The Bagdad Mill Site has been home to a number of different companies that helped shape Northwest Florida. Juan de la Rua cleared land to create a dam and possibly a saw mill at Arcadia on Pond Creek in 1817, but was plagued by labor shortages. In 1828, Joseph Forsyth, an entrepreneur from Connecticut, purchased Rua's land and established an industrial complex that included a mill and pail factory. Two years later, Forsyth formed a partnership with brothers Andrew and Ezekiel Simpson, to build the Arcadia Mill,the first and largest water-powered industrial complex in Florida. The Forsyth and Simpson Company purchased slaves to construct earth and ironstone dam, dig log flumes, and work the mills. By the mid-1830s Arcadia Mill was running two saws and shipping 5,000 board-feet of lumber a week. During Arcadia Mill's 38 years in operation, the site (a saw mill, a lumber mill with planning and lathing machines, a gristmill, bucket and pail factory, shingle mill, cotton textile mill, and silk cultivation operation) shaped the political and economic climate of Northwest Florida. When the mill became obsolete, Forsyth and the Simpson brothers built a new steam- powered facility on the waterfront and began construction of the village of Bagdad. The steam engines were powered with sawdust, and fresh water came through a series of wooden pipes
from a nearby spring. In the new mill, Forsyth employed mainly Northern labor for skilled jobs and enslaved men and local white men for unskilled jobs. The company was reorganized as E.E. Simpson and Company in 1855 upon Forsyth's death. On the eve of the Civil War, the mill produced $250,000 of products and employed 150 workers.