David Levy Yulee, 1811-1886
David Levy was born on the island of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands in 1811. When he was nine years old, he was sent to school in Virginia, and his parents moved to Florida. They settled south of Gainesville Florida, in Alachua County. He returned to his parents from Virginia and did well in Florida as a farm owner and businessman. In 1839, he helped write Florida's first constitution and was sent as a Territorial Delegate to the United States Congress. When Florida became a State in 1845, he was elected as one of the two Senators from Florida.
Soon after he arrived in the Senate, David Levy added Yulee to his name. He married the daughter of the governor of Kentucky, and developed a 5,000 acre plantation on Florida's Homosassa River. The plantation produced lumber, sugar, and other products. Yulee even had a sugar mill to process his sugar cane. Under Florida's internal improvement act, he got the job to build Florida's first major railroad, the Florida Railroad, from Fernandina Beach to Cedar Key, to carry passengers and cargoes through those ports.
When the Civil War came, Yulee resigned from the Senate because Florida left the Union. During the war, the U.S. Army burned down Yulee's Homosassa mansion. The Confederacy stripped the steel rails from his railroad tracks to build railroad lines in the interior of the state, needed to move Confederate armies. After the war, he was sent to prison for being a rebel, but President U.S. Grant had him released. He lived out the rest of his life in Washington, D.C., where he died in 1886, at age 75. Both the town of Yulee, Florida and Levy County, Florida are named for him.