Sen. Yulee instrumental in formation of area towns
Published: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 5:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 5:46 p.m.
I was pleased to see the recent article regarding the historical significance of the railroad to Gainesville's formation and early prosperity.
However, I was struck by the absence of any mention of David L. Yulee, the president of the Florida Railroad Co.
This omission does a great disservice to an individual whose business and political accomplishments not only gave rise to Gainesville, but a string of additional towns as well.
Waldo, Bronson, Starke, Cedar Key and Gainesville should join the city of Archer in its annual tribute to Sen. Yulee, for without the Florida Railroad, none of these communities would have existed.
Furthermore, as president and general manager of the railroad, it was Yulee's decision to bypass the established towns of Newnansville and Micanopy and to lay the tracks between them, thus giving rise to Gainesville.
During the Civil War, the new town also gained importance after Yulee transferred company headquarters to Gainesville following the capture of Fernandina by Union forces.
I also take issue with Dr. Ben Pickard's characterization of the original impetus behind the railroad. "The big plantation people in the area" that Pickard refers to were very few in number and political power resided elsewhere in the state.
The true reason for the railroad's existence was Yulee's visionary business plan. His intention was to link the Atlantic and the Gulf for the first time, an achievement that was likened to the Erie Canal.
Yulee's concept was to create "an extended wharf" that would allow shipping interests between New Orleans and New York to transport their cargo by rail rather than sail the dangerous Florida Straits.
Unlike other railroad projects in the antebellum South, Yulee was not focused exclusively on regional interests but attracted investment with the promise of interstate and even international commerce.
After the Civil War, Yulee succeeded in repairing major damage to the railroad and it became a vital component in the development of North Florida.
Ironically, his enterprise never achieved success as an interstate hub and it ultimately proved its worth as regional transport. This, however, was not Yulee's primary intention nor was it the motivation behind the initial funding.
In regard to the locomotive on Gainesville's logo, it strongly resembles the logo of the original Florida Railroad Co., examples of which are to be found among the Yulee Papers at the University of Florida's Yonge Library of Florida History.
The wheel type known as 4-4-0 was indeed the same as all six of the railroad's locomotives.
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