantation, about 10 miles north.

In subsequent years, the ruins sat abandoned. In 1894, an article written by Bradford Torrey and published in the Atlantic Monthly magazine made the claim that the ruins could be a chapel, possibly build by Christopher Columbus. While untrue, the story took hold and over the years postcards labeled photos of the ruins as a Spanish 'mission' or 'convent.' In 1913, the site was purchased by Washington Everett Conner as a winter home for him and his wife, Jeanette Thurber Conner. Mrs. Conner became fascinated by the 'mission' ruins and established the Florida State Historical Society, which lasted until her death in 1927. In 1929, the site was deeded to the Florida Parks Service.

Stories continued to swirl regarding the ruins' origin as a mission until 1941, when journalist Charles H. Coe published an article about the "so-called Spanish mission." In 1950, further archaeological studies also concluded that the site was from the 19th century. In 1970, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places and in 2007 proper stabilization of the ruins was undertaken. Today, a public park surrounds the ruins and is open daily during daylight hours - along Mission Drive, no less.

I Visited the Cruger-dePeyster Sugar Mill
2.20.2018

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