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David Levy Yulee was born at St. Thomas, West Indies, in 1810. He attended school in Virginia from 1819 until 1827 when he went to Micanopy to work on one of the plantations of his father, Moses Elias Levy. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1836. His time was divided between the practice of law and agriculture.
Yulee was elected to the Florida Territorial Council in 1836 and was a delegate to the Florida Constitutional Convention at St. Joseph in 1838. He was a delegate to Congress from the Territory of Florida from 1841-45 and spearheaded the drive for statehood. In 1845, he was chosen as the first U.S. Senator from Florida and was the first Jew, in the United States, to be elected to the U.S. Senate. Defeated for reelection in 1851, Yulee was again elected to the Senate in 1855. In the Senate he served as chairman of the committees on naval affairs and on post offices and post roads. Yulee served in the U.S. Senate until he resigned upon secession of Florida in 1861.
While serving as territorial delegate, Yulee obtained a railroad survey of Florida and was one of the first railroad promoters in the South.
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In 1853 he incorporated the Florida
Railroad which, when completed in 1860, passed through Archer, connecting Fernandina and Cedar Key.
Long an advocate of the Southern movement and secession, Yulee supported Florida's entry into the Confederacy. However, he chose not to pursue elective office and devoted time to his plantations and his railroad. He was at odds with Confederate authorities who wanted to use materials from his railroad for more vital lines.
Cotton Wood Plantation, located about one mile northeast of this site, was the home of Yulee during the War Between the States. Upon the fall of the Confederacy, personal baggage of President Jefferson Davis and part of the Confederate treasury, reached Cotton Wood, under armed guard, on May 22, 1865. Following the war, Yulee was imprisoned at Ft. Pulaski, at Savannah, until Gen. U.S. Grant intervened for his release in March of 1866.
Yulee sold his holdings in Florida and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1880. He died in 1886 and was buried at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. Originally known as David Levy, he had his name changed by an act of the Florida Legislature in 1845.