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Former Governor established saw mill in Madison County

George Franklin Drew was born in New Hampshire on August 6, 1827. Although Drew was not educated that well, having dropped out of school at the age of 12 to work on his family's farm, he was a successful man who aimed for high goals at an early start. In 1847, Drew moved to Columbus, Ga. and decided to start a career in the lumber industry. Eventually, he opened the largest sawmill in the state of Florida in Ellaville on the Suwannee River. The sawmill employed 500 people and 200 head of livestock, utilizing several mills. The sawmill was located in an ideal spot, and no logging railroads were needed, as the Withlacoochee and Suwannee River carried the logs down to the mill. In 1870, Drew took another path into politics and moved to Madison County. Drew served in Madison County as commissioner and chair. Perhaps the thing Drew is most famous for is the Drew Mansion. The two story mansion was built in the 1860s and it had beautiful oak parquet floors and formal gardens; it was one of the first homes in the area to have modern facilities. Unfortunately, the mansion burned down in 1970 during a fire. Although he unsuccessfully ran for the Florida State Senate in 1872, Drew was elected the Governor of Florida after winning the democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1876, defeating Republican Marcellus Stearns in a controversial election by a margin of 24,179 to 23,984. Drew's election ended Reconstruction in Florida, one of the most turbulent and controversial events in the Civil War era. From 1877 to 1881, Drew did many beneficial things for Florida. He drastically cut taxes and expenditures while serving. During his term, the state's penal system and educational programs were hindered by back tax cuts and disbursements that exceeded the state's economic capability. In order to rebuild fiscal solvency, the convict lease system was created in 1877. He also utilized land to sustain improvements in immigration and internal developments. After leaving office, Drew returned to Ellaville and at one time had 11 mills in operation. He later served as the president of the Jacksonville Board of Trade and was prominent in business affairs. Eventually he settled in Jacksonville with his family. Drew was married to his wife, Amelia Dickens Drew, for 48 years, and together they had three children. Two days before his wife's death, Drew wrote a letter to his daughter, Vannie, describing a stroke or a similar health issue his wife had. “When she is taken, I don't care to live any longer,” said Drew in his letter. A few hours after making Amelia's funeral arrangements, Drew died on September 26, 1900 after sitting down in a chair on the veranda of his Jacksonville home. The Jacksonville Times-Union reported that Drew died of a “broken heart.”    george franklin drew

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